Earliest FM Radio StationsThis page attempts to list the earliest FM radio stations in the United States, showing all stations on the air by the end of 1940. The precise ordering of the stations on this page should not be considered definitive, because of incomplete information available and because various interpretations exist as to when a particular station actually began broadcasting. Power outputs mentioned on this page are probably transmitter power outputs, rather than effective radiated power. An asterisk indicates station still on the air.
Thanks to Winston Tharp, Donna Halper, Bob Carpenter, Robert W. Paine, Bob Smith, Steve Reggie, Bill Davies, David Kaye, Bill Ruck, Norm Gagnon, Denny Sanders, and Dick Block, who assisted with this page. It is maintained by Jeff Miller and contributions are welcome. The page was last revised on Feb. 14, 2006.
W2XMN/WFMN/KE2XCC, Alpine, N. J. (Edwin H. Armstrong) Regular programming began with full power on July 18, 1939, on 42.8 MHz, with 35,000 watts. (The carrier was first turned on for testing on April 10, 1938, with 600 watts on 43.7.) Broadcasting magazine on Aug. 1, 1939, listed this as one of the four FM stations "in actual operation." The station went off the air on March 6, 1954. For more information on W2XMN, see the E. H. Armstrong website.
In 2005, experimental station WA2XMN transmitted programming on 42.8 MHz, commemorating the 70th anniversary of FM broadcasting. A website about the station is at http://www.wa2xmn.ar88.net/.
W1XOJ/W43B/WGTR, Paxton, Mass. (Yankee Network) W1XOJ went on the air May 27, 1939, with 2000 watts on 43.0 MHz. The construction permit for this station had been granted Aug. 18, 1937. On July 24, 1939, W1XOJ began operating on a schedule of 16 hours a day on the air (8 a.m. to midnight). Broadcasting magazine on Aug. 1, 1939, listed this as one of the four FM stations "in actual operation."
On January 15, 1941, W1XOJ's power was boosted to 50,000 watts. On April 29, 1941, the call was changed to W43B. On May 26, 1941, the first commercials exclusively for FM were broadcast. The commercials were bought by the Socony Vacuum Oil Company, today's Mobil.
To send the programming from the Boston studios of the Yankee Network to Paxton, FM relay station W1XOK (later WEOD), operating with 250 watts on 133.03 MHz was installed. WEOD could be said to be the earliest ancestor of today's WBMX, according to the Boston Radio Archives.
Bob Carpenter writes:I understand that pre-WW2 the stations were listed by TRANSMITTER power, not ERP. Thus the 50 kW for W43B was actually about 300 kW ERP. My ham friend, the current holder of W3XO, says that he frequently heard them in the DC area - even on those days' horrible receivers. I visited the WGTR/W43B site in about 1952 and there were still hunks of the low-band transmitter present. It was clearly a big rig. The tiny high band rig looked lonely in all that space.While operating with 50,000 watts TPO, the station was using a 10-bay antenna.
Much of the information for this entry was provided by broadcast historian Donna Halper.
*W1XPW/W65H/WDRC-FM/WFMQ/WHCN, Hartford. (WDRC, Inc.) Began on air testing May 13, 1939, with 2000 watts. Broadcasting magazine on Aug. 1, 1939, listed this as one of the four FM stations "in actual operation." According to Norm Gagnon's database, the station switched from apex to FM in October 1939. The station went on the air Oct. 2, 1939, according to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook. (This station had begun in 1936 as apex station W1XSL, using amplitude modulation. In 1938 the station changed call letters to W1XPW, transmitting on 40.3 MHz.) This station might be considered the oldest existing FM station in the U. S. if one accepts the link from the original WDRC-FM to the present WHCN; however, if frequency modulation was indeed not used until October 1939, WHUR might deserve this distinction. Bill Davies says the "historic FM transmitter building on West Peak in Meriden, CT is not only extant but is the current transmitter site of WZMX (93.7) and WHCN (105.9). Also located up there are WPKT, WWYZ, WKSS, the second WDRC-FM (102.9), and WMRQ, which was WIOF during my 13 years on the payroll."
