Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Personal Radios go off to War

By the number of page views this blog has seen recently, there seems to be a lot of interest in WWII and the part RCA radios played in it.   RCA was a big electronics contractor to the military during the war, but up until civilian radio production was halted in 1942 they sold their commercial radios as rapidly as they could build them.  The BP-10 personal radio was one product the public couldn’t seem to get enough of. 

The RCA personal radio (BP-10) had a special place in RCA’s preparation for the U.S. entry into the war.  The military draft was initiated in October of 1940.  By the end of the month the folks in the RCA Advertising Department were setting their sights on sales to draftees and new servicemen. 

The following is a text excerpt from an internal RCA Contact Report obtained from the Hagley Museum*.

Advertising Department Contact Report
Divison  INSTRUMENT                                              Date of Meeting October 31, 1940

Those Present   Messrs: Milling, Elliot, Finn Edgar, Ray, Bundle, Baggs

Subject Discussed  PERSONAL RADIO

Date of this Report  November 1, 1940

At a special meeting held in Mr. Finn’s office, special deals covering the Personal Radio (BP-10) for January (1941) were discussed.  The principal discussion centered around a possible package deal directed primarily at the draftee or other Arm or Navy personnel.  It was decided, after considerable discussion, to have a kit which would include the following.

(1)    Five silver gift boxes with a silver eagle insignia on the face of the box.**
(2)    An envelope which would include ten stickers of various branches of the Service, such as the Army, Navy, Marine and Air Corps which is given to the purchaser to stick over the eagle insignia on the gift box if he so desires.
(3)    A Window Streamer, featuring the decalcomanias and the insignia for the sets and calling attention to the fact that here is the ideal gift to send the boy, or sweetheart, who is going to the camp.
(4)    A second envelope in which would be included four embossed insignia which could be cemented on the face of the Pers9onal Radio set itself: 1 would designate the Army; 2 the Air Corp; 3 the Marine Corp; and 4 the Navy.
(5)    In order to attract attention to the possibility of the instrument as a gift for the military service man, a large display card would be prepared with the eagle insignia and suitable copy.
(6)    Five dial card inserts which will be prepared to fit inside the lid of the Personal Radio set will also be included in this kit.

This kit will be given away free to distributors ordering certain quantities of the instrument which the Sales Department will set.  A total of 5,000 kits are being ordered for this promotion as well as 5,000 additional gift boxes which we will sell to the dealers upon demand.

The decalcomanias or stickers as mentioned above, as Item 2, will also be made available for use with portable phonographs and portable radios.

* The former RCA Laboratory in central New Jersey, now called the David Sarnoff Center, for many years maintained a collection of RCA artifacts and records from decades of research, called the "David Sarnoff Library".  In 2009, some 3,000 boxes of the David Sarnoff library, RCA archives and records were moved to the Hagley Museum.  The Hagley Museum and Library, is a nonprofit organization, which collects, preserves, and interprets the history of American enterprise.

 **A few years ago, (as mentioned in the above contact report) one of the special gift boxes with the silver eagle on the cover was offered on eBay along with a BP-10 radio.  It definitely was a rare find for someone.

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