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Colin B. Kennedy
Broadcasting Pioneer
1885-1942

Colin Bruce Kennedy was born in Teeswater, Ontario, Canada, on February 6, 1885. His primary education was obtained in the Canadian public schools.

He learned telegraphy while working as an errand boy for a small-town drugstore which was also the telegraph office. Leaving home when about fourteen years of age, he spent the next ten years as a telegraph operator in many cities throughout Canada. The last two of these years he was in charge of two radio stations on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Canadian government wireless service.

His next seven years were spent with the Federal Telegraph Company at Palo Alto, California, as a radio operator, station engineer, and research and development engineer. This included the entire period of World War I during which the company built many large and small radio transmitters for the government.

In 1919, he organized and became the president of the Colin B. Kennedy Company. Although originally established for the manufacture of radio receiving equipment for experimenters, the company was among the first to produce receivers for home use at the advent of radio broadcasting. This business continued until 1933 when economic conditions forced a suspension of operation.

Mr. Kennedy continued in the radio field, predominantly in a merchandising capacity. In February 1942, he entered the service of his country, becoming a civilian employee at the Signal Corps inspection depot in Chicago. Upon his death on June 16, 1942, radio lost another of the pioneering spirits whose vigorous and constructive work in the early days did much to advance the art and the science.

The Kennedy factory in San Francisco made high quality commercial receivers and home radios. A solid mahogany or walnut cabinet, silver plated knobs and polished Formica panels are indicative of the quality and care that went into the building of Kennedy receivers. Kennedy regenerative receivers were so well-respected that they were still being sold in 1925 when most regenerative receivers were considered obsolete.

Kennedy’s earliest radio broadcast from Los Altos, on the Peninsula near San Francisco, hit the airwaves in 1921 from experimental station 6XAC, owned and licensed by Colin B. Kennedy himself, as a way to test the radio receivers he was selling. It gained attention in the October 24, 1921, edition of the San Francisco Bulletin, in which a story referred to the “radiophone station” in Los Altos which “has broken all records by sending messages 2,000 miles overland to Great Bend, Kansas.”

The station proved so successful in getting responses to its test broadcasts that Kennedy was granted a commercial broadcasting license. Kennedy’s broadcasts originated from his treasurer’s home on O’Keefe Avenue in the area now known as Los Altos Hills. (The site is across the 280 freeway from what is now Foothill College.)

Station KLP continued broadcasting until early 1923. The station’s license was deleted by the Radio Division on March 9, 1923.

In 2006, Colin Kennedy was elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame as a member of the first class to be honored.

SOURCE: John Koster, Vintage Radio Web; Jan D. Lowry, Broadcast Pro-File.

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