Transitone History 101 - Printable Version
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Transitone History 101 - Chuck Schwark - 10-10-2005 12:14 AM
Ok, I'll start off, since my Transitone history is sketchy.
Philco acquired Automobile Radio Corp. presumably to hit the ground running in the auto market soon after introducing their 511 series radios for the home market.
Here are my questions:
- Ron Ramirez - 10-10-2005 02:00 AM
Automobile Radio Corporation dates back to 1927; and, yes, "Transitone" was originally the trade name for auto radios produced by Automobile Radio Corp. The original Transitones were two dial sets that took up a lot of dashboard space.
Philco was not involved with the company until mid-1930.
By August 1930, Philco was building single-dial Transitone auto radios for Automobile Radio Corporation, as well as distributing them through Philco's dealer network.
Late that year, Philco bought Automobile Radio, creating a new subsidiary for car radios - Transitone Automobile Radio Corporation.
For some reason, in June 1938, Philco's new lineup removed the "Transitone" name from car radios, applying it to a new line of "price leader" (cheap) AM radios for the home - Models TH-1 and TH-3. "Transitone Automobile Radio Corporation" had disappeared by then, home and auto radios now solidly under the Philco umbrella.
The TH-1 may be a Simplex-designed receiver; its circuitry does not resemble any other Philco, and the part numbers for the various parts in the set are quite different than any Philco part numbers.
On the other hand, the TH-3 is pretty much a clone of the Philco Model 38-12CB (brown bakelite), with a different dial scale.
- Chuck Schwark - 10-10-2005 03:57 AM
The TH-1's circuit is rather odd - a one-stage TRF with a grid-bias detector, using a pentode. And you're right, looking at the parts listing, they are odd part numbers.
Transitone - Doug Houston - 11-11-2005 04:56 AM
I'm trying to locate my copy of a master's thesis by John Wolkonowicz of Worcester, Mass. He did it on the business history of Philco, beginning with Helios Corp. I can't remember what the events were covered . I'll try to gind it and get back with you.
- Ron Ramirez - 11-11-2005 05:30 AM
Glad to have you here. I have had a great deal of respect for you and your writings for quite some time now.
I have a copy of the Wolkonowicz thesis if you can't find yours...let me know...
Philco Transitone et al - Doug Houston - 11-21-2005 04:26 AM
C'mon, Ron, flattery will get you almost anything!!!!
I have a friend in Houston, Texas who has ended up researching early auto radio history, having been driven by his quest for an original Cadillac set for his 1930 Cadillac V16 roadster (which he did find). He has told me quite a bit about Transitone. Prior to his turning up data, I had thought that Philco originated the name. He told me otherwise. I'll ask him to refer me to information he has n this, and possibly I can buck it over to you. He and I have spent literally hours at a time (his nickel) on the phone, discussing this topic. He's a super neat guy. He can travel all over the place for about nothing, as he works for a major airline. He's been in the Detroit area many times in the past two years, and has visited here several times. He's chauffeured me around in my '38 Cadillac on occasion. He likes it.
Now, I have a question that possibly you may have some background on. I feel that 1938 was the last year of the really glorious Philco radios. They had a entry-level line of sets that I've wondered if they were outsourced. I'm thinking of the table sets like the 38-12 and similar models. I also have a 39-8T that I'd feel the same way about. I've even theorized that these sets might have been outsourced during a strike, but I seem alone in those feelings. Do you or Chuck have any information on this series of Philcos?
Now, I remembered another Philco thing I have to ask you-all. I'll post it in another category
- Ron Ramirez - 11-21-2005 06:11 AM
Doug - Heck, I would be pleased to chauffeur you around in your 1938 Cadillac should I ever get up your way; I LOVE Cadillacs! Except for the newer Mercedes/BMW/Lexus wannabe models, that is.
I think a lot of us would agree that Philco's radio quality took a decided downturn after 1938, most especially coinciding with the departure of Jim Skinner in late 1939. Around this time frame (1937), Philco bought controlling interest in Simplex Radio Corporation. (Ernst could fill in some info here, being in Sandusky.) For some time now I have strongly suspected that Philco's first home radio set to carry the Transitone name, the TH-1, was a Simplex design and probably built by Simplex. It's a four-tube TRF set with a ballast; its part numbers do not jibe with Philco part numbers. The "S.R.C." on one of the back labels is another tipoff; the Philco name is nowhere to be found on the TH-1.
Could very well be that you are right about the 38-12, 39-8, et al., and perhaps they were outsourced to Simplex? I somewhat suspect that the TH-4 and its siblings may also be Simplex products, but have no definite proof (yet).
A footnote: Wolkonowicz states in his thesis that during the 1939 Philco strike, that production was farmed out to subcontractors such as Motorola(!).
- Ron Ramirez - 11-22-2005 11:09 PM
I have a photo of a Transitone UA-52P, a pretty rare set made of white Beetle and black plastic. Just learned today that this same set was also marketed under the Simplex name (and with the same model number)!
It uses the same chassis as did many of the Transitone/Philco Transitone sets of the period; that very small, jam-packed, five-tube chassis.
The Philco version was also known as Model TP-52.
So it looks more and more like Simplex made the very small Transitone models for Philco.
- Chuck Schwark - 11-23-2005 03:54 AM
It's fun to get to add pieces to the puzzle, no?
- Tim Tress - 11-28-2005 05:58 PM
Was the model 3 the one which Philco built for Transitone?
- Ron Ramirez - 11-28-2005 07:09 PM
Model 3, issued in 1931, was Philco's first car radio AFTER they bought out Automobile Radio Corp. I have no information on model number nomenclature used by Automobile Radio before the Philco buyout at this time, sorry.
- Chris Drumma - 12-07-2005 09:42 PM
I would like to get a copy of that thesis if it is readily available. Does it go over just auto radios ot the whole Philco story.
Philco Transitone - Doug Houston - 12-18-2005 11:40 PM
I am in touch with John Wolkonowicz, and I'll give him yor e-mail address. He starts the dissertation with the Helios Corp. in the late 1800s, and progresses to Philco up to the Ford takeover. I don't know where my copy is (along with almost everything else), but I believe that he touched on the auto sets only lightly, if at all.
John lives in Worcester, Mass.