The NBC Chimes Museum A Celebration Of Old–Time Radio’s Most Famous Signature
outdoor nbc chimes installations
All spellings, line breaks, and formatting are reproduced as closely as possible to match those of the original paper documents.
To: Major Lenox R. Lohr From: Clay Morgan Date: June 24, 1938 Subject: NBC Chime Signature As advised you verbally, we are now arranging to have installed somewhere in or about the Sunken Plaza in Rockefeller Center (at a spot deemed best by the engineers, but probably in the International Building) the necessary apparatus which will permit the sound of the NBC Chime signature exactly on the hour so that it can be heard anywhere in the Sunken Plaza and vicinity. After considerable negotiation by Mr. James, he has finally secured the approval of the Building Management through Mr. Lawrence A. Kirkland, and of the Union News Company which operates the open air restaurant in the Sunken Plaza. This is being done at a cost of $530 as estimated, though Mr. James tells me this morning that we are running into some union complications which may add up to another $100 on the cost. Clay Morgan CM-a CC- EPH James W.J.RandallPress Release
To: Mr B F McClancy From: O B Hanson Date: July 20th 1938 We have been requested by Sales Promotion to supply NBC Chimes to a P A System located at the Inter- national Building Clock. Will you arrange to order a radio circuit be- tween our MDF and a point in the International Bldg to be designated by our Audio Facilities Group. O B Hanson cc - Messrs Dolan Rackey cg
DAILY NEWS REPORT NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY RCA Building Radio City New York August 10, 1938 NBC'S FAMOUS MELODIC CHIMES TO BE "BIG BEN" OF NEW YORK The NBC chimes, most famous of musical trade marks, will begin sounding the hour tomorrow (Thursday, August 11) for the thousands of New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors who daily pass through Radio City and the adjacent plaza and walks of Rockefeller Center. Synchronized with one of the large ornamental clocks overlooking the Sunken Plaza, the familiar chimes, which have identified the two networks of the National Broadcasting Company for more than a decade, will mark each hour between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m. for all in the vicinity of Radio City. Only recently extended to uses outside radio, the chimes have already been adopted by three large American railroads. For several weeks travelers on the Baltimore and Ohio and Alton systems have been called to meals in the dining cars by the sound of the melodious chimes. This week they were adopted by the New York Central Railroad for the same purpose, and 150 sets of hand-operated chimes are now being plac- ed in service on that road. To make the chimes sound in the streets above Radio City, a system has been set up including a loudspeaker, three small clocks, and the large ornamental clock in the south facade of the International Building. The loudspeaker is installed behind the grille of the clock face, where two of the smaller clocks also are located. The first of these small clocks turns on the chime system at eight o'clock in the morning and shuts it off at one o'clock the follow- ing morning. The second, a subsidiary control, switches on the loud- speaker a few minutes before the hour and cuts it out immediately after the chimes have sounded. The chimes themselves are located in NBC's main equipment room in Radio City, several hundred feet away. They are controlled by a third clock, one of those used in timing the operations of NBC's two nationwide networks. On the hour contacts are closed, a relay is tripp- ed, and the electrical chimes are set in action. They are entirely automatic, electrically driven on the principle of the old fashioned music box. Each chime consists of eight separate metal reeds, plucked simultaneously by rows of pins mounted on a revolving drum. The com- posite of a fundamental with seven harmonics produces a full, bell- like tone. Two other sets of reeds sound at one-second intervals. No microphone is used to transmit the chimes. Each of the metal reeds, and a strip of metal that parallels it, forms a small condenser. The vibrations of the reed vary the capacity of the condenser. These variations, electrical counterparts of sounds produced by the vibrating reeds, will operate the loudspeaker system behind the grille of the plaza clock just as they produce the NBC chime signal in millions of American homes every day. - - -The following clipping was mounted on a card titled “From NBC Press Department Information Service—Ext 571”.
The clipping is from the August 12, 1938 edition of Radio Daily.
NBC CHIMES NOW HEARD BY RADIO CITY CROWDS Yesterday was the day. NBC inaugurated its chime service to patrons of Rockefeller Center at 8 a.m. yesterday. Chimes will be rung every- hour-on-the-hour from 8 a.m.-1 a.m., daily. E. P. H. James, NBC sales promotion head, who thought up the idea and followed it through to completion is "happy about the whole thing," despite the fact that he never imagined that such a simple idea could run into so many difficulties. Chimes are actually located in the NBC studio, with a loud speaker relaying its notes to the south facade of the International Bldg., via telephone lines. A rheostat controls the volume of the chime signal.The version we have is an unsigned carbon copy.
