Lafayette or Radio Lafayette, the brand and its origin
If you take the words from the Lafayette catalog from 1932, it is quite easy to determine the origin or birth of Lafayette. The "10th Anniversary 1932 catalog" of "Wholesale Radio Service Co. Inc., 38 Vesey St., New York, NY states this the following way: "1922 - 1932, we celebrate our tenth anniversary. A decade of progress in the radio industry." On page 18: "For your protection we publicly announce that WHOLESALE RADIO SERVICE COMPANY is not associated with any other radio concern and never has been." On page 19: "Ten years ago, when the radio industry had just been born, Wholesale Radio Service Company began in a small, two-by-four office, selling a small number of radio accessories. ... Today this company is located in a modern building in the heart of New York's radio section. Our business runs into millions of dollars per year. A large force of men and women are employed to take care of the hundreds and hundreds of orders which come in daily."
In this thread I will try to publish what actually happened.
I will need your help - if you know anything or can help investigating. It will be a slow process and I will have to find puzzle pieces, one by one. We hope not to fall in the trap of "jumping to conclusions". I began with my own style to bring in catalog information by adding radio models and bringing information about the Lafayette catalogs - see also Lafayette: It's Radio Supply Houses and Catalogs.
"The RADIO TRADE directory" from Aug., 1925 lists on page 130, in the list of manufacturers and brands fro "Vacuum Tube Sets":
Lafayette - see Kor-Rad Co. (address was then 151 E. 58th St., New York - see page 143)
Lafayette - see Mississippi Radio Co. (Mississippi Valley Radio Co., 203 Pine St. St. Louis MO)
My first questions are:
Which one of those companies is the predecessor of Wholesale Radio Service Co. Inc.?
Is it one of those - or did they unite and both are involved? "Wholesale Radio" is not listed.
What persons stood (when) behind those companies with what financial sources or whith which posts?
In the Lafayette catalogs I have I found only one name (incl. picture): J. W. Shortland, Mgr. This is on page 1 of the 96 paged catalog 1930. Then at 36-38 Vesey Street, New york City. Underneath is the text: "Meet Mr. Shortland, Manager of our Personal Service Department. Mr. Shortland was formerly connected with the Nation Radio Institute and is a member of the American Institute of Radio Engineers. (AIRE) His long experience in the Radio Field is at YOUR COMMAND:". Hopefully somebody can find out more ... There is no trace of Mr. Shortland in the internet yet.
Who produced the radios labled Lafayette? Where we know we will answer this on the model page and/or on the catalog page which we will write for every catalog if possible.
After having a good picture I will write a summary after this - in this post. Next posts will be bits and bytes, questions and sometimes answers. It may be never ending - then you will not find an answer here in maroon. Please use the contact form if you are a guest who knows something or has investigated. Members can use the link "Mail to the author" which we have to hide for guests because of spiders ...
At the moment there is only one thing for sure:
The brand or trade name LAFAYETTE was chosen because Marie-Joseph Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (or in full: Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette) has such a good name in the history of the Unitded States of America. In the USA this French aristocrat is called "General Lafayette". You will find his history in Wikipedia well described.
At this time Wikipedia lists the early history of your radio trade name "Lafayette Radio" not so well, but since there is a reference to us I'm sure Wikipedia will correct this sooner or later. This is the present full text for "History":
"Established in the 1920s, Lafayette Radio Electronics (LRE) thriving mail-order catalog business in electronic components was a boon to the amateur radio operators and electronic hobbyist located in areas where such components were not available in local retail outlets. Lafayette's main competitors were Radio Shack, Allied Radio, Heathkit, and "mom and pop" (independent) radio dealers throughout the United States.
Lafayette advertised very heavily in all of the major U.S. consumer electronics magazines of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly Stereo Review, High Fidelity, Audio, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Electronics, among others. The company offered a free 400-page catalog filled with descriptions of vast quantities of electronic gear, including microphones, tape recorders, speakers, and other components which could be obtained for free by mailing in a coupon."
Followed by a good text about the retail stores, the products and the store locations in 20 states.
The General situation at date of the birth of the brand name Lafayette or the first company which started that brand name and could keep it:
We learn from DICK ROSS, K2MGA the following: "Generally speaking, the old-timers in the business represent a clannish group having a common beginning in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn around 1920. Originally, many of them worked from their garages, before being attracted to the Cortlandt Street area by low rents, and a good source of customers from the Cortlandt Street ferry, docking at the foot of the street, on the Hudson. The thousands of commuters passing by each day provided a brisk trade.
Most of the current crop of businessmen on Radio Row don’t date back to that early era, but instead represent the second generation of the old Brownsville group, in addition to a large number of “graduates” from the old Radio Wire Co. (now Lafayette Radio Electronics) at 100 Sixth Ave. A few of the current owners found their way into the business by accident, but generally the trade is a tight, closed affair with very little new outside blood."
