Paul Galvin

Inducted 2008

For American homes during the first half of the 1900s, the radio was the link to the outside world. Families would huddle around the living room radio to listen to news, sports, entertainment and music. With the growth of the automobile industry and with an increasing number of households owning automobiles, it was a not surprising that people wanted to take the radio with them on the road. Paul V. Galvin did not come up with the idea of installing radios in cars, but he was the first to recognize the potential and to capitalize on the emerging trend. Galvin engaged a team of talented engineers to build and install one of the first commercially successful car radios in the world. Paul Galvin and his brother Joseph started the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in Chicago in 1928 to manufacture battery eliminators. These electronic devices enabled battery-powered home radios to operate on household electric current. But in 1929, the stock market crash devastated the U.S. economy and the battery eliminator was becoming obsolete. The Galvins needed a new product for their small business to survive. A radio parts company founded by William P. Lear, later to become a pioneer in the aviation industry, was coincidentally located in the same factory building as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. Lear technicians also were experimenting with radio technologies. Despite the worsening economy, the markets for automobile and radio technologies were growing rapidly. Paul Galvin realized that consumer demand would continue and thought that Galvin Manufacturing could develop an affordable car radio. Galvin engaged a team that combined the talents of Lear and Galvin Manufacturing radio engineers. In addition, young Elmer Wavering, who later was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, joined the effort. The team faced difficult technical problems: overcoming electrical interference, finding space in the car for large radio components, and building it sturdy enough to endure rough roads. Galvin encouraged them to keep working to find a solution. In May 1930, Galvin announced plans to drive his Studebaker automobile from Chicago, Illinois, to Atlantic City, New Jersey a distance of about 850 miles. He intended to demonstrate the new radio at the Radio Manufacturers Association Convention in June. With only one month left to complete a working model, the team worked day and night. A few days before Galvin departed, the crew successfully built a radio that received a clear signal with the car motor running. By squeezing some radio parts inside and others under the floor, the radio fit into the car. Although rough roads from Chicago to New Jersey tested the radio to its limits, it withstood the journey. Galvin Manufacturing Corporation wasn’t registered for the Radio trade show, and Paul Galvin had no display booth or appointments with prospective customers. There was no money in the company’s budget for marketing. Instead, Galvin parked his car at the entrance to the Atlantic City pier and boosted the radio’s volume with loudspeakers to attract attention. Galvin returned to Chicago with enough sales orders to ensure that the company would survive to face the next challenges: sales, manufacturing and installation on a large scale. Paul Galvin wanted a brand name for Galvin Manufacturing Corporation’s new car radio—something memorable. He created the name “Motorola” — an amalgamation of the words Motor Vehicle and Victrola. The Motorola brand name became so well-known that Galvin Manufacturing Corporation later changed its name to Motorola, Inc. Due to determination and innovative engineering, the Motorola radio became one of the world’s first commercially successful car radios. The Motorola car radio connected thousands of people with news and entertainment in their “second home”—the automobile.

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