The Philadelphia Storage Battery Company was organized from the Helios Manufacturing Company in July 1906, with Frank S. Marr as its first president. While Helios had produced carbon-arc lamps, the Philadelphia Storage Battery Company produced storage batteries for cars, trucks, and mine locomotives.

In 1911, the company hired James M. Skinner as a chemist. Skinner quickly rose up through the ranks, eventually becoming general manager and vice president. It was Skinner who introduced the name Philco as an abbreviation for the company’s name in a 1919 advertising campaign.

Philco started making batteries for consumer radios in 1923. These early radios, which were becoming increasingly popular, required two types of batteries, A and B. When a battery ran out of power, the consumer had to take the radio to a service station for it to be recharged. Philco, however, began producing and selling battery chargers so radio owners would not have to take their batteries outside the home to be recharged.

Under Skinner’s leadership, Philco ran aggressive ad campaigns in a wide array of magazines. It also shipped instructional booklets to Philco dealers to ensure that salesmen were well-versed in the company’s products. In 1927, Philco began a weekly Friday night radio broadcast on four stations in the eastern U.S. By September, the “Philco Hour” had become a regular program on NBC.

In 1925, Philco got its first taste of large-scale success with its Socket-Power units, which allowed a radio to be plugged in to an electrical outlet. Even though the radio still required an A battery to function, the Socket-Power units utilized trickle charging to ensure that the battery wouldn’t die.

Two years later, however, the Radio Corporation of America developed technology which allowed radios to be plugged directly in to a wall, making Philco’s Socket-Power units obsolete. In an attempt to adapt to the changing market, Philco began to explore the possibility of making radios, not just batteries. To this end, Philco bought the Wm. J. Murdock Company in February 1928 to acquire all the proper patents and licenses.

Philco released its first radios later that year. This line of radios later became known as the 511 series and included a metal table model designed by Hollingsworth Pierce, as w...

In an effort to appeal to female buyers, Philco hired artist Matild Massaros to create floral designs for the furniture cabinet models; these designs were hand-painted. Philco also devoted substantial resources to advertising. In 1929, for example, the company sponsored broadcasts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the early 1930s, Philco also signed a number of advertising deals with Paramount, which included promotional giveaways featuring actors’ autographs.

At the same time, Philco sank massive capital into retooling the Murdock company factory to make it fit for mass production. Despite taking on some short-term debt, this transition allowed Philco to become the third-biggest company in the radio industry in 1929, selling more than 400,000 radios.

As Philco dropped its prices and introduced new features, it quickly became an unpopular competitor among radio manufacturers. In 1930, it introduced Tone Control, which allowed a listener to change his or her radio’s sound to brilliant, bright, mellow, or deep, depending on the desired balance of low and high frequencies.

As the Depression grew even more serious, Philco produced one of the first cathedral radios—small table model radios with arched tops, which made them look like cathedrals. Featuring an Art Deco design, these models were cheap, marketed to those hit by the Depression. In particular, Philco’s Baby Grand model quickly became a success. By the end of 1930, Philco was the top radio manufacturer in the United States.

That same year, Philco bought the Automobile Radio Corporation and renamed it the Transitone Automobile Radio Corporation. Transitone released the Model 3 automobile radio, which was smaller and cheaper than its competitors.

The company’s fortunes did suffer as a result of the Depression, but innovation allowed Philco to stay in business. In 1934, its Model 200-X became the first true high fidelity radio receiver on the market, beating out its competitors by a full year. In 1936, Philco introduced its Automatic Tuning system, which allowed listeners to assign their favorite stations to presets. Three years later, Philco introduced the Mystery Control, the first wireless remote control made for radios.

By 1938, Philco had produced its 10 millionth radio; to mark the milestone, it manufactured a small number of 38-116 radios with a commemorative brass plaque. Even so, the company began diversifying its product lines, producing an air conditioner called the Cool-Wave in 1939 and initiating a line of refrigerators in 1940, the same year Philco sold its 15 millionth radio and reorganized as the Philco Corporation. Philco also started selling its first TVs in 1939, and the company began broadcasting from its own television station, W3XE.

