Farm Radios

HI, Just wondering...I've seen on ebay and in the posts radios referred to as "Farm Radios" What is a farm radio?

Thank you
Danny Schafer
Hi Dan

Farm radios were operated off of batteries or power other than 120 volt AC line. Not everyone had 120 volts AC so farms either had to use batteries or wind generators to power radios.
A farm radio is made to work on batteries for remote areas that do not have electricity.

Some of my farming relatives did not get hydro until the 50s and 60s even though they lived within a few miles of a town where it was available. They grew up without it and didnt see the need for it.

All radios were battery radios until a Canadian inventor named Rogers invented a tube that would work on AC. This was in 1924.

After that battery sets were made for those who didnt have hydro but could afford a radio and batteries. Farms, lumber camps,trailers, ships etc.

The radios were the same as the typical table models in appearance but were made to work on DC instead of AC. Typically they had an A battery of 1.5, 4.5 or 6 volts plus a B battery of 67.5 or 90 volts. The earliest sets also took a third battery called a C battery but this had been eliminated by the time farm radios came out.

I like farm radios because they usually had very little wear and were kept in good shape compared to other radios.

You can run them on batteries by buying 10 9volt batteries and snapping them together or you can make a battery eliminator for around $10 bucks.

There are other more elaborate designs and you can buy an excellent battery eliminator which is adjustable for all radios, for around $90.

Im pulling for you. Were all in this together.
Just to amplify - as you know, all early radios ran on batteries. It was only after the "coffin-style" early battery sets running on 01As, 99s, etc. disappeared from the market in favor of AC sets running on 26, 24A, 27 tubes and after the Eveready Air Cell was introduced that the concept of a "farm radio" began to exist. Early ones ran on the 30-series and 1xx series of 2V battery tubes, later ones used the 1.5V tubes. Then there were sets that used a storage battery with a vibrator to provide B+, and sets that ran on the 32V Delco system. All those are farm radios. Also, portable radios are generally not considered "farm radios" even though they used many of the same tubes. A farm radio looks like a home AC receiver in a tombstone, cathedral, table or console cabinet.


Yes to all the above, also some 32 volt sets used the 32 volts for B+, eliminating the need for a vibrator supply. They used standard tubes designed for higher B+ but with an extra RF stage (or two IF stages) and often push pull output they performed quite well (the output power was still modest due to the low B+ but sufficient).
Don Black.

You know you're from Ontario/Canada when you refer to power as "hydro". I am from Ontario originally and often wondered of the origin of the term...perhaps it is because power was originally derived from hydroelectric power (Niagara Falls?). The power utility used to be known as Ontario Hydro (I used to work at the Bruce Nuclear Generation Complex). Is it still called Ontario Hydro after the Ontario government unloaded it as a crown corporation?

Sorry, this got off the farm set topic a little.

I have a neat little Trutone tombstone farm radio that came with heavy duty car battery clamps for hookup to a 6-volt battery. The radio had a vibrator that produced a pulsed dc which was fed to a transformer. The label inside the box states: "Users of windchargers: If a windcharger is used to recharge the storage battery, disconnect the windcharger from the battery while operating the radio." Unfortunately, the vibrator is missing, and the radio is not in operating condition.

I copied this from the new "Hydro One" web site.
"April 1, 1999: In accordance with the Energy Competition Act, Ontario Hydro is restructured principally into three separate companies: Ontario Power Generation, The Ontario Hydro Services Company and the Independent Market Operator. The legislation transforms the company from a government corporation with its own statute into a share ownership company under Ontario's Business Corporations Act, like any other business.
May 1, 2000: Ontario Hydro Services Company is re-branded as Hydro One Inc.. Hydro One is launched as a corporate holding company with five subsidiaries: Hydro One Networks Inc., Hydro One Remote Communities Inc., Hydro One Markets Inc., Hydro One Telecom Inc., Ontario Hydro Energy Inc."
The only difference to the consumer is that we pay more!
Yes we still refer to power as hydro here, even though nuclear and coal are big sources as well.