W1XSN/W81SP/WBZA-FM Springfield, Mass. (Westinghouse E. & M. Co.) On air with experimental broadcasts Aug. 29, 1939, programmed from the studios of WBZA. (This date was supplied by Donna Halper, who reports it appears in notes written by Gordon Swan.) This station is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. It is one of several listed as having an FM construction permit in Broadcasting magazine of Aug. 1, 1939. It received its commercial license June 19, 1943.
*W3XO/WINX-FM/WTOP-FM/WHUR Washington. (Jansky & Bailey) This station was placed in operation in September 1939, according to an article in Broadcasting on Nov. 1, 1939. The article says:Jansky & Bailey, also Washington consulting engineers, placed their F-M station in operation in September and are experimenting with it regularly. It is known as W3XO and is located in Georgetown, D. C. It operates with 1,000 watts on 43.2 mc.
Bob Carpenter provides this information:
W3XO operated one night per week all through World War II. It was operated by Jansky and Bailey on the second floor at the northeast corner of Wisconsin Ave. and Veasey (or Warren) Street (near the present WHUR and channels 7 & 9 tower). They had one kW (on good days) and a coax vertical antenna no more than 50 feet above the street.Carpenter also reports the station used a unity gain antenna.
In the 1947 Broadcasting Yearbook WINX-FM did not claim a link to W3XO and reported a post-World War II on air date.
*W2XQR/WQXQ/WQXR-FM/WQXR New York. (John V. L. Hogan) This station is not listed among the four FM stations in actual operation in the Aug. 1, 1939, Broadcasting magazine. According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air on Nov. 8, 1939. According to Norm Gagnon's database, temporary programming began on November 8, 1939, and regular programming began on Dec. 11, 1939, on 43.2 MHz. This station is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. The original frequency was 43.2 MHz. This station was one of several listed as having an FM construction permit in Broadcasting magazine of Aug. 1, 1939. It was granted a commercial authorization on June 17, 1941, on 45.9 MHz, according to Broadcasting on June 23, 1941.
*W8XVB/W51R/WHFM/WZKC/WKLX/WBBF-FM Rochester. (Stromberg-Carlson Co.) According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air Nov. 11, 1939. According to the 1947 Broadcasting Yearbook, the station went on the air Nov. 27, 1939. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940.
W9XAO/W55M/WMFM/WTMJ-FM, Milwaukee. (The Journal Co.) On air with tests Jan. 15, 1940. Regular schedule Feb. 23, 1940.
According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air Feb. 23, 1940.
This station listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. It claims to be fifth FM station in U. S.
FM magazine reported in Feb. 1942:The Milwaukee Journal's W55M will go to full power on February 22nd, using their newly installed 50-kw. transmitter. Service area is 8,500 square miles, with 1,500,000 population. Chairman Fly of the FCC, in a lead story published by the Journal, voiced the sentiments of the radio industry in congratulating "55" and its parent station WTMJ for outstanding service to listeners in the Milwaukee area.
The station went off the air April 2, 1950.
The March 26, 1950, Milwaukee Journal announced: "Much to our regret, FM has not lived up to the bright promise of ten years ago. The radio listeners of Wisconsin have not seen fit to invest in sufficient numbers of FM receivers to make continuing operation of WTMJ-FM a worthwhile undertaking" [Gagnon]. The station went off the air on April 2, 1950 and returned to the air June 1, 1959.
*W2XWG/W51NY/WEAF-FM/WNBC-FM/WRCA-FM/WNBC-FM/WNWS-FM/WYNY et al., New York. (National Broadcasting Co.) According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air in January 1940. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. An article in Broadcasting on June 15, 1940, reported the station was operating from 4 to 11 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays on 42.6 MHz. An article in the New York Times on Aug. 8, 1940, reported the station was on the air experimentally Monday through Friday from 3 to 11 p.m. on 42.6 MHz.
