All radios produced during the first half of the 20th century were tube radios, since transistors were not invented until 1947 and did not start to replace tubes in radios until 1954. Which means that whether your antique radio is a cathedral or a console, an Art Deco beauty made of wood or Bakelite, its guts are filled with tubes.

The originals of the vacuum tube, or valve as it’s called in the United Kingdom, dates to 1883, when Thomas Edison discovered that an electrical current could flow through a vacuum. This “Edison effect,” as it was called, was patented as the Edison Indicator. Then, in 1905, a former Edison employee named John Ambrose Fleming, who was working for Marconi Wireless in London, gave the invention a practical purpose when he patented an oscillation valve to visually detect radio signals. But weak radio signals required amplification, and they were better heard than seen, which is why Fleming’s breakthrough was eclipsed by Lee de Forest’s 1906 Audion, which not only boosted the signals, but eventually made them audible.

The first use for de Forest’s Audion was to boost signals in the nascent telecommunications industry. In 1913, AT&T was using Audions to help signals move along its growing network, and by 1914 the technology was mature enough that AT&T had bought the rights to have its Western Electric division manufacture vacuum tubes for everything from telephones to equipment for the U.S. Signal Corps. But the dominance of radio tubes took hold in 1919, when RCA began putting General Electric tubes in its receivers. In the decades that followed, companies like Philco, Sylvania, and Westinghouse also made tubes, which were used in their radios, as well as ones made by Atwater Kent, Crosley, Emerson, Stromberg, and Zenith.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Tube Radio Land

Tube Radio Land

Paul Turney's collection of tube radios from manufacturers like Zenith, Atwater-Kent, Philco, RCA, Emerson, Sparton… [read review or visit site]

Jim's Antique Radio Museum

Jim's Antique Radio Museum

Jim Tripp's showcase of radios from the 1920s to late 1950s, organized by style and theme (wood, console, plastic, … [read review or visit site]

The Radio Attic's Archives

The Radio Attic's Archives

This photo gallery of over 7800 vintage radios, categorized by manufacturer and model number, is a group effort wit… [read review or visit site]

AntiqueRadios.com

AntiqueRadios.com

Alan Voorhees' reference resource for vintage radio collectors includes a photo gallery, article library, PDF archi… [read review or visit site]

Radiomuseum.org

Radiomuseum.org

This vast archive and community of radio collectors features over 120,000 radio model listings and 350,000 photos a… [read review or visit site]

Phil's Old Radios

Phil's Old Radios

This extensive collection of antique radios includes beautiful photos and detailed historical descriptions. The sit… [read review or visit site]

Radiophile.com

Radiophile.com

John Pelham's collection of wood and plastic radios from the 1930's and 40's. What sets this site apart is the deta… [read review or visit site]

