Antique Radio's Touch of Perfection
from an article by J. W. F. Puett
(Editor's Note: Also check out the E.H.Scott Radio Collectors Guide)
Like that proverbial old violin at the auction, worthless until the old
master picked it up and played, so would be the field of classic radio without
the touch of perfection it received from Earnest Humphrey Scott. From 1924 to
1945, E. H. Scott designed and built the world's fine radios, many of which,
although nearly half a century old, are still treasured by their original
What sort of man was responsible for manufacturing radios which inspire this
kind of devotion? - Scott was not a man who enjoyed being second to anyone. He
was, by temperament, a perfectionist, an engineer, whose all consuming desire
was to be first - to produce radios which were guaranteed to "outperform any
other radio or sound reproduction system in either a tone or long distance
reception test." This was no idle boast. In the August, 1935, Scott News, he
wrote, "During the past ten years, I have repeatedly challenged the whole world
of radio to any kind of competitive test, but during this period, not a single
manufacturer has been willing to accept this challenge.
" E. H. Scott was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, on June 1, 1887. He spent his
early years in Australia. His father was killed in a railroad accident when he
was only five. When he was fourteen, his mother died suddenly, leaving him an
orphan. Confronted with the necessity of self-support, he became a messenger
boy, but soon progressed to the position of salesman.
With the advent of World War I, he enlisted in the Australian New Zealand
Army Corps and served in France. During this time he invented a simple little
gadget, the Telecator, for locating troubles in automotive engines. The United
States government purchased the rights for his invention which eventually
amounted to a total of $46,000.00. Telecators were provided as standard
equipment in army machine shops, and were installed on tanks and tractors.
Scott made many American friends while stationed in France. When he was
discharged in London at the end of the war, he decided to come to the United
States, making Chicago his home. During his first two years in America, he wrote
a column entitled "The Care of an Automobile," which was syndicated in fifty
newspapers in the United States and Canada. In this time period, Scott became
"intensely interested in radio." In addition to his automotive column, he soon
found himself supplying weekly articles on the construction of radio sets. In
1922, he originated the pictorial wiring diagram which "helped thousands of
non-technical radio enthusiasts to build their first radio sets."
During the years he wrote radio articles, Scott maintained a well equipped
laboratory where he tested hundreds of different circuits. This was necessary,
since he was supplying radio articles to 112 different newspapers.
After four years in America, Scott decided to visit his native New Zealand
again. He was determined to take with him a radio capable of receiving U.S.
broadcast stations in New Zealand. Before leaving Chicago, he arranged for
stations WGN and WQJ (now WMAQ) to send him special programs when he reached New
Zealand. These programs began at 1:00 a.m. and lasted until 4:00 a.m. The
distance from Tasman, New Zealand to Chicago is about 8,300 miles. In 1924, very
few receivers were capable of tuning in broadcast band signals from that great a
distance. Scott tuned in both special broadcasts, logging them for over an hour.
The morning after each program was broadcast, he cabled program details to the
stations and sent them his logs by registered mail.
During his thirteen week stay in New Zealand, Scott logged 117 programs from
19 different stations, all 6,000 miles or more distant, establishing four
world's records for the consistent night after night reception of stations 6,000
miles or more away. This was 1924.
To prove that he did not have a "freak set," Scott cabled Chicago for a
duplicate set of parts and built a second receiver there in New Zealand. The
second set performed as well as the first, and Scott named this receiver the
World Record 9. The second set set was left in New Zealand when Scott returned
to America. Upon his return to the U.S., Scott checked his logs personally with
the managers of Los Angeles stations KHJ, KFI, and KNX. The station manager of
KNX could hardly believe that it was possible to pick up his 500-watt station
almost every night 6,000 miles away. To prove this kind of reception was
possible, a test program was arranged with station KNX. A cable was sent to the
man in New Zealand who purchased the second World Re- cord 9, asking him to pick
up the program and report it by cable. The following morning, a cable arrived
from New Zealand giving program details and several weeks later, the log arrived
When Scott arrived in Chicago, he received hundreds of requests from radio
fans in all parts of the country asking for construction details on the World
Record 9. He published and sold hundreds of copies of a booklet which contained
all technical data on this set.