*W9XEN/W51C/WWZR/WEFM/WUSN Chicago. (Zenith) Feb. 2, 1940. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. A letter from the engineering department to General Electric dated Oct. 27, 1941, stated, "We have been operating W51C Zenith's Frequency-Modulated Radio Station in Chicago and its predecessor W9XZR for almost two years. Early in October we raised the power of this station to fifty thousand watts in accordance with the terms of our Construction Permit.
*W2XOR/W71NY/WOR-FM/WBAM/WOR-FM/WXLO/WRKS, New York. (Bamberger Broadcasting Service) Began regular broadcasting under a special temporary authorization on Feb. 28, 1940. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940.
An article in the New York Times of Aug. 2, 1940, reported W2XOR, on 43.4 MHz, was placed in continuous operation last night, for 15 hours daily, and was New York's first fulltime FM station.
An article by Charles Singer, technical supervisor of WOR-W71NY, in the Feb. 1942 issue of FM states:The launching of the FM station on 10-kw. power climaxed two years of planning and experiments made by WOR engineers, headed by J. R. Poppele. In August, 1939, WOR's first 1-kw. FM unit, known as W2XWI, was launched at Carteret. In June of 1940, a new Western Electric transmitter of the same power, under the call W2XOR, was opened at the present FM location, 444 Madison Avenue, New York City, and in November of 1941 the new 10-kw station was formally dedicated.The article also stated that the antenna was located 635 above sea level.
The Feb. 1942 issue of FM also reported, "W71NY has appointed William Stedman its first sales representative. The splendid programming of this FM station will certainly give him something to sell. Stedman comes from R. H. Macy's advertising department. W71NY is maintaining an 8:00 A. M. to 12:00 M. schedule."
According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air July 24, 1941.
W8XAD/W43R/WHEF/WHEC-FM, Rochester. (WHEC, Inc.) According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air in February 1940. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940.The station went off the air in 1950.
*W1XSO/W53H/WTIC-FM Hartford, Conn. (Travelers Broadcasting Service Corp.) On air Feb. 5, 1940. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, the station went on the air in November 1940.
W8XVH/W45CM/WELD Columbus, Ohio. (WBNS, Inc.) On air March 29, 1940, on 43.0 MHz. According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air April 1, 1940. It is listed among FM stations licensed and operating in Broadcasting of Mar. 15, 1940. It went off the air in the early 1950s. WBNS-FM returned to the air in June 1959.
W9XYH/WDUL/WEBC-FM Superior, Wis. (Head of the Lakes Broadcasting Co.) On the air with daily broadcasting March 15, 1940, according to Broadcasting on Mar. 15, 1940. It went off the air May 13, 1950.
W1XTG/WTAG-FM Worcester. (Telegram Publishing Co.). According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air June 17, 1940. An article in Broadcasting on June 15, 1940, reported the station would start operating on June 17, and would operate from 6:30 a.m. to midnight. According to GE advertisement in March 1941, the station had sucessfully completed nine months of operation using a GE 1 kw transmitter and was operating a 16 hour schedule.
*W2XDA or W2XOY/W57A/WGFM/WGY-FM/WRVE Schenectady. (General Electric Co.) The tower for this station was christened on Nov. 20, 1940. According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air Nov. 20, 1940. It began on Nov. 2, 1940, according to Tom Lewis. On Dec. 15, 1940, Broadcasting reported that W2XOY had broadcast a Metropolitan Opera program on Dec. 7, 1940. The history of this station goes back to 1939. On Feb. 1, 1939, Broadcasting reported, "General Electric engineers recently set up two experimental frequency modulation transmitters at Albany and Schenectady, only 15 miles apart, both operating on the same waveband but each sending out a different program." The two stations were W2XDA Schenectady and W2XOY New Scotland (later Albany). Broadcasting magazine on Aug. 1, 1939, listed this as one of the four FM stations "in actual operation." An article in FM in January 1941 reported, "Thus it came about that, on November 20th of this year , station W2XOY in Schenectady started transmitting on a regular schedule, after having been operated for developmental research work since early in 1937."
