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    

Antique Vintage Art Deco 1936 Sparton 566 Bluebird Glass Blue Mirror Tube RadioVintage Zenith Tube Radio Model 5-s-319Zenith 12s245 Chairside RadioOriginal Emerson 1933 Mickey Mouse Radio Walt Disney No ReserveZenith's Duel Driver 12 U-159 Tube Radio Dated 1936Zenith 6s147 Chairside RadioAtwater Kent Breadboard Model 12 - Working And In Outstanding ConditionAntique Vintage 1935 Art Deco Zenith Model 808 Tombstone Tube RadioVintage 1930s Old Antique Zenith Classic Depression Era Multi Band Radio !Old Antique Wood Crosley Vintage Tube Radio - Restored & Working W/ Mirror Dial Vintage 40s Motorola Art Deco Old Bakelite Mid Century Automotive Antique Radio Vintage Crosley Depression Era Gothic Facade Antique Old Cathedral Tube Radio Vintage Old 1920s " King Amplitone " Midget Antique Radio Phones Horn SpeakerVintage 30s Old Warren Telechron Bakelite Gothic Antique Electric Digital ClockVintage 1950s Old Zenith Brass Symphony Hall Near Mint Am - Fm Tube Radio, WorksExtremely Rare Antique 1936 Crosley Model 816 Shortwave Vacumm Tube RadioVintage 1930s Fada Art Deco Old Antique Onyx Green Catalin 659 Pre War Radio Rare Vtg C1930's Art Deco Bakelite International Kadette Jewel Radio Solid Works1933 Majestic Radio Model #59Vintage 1951 Beautiful Old Zenith Racetrack Mid Century Antique Bakelite RadioVintage 1920s Old Utah Magnificent Ornate Patterns Antique Wood Radio SpeakerVintage German Tube Radio Receiver Braun SteuergerÄt Atelier 2 Produced 1961Emerson Deco Radio Bakelite M-cs-268 7 Tube Sw/am Original Condition Working!!!!Lone Ranger 1950’s Majestic Airline Bakelite Western Cowboy Radio Zenith Antique Tube Radio1939 Model 5s-319Rare Vintage Art Deco Bakelite Dewald Tube Model A 501 Radio Zenith Radio Gorgeous Bakelite M-g-510-y Retro Ebony Beauty Working Condition!!Remarkable Vintage Ge "atomic 440" Am/fm Bakelite Tube Tradio-restored Coln Kennedy Type 521 Two Stage AmplifierGilfillan Mini Cathedral Style Tube Radio -- Beautiful -- 1930s VintageEarly Glass Case RadioVintage 1940s Art Deco Mid Century Bakelite Radio Swirled Catalin Colors 1923 Ace Type V One-tube Battery Radio Precision Equip Co / Crosley Vg OrigRca Radio 66-x-11 Beautiful Bakelite Table Set Restored Original 6 Tube Working!Vintage 1950 Old Arvin Hopalong Cassidy Cowboy Radio With A Western Theme FacadeStunning Restored Working Farnsworth Deco Style Tube Radio Mid Century Mcm Fada Radio Model 1000Vintage Emerson Tube Radio Estate Sale Old Tube Radio Cabinet By Ingraham OldAntique Vintage 1936-1937 Belmont Model 601 Compact Art Deco Table RadioVtg 1933 Emerson Tube Radio 250-aw All Wave Midget Gothic Wood Ingraham CabinetVintage Marconi Era Old " Little Gem " Excellent Crystal Radio & Headphone !!Unusual Vintage 1938 Philco Tp-4, Tp-12 Transitone Antique Tube Am Wooden RadioOld Antique Wood Zenith Vintage Tube Radio - Restored & Working W/ Black DialVintage Antique 1939 Detrola RadioVintage Old Early 1951 Zenith " Owl Eye Rare Color Antique Bakelite Clock RadioHeathkit Ar-3 Vintage Shortwave RecieverRare 1956 Motorola Turbine Style Model 56h Am Radio - 50's Jet Age Bullet FrontPhilco Am Tube RadioVintage Atwater Kent Deco Model Type "e" Radio Speaker - Excellent !Vintage Detrola Pee-wee Radio Model 218Vintage 20s Old Marconi Era Antique Crystal Radio Maurice Sievers Regal Radio Pristine Bakelite Obscure M-7251 C-1948 Compact Original 5 Tube NiceVintage 1930s Gem Mint Virgin Emerson Old Antique Depression Era Bakelite RadioVintage 1959 Zenith Old Antique Mid Century Transistor Radio In Rare Gift Box !Vintage 1934 Philco Cathedral Radio #89 - Restore Me, Please!Hallicrafters Sx24 Superior Defiant Communications ReceiverAntique Tube Zenith Long Distance Radio Chassis R244208 Parts/repairRca Antique Tube Radio Model 118 Vintage Philco Am/special Services(sw) Bakelite Tube Radio Model 53-564-restoredVintage 1920s Near Mint & Box Radio Rex Working Worlds 1st Voice Recognition Toy