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Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN
Lesson
From War to war

UTAH aND THE COLD WAR

World War I and Utah
Utah's Capitols
Herbert S. Auerbach, Renaissance Man
Utah's "Ugly Duckling" Salt Flats
Publicizing Bryce Canyon
The Last Indian Uprising
Home Industry 20th Century Style
Some 80 Utah Nurses Served in World War I
World War I Heroine Maud Fitch Lived in Eureka, Utah
Mexican Families and the Sugar Industry in Garland
The Development of Zion National Park
The Twenties
Artist John Held, Jr. Created Cultural Icons, 1920's
Media Development in Weber County
Silent Films Intrigued & Occasionally Offended
Coal Production Amid the Wars
Sheep Fueled 1920's Economy
Military Installations
Boxcars and Section Houses
Jack Dempsey Loved Fighting, Mining, and Cowboying
Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN
The Cigarette Ban of the 19020's Caused an Uproar
Prohibition Failed to Stop the Liquor Flow in Utah
Lawyer Ran For President on the Farmer-Labor Ticket
George Sutherland Served on the U.S. Supreme Court
Alice Stratton Feared and Made Fun of "Kaiser Bill"
Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching
President Harding's 1923 Visit to Utah
Growing Crops For the Cannery
Dinosaur National Monument
The Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park
Ogden's the Bigelow-Preserves a Historic Area
Philo T. Farnsworth's Invention
The Beginnings of Commerical Aviation
The White Book Road Guide
The Great Depression
Depression Memories
"Even Grasshoppers Were Starving" During Drought
New Deal Agencies Built 233 Buildings in Utah
"Alphabet" Agencies in Utah County
The Civilian Conservation Corps Was a Boon to Utah
The Civilian Conservation Corps
Marriner S. Eccles Helped Design FDR's New Deal
Reed Smoot and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930
Reed Smoot & America's Natural Resources, 1903-33
Children in the 1930's Hoped to Become Nurses & Pilots
Arches National Monument
A Labor Inspector During the Great Depression
Clean Clothes Blowing in the Breeze
Utah's Rosies in the War
Garfield County Airport Has Unusual Hangar
Marie Ogden Led Spiritual Group in San Juan County
Uinta Basin Group Trekked to the 1933 World's Fair
Helen Hofmann Bertagnole-"Utah's Queen of Swing"
World War II in Utah
How Trains Helped Win a War
The War Effort at Home
Topaz Relocation Center
Topaz: Japanese American Interned in UT During WWII
Japanese Agricultural Colony at Keetley
Utahn Survives the Attack at Pearl Harbor
The USS Salt Lake City Made History
Utah Naval Officer Died a Hero's Death at Pearl Harbor
Rhymes Filled Children's Autograph Books
Utah's Rosies Upshot
Women Workers and Housing Issues
World War II Claimed the Lives of Four Utah Brothers

Yvette D. Ison
History Blazer, April 1995

Hello, hello, hello! This is KZN. KZN, the Deseret News, Salt Lake City calling. KZN calling! Greetings!" These were the first words spoken over Utah's pioneer radio station on May 6, 1922. Though clumsy in his greeting, Nate Fullmer was no doubt too excited to notice what he said. The yearlong effort of creating a radio transmitter was finally over. Fullmer and the others involved could now sit back and enjoy the show.

In 1921 Elias S. Woodruff, general manager of the Deseret News, and Nate Fullmer, business manager, met to discuss the possibility of starting a radio station in Utah. At the time, radio was an exciting new communications medium in the United States. Though major cities such as New York and Chicago already had stations, few people owned radios or knew much about them. Both Woodruff and Fullmer recognized that investing in a radio station was risky business. After all, radio could turn out to be only a passing fad. Nevertheless, they both agreed to take the chance.

Unfortunately, the Deseret News lacked funds to start a station in the conventional manner. Since the American Telephone and Telegraph Company had a monopoly on radio transmitters, the cost of the machinery was enormously high--reaching $25,000. Among others, Heber J. Grant, president of the Mormon church and of the Deseret News, disapproved of the purchase. The only solution was to build the transmitter from scratch. After they chose the station site on the roof of the Deseret News Building and selected an engineer, H. Carter Wilson, the project was underway

The work of building the transmitter and station began in the summer of 1921. Though the men worked long hours, progress was slow and tedious. Wilson was unfamiliar with radio transmitters and had to spend hours studying the mechanics of the machinery and trying techniques that often failed. When his transmitter finally broadcast a scratchy musical piece in April 1922, Nate Fullmer was so excited he ran four blocks to a friend's electrical shop to find out if the sounds could be heard on radio there. That evening he sent a telegram to Elias Woodruff in the East to tell him that the transmitter was working. On May 6 prominent LDS church and civic leaders were invited to the rooftop of the Deseret News Building to be present at the first official broadcast of KZN.

At 8 P.M. Fullmer opened the program with a brief greeting to the radio world. Heber J. Grant was next on the program. The Mormon president recited a scripture and offered a religious message to listeners. His wife then commented on the momentous occasion, saying: "I think this is one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives. I am glad that I live in an age when every day--almost every hour, brings us some new invention. I would not be surprised if we were talking to the planets before many years." Mayor Clawson also spoke, congratulating the Deseret News for introducing radio to Utah.

The half-hour program went smoothly enough, except for a moment when President Grant, forgetting that he was on the air, said, "Turn off the heat." Curious listeners wrote to inquire what the church leader had meant. They were amused to learn that he was simply too hot because an electric heater had been placed on the roof to ward off the evening chill and had done the job rather too well.

With practice and experience KZN programs became more professional than that first broadcast in May 1922. After several months the original evening broadcast time of 8:00-8:30 P.M. was enlarged to include more programs and coverage. Musical programs were broadcasted live from the LDS School of Music. Beginning in July 1923 dance music was aired from the Hotel Utah Roof Garden and the Owen Sweetin Band from the dance pavilion at Saltair. The music was transmitted from a telephone line in the dance hall to the broadcast room of KZN. The Peter Rabbit Club offered songs, stories, and birthday greetings to children. In the early 1930s comedy teams such as Parley Bair and Francis Urmy and The Bates Boys were popular radio entertainers. On July 15, 1929, the first Tabernacle Choir broadcast was heard over NBC. The national coverage quickly increased the reputation and popularity of the choir nationwide.

Though most programs went smoothly, the pioneer station still made embarrassing mistakes. One of most obvious came during the World Series in 1930. The General Conference of the Mormon church was held at the same time as one of the Series games. At 11:30 A.M. Heber J. Grant stood before thousands in the Salt Lake Tabernacle to give his conference address. In the middle of his speech, sounds of the World Series game were heard through the speakers in the building. Apparently, someone at the radio station had hit the wrong switch and reversed the broadcasts. The audience sat in silence for an agonizing eight minutes as they listened to an excited sportscaster describe the action. Meanwhile, Presiding Bishop Sylvester Q. Cannon ran across the street to the KSL studio in the Union Pacific Building to see what had happened. The problem was quickly solved, and everyone, including Heber J. Grant, laughed at the faux pas.

After 1924 the station's call letters were changed to KSL under the new management of Earl J. Glade. Though the station changed locations and ownership over the years, the name has since remained the same. KSL and other early stations have followed current events in Utah and the nation since the 1920s. The uncertain investment in a Utah radio station in 1921 proved to be well worth the risk.

Sources: Pearl S. Jacobsen, "Utah's First Radio Station," Utah Historical Quarterly 32 (1964); KSL: Fifty Years of Broadcast Excellence (Salt Lake City, 1972), pamphlet in USHS Library.

 

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