W1XER/W39B/WMTW-FM/WMNE Boston (Mt. Washington, N. H.). (Yankee Network) On the air as an FM station on Dec. 18, 1940, according to Paul DeMars, the engineer who built the station. The Boston Evening Transcript reported on April 12, 1941, that it began commercial operation on April 5, 1941. This station began as a weather relay station; it was converted to FM. This information is provided by broadcast historian Donna Halper. According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, W1XER went on the air Oct. 31, 1940. WMNE went off the air in the early 1950s. A subsequent WMTW-FM/WMTQ/WHOM Mt. Washington now operates from the same transmitter site. Its studios are in Portland, Maine. The station claims a link to the earlier station, and in 1998 was claiming its 40th anniversary. It also claims the largest coverage area of any FM station in North America. According to Doug Smith, "WHOM is no longer the only FM station on Mt. Washington; WPKQ 103.7 is also there now. But it's not superpower - it's only 21.5kW. The TV station on the mountain (WMTW channel 8) has applied to leave the mountain and move to a site in Maine, presumably to improve the signal in Portland at the expense of some coverage to the west." On Feb. 9, 2003, a fire destroyed the WHOM transmitter. The station operated for several weeks from a different site.
W1XK/W67B/WBZ-FM Boston. (Westinghouse E. & M. Co.) According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, this station went on the air in 1940. Donna Halper reports that Gordon Swan's notes say W1XK was licensed Dec. 6, 1940. In Broadcasting magazine of Mar. 15, 1940, it is listed among stations authorized for construction, but not among those in operation. It received its commercial license on Feb. 25, 1942.
FM magazine reported in Mar. 1942:W67B, operated by Boston's WBZ, started on March 29th a regular 6-hour schedule, from 3 P. M. to 9 P. M. daily. The 10-kw. transmitter is located at Hull, with studios in Boston, at Hotel Bradford. According to W. Gordon Swan, program director of WBZ and WBZA, "W67B will give the listeners a new station with musical features planned for the high quality reproduction that FM makes possible." This means that, with a few exceptions, W67B will be programmed independently of WBZ.The following WBZ-FM timeline is taken from a 1952 memo in the station's history file regarding its FM operations at Hull. It was provided by Bob Hess Director, Broadcast Operations/Engineering, WBZ-AM/WODS-FM/WBZ-TV.
11/7/1940 W1XK FM on air 42.6 mc, 1 KW (Gilhooley Conv. TBM Trans) 12/28/1941 W1XK FM ceased operations on 42.6 mc 3/25/1942 W67B test for first time 6kw in. 3/29/1942 W67B Started operations 46.7 mc (GE FM Trans 10KW power) 11/2/1943 W67B call letters changed to WBZ FM 1/1/1946 WBZ FM on air 100.7 mc (converted Westinghouse Induction Heater) 8/7/1947 WBZ FM ceased operations on 100.7 mc 8/10/1947 WBZ FM on air 92.9 mc 11/9/1947 WBZ FM ceased operations 92.9 mc (Old Westinghouse Induction Heater) 11/12/1947 WBZ FM on air 92.9 mc with Westinghouse FM 3 Transmitter (3KW power) 7/23/1948 All WBZ FM operations on 92.9 mc ceased 11/21/1948 All WBZ FM operations on 46.7 mc ceased
A new WBZ-FM was started in 1956.
*KALW San Francisco. (San Francisco Unified School District) On the air Sept. 1, 1941, or earlier.
