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  "The Little Station from Tuscola"

Illinois' First Commercial Radio Station,
In the corn fields near Tuscola, Illinois--  1922

Radio Station 9JR (later renamed WDZ), Tuscola, Illinois

                With its new equipment and generator.  This photo was taken about     1922.  The new equipment and generator on the left were for the 50 watt phase of WDZ.  Next to it is the original 15 watt G.E. transmitter (with tubes).  The next two panels are amplifiers and dial tuners on a Westinghouse R-6 receiver that could pick up stations 1,999 miles away (cost $216).  On the right hand end is a Magnavox speaker (cost $45) and under the table, the various wet and dry cell batteries.

    (Picture from the Decatur (Illinois) Tribune, Nov. 15, 1989, p. 6)

        WDZ radio started in the office of James Bush's grain elevator office in Tuscola.  Call letters for the beginning years were 9JR.  The intentions of the radio station were to broadcast the grain reports.  Besides being one of the first commercial radio stations in the U.S., it was the first to broadcast grain reports. This historical event occurred March 17, 1921.  The antenna in 1921 was a simple strung wire between buildings in Tuscola.  At the time there were only two receivers in the area to hear the signal.  This first broadcast only lasted five minutes. Two other radio stations, KDKA in Pittsburgh and WGY, Schenectady, N.J. were also broadcasting signals.  These three were they only ones as of this date.  For some time 9JR would intermingle music with the grain reports.

WDZ's new 250 foot tower at Tuscola, Il, in 1941.  Seemed like Illinois' First Commercial Radio Station would be in Tuscola forever.  In actuality, it would leave to nearby Decatur in 1949


The WDZ White Relay Truck carrying a 100 watt short-wave transmitter and equipment for the four special mobile and portable broadcasting units.  Whenever this vehicle would arrive "in town" in Central Illinois, a crowd would often gather.  The frequency in 1941 was 1020 AM.  This would later change to 1050 and remains that now with the Decatur station.  When World II arrived the government changed the signal frequency to 1050 AM, where WDZ AM now broadcasts.  Tuscola had a great celebration when the frequency was changed. In 1939 WDZ's power increased to 1,000 watts at a cost of $15,000.  Tuscola celebrated and felt secure their WDZ would never leave their city.  A new 252 foot tower was also installed. 

Grain Reports were given in its first broadcasts.

In 1938 Carl A. "Pappy" Lewis and his wife, along with postmaster, James M. Allen flew in the plane that was carrying the first was out of range.  In the beginning days of WDZ, James Bush would send secret doce messages to his grain customers.  (This would not be allowed now).  Remote broadcasts were made from farm lots and city streets.

Smiley Burnette
Began his career at Tuscola's WDZ

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