The Radio Shop One Tube Regenerative Receiver

©February 2012 - Bill Harris

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I acquired this little regenerative set at a local auction. The set was manufactured by the Radio Shop of Sunnyvale, California. The Radio Shop was founded in 1920 by Arthur E. Bessey and Tom Lambert in a small room in the Bank of Italy. They also manufactured sets under the Echophone brand.

From the Sunnyvale Standard, May 5, 1922;


A million dollars' worth of business contracted in two months!

That is the record of the Radio Shop which has been swept from a tiny establishment in one room in the Bank of Italy to a large productive plant in Sunnyvale as a result of American's modern madness for "listening in".

The Radio Shop began two years ago in the smallest of rooms in the Bank of Italy. It was of necessity a diminutive business for then the only people who were interested in radio were amateurs who liked to experiment on the novel instrument. As a rule the novices could afford only the most inexpensive sets and usually they had to black boots or sell papers to pay for them.

Arthur E. Bessey and Tom Lambert started the business. Their interest in radio had been of long standing. Mr. Bessey became interested in the possibilities of radio many years ago when, with his father, he was connected with an incubator business in Sunnyvale. He played with radio as a hobby and dreamed that some day the rest of the world would be interested in it too. Mr. Lambert has been seriously interested in radio since 1917 when he was a wireless operator on a merchant marine.

When Mr. Bessey and Mr. Lambert decided to open their little business two years ago they applied to the government for a license to construct the sets. They were the first people on the Pacific coast to obtain such a license and now there is only one other concern with a permit to make the outfits in California. Construction of radio sets involves a great many copyrighted processes which makes it difficult to secure licenses.

Before they established their plant in Sunnyvale, the Radio Shop was located on San Fernando street [in San Jose]. The owners moved into this place when they found the room in the Bank of Italy building too small. They were located here about two months ago when the world suddenly became radio crazy. Orders came pouring in into the little shop so rapidly that it was necessary to look for larger quarters. They found a site in Sunnyvale and work was begun immediately on a well arranged plant. The building that has been put up in the last six weeks is 220 feet long and is planned so as to turn out the sets with the utmost efficiency. The main offices are in the front of the building. Here there is also a broadcasting set which is one of the most powerful on the coast. It has been heard as far east as Chicago, nearly 3000 miles.

Every part that goes into the intricate machine is made in the plant. The raw materials are received at one end of the long building. Skilled workmen convert the materials into the various parts needed for the machine. As the parts are made they are passed down to the other end of the room where they are assembled, so that when they have reached the far end of the building the machine is complete. The assembling room is large and lighted with numerous well placed windows.

The plant is not yet complete, but when full operations are started about 200 men will be employed. The owners say that they expect to turn out 150 radio sets a day as soon as their building is competed. They have contracted over a million dollars' worth of business in the last two months and are not taking any more orders for a year. Their machines are sold through distributors in San Francisco.


The set uses a single 01A type tube in a regenerative circuit. There wasn't much to do in the way of restoration other than cleaning the front panel and one of the circular capacitors had to be dissambled and the mica wafers recentered. The unusual thing about this set is the case in which it installed. It is made of ceramic pottery rather heavy and of unsual design for use with a radio. There are no markings on the case to give a clue to it's origin, which led me to wonder if this was an original Radio Shop case. After discussing this with another local collector, he contacted another collector in California who is very knowledgeable on The Radio Shop. He did confirm that the case is original and it also came in green.

Fast forward to December 2014. I received a call from a fellow collector who said that he was doing some repair work on one of these radios. The person who owns the radio said it had been given to his family by one of the owners of the Van Briggle Pottery Company of Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1923, and that the ceramic case was manufactured at the Van Briggle plant.

Artus Van Briggle and Anne Van Briggle moved to Colorado Springs in 1899 because of his struggle with tuberculosis. Artus opened Van Briggle pottery in 1901, his wife Anne would create the designs. Artus died in 1904 and Anne continued to run the company for a while but it eventually was sold and has changed owners several times since, was up for sale once more in 2012 but due to lack of a buyer is no longer in business.

I have not been able to find out just how the idea of a radio set in a Van Briggle case came about, the company did produce various novelty items such as mugs, incense burners, candle holders, ect., so perhaps this radio was one of them. The radio itself was purchased from The Radio Shop of California, and after being installed in the ceramic case was to be sold to Van Briggle dealers at a wholesale price of $49 and would retail for $79. It evidently was not a success and probably very few were made making it quite rare. The ceramic case is rather crude buy the standards of the famous Van Briggle pottery, which is now highly prized by pottery collectors.

There is a Van Briggle museum located in the original building that houses the kilns just about a mile from my house.

The radio doesn't carry a model number, just the nomenclature, "Mfd By The Radio Shop, Sunnyvale, Calif."


With a 10 foot length of antenna strung out on the basement floor, the little set pulls in four local stations with good volume.

More information about The Radio Shop and pictures of other sets can be found in Alan Douglas' book, "Radio Manufactures of the 1920's" Vol 3.

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