The Radiobar was the promotion of Earnest J. Krause, a Beverly Hills inventor, investment banker and businessman. The company began producing the cabinets in 1931 or perhaps 1932, before the official end of Prohibition in December, 1933, and was in a great position to take advantage of the public’s desire to celebrate the repeal of the hated amendment.
Initially the West coast company built cabinets and installed chassis from a local radio manufacturer, Patterson or Gilfillan. The dial in these early sets is marked “Radiobar” and the Patterson or Gilfillan name does not appear. While the local radio was standard equipment on all Radiobars built in the early years, it appears that the cabinets could also be ordered without a radio installed as an accommodation to the customer who had a preference for a particular brand of radio. Occasionally a Radiobar is found today with a non-standard radio installed, although many times this is a result of a swap that occurred much later in the product’s life. Patterson radios were built in the Gilfillan factory in Los Angels since Gilfillan was licensed to use RCA patents and were used through the 1935 model year.
The RadioBar factory was located at 7100 McKinley Avenue in Los Angeles and is shown at the top of this page. The original building is still standing (below).
In time, the company caught the attention of Philco management. By the 1936 season, Philco chassis were used exclusively in Radiobar cabinets. The Radiobar Co. of America also started building cabinets for Philco’s radio-phonograph combinations.
Philco heavily promoted the Radiobar in 1937 and 1938, and judging from the surviving examples, a great many “Radiobars with Philco” were sold.
The Radiobar Company of America also produced cabinets for Philco Radio-Phonograph combinations. The chart below shows the models produced in 1938. Note that none of the models listed had bars.
A combination of factors probably led to the nearly complete discontinuation of the Philco Radiobar after the 1938 model year. For the 1939 model year, Philco radically redesigned most of their radio dials with an emphasis on slide rule dials that were located at the very top of cabinet and slanted to allow the operator to tune the station without stooping. This style of dial could not as easily be incorporated into cabinets that had the bar located at the top, as all had been. There were some 1939 Philco chassis of the older style, but these were primarily small cheap chassis for the lowest cost sets, and not suitable for the expensive Radiobars models which comprised the majority of the line. Since the dial and the bar could not both be at the top of the cabinet, some sort of compromise would have been required to keep the Radiobar in production. Some chairside Radiobars have been documented using 1939 model year chassis, so it appears that some five tube models were kept while the other, larger models were not renewed for 1939. Trade publications carry press release announcements for RadioBar (no longer distributed by Philco) consoles for the 1940 model year, but they appear to have been produced in significantly smaller quantity.
Additionally, the entire line of Philco radios seemed to move downmarket for the 1939 model year, with an emphasis on lower cost and a de-emphasis on performance.
Finally, a protracted strike by the production workers during the spring and summer of 1938, just the time when new sets were to be introduced, had to cause a major distraction for management and may also have led to the lack of new Radiobar models.
To learn more about Philco radios, click here (outside link)
New radios were generally not available during the war, but The Radiobar Company continued through the war and in 1945 advertised inexpensive products such as pants hangers and roller skates under the name "Multi-Kwik".
1945 Ad from Boy's Life
1946 Ad from Life magazine