To keep sales high, Philco employed a number of winning strategies. Its ads usually promoted the company’s cheapest models, hoping that low prices would lure customers into the store, where a dealer could talk them up to a more expensive model. Philco dealers also had to meet monthly quotas in order to continue to be allowed to sell the company’s radios. In the early 1930s, Philco introduced an annual cruise for all of its dealers, during which the company would tout its new line.

With the coming of World War II, Philco secured contracts to manufacture radar and other technology for the U.S. government. After the war, Philco slowly made the transition back to consumer electronics. The delay in getting its television line back in step allowed the Radio Corporation of America to gain a huge head start in the market, a lead it never relinquished.

In the 1950s, Philco expanded its product line and began research into computers and transistors, diversions that hurt the company as a whole. In 1961, Philco was bought by Ford, which sold the company in 1974 to GTE-Sylvania. Philco later became part of the Philips Consumer Electronics Corporation.

For collectors, dating Philco radios is easy. Most models have a five-digit model number. The first two digits indicate the year of manufacture, so a 41-255, for example, was made in 1941. In its long history, Philco produced many types of radios, from the small cathedral radios to larger Lazyboy chairside models.

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Recent News: Philco Radios

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This 3D Printed Miniature 2? Television Set Really Works!
3DPrint.com, March 26th

The design for the television set dates back to the 1950s and was created by a company called Philco. Philco manufactured an iconic TV called the Predicta. This TV will certainly bring back some memories for anyone who grew up or lived during this time ...Read more

DARRELL HUCKABY: Ironing puts a wrinkle in travel preparations
newtoncitizen, March 26th

One of the things she had in her bag was the Philco radio that she used to listen to Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson call the Braves' games — while she was ironing if they happened to be playing a day game. May died long ago, but I think about her...Read more

Philco realiza reunión para impulsar el turismo en laguna Andiviela
Diario Voces, March 26th

A invitación del alcalde de Morales, Carlos Philco Balbín, el alcalde de Tarapoto, Walter Grundel Jiménez, y varios operadores de turismo, se reunieron para dar realce a la laguna Andiviela. Esto con el propósito de impulsar el turismo de acuerdo al...Read more

Carlos Philco: “Sandro no fue transparente y me ha defraudado”
Diario Voces, March 18th

El exalcalde de Tarapoto Sandro Rivero Aguilar, quien fue candidato a la alcaldía de Tarapoto, sin mayor éxito el año pasado, afirmó que desde que Carlos Philco ganó las elecciones, no tiene comunicación con él. Afirmando que puso la mayor parte de ...Read more

Lista de Casamento
Extra.com, March 11th

Embutida na Philco, a placa de rede wireless permite uma conexão com a internet sem que seja preciso o uso de fios. Esta grande conveniência apenas exige um roteador wireless e um acesso à internet banda larga, ambos adquiridos separadamente...Read more

Philco y sus batallas que va perdiendo
Diario Voces, March 11th

Carlos Philco se siente como un perseguido, por las sombras y personajes de la gestión de Edilberto Pezo Carmelo, que por haber puesto ya la denuncia penal contra ciertos funcionarios de Pezo Carmelo, percibe que se siente estrangulado políticamente y ...Read more

El agente Johnny Philco espiaba para Chile desde hace nueve años
LaRepública.pe, March 7th

Modus operandi. El contacto chileno del espía peruano, el capitán de corbeta Francisco Calvanese, ingresó al Perú por primera vez en 2005, y ese mismo año Johnny Philco viajó tres veces a Chile y una vez a Argentina, donde entregó información...Read more

POEM: 'My father sat in the big chair by the Philco'
The Times (subscription), March 6th

I spent the winter my father died down in the basement, / under the calm surface of the floorboards, hundreds / of little plastic parts spread out like debris / on the table. And for months while the snow fell / and my father sat in the big chair by...Read more