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First to Ride the Air Waves


Radio was an exciting medium in the first quarter of the 20th Century. On this date in 1922, three young men from Fargo, Lawrence Hamm, Earl Reinecke and Kenneth Hance, anxiously awaited a very important piece of paper. Only a few weeks before, Mr. Hance had gone to Chicago and successfully completed his federal examination for a commercial license. They men were already active in the radio business, having established a transmitter and receiver in the Cass County Courthouse. The set was situated in the dome under the bell tower in the courthouse and their antenna was a wire cage affair connected to the flag pole, but under Department of Commerce procedures, they were not authorized to begin the first commercial broadcasting in North Dakota until that paper arrived.

By 1922 there were over five hundred radio receivers in North Dakota, but not many local signals – especially from transmitters powerful enough to have statewide range. The trio of Fargo men hoped to broadcast music, Vaudeville Acts, weather forecasts, news, crop reports and criminal information. They were already operating on a commission received from Sheriff Fred Kraemer of Cass County to broadcast criminal activity and monitor any responses from amateur stations via telephone or wireless telegraph. When the license arrived, they began operating as WDAY out of Fargo on May 22, 1922.

Earl Reinecke, like many young men of his generation, had been fascinated with electricity and radio transmitting and had built his own transmitter as early as 1907. During the war he acted as a radio code instructor at the Agricultural College for the US Army. He had formed a radio equipment company in Fargo and this acted as the motivation to begin his own broadcasting station. He remained with WDAY until his death in 1965. During his lifetime he witnessed the development of radio and television in North Dakota.

Lawrence Hamm acted as president of WDAY for approximately ten years, but his love was in the printing business and he was chairman of the board of the Pierce Company printers in Fargo until his death in 1958.

Kenneth Hance, like Reinecke, had a love of radio, and he obtained the license for the station. He left WDAY in 1928 and joined KSTP radio in St. Paul, eventually becoming vice president. This pioneer of radio and television died in 1969, the last survivor of the trio that first rode the commercial airwaves in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

The Fargo Forum April 29, 1922
Fargo Forum May 6, 1958
Finding Air to the Earl C. And Marie Reinecke Papers, North Dakota State University
http://1500espn.com/pages/history.php- History of KSTP