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History of the manufacturer  

General Electric for Brand RCA-Radiotron; Bridgeport CT, Syracuse NY

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Name: General Electric for Brand RCA-Radiotron; Bridgeport CT, Syracuse NY    (USA)  
Abbreviation: ge-for-rca
Products: Tube manufacturer

See also General Electric, USA. This second entry is made to show the true designing company and manufacturer company in the 1920s for their common tube brand RCA or RCA Radiotron. In 1930 the situation changed and RCA was producing tubes, but not before!


In 1876, Thomas Alva Edison opened a new laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Out of the laboratory was to come perhaps the most famous invention of all-a successful development of the incandescent electric lamp. By 1890, Edison had organized his various businesses into the "Edison General Electric Company".

Tyne: The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was founded by GE and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) in 1919 to further international radio. It was actually forced by the US Navy to get independant from British Marconi Companies. On November 20, 1919, the American Marconi Company was officially merged with the RCA. (Tyne 308)

The first tubes shipped to RCA were the UV200 and UV201, designed and manufactured by GE. RCA announced them November 1920 for amateur and experimental use only. (Tyn2 209)

Tyne page 310: "Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company" (W.E.&M.) with its subsidary "Westinghouse Lamp Company" joined the RCA consortium in June 1921 and contracted to make tubes for RCA. Cross licensing was concluded June 30, 1921.

Westinghouse had earlier engaged in tube development and was familiar with the techniques of manufacture. Records show that the first shipment from W. E. & M. Co., WD11 tubes, was received by RCA in January 1922; The second shipment from the same source, WR21 tubes, was received in February.

RCA also received a shipment of UV201 tubes in April 1922 from Westinghouse Lamp Company. this because the demand was so high for that tube. But the UV201 tubes from the two Westinghouse plants were not similar in appearance or characteristics. Thus we mark thenm with Westinghouse (underliny type).

During 1920 the Harrison Works of General Electric by accident used some tungsten filament wire which contained thoria for the manufacture of UV201 tubes. They showed much better emission, even with less temperature. For general use the first thoriated filament tubes were the UV199 and UV201A

This is just a short description to show that there are some types designed and made be GE, some designed and manufactured by Westinghouse and a few were manufactured by both companies. All early tubes were not manufactured by RCA but stamped for RCA and sold by RCA for the market. We will in the future try to bring in the story about each of those tubes of the 1920s and to distinguish for tube friends who designed them and made them for RCA - and then use this selection or the one for Westinghouse for Brand RCA-Radiotron.

RCA was formed as an operating company for ship-to-shore and transoceanic communication and had not manufacturing facilities. This changed in 1930 by forming the RCA Radiotron, Inc.

In 1882 the Edison Lamp Works set up a factory at the corner of Bergen Street and Fifth Avenue, Harrison, New Jersey. It originally employed 150 workers but by 1912, the workforce had grown to 4000. Also in the same year, the company opened a research laboratory, with 134 employees. The factory also increased in size and by 1930, when RCA began tube manufacture in their own name, the works had expanded to a 9.5 acre site with 26 buildings. There was an estimated three billion tubes made at Harrison by RCA until it closed in 1976.   


Further to the above relating to the involvement of GE and Westinghouse with RCA, from the outset in 1921/22, the ratio of both companies in both radio equipment and tubes was 60% GE and 40% Westinghouse. THis arrangement, particularly with tubes, had some problems and one of these was the buying public. It was decided not to show either of the manufacturers names on tubes and make all tubes of the various types identical and with the RCA logo and branded Radiotron. This brought closer cooperation between the two companies. At this time tubes were made at several factories owned by GE and Westinghouse and a joint company - Radiotron Inspection Service - was formed and located a the GE Research Laboratories at Harrison and under its supervision. Inspectors would visit the factories and make sure that tube standardization was being adhered to and they also coordinated life testing of tubes.. .   


Talks began as early as 1927 between RCA, GE and Westinghouse about RCA being able to operate the Harrison tube works of GE as a tube research and manufacturing facility in its own right. Following the signing of the agreement on December 26th, 1929, RCA was restructured to encompass research, manufacturing and sales. The newly formed RCA Radiotron Company Inc assumed operation of the former GE works. The Westinghouse plant at Indianapolis, Indiana was added to the new company. All tube research was thus carried on at the Harrison works. The RCA Radiotron company absorbed the E T Cunningham company in 1931. In 1934 RCA Radiotron and RCA Victor became part of the new RCA Manufacturing Company as operating divisions.   

Following the commencement of World War Two, RCA began preparing to meet the radio requirements of the US Military. With tubes, in particular, it involved disposing of thousands of tubes in the "archives" at Harrison, to create extra storage space. These tubes dated mainly from before 1930, when the RCA radiotron Co was formed. Tubes were in four categories: 1) experimental and prototypes (tubes had a paper label with red printing stating batch number, tube type code, date and technical data);. 2) commercial types (readily available); 3) tubes of other US manufacturers (these tubes had a white paper label on them on which was typed "Purchased by --- ----"  and the date, plus other technical information); 4) foreign made tube samples usually with the same label as 1).  

A decision was made (date unknown but some time in 1940-41) that these tubes should be disposed of at a local rubbish tip. It is very fortunate that an employee of the company was able to phone a tube collector who lived nearby and warn him to be at the tip at an appropriate time. This collector was Howard Schrader ( a contemporary and friend of Gerald Tyne, who wrote the "Saga of the Vacuum Tube" , often referred to as the "tube collectors bible". Schrader rescued several thousand of these tubes. A visit to Schraders home in Princeton, New Jersey over the Easter weekend in April 1969 revealed the extent of his vast collecton estimated to be one hundred thousand tubes, including many duplicates. He worked as a photographer at Princeton University. He was very generous with his tubes and over the years, with many finding their way into other collections, even in Europe and Australia. The Schrader Award for Preservation is made available yearly by the Tube Collectors Association in his memory.

Some models:
Country Year Name 1st Tube Notes
USA  53 X-332 12SA7  Two wave ranges: BC from 540 kHz to 1650 kHz SW from 4.8 MHz to 18 MHz R... 


Further details for this manufacturer by the members (rmfiorg):

QST June 1927tbn_ux852_qst_627.png
QST June 1929tbn_uv845_qst_629.png
QST October 1929tbn_uv849_qst_929.png
QST September 1929tbn_uv872_qst_929.png


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