To: Mr Lenox Lohr From: John F. Royal Date: 8/13/38 I have been hearing the chimes back of the clock, and they sound excellent. Would you like to carry that idea still further and put a clock on the RCA Building at the World's Fair, so that everybody at the Fair will hear the chimes at 15 minute intervals?
To: Mr. Vincent Gilcher From: Clay Morgan Date: August 15, 1938 You are familiar, I presume, with the fact that the NBC Chimes are now being sounded on the hour from 8 AM to 1 AM daily from behind the clock on the 50th Street side of the International Building, overlooking Rockefeller Plaza. If it has not already been done, I think it would be well to have the guides on all Studio Tours instructed to call the attention of all Tour clients to this fact. I seem to recall that the Guides sound the chimes when "showing how sound looks" on the 9th Floor; this might be the right point at which to call atten- tion to the hourly chimes in the Plaza. It would be well also to arrange - if possible - to have the Guides of the Rockefeller Center Tours call attention of their clients to this use of our "signal for fine radio entertainment." Both of these mentions of the chimes, to hundreds of thousands of visitors to the RCA building annually, will add to the prestige of NBC. [initialed] Clay Morgan CTM-s CC- Mr. Thurman Mr. Martin Mr. Lohr Mr. Randall Mr. James
To: Mr. Emmons C Carlson - Chicago From: E P H James Date: August 17th 1938 As you have no doubt heard, we now have NBC Chimes striking once an hour in the Sunken Plaza at Rockefeller Center. This has been received so well that I see no further reason for delaying the installation of a similar device on your building. The Engineering Department advises me that you have the chime equipment available, and that it is a comparatively simple operation for your engineers, in cooperation with the building electricians and the telephone company, to install the necessary equipment. For details they should consult the New York Engineer- ing Department, who have worked out the complete plan of operation. While I have no means of knowing exactly what it will cost you, due to differences in union scales, I believe that the sum of around $500 will cover you. If there is no suitable out- side clock on or near your building, I suggest that you simply have a huge loud-speaker placed on the roof so that it will sound all over the surrounding neighborhood. Our plan here is to sound these chimes once an hour, on the hour, but eventually we hope to do this a little more frequently - certainly every half hour. The publicity value is so great that it seems to be your office should be able to make a special appropriation to cover the expense, if you are unable to take care of it out of your regular promotion budget. E P H James ephj em 8 17 SAME MEMORANDUM SENT TO: MR CHARLES B BROWN
To: Mr Clay Morgan From: V J Gilcher Date: August 18 1938 I think your idea about having the tour guides mention the NBC chimes in the Plaza is a good one and we are putting it into effect immediately. Guest Relations will also contact Rockefeller Center to see if we can get their guides to mention them also. I shall let you know how we make out on the matter. V J Gilcher L cc Mr Lohr Mr Thurman
To: Mr. E. P. H. James - New York From: Emmons C. Carlson Date: 8/19/1938 I was glad to receive your letter in which you suggested that we have chimes installed here in the Merchandise Mart in the same manner that you had them installed in Radio City. I had already recommended that very thing to Mr. Trammell about a week ago, so I forwarded him your note to add weight to the suggestion. He, however, upon receipt of my memorandum said he thought the idea was a very good one and was going to take immediate steps to put it into effect if it were at all possible to do so. I will let you know as soon as there are any definite developments. Thank you for the suggestion and kindest regards. [Signed] Emmons C. Carlson ECC/AEW
To: Mr Vernon Pribble - Cleveland From: E P H James Date: August 17th, 1938 Subject: NBC Chimes You will recall that about a year ago I suggested that you have the NBC chimes ringing loud and long above the new building for WTAM - especially if you can arrange to put a large neon clock face on the electric sign foundation, which is already built on your roof. You will be interested to know that I have at last been able to get the chimes installed in Rockefeller Plaza, and they have proved [sic] to be such a success that I once more bring up the suggestion that you get busy and have the necessary loudspeaker equipment placed on your building. I am convinced that it would be fine promotion and fully worth the special appropriation which will be necessary. The New York Engineering Department can give your boys full details on the equipment and the general plan of operation. Best regards. E P H James ephj em 8 17
To: Mr E P H James - New York From: Vernon H Pribble - Cleveland Date: August 19 1938 Subject: NBC CHIMES Dear Jimmie: Many thanks for your note on the NBC Chimes. I can assure you we are heartily in accord with this type of promotion and sincerely hope we will be able to put it into effect as soon as possible. The subject of the sign has been up for some time and being con- sidered in New York at present, but am doubtful after seeing costs that were just submitted in the past few days. Old Man Economy may make it advisable and necessary for us to postpone such an installation for some several months. Am glad to hear you were able to get this splendid idea through for Rockefeller Center and know definitely such an installation in Cleveland will help carry out an identification of the company and it would be great if we could eventually extend it to all of our outlets from coast to coast. With best regards. [Signed] Vernon H Pribble
