We have just added Sidney Williams Richardson to our continually expanded Character Birth List, because Sid Richardson financed the Texas State Network of radio stations which assisted in the political climb to the U.S. Presidency by Lyndon Baines Johnson. (A concise account of the birth of broadcasting in Texas can be accessed using this T.S.H.A. link.)
In 1920, a City of Dallas transmitting station for fire and police information came on the air. The following year, the U.S. Department of Commerce licensed this station to broadcast under the assigned call letters WRR. By the end of 1922, twenty-five commercial broadcasting operations had joined educational experimentations which began in 1911, at two university locations in the Lone Star State. At that time the most that the U.S. federal government could do was issue licenses to operate using the Commerce Clause of the 1789 U.S. Constitution.
In 1912 the U.S. passed into law a Radio Act that was administered by the Bureau of Navigation in the U.S. Department of Commerce in order for the USA to participate with other nations in the regulation of wireless signals. Out of this emerged a convoluted system of assigning call signs that in 1929 finally began to settle down to a system whereby transmissions to ships that originated from the west coast of the USA were assigned call letters beginning with 'W', and those on the east coast with call letters beginning with 'K'. Land based radio broadcasting stations were then issued with call letters reversing the nautical assignments.
However, like most bureaucratical decisions made after the material fact of usage, a situation had already developed whereby the demarcation line of call signs was not clear cut. But in 1928, assignments of future land-based call letters east of the Mississippi River which snakes its way from north to south, were to begin with the letter 'W', while everything to its west would begin with the letter 'K'. Unfortunately, this belated decision then created pockets of stations on the "wrong side" of the River with the "wrong first call letter". They were then "grandfathered-in" (which in 2021, some have deemed to be "politically incorrect" terminology! It joins the bastardization of the English language where "Amen" has also been reinterpreted to imply a sexual connotation! This twisting of language does not make communication any easier, it only adds to existing confusion and misunderstanding.)
This realignment of call letters in 1928-1929, resulted in some of the original Texas broadcasting stations having the 'wrong' prefixes. They included WBAP in Forth Worth; WFAA in Dallas; WOAI in San Antonio, and WACO in Waco.
WFAA began transmissions on June 26, 1922 as an entertainment station. It did not carry newscasts because it was owned by the same company that published the daily Dallas Morning News. One of its first dramas was called 'Dramatic Moments in Texas History', which was sponsored by the Magnolia Petroleum Company.
That company was later absorbed by Standard Oil of New York (which eventually became Mobil Oil). Standard Oil of New York was one of John D. Rockefeller's 'splinter' companies that emerged from his shattered Standard Oil Trust.
Coming in successive editions of this continuing serial Blog: How the new 'New Deal' found a sponsor in Texas and the 'Good Ol' Boys' began to assemble as future rulers of Texas; the USA and in their minds, the World.
[Text editorially revised on January 11, 2021 without changing the original editorial content.]
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