The old-timers prospered in an industry devoted to component sales and customer contact. If the customer had a problem in some construction project, the salesman or owner was able to answer his need with the correct part and/or engineering involved. The entire business was founded upon the fact that people built because there was no great quantity of commercial equipment available. For the most part the sales help fostered building and were instrumental in bringing many newcomers into the hobby. Many amateurs today can recall the salesman who sold them their first set of parts and offered suggestions and who was available for counseling when it didn’t work.
We have to assume that the often copied story: "Lafayette is known as a mail-order catalog business which started in the 1920s as Lafayette Radio Electronics (LRE)" is just not true. We will have to search for the roots by using "Radio Wire Co." and "Radio Wire Television Inc." - and/or even an other company.
Name change of the company in the 1920s: I keep this post free for posting later answers to this question.
1929 or before there was at least the name change to "Wholesale Radio Service Co. Inc."
We don't know yet the reason, the date and the persons and/or companies behind it.
Who can give further information on that?
The Lafayette Radio Catalog no. 78, 1940 for the radio season 1939/40 shows an explanation about the name change - see below.
Not long before the name change must have happened because at least the Spring-Summer catalog 1939, no. 76, was still from Wholesale Radio Cervice Co. Inc. Catalog no. 78 - is from about Autumn 1939 and shows now "Radio Wire Television Inc." as company name.
This was surely forced from outside long ago. It must have frustrated many competitors that the organization used such a misleading name, selling to the public too to special prices - naming probably a moon price as list price. This is only my own assumption. Let's go to facts:
"Wholesale Radio Service Co., Inc., of New York (now known as Radio Wire Television, Inc., of New York), and others, New York, Newark. Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta-Against these respondent sellers of radio receiving sets, parts, and accessories, the Commission had issued a complaint alleging that they had misrepresented their prices as wholesale and themselves as wholesalers. At the close of the taking of evidence in support of the complaint the respondents moved for dismissal, which the Commission denied. The respondents then filed petition in the Second Circuit (New York) for review of this action of the Commission. The Commission filed a motion to dismiss the petition for review, which motion was scheduled for hearing in October 1940.2."
The explanation in catalog no. 78 of 1939 is naturally very different and similar to the advertisements in October 1939 in periodicals like "Popular Mechanics" (Vol. 72, No. 4, page 442) and "Popular Science" at the same date.
Page 18A Popular Mechanics Advertising Section shows:
"We have crossed the threshold of tomorrow. Twenty years of public service! In that time, we have sounded almost every phase of the communication field. In that time, we have seen our satisfied-customer-list expand to number buyers in every country of the world.
As we have grown, so too have grown the demands of those we serve. Industry: for new and better materials. Individuals: for finer instruments of reception. As our outlook broadened and plans to meet the new demands took shape, it was apparent that a name was needed to reflect the forward-looking spirit of this company. And so, today, Wholesale Radio Service Company becomes
Radio Wire Television Inc.
Here is why the name was chosen, word for word.
Radio: With radio broadcasting this company has steadily expanded. It was and is, the backbone of our business. naturally radio will continue to engage our interests.
Wire: We believe the new technique of broadcasting by wire will one day encompass the transmission of both sight and sound. Every current technological development points to ward this end.
Television: Whether Tomorrow's televised programs be received by radio or wire, it is our aim to offer the finest services available anywhere. Our new name thus embodies those important factors which, in the very nature of things, comprise our business. Already several associate enterprises in control of patents relating to the communications field have been merged with this company.
Conscious of our great responsibility, plans are even now under way to expand the number of Radio Wire Television Inc. retail outlets. This step will place local branches at the service of all interested in finder entertainment, better products and lower costs. Long ago, we established a standard of service. To keep your confidence in us, we pledge ourselves to surpass that Standard in the future.
Radio Wire Television Inc. formerly Wholesale Radio Service Co. Inc. New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Newark, Bronx NY, Jamaica LI. Radio Wire Television Inc. is licensed by arrangement with Electrical Research Products Inc. under patents of ..."
Here naturally come all the big names - comment not necessary ...
We can note that Rider's Lists models from "Radio Wire Television" already in volume 5 from 1934 - all through volume 19 from 1949 (copyright) - except volume 14. The "Rider's" is here a series of the most complete collection of radio schematics for the radio serviceman, containing 23 thick binders and some more.. John F. Rider produced schematics covering about 120,000 radios with 45,000 different schematic diagrams.
As you can see in my notes for Catalog no. 53 (1933) there is the problem that Rider's did list under different names - even at the same time - surely not Rider's fault ... Besides above RWT we find entries under "Misc.", "Wholesale", "Lafayette" or/and under the name of the manufacturer ... Sometimes you find the schematic for Lafayette a few years later than the one for the original model of the manufacturer (often just as a copy).
Again the question arrises if there were diefferent "Radio Wire Television" companies etc.
We hope to find out answers or to get some answers - also from you ... if possible. The contact form is at your hand. Thank you.