History of Twin Cities Radio Industry

by C.B. Miller WØDKL - 3/15/1997

In an attempt to preserve history on the development of Radio/Electronics in the Twin Cities area, I am preparing this biographical document.

To background this, I am enumerating a bit about my developing interest in Radio, as it was called in the 1920's. In my early youth it was my fortune to see the passing of Spark Radio communication and the entry of Vacuum tubes for the generation of Radio signals and the development of amplitude "audio" modulation, also the many discussions about the generation of side bands or did they exist in the modulation process! My first experience with radio came about through Sunday School bulletin describing the construction of a crystal set this was in 1925. Over the next few years I managed on my own to dig out enough information to acquire my Amateur Radio license W9DKL, which I received in July 1929. A bit of a story leading to this radio knowledge was that I should be learning something practical. One day he brought home a box or two of parts from a motorcycle, expecting me, with his help, to reassemble. This never came to be, instead and shortly thereafter I convinced him what I should trade these parts with a fellow I knew that had some radio parts for assembling a three circuit regenerative receiver. Thus we did, and I was on my way to learn about this thing called. radio.

Through amateur radio I became acquainted with Rex Munger, Sales Manager for the Lew Bonn Co. and in 1933 I approached him about working for the Lew Bonn Co. This resulted in my starting to work for him on February 15, 1934. My job was to manage their city desk, write up the city desk and mail orders. This put me in direct contact with persons in most all phases of this radio business and an opportunity to help solve many radio parts application problems and to become acquainted with many technicians in this field.

With this background I feel that I can fill you in with a bit of history on our Industry and how some of it was developed. Because of my time with Lew Bonn Co. I will have to look on this from that prospective.

My recollection of the first radio parts suppliers in the area was: Finley Electric Co., Jalisco Co. and the Radio Maintenance Company. and the only personnel associated with these companies that I remember ace Lawrence Findley of Findley Electric Co. and Marty Knox who was a radio service man for Jalisco Co. In the late 1930's Marty became supervisor of the Aircraft Radio Department at Northwest Airlines. All three of these companies dissolved their radio parts supply business shortly after the Lew Bonn Co. entered the market in 1926.

In 1926 Lew Bonn and Jack Henderson formed a partnership called the Bonn-Henderson Co. to represent the Crosley Radio Corp. and other radio pioneers. A few years later Lew Bonn bought out Jack Henderson and dropped the factory representative lines and went into full distributorship for Crosley Radio and Refrigerators as well as becoming a full line radio parts supply house.

It is interesting to note the number of persons that went through the Lew Bonn Co. to notch a nitch for themselves in this industry. Rex Munger who was Lew Bonn's Sales Manager left the company in 1937 or 1938 to join Taylor Tubes of Chicago, IL. George Bauman left the company about the same time to set up a distributorship with his brother Ray. A few years later he bought Ray and each set up their own distributorships. George's was the very successful National Electronics Distributing Co later to become Team Electronics. Ward Jensen left Lew Bonn Co. around 1949 or 1950 to set up Electronic Center with his brother Jerry Jensen, Darrell Watschke and a man from Stark Radio Supply, Bert Phillips. Dave Goode worked in Lew Bonn's Crosley Radio service department. He left Lew Bonn in 1935 or 1936 to join Harry Stark in setting up Northwest Radio Supply. Dave bought out Harry Stark's interest in About 1937 or 1938. After this separation harry Stark proceeded to set up Stark Electronics. Ben Miller left the Lew Bonn Co, on December 1940 to join Northwest Airlines as their Aircraft Radio Specialist. He returned to Lew Bonn in July 1946. On March 1972 the Lew Bonn Co. was sold to Crammer Electronics and as a result of this sale Ben set up the Edtronics Co. to supply electronic training systems and electronic testing apparatus to most all phases of education: Junior and Senior High School Science and Industrial Arts departments, Vocational Technical Schools and Colleges. He still operates this business.

I think is was in the 1950's that Don Swenson left the Lew Bonn Co. to join Stark Electronics where he served many years as their general manager. It was his lot to be in charge of their company when the company had a big fire and he had to find a new location and restock the company. It was a superb job that he did.

These are so many people that have contributed so much to this industry, but space does not allow for further credits.