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By Dave Hughes

The Very Early Years

Radio in the Washington DC area dates back to 1912 when the Department of Commerce, which then regulated the airwaves, authorized two experimental stations -- one operated by the Navy in Anacostia, NSF/NOF, and one by the Post Office, WWX. The Navy also started NAA as a radiotelegraph station in 1913; it was located at Fort Myer, Virginia. In 1921 the Commerce Department established a broadcast service with 833 kHz allocated for entertainment broadcasts (and 619 kHz allocated for government and weather broadcasts). Records show that in 1922 there were something like 11 stations sharing and sometimes broadcasting over one another on the 833 kHz "entertainment" frequency. They included WJH (which was the first "entertainment broadcast" station in the DC area as of December 8, 1921), WDW, WPM, WIL, WEAS, WHAQ, WIAY, WDM, WMU and WQAW. By 1923, the AM broadcast band went from 550 to 1350 kHz in 10 kHz steps (the upper limit was expanded to 1500 kHz in 1924). Washington's WCAP (C&P Telephone) and WRC (RCA) then shared time on 640 kHz. The Navy's NAA, now a broadcasting outlet, was located on 690 kHz. While many of Washington's earliest stations did not survive those early days, at least four current stations can be traced back to stations in the 1920s -- WWRC (now 570 kHz and before the spring of 1998 on 980 kHz) can be connected to WRC in 1923 on 640 kHz, WOL (now on 1450 kHz) has it roots in WRHF which began operations in 1924 on 1170 kHz, WMAL (now on 630 kHz) dates back to the same call letters and 1410 kHz in 1925, and WTOP (now on 1500 kHz) can be traced way back to a 1926 Brooklyn, New York station which, by 1928, had become WJSV on 1460 kHz from the Mount Vernon, Virginia area.

For more information about the early days of DC radio visit Washington DC AM Station History by Thomas H. White.

Washington DC Area Radio In 1930

Here's what the DC and Baltimore broadcast band looked like in the 1930s.

600 WCAO Baltimore MD (250 watts)
630 WMAL Washington DC (500 watts day/250 watts night)
950 WRC Washington DC (500 watts)
1060 WBAL Baltimore MD (10000 watts; shares time with WTIC Hartford CT)
1270 WFBR Baltimore MD (250 watts)
1310 WOL Washington DC (100 watts)
1370 WCBM Baltimore MD (250 watts days/100 watts night)
1460 WJSV Mt Vernon Hills VA (10000 watts)

Washington DC Area Broadcasting In Late 40s & Early 50s

By the 40s, FM broadcasting and TV were in full swing in the DC and Baltimore areas. He's a sketch of the two broadcast bands back in the late 40s and early 50s.

AM
550 WSVA Harrisonburg VA
600 WCAO Baltimore MD
630 WMAL Washington DC
730 WPIK Alexandria VA
930 WFMD Frederick MD
980 WRC Washington DC
1090 WBAL Baltimore MD
1230 WITH Baltimore MD
1260 WOL Washington DC
1300 WFBR Baltimore MD
1340 WINX Washington DC
1400 WCBM Baltimore MD
1450 WWDC Washington DC
1500 WTOP Washington DC

FM
92.5 WRFL Winchester VA (14000 watts)
93.1 WCBM Baltimore MD (3000 watts)
93.9 WRC Washington DC (20000 watts)
94.7 WMCP Baltimore MD (20000 watts)
95.9 WOOK Silver Spring MD (? watts)
96.3 WTOP Washington DC (20000 watts)
96.7 WBUZ Bradhury Heights MD (420 watts)
97.1 WASH Washington DC (15000 watts)
97.9 WMAR Baltimore MD (20000 watts)
98.7 WOL Washington DC (20000 watts)
99.1 WNAV Annapolis MD (16600 watts)
99.5 WCFM Washington DC (20000 watts)
100.3 WHMB Washington DC (19000 watts)
100.7 WSVA Harrisonburg VA (38000 watts)
101.1 WWDC Washington DC (20000 watts)
101.5 WFMD Frederick MD (2000 watts)
101.9 WFBR Baltimore MD (20000 watts)
102.3 WGAY Silver Spring MD (440 watts)
102.7 WCAO Baltimore MD (20000 watts)
103.1 WBCC Bethesda MD (500 watts)
103.5 WQQW Washington DC (19000 watts)
104.3 WITH Baltimore MD (20000 watts)
104.7 WJEJ Hagerstown MD (1000 watts)
105.1 WARL Arlington VA (1000 watts)
105.9 WHIP Silver Spring MD (14500 watts)
107.3 WMAL Washington DC (20000 watts)

TV
2 WMAR CBS Baltimore MD
4 WNBW (then WRC) NBC Washington DC
5 WTTG DUMONT Washington DC
7 WTVW ABC Washington DC
9 WWBR CBS Washington DC
11 WWBT (then WBAL) NBC Baltimore MD
13 WAAM ABC Baltimore MD