Radio historians generally agree that broadcasting for the public began in 1920 with a broadcast on station KDKA out of Pittsburg, PA. On November 2, 1920, station KDKA out of Pittsburg, PA, made the nation’s first commercial broadcast. They chose that date because it was election day, and the power of radio was proven when people could hear the results of the Harding-Cox presidential race before they read about it in the newspaper.

However, very few folks heard the broadcast because few radio receivers were privately owned. After word of that original broadcast spread people overwhelmed radio manufacturers. They stood in line for hours to fill out order forms because the manufactures had run out of radio receivers. Between 1923 and 1930 fully 60% of American families purchased radios and gathered around the new devices to listen to nightly entertainment broadcasts.

The more folks purchased radios the more radio stations were needed to satisfy the public. In just two years 600 stations were up and operating nation-wide.

In Providence RI thriving downtown department stores like Outlet, Shepard’s, Gladding’s, Diamond’s, the Boston Store, and Cherry & Webb competed for shoppers. Of those stores, the Outlet and Shepard’s were the boldest of rivals. Radio in Rhode Island was born out of this intense department store rivalry. In June of 1922, Shepard’s launched WEAN, the first radio station in Rhode Island. Just three months later and not to be outdone, the Outlet premiered WJAR. Not long after, Cherry & Webb debuted WPRO. The new technology provided these stores with an exciting promotional vehicle unlike anything the world had ever seen – or heard.