To: Mr O B Hanson From: E P H James Date: September 2, 1938 Subject: NBC Chimes I have received suggestions from various people for the extension of the chime promotion and I feel that some of them at least are worth looking into. I should appreciate your investigating for me the practicality and cost of carrying out various extensions of the chime installation which we now have in the Plaza. What we eventually do will be subject to negotiations with the Rockefeller Center people and others concerned, but I should like some guidance from you as to the cost of various proposals which have been made, as follows: 1. Adding a striking mechanism which will strike the hour after the regular chime signal. 2. Installing a powerful loud speaker on the roof of the RCA Building or some other suitable vantage point, which will permit the chimes to be heard on the Sixth Avenue side of the building and also make them audible in many offices in the building itself which are not within ear-shot of the present chimes in the Plaza. 3. Setting up a distinct and separate mechanism which will permit the tones fo the last note of the chimes to resonate a fraction longer instead of stopping quickly. I refer to this because I understand that the chime we use is held ready for emergency use on the network, and the resonations of the last note are abruptly killed in order to cut down the time taken to ring the chimes. This impairs the full effectiveness of the chimes in the Plaza. 4. Further loud speaker installation, controlled perhaps from the same striking apparatus, in such places as Grand Central Station and Pennsylvania Station. 5. Simpler and cheaper installations for other NBC stations, possibly in the form of a striking clock rather than the special apparatus used for the network chimes. This purpose might be served by a fairly in- expensive unit which will amplify a standard hand chime such as you used before developing the present mechanical system. E P H James
To: Mr O B Hanson - Hollywood From: C A Rackey Date: September 9th, 1938 Subject: Memo - E P H James to O B Hanson Re NBC Chimes on Loudspeakers As you know, I have given considerable thought lately to the subject of NBC chimes, particularly from a broadcasting or net- work standpoint. However, various things which I have learned about the general subject, enable me to make definite suggestions in con- nection with Mr James' requirements. In the first place, an outdoor chimes system should be en- tirely separate from any broadcasting apparatus. Secondly, a multi- ple-reed type of chime such as the Rangertone should not be considered. We should use instead, the single reed chime arrangements as developed by RCA, which are superior in every way except in the matter of rapid damping of the sustained tones. However, that is no disadvantage in our case since I agree with Mr James that the sustained notes in the case of outdoor chimes will be more pleasing. The single reed chimes, various reliable striker mechanisms, amplifiers, and loudspeakers are all available as standard factory made equipment. They can be ordered as such and installed with a mini- mum of confusion and delay and will not involve our broadcasting cir- cuits in any way. An average complete installation giving the same sound power output as the one in the Plaza can be installed almost anywhere for between $700 and $800. (Equipment space rental if nec- essary is not included). For locations atop buildings or any other cases where greater sound power is required, it can be obtained by additional amplification and larger loudspeakers, involving an extra expenditure varying according to the amount of power required. Within a few weeks, RCA have promised to provide me with a sample of their chimes reeds which I will arrange for demonstra- tion. In the meantime, I am answering all inquiries about this matter by requesting that they wait until we obtain your decision in this matter. C A Rackey cc - Mr G McElrath Mr E P H James
To: Mr. E P H James From: C A Rackey Date: January 19, 1939 In connection with your scheme to use NBC chimes for out- door advertising, I suggested some time ago that standard RCA carillon reeds might be used. Since that time we have been cooperating with RCA toward development of a chimes mechanism which would be suitable for broadcasting use and, considering the two functions, Mr La Prade is of the opinion that the advertising chimes should be closely similar in quality as wel as pitch to those we use, or shall use, on the air. Otherwise, as he points out, the listener might not always associate the one with the other. In addition, the carillon or bell quality is not in itself distinctive and it can more readily be duplicated by others in case the latter is a consideration. Therefore at this time it seems that changes in the present RCA chimes mechanism will require about two more months and some addi- tional time for manufacture if we decide to use it. However, when the new model is complete I think that, even if it is decided not quite suitable for use on the air, it will at least be sufficiently close to our required quality so that there will be no doubt about its use