Radio Archeology: The Story of Bill Halligan and Hallicrafters
What’s around in the basement? There they are – my Hallicrafters radios. An S-38, S-40B, and a SX-130. The SX-130 is loose and making the rounds in the main part of my home. The other radios in the basement are waiting their moment of glory. The radio above is an SX-130 that I picked up, in excellent working condition, for $80.
Note: When I look around the internet, it seems that my basement full of radios is nothing compared to some other folks that I stumbled upon. So, its good that folks are keeping these radios, repairing them, learning from them, using them, and keeping them alive to pass on to future generations. Don’t forget to check out the links at the end of this posting.
The history of people, not things
Hallicrafters, like other radio manufacturers, has a story. And please realize, that the story of radio is really the story of the people who made this all possible. It’s about people who have a passion, take risks, build companies, and make something for the world.
The story of Hallicrafters is the story of Bill Halligan –
Hallicrafters – Young Engineer does good…
William (Bill) J. Halligan, founder of Hallicrafters, was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1899. He got his first ham license as a teenager. Even at that age he considered himself a radio experimenter and built an early spark-gap transmitter. Bill’s first job, at age 16, was as a wireless operator on excursion ships between Boston and other coastal cities.
When World War I began, he put his skills to good use by serving his country as a wireless radio operator on the battleship Illinois. After the war was over he attended engineering school at Tufts College and West Point, but left when he married in 1922. He took a job as a newspaper reporter, and then left journalism in 1924 to sell radio parts. In 1928 he decided to start his own company, and moved to Chicago, Illinois. This salesman had ideas for improving the short-wave radios he had been selling. It was a brave venture, with almost no capital, manufacturing license problems and then the depression, but in 1933 Bill founded the Hallicrafters company that made him a legend.
Hallicrafters built handcrafted receivers with state-of-the-art features at an affordable price. By 1938, Hallicrafters was considered one of the “Big Three” manufacturers of amateur receivers (Hallicrafters, National and Hammarlund) and was selling not only in the U.S. but 89 other countries. He had 23 different models of transceivers and was ready to start producing transmitters, beginning with the HT-1. Instead of putting a lot into expensive cabinets, Halligan believed in providing every nickel’s worth into the performance of the chassis and the latest in circuit design. His greatest salesmen were those who used his equipment and praised it to others over the air.
When World War II began, there was a tremendous shortage of military radio equipment. Hallicrafters geared up for wartime production, and perhaps the best known new design is the HT-4 (BC-610) which was used extensively during the war. After the war, focus was again on consumer electronics, including radio phonographs, AM/FM receivers, clock radios and televisions.
The 1950s were the most successful years for the company. In 1952 Hallicrafters’ main plant in Chicago housed general offices and the factory and was a block long. In addition to the main plant was a 3-story building of 72,000 square feet two blocks away, a 1-story coil plant of 12,000 square feet on Chicago’s north side, and 150,000 square feet of production and storage space in three other buildings within a five-mail radius of the main plant. The company employed 2,500 people. Many of the radio products became classics, e.g. the HT-32 and the SX 101. Much of this equipment is still used today and collected by nostalgia buffs.
In 1966 Northrop Corporation bought Hallicrafters and moved the company to a new plant in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The company’s main function was to produce para-military equipment and electronic countermeasures systems. Hallicrafters produced a few ham radios through 1972 and a few accessories through 1974.
From 1933 until the company was sold to Northrop, Bill Halligan, W9AC, always supported the ham radio hobby. He died on July 14th, 1992 at the age of 93.
The Hallicrafters SX-130 was produced between 1965 and 1969 and sold for between $170 and $200. It’s a single-conversion general coverage receiver (535-31500 kHz) for AM and SSB(LSB/USB). Tube complement is: (6DC6 RF Amp, 6EA8 Mixer/Osc, 6EA8 1st IF Amp/Crystal Sel., 6BA6 2nd IF Amp, 6AL5 AM Detector/NL, 6BE6 BFO/Product Detector, 6GW8 AF Amp/Output and diode).
The SX-130 does not have a built-in speaker or any antenna, so you need to add your own.
The one pictured above works well on all the bands. When listening to amateur radio on SSB there is a tendency to drift – and that is expected with a tube radio. I usually use it for listening to broadcast AM radio. This older radio, in addition to my Zenith floor model and my older Atwater Kent are good conversation starters when neighbors come over to visit.
Here is the Service Manual and schematic for the Hallicrafters SX-130
What’s in other folks basements…
My radios are nothing compared to what other folks have collected and put onto the Internet to share with the world.
So I will have you off to these sites where you can find lots of pictures, manuals, and schematics for these old Boat Anchors (read: Valuable artifacts from the history of radio)
This is a great site with lots of pictures.
Be sure to click on the “full details…” links for manuals and repair hints.
If you are a Hallicrafters fan this is a must-see site
Lots of manuals and service bulletins
Restoring old televisions and radios
Read about AM plate modulation and explore this web site
More History of Bill Halligan and the history of Hallicrafters
Ok, so now here are the really serious people –
Hallicrafters BC-610-E WWII AM Transmitter Restored Pearl Harbor and Battle of Midway
1939 Hallicrafters HT-4 Pictorial Memories Timeline
Hallicrafters HT-4 AM Crystal Tuned Transmitter built 1939, SN:1882
There are some serious folks out there – check this out