What is thought to have been the earliest broadcast of music and speech in the Territory occurred around October 1920 when Marion Mulrony and TC Hall transmitted nearly an hour of talk and records from the Electric Shop in downtown Honolulu to the Pacific Heights home of their only known listeners, Tong Phong and his family. (Schmitt)
Mulrony came to the Islands after a stint in Australia where he initially was the wireless operator on the RMS Makura. In April 1910, Mulrony claimed a record transmission from the RMS Makura of 2,080 miles to North Vancouver. He was later general Manager of Maritime Wireless.
On the continent, Westinghouse, one of the leading radio manufacturers, had an idea for selling more radios: It would offer programming. Radio began as a one-to-one method of communication, so this was a novel idea.
Dr Frank Conrad was a Pittsburgh area ham operator. He frequently played records over the airwaves for the benefit of his friends. This was just the sort of thing Westinghouse had in mind, and it asked Conrad to help set up a regularly transmitting station in Pittsburgh.
On November 2, 1920, station KDKA made the nation’s first commercial broadcast (a term coined by Conrad himself). They chose that date because it was election day, and the power of radio was proven when people could hear the results of the Harding-Cox presidential race before they read about it in the newspaper. (PBS)
Then, “Hello, hello” was blurted out over KGU at 10:57 am, May 11, 1922 – it was the first commercial radio broadcast in the Islands. (Territorial Airwaves)
The first scheduled program on KGU was a concert aired from 7:30 to 9:00 that evening. It began with a violin solo by Kathleen Parlow, Ave Maria, and closed with selections by Johnny Noble’s jazz orchestra. (Schmitt)
Mulrony had obtained the first license to construct a commercial radio station in the Hawaiian Islands. He was the first to broadcast over KGU. KDYX was the second, getting on the Hawaiian airwaves at 11:12 am with “Aloha.” (Territorial Airwaves)
Back then, radio stations were owned by the newspapers. KGU was owned by the Advertising Publishing Company and its transmitter was located in the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper building; the Star-Bulletin’ radio went by the KDYX call letters. (KDYX later became known as KGMB.)
KGU and KGMB were the only commercial broadcast stations on O‘ahu until after World War II. Within a few months of the war’s end, KHON, KPOA and KULA came on the air using surplus military radio equipment. (Sigall)
Call letters were originally created so telegraph operators could send messages to ships and other parties without having to spell out the entire name of the recipient with every communication. With the advent of radio, they became an easy way to carve out a station’s identity.
The international assignment of call letters was codified in 1912 at the London International Radiotelegraphic Conference. German channels would begin with A or D (for Deutschland) or use KAA to KCZ. British stations would start with a B or M, while French channels would use the letter F.
The United States received the letters KDA to KZZ, as well as N (used for Navy and Coast Guard stations), and W. In 1929, it received the rest of the K combinations, which had originally been allocated to Germany. (New York Times)
When the US began licensing radio stations in late 1912, from the start the policy has been that stations in the west normally got K calls, while W calls were issued to stations in the east. (Initially ship stations were the reverse, with W assignments in the west, and K in the east.)
The original K/W boundary ran north from the Texas-New Mexico border, so at first stations along the Gulf of Mexico and northward were assigned W calls. It was only in late January, 1923 that the K/W boundary was shifted east to the current boundary of the Mississippi River.
With this change, Ks were assigned to most new stations west of the Mississippi, however, existing W stations located west of the Mississippi were allowed to keep their now non-standard calls.