Noted broadcast historian John Schneider has written an excellent history of KJR in the new digital edition of RadioWorld on the 100th anniversary of broadcasting by the pioneer Seattle station. A number of US stations lay claim to being the first to broadcast programming to the public, including KDKA Pittsburgh & WWJ Detroit. However, KJR preceded KDKA & WWJ by at least a year. As we’ve noted here in other historical blogs on the station, KJR began life as Vincent Kraft’s amateur “ham” radio station 7XC. Kraft astounded residents here by broadcasting phonograph records over his 10 watt transmitter in 1919. In July 1920, he broadcast the results of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight for local listeners. By 1922, 7XC had a acquired the commercial broadcasting call letters KJR.
John Schneider notes that Vincent Kraft’s broadcasts began from his home at E 68th St & 19th Ave NE in the Ravenna district & later from his downtown radio parts store. By 1924 KJR was broadcasting daily with 1,000 watts & located in the Terminal Sales building in downtown. He writes that Kraft next built KEX Portland, KGA Spokane & KYA San Fransisco, tying all 4 stations together using telephone lines to create the of the first radio networks in America. In 1928, Vincent Kraft sold KJR, built KXA & several stations in Alaska.
Schneider continues to document the station’s rich history & changes of ownership throughout the decades right up to the station’s current ownership & sports format. Particular emphasis is focused on KJR‘s incredible success from the 1960’s onward as a leading top 40 outlet. John Schneider is careful to state that while KJR may not have been the first to broadcast, it may be the oldest station to continuously broadcast from it’s amateur radio beginnings in 1919 up to the present day. Other early broadcasting claims were often temporary experiments in transmitting voice or music. All of these were required to stop for the duration of WW1 as decreed by the government. It wasn’t until after the war that attempts at broadcasting resumed. The author’s collection of early KJR photos in the article are stunning & well worth the read by those of you fascinated by the history of this landmark broadcaster.