The Colin B. Kennedy Company

In 1919, Leonard Fuller (1890-1997) left Federal Telegraph to join another Federal employee, Colin B. Kennedy (1885-1942), to found the Colin B. Kennedy Company of San Francisco (but operating out of Los Altos), the first vacuum tube radio builder on the West Coast. Although originally established for the manufacture of radio receiving equipment for experimenters, the Colin B. Kennedy Company was among the first to produce receivers for home use at the advent of radio broadcasting. His company was merged in 1922 and moved to St. Louis, but went bust in 1926. Kennedy went into business with Studebaker in 1928, to produce light weight radios for automobiles, but the Depression forced him out of business once again in 1933.

In addition to making radio receivers and parts for amateurs, the company operated its own broadcasting station, built by Fuller and Emil A. Portal in a garage near present-day Foothill College in Los Altos. Called 6XAC, this was one of the first vacuum tube radio broadcasting stations in the West.

San Francisco Examiner, 1921. (Perham Collection of Early Electronics)
San Francisco Examiner, 1921. (Perham Collection of Early Electronics)

 

The Kennedy factory in San Francisco made high quality commercial receivers and home radios. A solid mahogany or walnut cabinet, silver plated knobs, and polished Formica panels are indicative of the quality and care that went into the building of Kennedy receivers. Kennedy regenerative receivers were so well-respected that they were still being sold in 1925 when most regenerative receivers were considered obsolete.

The Perham Collection of Early Electronics includes several pieces of Colin B. Kennedy technology, as well as an assortment of advertisements and photographs of equipment.