High Fidelity Reception

In the 1920s, radio came to Fairbanks. At first there were only receivers and those only worked out of town because of electrical interference within the city. Men on the creeks tuned into radio broadcasts from all over the world late at night while there was nothing but static in town. Of course it was entirely unacceptable for creek residents to have better technology than the city dwellers so the Fairbanks Radio Association was formed to address this problem which occurred in the form of a proposed city ordinance:

Fairbanks Daily News Miner – November 26, 1930


About 20 members of the Fairbanks Radio Association appeared at the council meeting in support of an ordinance aiming to prevent interference with radio broadcast reception and which the association asked the council to pass.

The ordinance would prohibit electrical interference with radio reception and transmission. It would prohibit use of violet ray, X-ray and all machines of high frequency oscillation between the hours of 3 pm and 3 am except, as with X-rays, in cases of necessity.

H. L. Wood, appearing on behalf of the ordinance, said the main object is to obtain legal authority to prevent the operation of obsolete radio machines and a few small appliances such as vacuum cleaners which are not operating properly.

A government radio electrician is due in Fairbanks Wednesday from Nome and equipment is here from Anchorage which he can use in detecting apparatus interfering with the Signal Corps radio station and he is also empowered to search out equipment interfering with reception.

It was pointed out that the Radio Association, not the city, would stand any expense arising in connection with the detection of appliances interfering with reception.

Mr. Wood went on to state that are only half a dozen or so vacuum cleaners in town which are causing trouble from a radio standpoint and he declared appliances could be placed on them which would eliminate interference.

The same was said to be true of other big machines.

Eight months later the city was taking care of the biggest source of radio interference:

Fairbanks Daily News Miner- July 11, 1930


Rapid progress is being made by the Northern Commercial Company on installation of the new pole and wire system which will soon supply Fairbanks with alternating current from the Fairbanks Exploration Company power plant instead of the direct current now being used.

According to H. L. Wood, engineer in charge of the work, all the new poles are now in and the cross arms have been built. Altogether, 162 new poles were used. Most of the poles are already guyed in place.

The first transformers were in the air at noon today. Thirty-five transformers arrived this week and 18 more are to come. The time when the cut over to alternating from direct current will be made depends upon the time of arrival of the main bank of transformers, which will step the F. E. Co. voltage down from 4,000 to 2,300. These transformers will be installed on poles near the power plant. Mr. Wood expects them to be here within the next 30 days.

Radio owners can expect much better reception after the change has been made. “Through installation of new transforming and new motors with latest appliances for elimination of interference from the local power system, local radio users will find interference reduced to a minimum.” said Sergeant Ralph R. Reeser.

“The Signal Corps is cooperating in the elimination of interference by installing the latest type of eliminators in all their electrical equipment at the radio station.”

Note: It is amazing to think that the entire town ran on Direct Current until 1930! The Fairbanks Radio Association paved the way for Fairbanks to build its first radio station that began broadcasting in the fall of 1939. We have been enjoying radio here ever since. This high fidelity history nugget was proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska. 

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