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Ken-Rad Corporation

Ken-Rad Corporation, 318 Second Street, Owensboro, Kentucky, USA


First seen: 20-Jul-1922
Last seen: 01-Jan-1945

Brand(s): Archatron, Atlas, Ken-Rad

[1]

Ken-Rad's roots lie with the Kentucky Electric Lamp Co., which was purchased by Roy Berlew in 1918. 

In July of 1922, at the direction of Berlew, John A Dean, Heber Henderson, and H.C. Cummins represented officers in forming the new Ken-Rad Co. 

[2]

Cummins was granted 2% of the IPO in stock, with Dean and Henderson just 0.003% each - or $75 in initial equity. The stated plan was to sell 'electrical equipment, machinery & apparatus', with no mention of tubes, but by February of 1923, we find their tubes being sold in Minneapolis. It is difficult to imagine that just 7 months went by without Ken-Rad having intended to make tubes from the beginning. Roy Berlew was still running the show.

When Roy purchased KELCo he was also sold a license from GE, allowing both for the manufacture of a quota of 50k of 'certain' bulbs per year, and allowed the use of patented machinery to automate the manufacturing process. You can follow more details in the court case that went both directions. It appears Ken-Rad Co. was granted an extention of the license to make tubes, as they were never sued by RCA or Westinghouse.

Pre thoriated filaments
Early tube examples used vertical cylindrical plates and show unusual labels encircling the tips. Their brass bases are not marked like others of the time, and it's clear they were doing soup-to-nuts manufacturing of their product. They needed to leverage their GE licensing as well as their lamp factory expertise to turn a profit and survive. They scraped by on their lamp business long enough to expand into radio tubes. Their GE license would eventually pay off.

I suspect they had problems with amplifier tubes, as did everyone at the time. Pure tungsten amplifiers required long exhaust efforts and so were much more expensive to make and more likely to produce waste. Total tube volume must have been pretty low for 1923, and by Aug of 1924, tubes went tipless. 

Ken-Rad likely made tipped tubes less than 17 mos. (Feb 1923 - Jul 1924) With 3-6mo retooling efforts as the lamp factory was made tipless first, then tube sealing machines were replaced in 2-3 phases, debugged and workers retrained; it is likely only 12-16mos worth of production was achieved. - Chris Benson

As the 1920s reached their midpoint - it was time to retool for tipless, bakelite tubes. Tubes became volume and marketing focused, and Ken-Rad appears to have experimented with several brands. In Oct 1926, Ken-Rad releases its Archatron line, named for the arch supporting the getter. Performance was the pitch. 'Gassless' was touted, which related to the long held arguments of Deforest's theories of gas being publicly debunked around 1925.

A lovely set of photos was published by Radio Broadcast Magazine, showing the 1930 Ken-Rad factory works.

In 1945, Ken-Rad's tube division was sold to General Electric Corporation.

Notable Ken-Rad personnel changes

Dec 1922, James Jordan of Chicago, moves to Owensboro to have 'charge' of Ken-Rad.

In July 1924, Ken-Rad's engineer, John Morton, leaves the company to join Ferdinand Birk - forming Birk-Morton Vacuum Products Co.
There is a noticeable gap in 1925 where it appears Ken-Rad did little or no advertising. Perhaps the GE contracts were being renegotiated, as there was great turmoil with other companies suing that RCA held a monopoly around that time.


** This turned out to be much more expansive a page than expected. If you have something you can contribute or correct, please drop me an email. -Chris



early Ken-Rad variants:

Brand first seen Feb 1923. Assumptions based on 5k/mo production rates. This estimate may be high based on the amount of handwork evident in tube construction.  