Radio-Guy

Radio-Guy

Steve Erenberg's extremely wacky and well-done collection of vintage mad-scientist devices and contraptions. Writte… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1950s Emerson " Band Shell " Old Bakelite Radio & Automotive Dash ThemeVintage 1930s Zenith Art Deco Waterfall Facade Antique Ingraham Cabinet RadioVintage 1980s Antique Old Still Working Seiko James Bond Wrist Watch TelevisionVintage Bakelite "stromberg - Carlson" Australian Valve Radio WirelessPristine 1941 Prewar Troubador Bakelite Tube Radio * Exquisite Jet Age Gem!Rare!! Vintage 1938 Airite Desk Set Radio 4010 W/ Waltham Clock Bakelite Case NrZenith Model 5s218 Cube - 1937 Am/short Wave Radio - Wood Case, Awesome!!! "atwater Kent" Model #4340 Radiodyne Breadboard RadioOld Antique Wood Trav-ler Vintage Tube Radio - Restored & Working Table TopVintage 1950s Dahlberg Coin Op Mid Century Old Antique Bakelite Tube RadioVintage 1938 Howard 240 Tube Radio "the Flip" Wood Cabinet Magic Eye Push ButtonVintage 1935 Emerson U-5a Tube Radio White Plaskin Art Deco Cabinet Tombstone!Antique Zenith Foreign Shortwave Am Tube Radio Tombstone 5 S 228 WorkingVintage 1938 Emerson Tombstone Art Deco Bakelite Radio , Swirled Catalin Colors Antique 1933 Emerson Radio Model 250 Works Well Great Original CabinetVintage 1931 Old Antique Jackson Bell Peter Pan Motif Depression Era Tube RadioOld Antique Wood Supertone Vintage Tube Radio - Restored Working Deco Tombstone1920 General Radio Wireless Receiving Set W/good Tipped Deforest Audion TubeVintage Old 1930s Philco Antique Radio Standup Easel Type Nos Advertising SignVintage 1947 Fada 845 Tube Radio "the Cloud" Art Deco A Beauty! But Slight As IsVintage Mid Century Atomic Age Bakelite Radio Tube Philco Antique Brown 49-501Vintage 1935 Emerson " Ornate Facade " Old Bakelite Radio & A Bakelite Back 1880s Greeley Tillotson Telegraph Key & Relay * Antique Bug * Excellent OriginalVintage 1920s Old Antique Radio Antique Pre Depression Carbon Spring MicrophoneVintage 60s Beatles Pepsi Cola Antique Old Soda Machine Transistor Radio !!Rare Vintage 1930's Beverly Tube Radio Art Deco Wood Cabinet For The Collector!Vintage 1950s Motorola Solid Black Bakelite & Chrome Still Plays , Not PaintedVintage Old 1920s Antique Tower Nautical Ship Motif Radio Cone Cast Iron Speaker1936 Sears Silvertone Radio Model 4586 With Manual - VintageFederal Model 110 # Tube Trf RadioAntique Atwater Kent Radio Tune O Matic Vintage 1925 Crosley "pup" Tube Radio Regenerative Receiver Holy Cow! So Nice!Crosley Clock Radio Model D-25-gn Vintage Old 1937 Silvertone Art Deco Depression Era Bakelite Midget Tube RadioAntique 1920's Philips Bakelite Speaker Louis C Kalff Valve Radio AudiophileVintage 1940s Drink Coca Cola Cooler Old Bakelite Soda Machine Type Tube RadioAntique Victor Radio Type 600 New York City 1900'sVintage 1955 Antique Skymaster Mini Tube Old Japanese Radio Plastic Bakelite Rca Radio Gorgeous Deco Bakelite "prewar" Marbled Finish C-1940 5 Tube Working!!Zenith L600 Trans-oceanic Shortwave Radio - Early Leather ModelGrebe Model Cr-9 Circa Early 1920Old Antique Wood Wilcox Gay Vintage Tube Radio - Restored & Working Table TopVintage 1950s Japanese Green Modernistic Midget Metal Case Old Working RadioVintage 1947 General Television Model A Tube Radio Bakelite Cabinet So Sharp!Vintage 1920s Kodel , Very Rare Seldom Seen Marconi Era Old Antique 3 Tube Radio1922 Grebe Cr-9 Regenerative Battery Radio Vintage Antique Emerson Phonograph Corporation Short Band Tube Radio AntiqueVintage 1936 Air King 511-512 Tube Radio Book History Of England "set Of Books"1925 Rca Radiola 26 "portable" Radio In Exceptional ConditionPhilco Radio Magnificent Bakelite Original 46-200 1946 "classic" Working 5 Tube!Exc., Working 1923 Magnavox M1 Horn Radio Speaker W/orig. Gold Iridescent PaintZenith 5s218 Am Shortwave Radio Parts Or RestoreZenith 5-r-312 Beehive Pancake Bakelite Vintage Tube RadioVintage 1940s Fada Art Deco Old Antique Beautiful Color Catalin Bakelite Radio Vintage Zenith Tube Radio, Model 5-s-319, 1939Vintage Harman Kardon Pc 200 Tube Type Audio Amplifier Made In U.s.a.Vintage 1952 Dewald F-523 Tube Clock Radio Bakelite A Rare & Beautiful Example!Vintage 1950 Pepsi Cooler Old Blue Bakelite Soda Coin Op Cola Machine Tube RadioVintage 1930s & 40s Antique Old Microphones Blowout Sale All For One Low PriceVintage Old Astatic Antique Microphones Blowout Sale All For One Low Price