Many who constructed this receiver had difficulty aligning the circuits and
came to Scott for assistance. In that time, very few laboratories had the
necessary equipment to "properly match" IF transformers. Mr. Scott was thus
"forced to go into the radio business," and began supplying matched sets of IF
transformers. He opened his first laboratory, The Scott Transformer Company, in
1924. It consisted of two rooms, each about fifteen feet square, one an office
and the other the laboratory. In the September, 1933, Scott News, he wrote,
"Right from the start, my only interest and ambition has been to design and
build the very finest radio receiver possible.
" The growth of the company was rapid in spite oi the depression, a tribute
to the business genius of Scott. In 1933 he doubled the size of the laboratory.
Expansion continued, and by 1935 the company was housed in a large modern
three-story building with 97 employees
Unfounded claims of fantastic sensitivity, selectivity and fidelity made by
other manufacturers annoyed Scott. Upon reading an advertisement that a certain
receiver "would give reception on the broadcast band of stations up to 5 000
miles in broad daylight, ' Scott offered to wager $1,000.00 that it could not be
done. His wager was refused. When a manufacturer offered "an open challenge to
any and all reception records," Scott accepted by registered letter, offering a
side by side public reception test. The letter was never answered. Scott
concluded, "Bluff is all right until someone calls it." Scott's designs and
innovations were often copied by other manufacturers. When another company
offered four consoles which were "copies" of Scott console designs, he retorted
by quoting Kipling:
"And they asked me how I did it, And I gave 'em the scripture text; 'You keep
your light so shining a little ahead of the next.' They copied all they could
follow, But they couldn't copy my mind, And I left them sweating and stealing a year and a half behind."
Scott guaranteed his receivers for five years, with only the tubes excluded.
Holding to his belief that "the fine things are always hand made," he never
considered mass production.
Scott radios probably still hold more verified long-distance broadcast
station reception records than the sets produced by all other manufacturers
combined. The following records were established in 1924:
(1) Greatest number of broadcast band stations and programs 6,000 miles or
more distant: (a) 19 stations 6,000 to 8,000 miles distant. (b) 19 programs from
stations 8,000 miles or more distant. (c) 19 programs from stations 7,000 miles
or more distant. (d) 79 programs from stations 6,000 miles or more distant. (2)
greatest distance over which voice and music had been heard, 8,375 miles.
As an advertising promotion and demonstration of the performance of the new
All-Wave De Luxe, Scott offered an all expenses paid trip around the world. The
contest was limited to Scott All-Wave owners and spanned the first six months of
1932. During the first four months, Scott owners sent in verified reception
reports covering 231 different foreign stations and 13,280 foreign station
programs, which were heard from 41 different countries.
In 1932 a Scott All-Wave receiver in the United States established a record
for the most consistent foreign station short wave reception very broadcast from
station VK2ME in Sidney, Australia for twelve consecutive months - distance
E. H. Scott installed an All Wave De Luxe receiver aboard the S. S. Manganni
on which he sailed to New Zealand in February of 1933. He was able to pick up
station WBBM in Chicago all the way to the amazement of passengers and crew
alike. He furnished music direct from Chicago for the passengers to dance to
each night of the voyage. Scott commented, "There seems to be no other way to
definitely establish our right to make the claims we do and to overcome what I
know are exaggerations by some of the manufacturers who claim to compete with us
to the confusion of some of our prospective customers."
"Once more we will have proven beyond fear of contradiction the supremacy of
Radio station WBBM read cablegrams received daily from E. H. Scott during his
voyage and announced his reception reports.
The chief Radio Operator of the S. S. Manganni issued this statement, "In all
my radio experience, I have never heard such reception of broadcast stations on
board ship as that accomplished by the Scott receiver."
On this 1933 trip to New Zealand, Scott visited the man who purchased the
second World Record 9 receiver from him in 1924. Although this set had been in
continuous use on an average of three hours a day, it was still bringing in
stations from all parts of the world. It took a great deal of persuasion, but
Scott was finally instrumental in trading a new All Wave De Luxe for the World
Record 9, which was later placed on exhibit at the E. H. Scott Radio
Laboratories in Chicago.
Scott did not change the appearance of his sets each year as some
manufacturers do for sales purposes. New innovations were constantly
incorporated into existing receiver designs, but the models remained essentially
the same in appearance. Only when significant developments could not be utilized
without drastic changes, was a new model introduced.
