A Brief History
of Zenith Royal Transoceanic Royal 1000
A Speech by Ray Andrejasich
Before a 1996 Quarterly Meeting of the Indiana Historical Radio Society
Six years later (1957), I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BSEE degree and started working in May for the Zenith Radio Corporation at their Dickens Avenue engineering center in the Transistor Radio Group. Zenith was a vertically integrated company at that time so first, I had a training program where I spent 6 week intervals in various support groups for the radio program. I believe the groups included the coil lab (I.F. and Oscillator coils, as well as ferrite AM antennas), the model shop for building prototype chassis (yes, the early transistor radios were hand-wired on metal chassis, with sockets), audio lab (speakers and amplifiers), and the component analysis groups (for investigating outside suppliers). A year later, I received a letter from President Eisenhower inviting me to participate in his Universal Military Training (UMT) program. During that first year, however, I supported the Royal 1000 Transoceanic development.
At this point, I would like to back up and talk a little about the founder of the Zenith Radio Corporation, Commander Eugene F. McDonald, Jr. His rise to fame is a true Horatio Alger story and could be a very interesting subject for a book. He never finished high school, being more interested in working for an income. He worked as a mechanic at the Franklin Auto Company in Syracuse, New York, and because of his flamboyance, ended up in sales. At the outbreak of Work War I, he joined the Navy. When he left the Navy in 1919, he had the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, hence his title, "Commander McDonald".
In 1920, Commander McDonald decided to go into the radio business. While in Chicago, he met two young men, Karl Hassel and Ralph Mathews, who were operating a small radio manufacturing business in a kitchen of one of their homes. Also, they were amateur radio operators, and their radio station was 9ZN. From their call letters, they called their manufactured radio, the Z-Nith. The two young men had more business than they could handle, so the Commander offered to become a financial partner in their undertaking. The resulting partnership saw McDonald becoming the general manager. To help in marketing, the Commander changed the hyphenated name of the radio to Zenith and in 1923, the partnership was incorporated into the Zenith Radio Corporation.
The Commander's adventuresome spirit led him around the world. In addition to his much publicized Arctic exploration, he organized several scientific and exploring expeditions, using his 185 foot yacht, the "Mizpah" to travel as far away as the South Seas. His yacht was used also as a traveling lab for a variety of radio gear. In many areas, he would be out of contact with the day-to-day happenings as his Zenith broadcast band portable was inadequate, especially when he would frequent his Canadian fishing lodge. He ordered his laboratory, in 1939, to develop a short-wave portable. The resulting set was such a good performer that the Commander ordered it into production. It went into limited production in October, 1941. Known as the Zenith Transoceanic Clipper, it contained the Commander's patented Wavemagnent antenna. Shortly thereafter, the Second World War broke out and it proved to be a valuable and rugged testing ground for the Transoceanic. Photos and testimonials came to Zenith from all parts of the world during the war years. These proved valuable after the war in advertising campaigns to enhance the image of the Transoceanic.