Radio Chassis Housed in Dynamite Box

Inventive farmers utilized homemade radio cabinets to house manufactured radio chassis.

| May 2013

  • Box Radio
    A homemade radio housing made to hold a commercially manufactured chassis. It worked as well as one with an expensive factory cabinet but cost much less.
    Photo By Clell Ballard

  • Box Radio

Radios dating to the 1920s are unusual today. Occasionally one with a beautifully crafted cabinet is found; such pieces are prized by collectors. But that fine craftsmanship came at a cost that few could afford. Those on a tight budget made do, building a homemade cabinet to hold the manufactured radio chassis.

Just such a piece was found at a long abandoned homestead in a sparsely populated part of southern Idaho. The top of the enclosure was broken and the whole thing was almost completely covered with bird droppings. Later, as it was being cleaned and the case repaired, it was discovered that the wood came from a dynamite box. The dynamite maker’s name is prominently displayed on the inside surface of the panels.

The round opening for the speaker presented a challenge for the home craftsman, who was unable to make the circle perfectly uniform. The cabinet’s front is, however, a nearly identical replica of a piece manufactured by Zenith, complete with parallel bars in the center. The maker probably had a picture of a factory cabinet that he did his best to replicate. FC 

Read about the early days of radio in rural America in Radio Sets Brought News Faster Than Ever To Rural America.