Scott not only stayed abreast with the state of the art, he often surged far
ahead of his time. A few of the "firsts" attributed to his designs are listed
herein: (1) First to successfully use more than one tuned RF stage. (2) First
all-wave receiver offered to the general public (l928). (3) First to
successfully utilize the screen grid tube. (4) First 15 - 500 meter
superhetrodyne set without plug-in coils. (5) First to utilize triple-grid "
super control" type 57 and type 58 tubes. (6) First minimum usable sensitivity
of .025 uv per meter at 600 KHz and a maximum sensitivity of .006 uv per meter
at 1400 KHz. (7) First to provide 10 KHz selectivity at a field strength of 600
to 1. (8) First true high fidelity radio capable of reproducing the entire audio
range (30 Hz to 15 KHz). (9) first to provide variable selectivity: control of
both RF and IF stages. (10) First accurately calibrated dial - within .1% on the
broadcast band and within 3% on all short wave bands.
E. H. Scott was probably the first radio manufacturer to employ modern
reliability testing devices. He designed and utilized electric rotators to test
moving parts, electro mechanical shaking tables to test the permanence of all
adjustments, and a special refrigeration cabinet to simulate humid conditions
encountered in a tropical climate.
At the Century of Progress, 1933 Chicago World's Fair, a Scott All Wave De
Luxe in a Napier console was placed in operation in the control room at the top
of the elevator of the observation Tower at the Sky Ride. Each day, eight to
twelve thousand people visited the control room. They heard music and news
coming from the radio without the slightest trace of electrical interference,
yet the set was situated in the center of a mass of motors, dynamos, and control
contractors. This unusual demonstration "proved the perfection of shielding in
the Scott All Wave De Luxe."
In 1935, Scott ads heralded the 23-tube full range High Fidelity Receiver,
also known as the All Wave Imperial. Four of Chicago's largest theaters were
slated to use "two well known receivers" to pick up the Joe Louis vs. Max Baer
fight. This program material was to be connected from the receivers to the
theater $20,000.00 sound systems. It was found that neither of the receivers was
capable of bringing a sufficiently clear signal into the theaters. The theater
owner asked E. H. Scott if he thought his new 23 tube All Wave might do the job.
Scott replied, "It is not only capable of bringing in the signal, but of
delivering the volume required without feeding it into the theater sound
systems!" The next morning, an All Wave Imperial in a Napier console was
installed in the Drake Theater. To the owner's amazement, it brought in the
desired station without even a crackle from the ambient downtown electrical
interference and " filled every corner of the theater with the volume turned
only one-third on." With a standing room only audience, the volume was turned
one half on.
The supremacy of Scott receivers was now legendary, and their
increased as time marched on. There was the $2,500.00, forty-tube, Quaranta, a
special version of the AII Wave Imperial with a very elaborate audio system, and
finally, perhaps the greatest of all classics, the Philharmonic. There were
countless custom built installations, some with remote control systems for both
tuning and volume. Some affluent customers even had their large yachts [equipped
with Scott receivers for entertainment purposes.
Famous people in all walks of life owned Scott receivers. In the world of
music, many well known concert masters such as Arturo Toscanini, Eugene Goosens
and John Barbirolli treasured the quality sound reproduction that only a Scott
could bring. The list goes on and on, Frank Lloyd Wright, Guy Lombardo, Deems
Taylor, Walter Winchell, and countless other connoisseurs of the very best.
The period from 1935 to the end of World War II represents Scott's grandest
years. His long time feud with McMurdo Silver ended in 1938 when Silver
succumbed to bankruptcy and Scott purchased the company assets. Scott commented,
"I did this rather than let the tradition for custom built radio pass to someone
who might tear down the high standards of quality a custom built product
In 1939, radio station WCFL in Chicago broadcast The Scott Music Lover's
Program from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. E. H. Scott loved fine
music and even included "The Scott Record Review" for SCOTT NEWS readers in
Scott's mind was always full of improved designs. In 1940, he developed an
elaborate 26 tube communications receiver which was produced in very limited
quantities. Known as the Scott Special, this set was perhaps the last and
greatest of his ingenious designs. The circuitry bore some similarity to the
Philharmonic. There were seven short wave bands (1.7 to 64MHz) and two other
ranges from 140 to 395 KHz and 520 to 1710 KHz. This set utilized two separate
tuners on the same chassis, one for the short wave bands and the other for the
broadcast and low frequency bands. The performance of the Scott Special High
Fidelity Communications Receiver was not equaled until years after World War II.