According to George G. Mullany, "San Francisco Experiment in Radio Education," California Journal of Secondary Education, Oct. 1941, pp. 336-9:...the San Francisco Board of Education was the first educational body in the United States to be granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast educational programs under the rules governing frequency modulation ... its first program ... 'Schoolcast' ... began on Monday, September 1 , after thirty days of experimentation...The station was licensed on Mar. 10, 1941. It is the first educational FM station authorized by the FCC, having been issued a CP on Aug. 15, 1940, for 42.1 MHz, 1000 watts. According to Bill Ruck, former assistant chief engineer of KALW, the station began by using an RCA FM transmitter in a demonstration of FM at the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco Bay at Treasure Island in 1939, mostly simulcasting KGEI. Ruck says the transmitter was an RCA 27 MHz diathermy unit converted to low band FM. The equipment was given to the San Francisco School District at the close of the Exposition, late in 1940. The transmitter was then relocated to Samuel Gompers High School by Ken Nielsen and Ken Dragoo. The transmitter was later moved to John O'Connell School where it was used until the early 1970s, when a Gates 1 kW transmitter was installed. Dick Block, who was a student-announcer at KALW in 1944, writes: "The only listeners we seemed to have were soldiers training in tanks at Fort Ord, 90 or so miles southwest of San Francisco, whose communications devices would pick us up." He also wrote that Chief Engineer Ken Nielsen "would get unglued when I would describe wash hanging on lines among neighborhood dwellings as flapping in the sunshine and breeze, as wartime restrictions prohibited any mention of the weather." Bill Ruck writes, "The old RCA unit was still at JOC on the third floor until the building was torn town. Because no elevator was working after the '89 quake nobody could carry it down the stairs and most likely it was destroyed. Also, the KALW staff at the time didn't realize that a key part of KALW's history was on the third floor."
Other Licensed FM Stations Not Listed AboveW2XF New York. This was the call of Edwin Armstrong's initial FM transmissions from the Empire State Building, with RCA cooperation. The first test was conducted June 16, 1934; they continued until April 1935.
W2AG or W2XAG Yonkers. (Carman R. Runyon, Jr.) In the summer of 1935 Armstrong rebuilt Randy Runyon's W2AG to operate on 110 MHz. On Nov. 5, 1935, reception of this station was demonstrated at meeting of the Institute of Radio Engineers, 17 miles from the station. The ID for that transmission was, "This is amateur station W2AG at Yonkers, New York operating on frequency modulation at two and a half meters." On Nov. 1, 1939, Broadcasting reported, "The Commission on Oct. 24 also authorized W2XAG, F-M station at Yonkers, N. Y., operated by Carman R. Runyon Jr., pioneer experimenter with the system, to change to the high-frequency classification and to operate with 5,000 watts on 117.19 mc."
WBOE Cleveland. This station was licensed Nov. 21, 1938 and went on the air in 1938, but did not become an FM station until February 1941, according to one source. Broadcasting on Feb. 10, 1941, page 49, reported on a gift from Armstrong to WBOE to convert their AM transmitter to FM. The station was authorized to switch to FM on March 13, 1941. According to Roger Chesser, in 1968 the FCC identified this station as the oldest non-commercial station, although it was originally not an FM station. WBOE evolved into the present-day WCPN(FM), Cleveland's NPR station on 90.3 FM, according to Denny Sanders, the WMJI Director Of Programming.
W4XA/W47NV/WSM-FM Nashville. Although fifteen stations were given the first authorizations to become commercial FM stations effective on Jan. 1, 1941, the first one actually to receive a commercial license was W47NV Nashville, on March 1, 1941. This station aired the first commercial on an FM station on about this date.
In 1939 at Storrs, Connecticut, Professor Daniel A. Noble of Connecticut State College was experimenting with FM in the 100 MHz band.
WNYE New York went on the air in 1938 but used amplitude modulation at the time. The Oct. 15, 1940 issue of Broadcasting reported the station was planning to switch to FM. The original call may have been WCNY.
According to the 1946 Broadcasting Yearbook, WMLL Evansville went on the air in August 1940, although evidence for this date is lacking. The Jan. 20, 1941, issue of Broadcasting showed W45V, the predecessor to WMLL, holding a construction permit.
WBKY Beattyville, Kentucky, went on the air Oct. 17, 1940 and went off June 27, 1941. This station probably used amplitude modulation. It was licensed on March 13, 1941.