BBTT Detector production was likely limited to 3k/mo @ 12-16mo = 36-48k, or about 35-50,000 tubes.[3]

BBTT Amplifier production was likely limited to 2k/mo @ 12-16mo = 24-32k, or about 25-35,000 tubes.[3]


K
E
N
R
A
D
Detector
1
Tube
{v1} Globe (s-14), brass base, tipped, cylinder plate, envelope tip label, paper label 


Ken-Rad 'Detector'

{v1} "Ken-Rad" "Detector" with cylinder plate and circular envelope label top.[4] [5]

K
E
N
R
A
D
Amplifier
2
Tube
{v2} Globe (s-14), brass base, tipped, cylinder plate, envelope tip label, paper label 




Ken-Rad variants:

Variants date to after August 1925, but appear to have been largely unadvertised. 


K
E
N
R
A
D
0200
3
Tube
{v1} Globe (s-14), UV bakelite base, tipless, ink stamped? 


K
E
N
R
A
D
0201A
4
Tube
{v1} Globe (s-14), UV bakelite base, tipless, ink stamped? 




Archatron variants:

Announced Oct 1926, with advertising dying out in late 1928.


K
E
N
R
A
D
UX-200-A
5
Tube
{v1} Globe (s-14), bakelite base, tipless, ink stamped? 




K
E
N
R
A
D
UX-201-A
6
Tube
{v1} Globe (s-14), bakelite base, tipless, ink stamped 





 [18]
f [20]

Atlas variants:

K
E
N
R
A
D
201
7
Tube
{v1} Globe (s-14), bakelite base, tipless, ink stamped 

I still need to sort out whether the Atlas brand preceded the Archatron availability. There appears to be two Atlas brands, and it's possible that Ken-Rad bought or assumed the brand from RSK? ! For now, this is a placeholder.



Bibliography references:
  1. The Owensboro Messenger, 07-Oct-1923, pg 13. From Newpapers.com. Retrieved 07-Feb-2019. *
  2. Owensboro Messenger Enquirer, Owensboro, KY, 20-Jul-1922, pg 1. From Newspapers.com. Retrieved 07-Feb-2019. *
  3. Ken-Rad production synthesis/estimates for BBTT variants, Chris Benson, uv199.com. Written 12-Feb-2019 *
  4. eBay Auction listings, 2018 *
  5. Personal collection, Chris Benson, uv199.com *
  6. Personal collection, Chris Benson, uv199.com *
  7. Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN, 17-Feb-1923, pg. 23. From Newpapers.com. Retrieved 07-Feb-2019. *
  8. Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN, 28-Mar-1923, pg. 15. From Newpapers.com. Retrieved 07-Feb-2019 *
  9. The Owensboro Messenger, Owensboro, KY, 03-Jul-1924, pg. 10. From Newspapers.com. Retrieved 04-Dec-2018. *
  10. Radio Engineering, Jul 1927, pg 815. From AmericanRadioHistory.org. Retrieved 31-Jan-2019. *
  11. eBay Auction listings, 2018 *
  12. Personal collection, Chris Benson, uv199.com *
  13. Personal collection, Chris Benson, uv199.com *
  14. The Boston Globe, 02-Oct-1926, pg. 5. From Newspapers.com. Retrieved 12-Feb-2019 *
  15. Radio Retailing, Feb 1927, pg. 109. From AmericanRadioHistory.org. Retrieved 27-Jan-2019. *
  16. The Morning Call, Allentown, PA, 09-Oct-1927, pg. 29. From Newpapers.com. Retrieved 07-Feb-2019. *
  17. The San Francisco Examiner, 11-Dec-1927, pg. 134. From Newspapers.com. Retrieved 20-Dec-2018. *
  18. Radio News, Feb 1928, pg. 919. From AmericanRadioHistory.org. Retrieved 27-Jan-2019. *
  19. The Pittsburgh Press, 08-Apr-1928, pg. 80. From Newspapers.com. Retrieved 20-Dec-2018. *
  20. The Owensboro Messenger, Owensboro, KY, 16-Sep-1928, pg. 24. From Newspapers.com. Retrieved 20-Dec-2018. *

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