tube radios

“Camden, New Jersey - Radio. RCA Victor. End of Chassis assembly line - assembling 5-tube radio chassis.”, 3/04/1937

Hine, Lewis Wickes, 1874-1940, Photographer.  Series: Lewis Hine Photographs for the National Research Project, 1936 - 1937Record Group 69: Records of the Work Projects Administration, 1922 - 1944

From a series of photos taken by Lewis Hine for the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) National Research Project, highlighting changes in industry and their effect on employment. 

March is Women’s History Month! Come and explore the fascinating stories of women throughout American history through photos, documents, and more in the holdings of the @usnatarchives.


Nems-Clarke 1302A

A special purpose vacuum tube radio receiver, built to last.  Even so, it’s due to have the passives and wiring replaced before its next use. While most of it is vacuum tube based, it has a single custom-printed PCB with a few transistors and a single integrated circuit on board.  All of the tubes are encased in protective metal shells with springs to prevent the tubes from inching out of their sockets.

The 1302A is from the 1960s, and it is designed to be hooked into a unit with a special oscilloscope (also rack mounted).  I’m told that the combined units intended purpose was to monitor telemetry data from Soviet ICBM tests and other Soviet rocket launches!  And now it’s mine! How I got it is stranger than most items in my collection.

My friends watched a construction worker toss this heavy thing into a dumpster our freshman year of college.  After the worker left, my friends climbed in and retrieved it, and brought it over to one guy’s dorm room.  They tried figuring out what it was before giving up and calling me in.  I came over a half hour later with my toolbox in one hand and pack of oreos in the other.  Seems that even after being thrown a good distance, all of the tubes were still intact.  I figured out that it was a radio receiver, so I hooked up a makeshift antenna and hit the power switch.

It actually turned on just fine, and let us tune in the campus radio station!  My friend gave it to me as a present at the end of that semester.  I found a reason to turn it on every so often, and scanned through its extended tuning range above the normal broadcast FM band.  I’ve found some stuff that completely puzzles me as to its purpose and origin. 

For now, it sits in deep storage.


“Dear Thelma did you reserve the radio tubes I sent you if not let me know for I insured them I am sending Aunt Mary the arch supports and the patern [sic] I forgot to send the cat is fine Every body is fine & dandy hope you are all the same love from Carrie Hunter"
New York, NY
Postmarked 1933