Radio Station KFZ
The First Licensed Commercial Broadcast Station In Spokane.
(The first known advertisement for any Spokane Radio Station. It appeared in the 20 July 1922 edition of the Spokane Daily Chronicle.)
Licensed by Doerr-Electric Company of Spokane
Doerr-Mitchell Electric Company of Spokane, located at 118 North Lincoln Street, operated radio station KFZ to advertise radio parts. According to Department of Commerce records, KFZ was licensed on 23 March 1922, making it the first commercial broadcast station licensed in Spokane. The station's transmitter was initially located on Spokane's South Hill at 1514 West 9th Avenue. The Department of Commerce deleted the station's license on 8 September 1923. KFZ started on 833 kHz and later moved to 1060 kHz when the transmitting plant moved to Downtown Spokane at 119 North Post Street. There are at least two anecdotal accounts which shed some light on this station.
Operated Out of the Irish Family Home
Russ Irish, in a letter to Carl Partlow written in about 1980, recalled his experiences with KFZ as well as his experiences with early radio broadcasting. When Russ lived with his parents on 620 West Providence Avenue, his neighbor Ray Sprague, who lived at 621 West Providence Avenue, set up a broadcasting station in the late 1910's. According to Russ, his father, "Billy" Irish, the purchasing agent for Doerr-Mitchell Electric, moved this station to their 1514 West 9th Avenue home.
William Irish, founder of KFZ, 1915 ca. (Courtesy of Gary Irish, grandson.)
Irish Home at 1514 West 9th Avenue
Click on above thumbnail for larger view
The house was undergoing renovation when the author visited the location in August 2008.
Frank Hubbard of Seattle Hired to Operate Station
Billy Irish hired an ex-navy man named Frank Hubbard from Seattle to operate the station, and Frank applied to the Department of Commerce for a license. Russ recalls that "the den was converted into a room containing an electric player piano and an Edison phonograph." One night, Frank asked Russ to sing and Russ's girlfriend to play the piano. According to Russ, "it was "very amateurish," but apparently was the first "live-talent" put out on the radio waves in Spokane."
Russ and Dorothy Irish early 1920's in front of the W 1514 Ninth Ave. Irish Home. (Photo courtesy of Gary Irish, son of Russell and Dorothy.)
Building Radio Sets at Doerr-Mitchell
Finally, Russ related the following anecdote about how he would help radio hobbyists when he worked at Doerr-Mitchell. "My early experience with Doerr-Mitchell was during the set building days when the young radio enthusiasts would come in to purchase binding posts etc. and to have bakelite panels drilled."
The drawing to the left was made with Russ's own hand and captures in picture his experience at Doerr-Mitchell. (Russ Irish, 1978 in Early Days of Spokane Radio)
One Listener's Account of KFZ
Russ's father apparently operated the station as well. Jim McGoldrick in a letter written to Thorwald Jorgenson in about 1981 recalled listening to KFZ and hearing some music and a man by the name of "Billy" Irish. Jim surmised that Mr. Irish "apparently put the microphone in front of a 'Gramaphone" on a 'Victrola' which was playing a record. He remembers that "occasionally [Mr. Irish] would be busy doing something else and the record would scratch and scratch until he got back."
Newspaper account of KFZ
The following account of KFZ appeared in the 8 May 1922 edition of the Spokane Daily Chronicle:
Spokane Radio Concerts are furnishing daily entertainment for radio fans thoughout the Inland Empire, being picked up in all parts of the city and by operators of receiving sets as far as Whitefish, Montana, and Walla Walla, according to W. H. Irish, manager of the radio department of the Doerr-Mitchell Electric Co.
"Interest in radio is spreading rapidly and it is almost impossible to keep up with the demand for radio supplies," he said. "This evening's concert will be furnished by Miss Mabel Riebold, a Davenport Hotel soloist, Marguerite Gilchrist Overman."
Demise of KFZ
There is no much information regarding the demise of KFZ. Based on the best available information, it would appear that Bill Irish gave up operating KFZ sometime before Doerr-Mitchell was bought out by Brown-Johnston. The station's radio license was issued to Doerr-Mitchell Electric Company and Pacific Telegraph Institute in May 1923, and the station apparently ceased operating out of the Irish home at about that time, as the station's location was changed to 119 North Post Street, where Pacific Telegraph was located.
Compiled and edited by Bill Harms - updated 4 July 2009
Copies of KFZ's Licenses
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License dated 18 May 1923. Note that the named licensees were Doerr-Mitchell Electric Company and Pacific Telegraph Institute. The frequency was 1060 kHz. The first page of the license A. R. Redfern annotated "Deleted per l[icensee] A.R. Seattle 9/8/23 #1679 n/r"
- 1920 US Federal Census; Roll: T625_1942; Page: 1B; ED: 246; Image: 117
- A Chronology of AM Radio Broadcasting; compiled by Jeff Miller last revision: 7 June 2007; last accessed at http://members.aol.com/jeff560/chrono1.html on 24 June 2007.
- Irish, Russell; Letter to Mr. Carl Partlow about 1975. Spokane, Washington.
- KFZ Applicant's Description of Apparatus. Department of Commerce application filled out by Frank Hubbard, Spokane, Washington, about March 1922.
- KFZ Applicant's Description of Apparatus. Department of Commerce application filled out by R. T. Carr, Spokane, Washington, about May 1923.
- KFZ Applicant's Description of Apparatus. Department of Commerce application filled out by R. T. Carr, Spokane, Washington, about August 1923.
- KFZ License for Land Station. Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce. Washington, DC. 23 March 1922.
- KFZ License for Land Station. Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce. Washington, DC. 18 May 1923.
- KFZ License for Land Station. Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce. Washington, DC. 30 August 1923.
- KFZ Schedule of Station and Apparatus. Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce. Washington, DC. 23 March 1922.
- KFZ Schedule of Station and Apparatus. Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce. Washington, DC. 18 May 1923.
- KFZ Schedule of Station and Apparatus. Radio Service, Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce. Washington, DC. 30 August 1923.
- McGoldrick, Jim; Early Memories of Radio in Spokane; letter to Thorwald Jorgenson, about 1981. Spokane, Washington.
- U. S. AM Stations as of 1923, Commercial and Government Radio Stations, 30 June 1923; Department of Commerce, Washingon, DC.
- Untitled article about KFZ. Spokane Daily Chronicle. 8 May 1922. Spokane, Washington.