for advertising purposes. For the present, the existing broadcasting chimes can be used with any scheme of sound projection in the vicinity of the following studio plants: New York, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Hollywood, and San Francisco. An average complete installation of approximately the same sound power as the present one in the Plaza can be installedd at any of the above locations for approximately $700 including hour strike. Building top locations require large loudspeakers and amplifiers and will cost more. The RCA chimes mechanism, when available, will cost about $100 and clock, hour strike, and contactor equipment will cost $100 to $200 additional. These prices will vary, depending on quantity. Concerning the present Plaza Chimes, a change of location to the top of the British Building with coverage of the Plaza and some coverage of nearby 5th Avenue will involve an additional cost of $750. including hour strike. For the present it is proposed to use just one additional loudspeaker, one mounted on the "alley" side of the British or French Building and pointing toward Fifth Avenue, the other to remain in its present location to assocate the chimes with the clock. The new locations must be approved, of course, by Rockefeller Center. An installation operating within the Grand Central or Pennsylvania Station radius from present chimes mechanism with hour strike will cost about $700 plus telephone line rental charges of $20 to $25 per month. Concerning the entire general problem, it would be helpful to us if you could furnish us with some forecast of probably activi- ties thisyear considering both chimes in the vicinity of the divi- sion points mentioned above and installations remote from those points. Other than that, we can furnish you estimates on any particular set- up that you request. [signed] C A Rackey cc: Messrs O B Hanson G McElrath H C Luttgens
January 25 1939 Mr Merle Crowell Rockefeller Center Inc 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York New York Dear Merle: As you know, we are holding down the power on the loud- speaker through which the chimes are heard from behind the clock over the Savings Bank entrance of the International Building. This is to avoid disturbing the clerical force in the bank and surround- ing offices. As a result, they are not heard clearly beyond the immediate vicinity of the Plaza, and of course do not begin to com- pare in volume with the bells from St Patrick's Cathedral of St Thomas' Church. We have been thinking of ways to increase the range of these chimes with out causing the slightest annoyance to nearby office workers, and it has been suggested that, if agreeable to the manage- ment of Rockefeller Center, we might achieve this object by mounting a loudspeaker on the roof of the British Empire Building or the French Building, on the side nearest to the Cascades. The idea would be to have this loudspeaker pointing in the direction of Fifth Avenue, and since it would be synchronized exactly with the chimes now ringing from behind the clock, the effect would be merely to amplify the sound so that it would be audible to passers- by on Fifth Avenue, without greatly increasing the volume of sound in the Plaza or its immediate surroundings. I believe that we have demonstrated that these chimes add to the features of interest and convenience of Rockefeller Center, without the slightest offense to anyone, and we should be most appre- ciative of the full approval of the management in our project to extend its effectiveness in the direction of Fifth Avenue. With best regards, I am Sincerely yours, ephj lmw 1 25
Tested extra speakers on 11th floor RCA bldg. Better but not sufficient to justify cost as compared with increasing frequency of chimes from 1 hour to 1/2 hour basis—also adding hour strike mechanism.
Former being done (if requs. are approved by Ctr)—latter awaits delivery of mechanism from RCA.
[initials ligature, possibly EJ]
To: Mr E P H James From: C A Rackey Date: May 22nd 1939 Subject: NBC Outdoor Chimes During the past several months we have been trying to obtain a sat- isfactory model of an NBC chimes machine from RCA which would cost under $100. The present one we use is made by an outside firm and costs about $500. Thus far, progress has been very slow, but they do have a scheme, within our price range, which would probably be suitable if further proper development could be applied to it. This is, and has been, the chief difficulty, since RCA is un- willing to do more than some spare time work on a device for which they have no definite order and for which, at best, the market is very limited. In the meantime, our own Development Group has devised an acceptable chimes machine using vacuum tubes only, which would probably come within the price range of the RCA model, perhaps slightly higher. That, therefore, is another possibility. We could decide which machine to use at the time action was required. The above machines provide merely the original chimes signal. The following equipment must be added to either of them:- 1 - A timing mechanism, with or without an hour strike feature. 2 - A loudspeaker, size determined by coverage required. 