Radio receiver


Radio receiver


Electrical apparatus


Metal, glass

In 1914, the Observatory was connected to a wireless apparatus to receive radio time signals. The apparatus consisted of one wire 650 feet long stretching from the Observatory to the Auditorium to Lincoln Hall. In 1964, the antenna ran from the clock room to Smith Hall and was 67 feet long. Used for timing lunar occultations in the 1950s.

Ron Schorn (2015) described the clock room (as a graduate student his office consisted of a desk by the window in the clock room) and the radio in 1958. “One of my jobs was to regulate the clocks, for which purpose there was an AM/FM/shortwave radio on a small shelf above and to the right of my desk to receive WWV time signals, but also helped while away the nighttime hours . . . The radio in the clock room, which received AM and FM as well as several short wave bands, was on a good deal of the time, especially at night. The small window between the chronograph and the transit usually was open, and the unusual geometry of that part of the building was such that programs were about as audible to Ray as to myself {Note: Ron’s office was in the clock room, Ray White’s office was in the transit room}. On short wave we could always tune in to The Voice of America (on many, many frequencies), the BBC, or Radio Nederland, but the most fun was listening to Radio Moscow. The Red Show had lightened up since Stalin’s death (No longer did it play only Tchaikovsky or Swan Lake), but it was hilarious to follow their “centrally directed” attempts to be “modern” and impress Western listeners. On the AM band, the favorite program before midnight was Herbert W. Armstrong offering “The Plain Truth about the World Tomorrow!” Namely that the Second Coming was due any day now. . .

“From about 11:30 PM to 5:30 AM or so the favorite program by far was “Music “til Dawn.” This was a network of separate but similar classical-music programs sponsored by American Airlines on various clear channel stations across the USA: Denver, Dalas, and so forth. These were extremely popular at observatories nationwide and we listened to Jay Andres on WBBM in Chicago. In those days Jay gave the sighting times of visible satellite passages, which we then went out and watched if skies were clear.

“One curious and even memorable event involved daytime use of the clock radio. It happened while Sydney Chapman was visiting the Observatory. He was the head of the entire International Geophysical Year effort, and happened to be standing in my office to listen to the live broadcast of the first attempt to launch a Vanguard satellite. Famously, the launch vehicle slowly fell back on the launch pad, broke up, and exploded.”

The receiver was cleaned and repaired in 2017 by Bob Hoffswell.


Echophone Radio Corporation, Chicago, Illinois


Astronomy Department, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois


circa 1950


Michael Svec


Copyright Michael Svec






physical object


University of Illinois Observatory, Urbana, Illinois




Echophone Radio Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, “Radio receiver,” University of Illinois Observatory Collection, accessed June 20, 2024,