Crystal Radios

Another invention revolutionized the way people listened to music at home. Many amateurs built their own crystal radios to pick up radio waves. The first programs were broadcast from Montréal starting on December 1, 1919, by the Marconi company's experimental station, XWA, which became CFCF in November 1920. Regular programming began on May 21, 1920. CKAC launched its regular French programming on September 27, 1922.

Given the radio craze in Canada, Eaton's featured crystal radios with headphones in its 1922-23 catalogue and devoted a whole page to all the parts needed to build such a radio. In 1924, Eaton's announced the publication of a special parts catalogue.


A battery-operated receiver with a speaker allowed several people to listen to the radio at the same time. In 1925-26, Eaton's sold a model with five vacuum tubes and a speaker. Radios were so popular that they even made it onto the cover of the company's catalogue. In the winter of 1926-27, the Minerva, a model produced especially for Eaton's, sold for $99 . The cover of the Eaton's 1927-28 Radio Catalogue featured a floor model with an incorporated speaker.

Combination Radio and Record Players

Very early on, manufacturers began to offer models combining a radio and record player, which Sonora marketed around 1924. However, these units did not appear in the Eaton's Catalogue until the late 1930s. They became essential pieces of furniture in almost every home and occupied a place of honour in the living room.

In the early 1930s, Eaton's sold floor models of radios that ran on batteries or AC power and were manufactured by Marconi, Eveready, Fada, Brunswick, Westinghouse, Zenith, Philco, Sonora, De Forest, Crosley, and Victor.

Small Units

The size and retail price of radios began to decrease. In 1934, Eaton's offered small table models with wooden cases made by Victor, Philco, and Sparton, as well as its own Viking model. A portable Viking radio and the popular Little Nipper, made by RCA Victor, first appeared in the 1939-40 catalogue.

After the Second World War, manufacturers produced small units with wooden or Bakelite® cases in bright colours, such as Northern Electric's B 4000 and Westinghouse's 501, a unique Canadian design that stood in various positions.

RCA Victor's BP6C, a portable battery-operated radio, gave consumers a taste of the new 1950s design. The 1952 Eaton's Catalogue featured the Nipper, a popular RCA Victor model. In 1955-56, the company offered the Crosley, the first combination radio and alarm clock, which was equipped with an electrical outlet for a coffeemaker. RCA Victor's portable P-233, which ran on batteries or AC power, also became affordable.

Radios for Every Budget

In the mid-1950s, Eaton's offered a wide variety of models for every budget, ranging from General Electric's modest 418 at a cost $23.95 to the sophisticated SX-96 made by Hallicrafters, which sold for $449.
by Nicole Cloutier

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans