WOSU celebrates 90 Years!

Robert Higgy, the first Director and Chief Engineer of WOSU, in a photo from the 1920s.(Photo: WOSU)
Robert Higgy, the first Director and Chief Engineer of WOSU, in a photo from the 1920s.(Photo: WOSU)

On April 24, 1922, Ohio State President William Oxley Thompson stepped to a microphone and said the first words heard on a radio station in Columbus: “We are starting tonight the first of a series of programs of entertainment and instruction for the citizens of Central Ohio. These programs will be of the highest type, including music, science, and other subjects of popular interest. Happily, Columbus’ first radio program is being broadcasted from Ohio State University.”

The station was then at 570 AM, operating at just 1.8 watts and had the call letters WEAO.  The tower and transmitter for the station were moved to the University Golf Courses in 1938. As the station’s reputation and growth continued, Youngstown’s WKBN paid for WOSU-AM to move its frequency from 570 to 820 kilocycles in March 1941.

What caused Ohio State to get interested in AM radio in the early 1920s?  You may be surprised to learn it was a local natural disaster- the 1913 Flood of Franklinton/Columbus.  During the weeks following the devastating flood that left 93 people dead and 5000 citizens of central Ohio homeless, it was the wireless telecommunications system at The Ohio State University that carried news of the flood to telegraphs across the state.  That public service led the Engineering department at OSU to look forward at this new technology 0n the horizon called AM radio. Thanks to our community, WOSU has grown tremendously over the past nine decades — adding WOSU FM broadcasting in 1949 and our Columbus  WOSU TV station in 1956, plus additional FM stations across the region in the late 1990s.

 

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