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Radio Tube Exchange, Inc.

Radio Tube Exchange, 200 Broadway, New York, New York, USA {10-Jun-1923}

d/b/a Rolls Royce Tube Co., 21 Norwood Street, Newark, New Jersey, USA {31-May-1924}

d/b/a Roice Tube Co., 21 Norwood Street, Newark, New Jersey, USA {Jan-1925}

Blue Bird Lamp Company, 45 East Seventeenth Street, New York, New York, USA {Jan-1925}

d/b/a Blue Bird Tube Company, 200 Broadway, New York, New York, USA {Apr-1925}

d/b/a Gem Tube Company, 200 Broadway, New York, New York, USA {May-1925}

*** 'Famous Textiles' advertised throughout 1925-7 at the address 200 Broadway, New York, New York, USA



First seen: 01-Jun-1923
Last seen: 12-Feb-1927

Brand(s): RadioTune, Rolls-Royce, Roice, Blue Bird, Gem


If ever there was a spiderweb of shell companies,  Radio Tube Exchange is certainly it. It will require more disclosure of my logic than usual to keep together these seemingly disperate tube entities. I expect this page to change, and is a work in progress.


Tangled in Trade Names

Starting with Blue Bird tubes the tangle begins. 

There was an implied association between Blue Bird and Gem since they used the same street address. Benjamin Chirls is running both tube companies based on the evidence left from his trademark registrations. Blue Bird was claimed first, in Apr 1924, with Gem following in Nov 1924.


  • Benjamin Chirls registers Blue Bird, Gem and Roice trade names - linking them.
  • Blue Bird, Gem and the 'Radio Tube Exchange' share physical addresses in the same timeframe
  • Rolls Royce Tube Co. is known to have been sued for trademark infringement and renamed itself Roice. {ref needed}
  • Rolls Royce and Roice shared the same physical address sequentially from late '24 to 1925. 
  • Radio Tube Exchange shares physical address with Blue Bird & Gem, both earlier and later than all of them.
  • Radio Tube Exchange article proves that RTE was 'manufacturing' Radiotune tubes before Feb 1924

Benjamin Chirls is a unique enough name that it represents high confidence that they are the same individual from the same area.

He was also owner of Bray Productions, Inc. making motion pictures in NYC.

This evidence is further explained below, or you can jump to the tubes.

Blue Bird Lamp Company is quite likely a tungsten lamp factory gone rogue - making tubes. The earliest examples of their tubes, are BBTT with a bluebird decal applied to the envelope near the top. An early winged-plate example of a 5w transmitting tube helps not only date their work, but also shows us the rudimentary plate construction - certainly done by hand. 




A careful search revealed that the Gem brand was registered on the same day as Blue Bird - both to Benjamin Chirls, but this time d/b/a Gem Tube Company, New York, NY. They claim to have used the brand since Nov 1924, though ads have not been found to substanciate it before 1926.




Following the trail of Benjamin Chirls, I discovered the next pseudo-company used to sell tubes - Roice Tube Co.
Roice started out as 'Rolls Royce', but were served with an injunction in late 1924. (need ref)
Early January, 1925, they changed to Roice and kept on rolling.




RadioTune variants:

R T
A U
D N
I E
O
201-A
1
Tube
{v1} Globe, brass base, tipped, ink-stamped base


RadioTune appears to be the earliest brand created by Radio Tube Exchange. A rarely seen early tube that looks strikingly well designed to fool someone into reading 'Radiotron' rather than 'Radiotune'. Whether RCA took notice, or they merely moved to better selling brand names, is unclear.


[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]

There seems to be overlap between RadioTune and other brands, and by quite a bit. I doubt more than a few thousand were created and sold before other brands too over, so perhaps some surfaced late through surplus. We can assume they were made Jan-Jul 1924.



Rolls-Royce variants:

 
R R
O O
L Y
L C
S E
Type 201-A
1
Tube
{v1} Globe, brass base, tipped, ink-stamped "Roll-Royce", large box plate





Roice variants:
Roice tubes vanish from print early in March 1926. They seem to have primarily been advertised in Ithaca, NY.



 

R
O
I
C
E
201-A
1
Tube
{v1} Globe, brass base, tipped, ink-stamped, blue bird envelope label







Blue Bird variants:

 
B B
L I
U R
E D
201-A
1
Tube
{v1} Globe, brass base, tipped, ink-stamped, blue bird envelope label

B B
L I
U R
E D
201-A
2
Tube
{v2} Globe, brass base, tipless, ink-stamped, blue bird envelope label



B B
L I
U R
E D
5w Osc
3
Tube
{v3} Globe (s-16), "5W Oscillator", brass base, tipped, ink-stamped, blue bird envelope label



Blue Bird 5w Oscillator     
Blue Bird 5w Osc
 
 
 
Blue Bird Oscillator base

{v3} "Blue Bird" "5w Oscillator" BBTT with envelope label. {UV-202 equivalent[25]


Blue Bird tubes appear in a short period between Apr-1925 and Feb 1927, primarily in the Ithaca,NY area. 







Gem variants:

Gem was the last brand introduced by this prolific organization. Since the tube market was heating up, with bases now bakelite & tips long gone, Radio Tube Exchange's Gem entity sure was no longer involved with 'tube repair' (aka rebasing/relabeling)

In the 1925 market, tube blanks must have been easily available to those already connected to the black market tube factories.

So, Gem seems to be bakelite, with possibly several variants, since artwork suggests changes along the way. The most common Gem is the one with the red foil envelope label, and no other brand marks.

 

G
E
M
201-A
1
Tube
{v1} Globe, engraved tall bakelite base, tipless


G
E
M
RF 201-A
2
Tube
{v2} Tubular, engraved tall bakelite base, tipless, envelope label







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