Vintage radios in the form of lovely furniture
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    Auction Finds

    Unusual – and beautiful – console radios from 1930s

    This must have been a week for folks to unload vintage console or floor-model radios, I thought when I saw two at the same auction house. Then a few days later, I saw another one.

    Usually, these old radios no longer work, having sat in basements or stored against a wall out of view for years. I always love their style, their wood veneer and the workmanship.

    I was drawn to the first one at auction by its shape. It reminded me of one of those oversized plush chairs that resemble a woman’s high heel shoes. The front extended outward like a seat, and the combination round and cubic shape wasn’t typical.

    GE console radio

    An oddly shaped General Electric console radio.

    It had a very odd but sweet look. It was a General Electric radio with both short wave and broadcast pickups, as many of them apparently were in the 1930s and 1940s. Googling later, I could find no other console like it.

    My second encounter was more typical of the consoles, but rounder, fuller and more Art Deco. It looked like a jukebox. This one was so popular that three people had already left bids on it. It was made by Zenith, a company that was considered an innovator during those years, and the auction house had identified it as a “side chair radio.”

    I had never heard of such, so I Googled. It’s actually called a chairside radio, made to be positioned at the end of a sofa or chair for convenience. The dials were placed strategically near the edge so you could easily change the station, or lower or increase the volume. The speaker faced outward, and the radio itself was smaller than the usual console. The one at auction had been placed near a wooden side chair and reached just above its seat.

    Zenith chairside radio

    Zenith chairside radio, along with a view of the top as it would look alongside a sofa or chair.

    Zenith made chairside radios in the 1930s and 1940s, and they are said to be rare. When first produced, one site noted, these radios were not very popular and very few were made. Zenith also produced a chairside radio-phonograph.

    The final radio I saw at auction was a Silvertone, which I knew to be made for Sears. It was in the shape of a drum table with brass claw feet. The auction-house staff had placed a lamp on top presumably to show how it could also be used.

    Sears advertised this type of table in its 1940 catalog for $34.95 (or you could pay in installments of $4).

    Silvertone radio

    A decorative display of the Sears Silvertone drum table console radio.

     

    Silvertone console radio

    Close-up of the Sears Silvertone drum table radio.

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