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KZY was a radio station located in Oakland, California, that was licensed to the Atlantic-Pacific Radio Supplies Company from December 9, 1921 until its deletion on January 24, 1923. It, and the Preston D. Allen station, KZM, were the first broadcasting stations licensed to Oakland.[1]

KZY was the successor to Experimental station 6XC, which dated to mid-1920, and which founder Lee de Forest suggested deserved credit as the "first radio-telephone station devoted solely" to broadcasting to the public.[2] Including its predecessor, KZY's broadcasting history predated that of many better-known pioneer stations, including WWJ in Detroit, Michigan (started August 1920, originally as 8MK) and KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (debuted November 2, 1920 as 8ZZ).

6XC (California Theater station)[edit]

Mary White with Lee de Forest, broadcasting at 6XC.[3]

Radio station 6XC was established by radio inventor Lee de Forest following his March 1920 move from New York City to San Francisco. In late 1919, de Forest had restarted an experimental radio station, 2XG (also known as "The Highbridge station"), at his laboratory in New York City, in order to promote the DeForest Radio Telephone and Telegraph company and showcase developments in vacuum-tube technology. Beginning in November 1919, that station had featured a nightly broadcast of news and entertainment. However, in early 1920 de Forest moved 2XG's transmitter from the Bronx to Manhattan without first getting permission from the government, and due to this infraction the local District Radio Inspector ordered him to suspend the station's operations.[4]

De Forest's response was to ship 2XG's 500-watt transmitter from New York to San Francisco, where it was used to start a new station, also operating under an Experimental license, now with the callsign 6XC. Ellery W. Stone made arrangements for the station to be located at the California Theater,[5] thus 6XC was commonly referred to as "The California Theater Station". It began operating in April, and was initially licensed to Lee de Forest, Inc.[6]

The new station's broadcasts would be even more varied than what had been offered in New York, and de Forest personally oversaw the station's construction. The transmitter was located in the flies of the theater, with an antenna strung from the theater roof to the adjoining Humboldt Bank Building. Daily matinee concerts given at the theater by Herman Heller's orchestra were the main source of programming.[7] The station also featured professional singers, including Mary White[3] and Frieda Hempel,[8] plus lectures by prominent speakers including Ellery Stone[9] and American Radio Relay League president Hiram Percy Maxim.[10] Another special program had Robert Newton Lynch, Vice President and General Manager of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, sending greetings to the Japanese Armament Conference delegation as it approached the city aboard the Korea Maru.[11] An estimated 1,500 concerts were broadcast by the end of 1921.

In mid-1921 control of 6XC was transferred to the Atlantic-Pacific Radio Supplies Company,[12] which was the local DeForest company representative.

KZY (Rock Ridge station)[edit]

Advertisement for radio station KZY.[13]

Although initially there were no formal standards for U.S. radio stations that provided entertainment broadcasts, effective December 1, 1921 the Department of Commerce adopted a regulation requiring that stations engaged in broadcasting to the public now needed to hold a Limited Commercial license.[14] Therefore a new license, with the randomly assigned call sign of KZY, was issued for the station on December 8, 1921. At the same time, it was decided to transfer the station to the home of Henry M. Shaw, the Atlantic-Pacific Radio Supplies president, located in the Rock Ridge section of Oakland, California, and operate KZY from there.[15]

After a rush to move the facility to the new site, KZY's official opening took place on Christmas morning, December 25, 1921, with a live concert of Christmas-themed music. 6XC had operated on its own longwave frequency, but the new regulations required that all broadcasting stations use a shared entertainment wavelength of 360 meters (833 kilohertz). Under the initial timesharing agreement, KZY's schedule was 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 7:00–7:30 p.m. daily (except Sundays), plus 3:00–4:00 p.m. on Sundays, 2:30–3:15 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 8:15–9:00 p.m. on Saturdays.[15]

Due to its more remote location, the station attracted fewer prominent artists than it had in San Francisco, although it did feature the radio debut of Glenhall Taylor, who on May 11, 1922 shared the microphone with Stanford University's first president, David Starr Jordan.[16] The station also was known for picking up the signals of other distant radio stations, including WGY,[17] the General Electric station in Schenectady, New York.

Although KZY was well managed, the station would be short-lived, and gave its last known broadcast the evening of June 17, 1922.[18] At the time it was stated that this was only a temporary suspension, necessitated because Henry M. Shaw had resigned as Atlantic-Pacific's president and the station needed to be moved from his home. There were plans to move KZY back to San Francisco[19] with the new location said to be the Atlantic-Pacific headquarters at 646 Mission Street.[20] However, it does not appear that KZY ever broadcast from the new location, and later that year the station was reported to have permanently ceased operations,[21] although it was not formally deleted until January 24, 1923.[22]


  1. ^ "New Stations: Commercial Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 2.
  2. ^ "'Broadcasting' News by Radiotelephone" (letter from Lee de Forest), Electrical World, April 23, 1921, page 936.
  3. ^ a b "The California Theatre Radiophone" by Lieut. Ellery W. Stone, Pacific Radio News, June 1921, page 368.
  4. ^ Father of Radio: The Autobiography of Lee de Forest, 1950, pages 349-351.
  5. ^ Ellery W. Stone: An Interview Conducted by Frank A. Polkinghorn, April 24, 1974, IEEE History Center (
  6. ^ "New Stations: Special Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, October 1, 1920, page 5: The "6" in 6XC's callsign indicated that the station was located in the 6th Radio Inspection District, while the "X" signified it held an Experimental license.
  7. ^ De Forest (1950) pages 354-356.
  8. ^ "Hempel Heard in Honolulu", Musical Monitor, June 1921, page 441.
  9. ^ "The First Lecture by Radiophone", Pacific Radio News, August 1920, pages 4, 8.
  10. ^ "Talking to a Nation by Wireless", Journal of Electricity, September 1, 1920, page 219.
  11. ^ "Japan's Envoys to Limitation of Armament Conference Welcomed", San Francisco Business, October 21, 1921, page 6.
  12. ^ "Alterations and Corrections: Special Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1921, page 7.
  13. ^ "Can You Hear Rock Ridge?" (advertisement for the Atlantic-Pacific Radio Supplies Co.), Radio, June 1922, back page.
  14. ^ "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10. The first California station to meet this standard was Arno A. Kluge's KQL, first licensed on October 13, 1921.
  15. ^ a b "KZY–A Record Installation" by Ellery W. Stone, Radio, February 1922, pages 11-12.
  16. ^ Before Television: The Radio Years by Glenhall Taylor, 1979, page 15.
  17. ^ "Rockridge Hears Signals From Schenectady", Oakland Tribune, March 25, 1922, page 22.
  18. ^ "Rockridge Station Gives Last Concert", Oakland Tribune, June 17, 1922, page 20.
  19. ^ "Rockridge Radio Station to be Moved to S.F.", Oakland Tribune, June 17, 1922, page 20.
  20. ^ "Alterations and Corrections: Broadcasting Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, July 1, 1922, page 9.
  21. ^ "Answers to Questions", Oakland Tribune, December 31, 1922, page 24.
  22. ^ "Alterations and Corrections: Broadcasting Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1923, page 8.