The late 1800s in America were a time when print mass media dominated the landscape. It was also a period in which researchers began to understand the concept of radio waves or nonoptical radiation.
Radio waves made it possible to use wireless signals to communicate through the air.
The first implementation of this concept came in the late 1890s, using a telegraph to transmit Morse code. The use of radio waves later expanded into voice communication.
By the 1920s voice transmissions were commonplace, and the United States issued its first federal broadcasting license in November 1920 as radio stations began to bring information and entertainment into American households.
Some newspapers, concerned by the influx of the new media source, joined in and started their own broadcasting stations.
In order to regulate the new form of communication, the government introduced the 1927 Radio Act and created the Federal Radio Commission, which was later renamed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Radio stations began to pop up in communities across the country, playing music and featuring local talents. The stations were self sustaining with ad revenue supporting their operation. In some cases, local talents found their own sponsors and purchased the air time to perform.
Planning on a Marshfield station began in July 1944. By May of the following year, the group of radio entrepreneurs officially organized as Dairyland Broadcasting Services Incorporated with Lloyd L. Felker serving as president, Karl H. Doege and L.A. Copps as vice presidents, George F. Meyer as secretary, and Corinne Kraus as treasurer.
In December 1945 the FCC granted the Marshfield group a broadcasting license for the frequency of 1450 kilocycles — now known as kilohertz — assigning the letters WDLB for Wisconsin Dairyland Broadcasting.
WDLB’s first broadcast came on Sunday, Feb. 2, 1947, kicking off at noon with a dedication program featuring performances by the Marshfield Senior High School Band, the Marshfield Senior High School Glee Club, and the 3rd Regiment Band; an invocation by Reverend Arthur Oates; and addresses from Mayor Arthur Reeths, Felker, WDLB general manager George Meyer, and chamber president John Stauber.
The dedication was followed by an afternoon and evening lineup of local talent and community dignitaries before the station signed off at 10 p.m., signaling the end of its first day on air.
Next week: WDLB: The early years