The NBC Chimes Museum
A Celebration Of Old–Time Radio’s Most Famous Signature
about this site
The purpose of the nbc chimes museum is to chronicle the evolution of the NBC Chimes on radio from the 1920s through the 1940s, when the NBC Red and Blue Networks were separated, and to illustrate their usage with audio clips and images. Special emphasis is placed upon the hand–struck Deagan chimes and the variations in the sequence of notes that were employed from the late 1920s until the inauguration of the NBC Chimes Machine, when the speed, level, and pitch of the Chimes were standardized.
The NBC Chimes Museum started in November, 2005, as a single page that was designed for smaller, lower resolution monitors which were all most of us had at the time. I gave the site a major design overhaul in 2010, dividing it up into sections, adding a navigation bar and sub–bar and much new material, and concentrating on attractive typography, which I am constantly tweaking slightly now and again.
typography and appearance
The body of this website is set in plantin, as well as the titles and subtitles on every page. The navigation bars and blockquotes are set in abril titling condensed, while the imitation typewriter font on the correspondence pages is p22 typewriter. The flourishy ampersand is borrowed from kings caslon.
Captions for images and audio files, where they appear, are set in trade gothic next condensed, while the header at the top of each page is set in a combination of itc cheltenham handtooled bold for “The NBC Chimes Museum” and the Art Deco westgate for the line about radio’s most famous signature.
All the fonts on this site are provided under license by Adobe Fonts, with the exception of itc cheltenham handtooled bold, which is licensed from Monotype via MyFonts. Adobe Fonts, surprisingly, has no handtooled fonts in its lineup, which is a regrettable omission.
The curator of the Museum would like to express heartfelt thanks to those whose contributions made this
- mark aceto, owner of a Rangertone NBC Chimes Machine, for providing me with images and a direct line–output recording especially for this site.
- mr. marcus bartlett and his daughter mrs. ann cannon, who responded warmly to my questions about the WSB chimes, and who forwarded much valuable historical material to me. (Mr. Bartlett passed away on February 19, 2009, at the age of 98.)
- dr. michael biel and ms. elizabeth mcleod, who opened their vaults and provided the historic audio clips of NBC Chimes present on the Media Files page. Both Dr. Biel and Ms. McLeod have spent years researching the NBC Chimes, and it is due to their efforts that we have even the barest outline of the progress of the various chimes sequences.
- tom brown, founder of RadioArchives.com, for his general encouragement.
- tracy carman of The Media Preservation Foundation for providing audio of NBC’s Fourth Chime from the WTIC Transcription Archive, and for his permission to use the audio on this site.
- alec cumming for his assistance and encouragement.
- diana doyle of the Nathan Hale High School Library, Tulsa OK, who provided pictures of the KVOO chimes on display there.
- heather grandt, who took the pictures of the various sets of Deagan chimes in my collection.
- bill harris, whose webpage was one of the first serious efforts on the web to catalog the development and evolution of the NBC Chimes, and who granted permission to use a picture of an NBC Chimes set in his collection.
- mike kavanagh, founder of the WSB History webpage, who provided historic information on the use of chimes on WSB, and who put me in contact with people who were there when chimes rang out on WSB. (Mr. Kavanagh passed away suddenly on December 6, 2008, at the age of 57.)
- dr. alexander magoun, executive director of The David Sarnoff Library, who has provided encouragement and information concerning RCA and NBC.
- fred nutter of WCSH–TV, Portland Maine, who gave me information about the WCSH chimes.
- fred prohl of The Indiana Historical Radio Society, who sent me a copy of Rod Phillips’ original 1976 history of The NBC Chimes as published in that organization’s Bulletin.
- gilberto serna of Century Mallet Instrument Service, whose historic Deagan catalogs yielded contemporary models and prices, and whose devotion to excellence has given my vintage chimes a new lease on life. (Note: Gilberto is now retired, but Century Mallet is in the trained and capable hands of andres bautista.)
- dave weiner for providing the film clip of NBC network announcer Kelvin Keech striking the NBC Deagan Chimes.
- brian wickham, who supplied me with background information on the Rangertone Chimes Machine whose restoration he oversaw, and who provided me with engineering drawings and a recording of the NBC Chimes Machine.
- ken williams, the misplacedmtnman, from whose collection of Deagan tubular chimes I acquired the Deagan Military Dinner Call 3003.
links and further resources
- The ancestor of all sites related to the history of the NBC Chimes is “Three Famous Notes of Broadcasting History—The NBC Chimes” on Bill Harris’ Radio Remembered.
- The earliest version of Bill’s site, including a newspaper article that started his research, can be found at The National Radio Club.
- A page on the NBC Chimes Machine with illustrations and a schematic from John Schneider
- NBC’s West Coast Operations In San Francisco where the main switching center was located until 1942. Also from John Schneider.
- Also on John Schneider’s site, Fred Krock talks about NBC San Francisco and describes the chimes machines installed there.
- Brian Wickham gives an auxiliary account of the NBC Chimes Machine that was found and restored.
- Dr. Rich Samuels has a splendid look back at NBC’s Golden Age in his Broadcasting In Chicago 1921–1989 website.
- Jeff Miller has a page with input on the NBC Chimes from Dr. Michael Biel and Elizabeth McLeod.
- Arthur Harrison designed and built an NBC Chimes generator. The circuit and description can be seen, and an mp3 heard, at his Theremin Page.
- Don M. Yowp’s Tralfaz Blog has quite an interesting collection of press clippings from the 1930s, with information tidbits about the NBC Chimes.
- Thomas Tryniski’s Old Fulton New York Post Cards has an impressive collection of scanned historic newspaper pages, mostly from upstate New York cities such as Schenectady, Utica, and Rome, but also from Brooklyn and Queens. I guarantee you will find a treasure trove of early radio history on this site. This is the source for the newspaper quotes that pinpoint the beginning of the NBC Chimes.
- The University System of Georgia has a digital archive of WSB logs, containing two different types: studio logs, which contain notes on performers and also cryptic records of engineering dialogue with other wireless stations, and program logs, with news clippings both of upcoming schedules and of major programs of record. It is a fascinating time capsule, and has helped my research into WSB’s early days tremendously. An index to the Georgia State University manuscript holdings is also available on the same site network.
- World Radio History has an extensive collection of radio publications from the 1920s to the present day. It was from their online library that I was able to find the issues of Broadcasting that filled in small details concerning the Fourth Chime, chimes as special emergency signals on other radio stations, and the auxiliary telegraphic switching cue system NBC used in conjunction with the Chimes. The library also facilitated much of my research into chimes (and other identifiers) as used by early radio stations in the 1920s.
This website is strictly a personal noncommercial hobby/history/research/resource site, and is neither affiliated with nor authorized by Comcast/NBC Universal, which owns the trademark for the NBC Chimes on television, or by iHeartMedia, which licenses the rights to the NBC News Radio name on radio. No association with any of these broadcasting organizations or the NBC Chimes themselves is expressed or implied.