El Paso

Your set sounds pretty cool. I have something like it, a 1938 Crosley model 587. I restored the set and man what a pain for such a simple set. It has a 6v input with a vibrator or you can switch it to AC. Problem I had, was tuning condenser was shot. Had to fabricate parts for it. Works well now. These sets were made for the rural communities that had no AC yet. They were marketed to the country folks. When the power lines did reach your place you didn't have to buy a new radio. Note, in the some parts of Wisconsin, they did not receive AC till the early 60's. I also had a Coronado farm set. It was 32V DC. I will tell you now that it's pretty tough to find 48 tubes for these sets. So many of them were thrown away. In fact when AC hit a lot of the little towns, radios dealers had huge bomb fires where you could throw your old farm radio, and then buy one of their new AC sets. Quite a marketing trick, but sure is tough on old farm sets.

I went to the Rogers website. I do not understand what "a tube that works on a.c." means. Did he invent the indirectly heated cathode? The schematic they show does not indicate this.

If you like tubes thank Dr. Lee DeForest.
If you like Sound movies thank Dr. Lee DeForest.
The first tubes were directly heated by the electric current passing thru the element. This worked well on DC but not on AC. Edward Rogers invented an indirectly heated tube with a cylinder of metal around the heater. This made it possible to build cheap AC powered radios.

Rogers was quite a prolific inventor and builder of radios and radio stations until his untimely death in 1939 at the young age of 38. Many of his radios survive, he made Rogers, Rogers Majestic, and the Canadian Crosley and DeForest sets. They had unusual tubes of Rogers design, many of which are no longer available.

A web search will turn up more info, start with this one it has some more details.

Im pulling for you. Were all in this together.
Wow, I never realized the connection between Rogers Majestic, and Rogers Cable/Wireless before.

My Belmont 522 used two 45V B batteries and a nasty 2V wet cell. I have seen it work with only a single B battery. It has a rheostat in the filament circuit to allow the use of a 3V filament battery. My brother strung a high, long antenna, and we often received Tulsa, New Orleans, Chicago, and Mexico in the Dallas area. Of course some of this was the result of atmospheric condtions.

Issue is taken in some quarters as to "IF" Edward Samuels Rogers can claim to be first with the AC indirectly heated cathode tube.

Gerald F.J. Tyne in "Saga Of The Vacuum Tube" (pp 349) indicates that Rogers visited the US in 1924 and saw the AC tube of Fredrick S.McCullough and went back to Toronto with the Canadian Patent Rights to the design and tube.

It is also said that in the Fall of 1924 Rogers managed to redesign the heater of the tube and greatly decrease the hum.

McCullugh's AC tube went on the market in July of 1925 (Tyne, PP 344) and Rogers first practical AC set (and presumably the tubes [types 30 and 32]) were first placed on the market at the same time. (Tyne, PP 349)

If Tyne is correct, Fredrick McCullough, not Rogers, can claim the first viable indirectly heated cathode type AC tube.

I think I remember too that Western Electric had some operational AC tubes even earlier though I don't know that they made it to market with them.


LLL: (Life's Little Lessons), DC is the property of a current to flow in a uni-directional manner (except in some cranky transmitters)

I just finished restoring a nice Airline console 'Farm Radio' that used a motor generator - 6vdc in 135vdc out. The battery cable had two large clamps so I imagine it ran off a 6 volt truck or tractor battery. Right now I have a Philco 89 cathedral on the bench. It used a nasty assortment of A, B, and C battries (+135v, +67.5v, +2v, -3v, and -7,5v). If anyone here has restored this model I would greatly appreciate any advice. (the chassis is model 39, Rider's vol 6-4)

Glen Upton
I have a Philco 38 or 39 with a nasty cabinet. Been in storage for a number of years. I did power the radio up once with batteries-it does sound good. My cabinet was a later Model 60 style.