E. H. Scott spent many happy hours with his own Scott Special, which his wife
"would not allow in the living room." Gladys Scott much preferred the
Philharmonic in a Chippendale Grand console for living room listening. Scott
maintained a special listening station in his upstairs den where he kept the
Scott Special which was connected to an elaborate outside antenna system.
Scott had two other interests. The first was flying. As a passenger, he
logged over half a million miles in his later years. His second hobby was
photography, especially making movies. He made many movies on travel in foreign
countries and also wrote books on that subject.
Like many others who excel in their field, Scott was eccentric, demanding, a
strict disciplinarian, and at times even hotheaded.
From the privacy of his rooftop office, he often checked on his salesmen's
talks with prospective customers by means of microphones hidden behind pictures
in the Chicago sales salon.
He once dozed off while driving his car and crashed into a Chicago bungalow.
As a reminder that sleep can be dangerous, he had an artist paint a picture of
the wreck which he hung in his office.
On the other hand, Scott was a man of depth and feeling and a generous
employer. Perhaps the greatest testimony to his generosity could be obtained
from hundreds of Australian and New Zealand service men who trained in Canada
during World War II. Scott financed and operated a club for these men in
Chicago. They were treated royally, taken to ball games and on sight seeing
tours. Scott made pictures of each man and if one was killed or wounded in the
war, he wrote a personal letter to their families. If Scott ever received any
recognition for this humanitarian endeavor, it is not known, although others who
probably did less received special awards. Mr. Scott's reward was the personal
satisfaction he received from helping others in need.
At the outset of World War II, German submarines used direction finders to
locate ships at sea up to 100 miles away by tuning in on the minute signal from
the local oscillator in any superhetrodyne receiver aboard ship. In only 36
days, Scott designed and developed a receiver which produced no detectable
radiation beyond 25 feet. The company immediately began to manufacture these low
radiation receivers which were used both for communication and crew
entertainment aboard Navy and Merchant Marine vessels. The firm received the
Navy E, the Maritime M, and the Treasury T awards for their part in the war
By the end of the second World War, the last Philharmonic had long since been
assembled, tested and shipped to some lucky customer, and the great days were
waning for E. H. Scott. In 1943, the company was doing a $2,800,000.00 business
with the U.S. Navy, but when Mr. Scott totaled the profits, he found with
renegotiation and taxes that he had only $90,000.00 Ieft. Discouraged by
previous deficits, and dubious about the immediate postwar future of radio,
Scott sold his interest in the company for $260,000.00, remaining in the
capacity of president and still in charge of all company business. From 1943 to
1945 the relationship between Scott and other company officials declined
sharply. Returning from a trip to New Zealand in June of 1945, Scott found that
the company capitalization had increased from 6,000 shares to 251,000 shares on
the strength of war time sales. Almost 225,000 shares had already been sold to
the public for $703,125.00 . Scott further found that he had been demoted from
president to advertising and sales manager. He turned down the job in a 3,500
word letter. Purchasing large ads in two leading Chicago newspapers, he publicly
announced his resignation and disclaimed any responsibility for the stock sale.
Without Scott's leadership, the company gradually faded away in the 50's.
Retired, E. H. Scott moved to the municipality of Saanich near Victoria in
British Columbia, Canada. His home still stands near the top of the southern
slope of Mt. Tolmie, a rocky isolated hill. This location provides a beautiful
view of the city and surrounding country including the Olympic Mountain Range in
the State of Washington about twenty miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
E. H. Scott passed away in 1951, leaving a legacy of quality and perfection
which may never be equaled in the world of radio. The instruments he
manufactured were truly "The Stradivarius of radio receivers" and in spite of
his eccentricities, Mr. Scott will be remembered as the old master whose magic
touch made them play.
The author (J. W. F. Puett) extends special thanks to Mr. Jack Rhodes for contributing
invaluable information used in this article. Our thanks also to John Caperton,
Anthony Ciardi, Brent Dingman, Earl England, Bob Fabris, John Field, Joe Halser,
Walt Jackson, Robert Lynd, Russ Mappin, George Sartor, Buford Smith and John
October 1974, article by J. W. F. Puett.
MORE EH Scott