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WWJ in 1942. Photo via Library of Congress.

Today marks a special anniversary, especially if you have ever turned on a radio.

The first licensed by the federal government radio station in the United States was right here in Detroit – 8MK, now WWJ-Radio on this date – August 20, 1920 – started broadcasting at 8:15 a.m. to about 30 homes fortunate enough to have a receiver.

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The station was owned by the Detroit News, and at first broadcasted from their building and operated with an amateur license, which in 1922 was changed to commercial.

In the early years, it was billed as the “Detroit News Radiophone.” It also is the first station to have regularly scheduled daily broadcasts.

The WWJ building in 1942. It still stands today and is used as a union office. Via Library of Congress.
The WWJ building in 1942. It still stands today and is used as a union office. Via Library of Congress.

To clarify any confusion with our friends in Pittsburgh, they have a title of their own. The first station to receive a commercial license was KDKA in Pittsburgh, which began broadcasting in October of 1920.

From these rudimentary early broadcasts, the new medium grew rapidly. In 1922, there were 30 radio stations in the United States, but by the following year, there were 556. Now, there are nearly 15,500 AM and FM radio stations across the U.S., along with just over 1,500 low-power FM facilities.

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The callsigns of 8MK would change to WLB and then finally WWJ.

Here in Detroit, WJR signed on in 1922, and the radio race was off to the races – and today, Detroit boasts a great media scene … no matter the format.

H/T to Profile America from U.S. Census, which is neat service that has all kinds of useful facts.