3 - An amplifier system, size determined by size of loudspeaker. The cost of an average installation, providing coverage similar to the one we have at Radio City, would be around $700. Coverage as given by a church or similar type carillon would be more costly, about $500 to $1,000 additional. With the new chimes machine available, such an installation could be made anywhere, independent of the regular chimes machines which are avail- able at the main NBC Division plants. If the new chimes machine is out of the picture, the outdoor chimes can still be installed, for about the same price, at the following NBC offices which have regular chimes facilities; Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, Holly- wood, and San Francisco. An hour strike could be installed, if desired, by using one of the standard RCA carillon reeds and an appropriate timing mechanism. At locations remote from the NBC offices, but in the same cities, commections for operation from the local Control Room could be provided by leased telephone lines. The chimes striking device made up by the KYW staff out of miscellaneous spare parts seemed to solve their problem. However, with a proper amplifier and loudspeaker system, plus the type of installation required in most other locations, this portion of the equipment represents only about 15% of the total cost. Besides, to duplicate it in the small quantity we require would cost about the same as the mechanisms we are considering, while the quality of note would be inferior. We have supplied information concerning these chimes installations to Chicago, Hollywood, Cleveland, and Washington. Latest reports indicate little to no progress in Hollywood, Washington, and Cleveland, but some pro- gress in Chicago. There the matter is tied up with negotiations with the Mart people concerning exterior clock design, sharing expenses, etc. This sums up the situation at present. While we shall continue to work with RCA on the chimes problem, further definite action requires specific orders or commitments from NBC. [signed] C A Rackey cc - Messrs O B Hanson G McElrath L Wailes E LaPrade R M Morris
To: Mr E P H James From: C A Rackey Date: May 22nd 1939 In case you are interested, we could add an hour strike to our Plaza chimes set-up for about $100. [signed] C A Rackey
Call Rackey & Crowell re Hour StrikeNote: “Morgan” refers to Clay Morgan, referenced elsewhere in correspondence regarding the outdoor NBC Chimes.
Gillette Sign Times Sq.—Arrange Eng. Dept for chimes to go all day & all night.
Morgan today approved. Said he would spend $100 for the hour strike & 15 a month for telephone lines & take chimes over to Times Sq.
Note: There are numerous progress notes jotted down across the bottom of this letter, dated from Aug 4, 1939 through Jan 15, 1940.
176 6/7/39 481 CHIMES EXTENSION TO GILLETTE SIGN, TIMES SQUARE 1 1 CAB-THP Assuming hour strike and clock mechanism installed. 1 - Control Relays, mounting plate, etc. $ 50.00 2 - Amp & shelf 125.00 3 - Wire & cable 25.00 4 - Blocks, misc. fittings, etc. 25.00 5 - Contingency 25.00 Telephone Circuit: Install 20.00 Rental - $12.96/month This assumes equalization by sign people if necessary. $270.00
To: Mr E P H James From: C A Rackey Date: June 8th 1939 Subject: NBC Outdoor Chimes - Times Square The attached estimate totalling $250 covers cost of installing equipment for furnishing NBC chimes signals and a time strike to the loudspeakers associated with the Douglas Leigh sign at Times Square. The program will consist of NBC chimes every fifteen minutes, time strike hourly. The time striking arrangement which you ordered for the Plaza will be altered to provide the chimes impulse every fifteen minutes. An additional charge of approximately $40 is involved to which we assume you will have no objection since it is an advantage to have this feature available whether or not we use it at Times Square. [signed] C A Rackey cc - Messrs O B Hanson T H Phelan
To: Mr Ken R Dyke From: E P H James Date: July 25, 1939 Subject: Automobile Horns with NBC Chime Tones I rather like Mr Shawn's idea, and it occurs to me that we might be able to start something like this without involving ourselves in any direct expense, unless we wish to buy a few for our own purposes. In any case, I have asked the Purchasing Department to investigate the possibilities by contacting the manufacturer of the horns used on the trolley buses at the New York World's Fair which play the tune of "The Sidewalks Of New York." As for the chimes on the roof of the Washington station, this is simply a development of the chimes which I had installed in the Plaza here. We have been trying to get a similar arrange- ment at each one of our offices, and the RCA Manufacturing Company is supposed to have been developing some apparatus which would be relatively simple and inexpensive. They have been working on this for many months, and the latest report is that they would require a relatively large sum to make the first model. In the meantime, at least two of our offices are equipped with home-made apparatus, which the engineers have put together in their spare time. I understand that Lee Wailes is following this maatter through with the Engineering Department, and I turned over my correspondence to him for this purpose. E P H James ej O 7 25
DOUGLAS LEIGH INC. ANIMATED OUTDOOR ADVERTISING 45 ROCKEFELLER PLAZA, NEW YORK CIrcle 6-6155 July 27, 1939 Mr. E. P. H. James, National Broadcasting Co., RCA Building, New York City. Dear Mr. James: Just a word to remind you that we still have the per- mission of Gillette to use NBC official chimes on the Broadway electric sign. I hope your engineers are making quite some progress on the device. Sincerely yours, DOUGLAS LEIGH, INC. [signed] Douglas Leigh President. DBL:hgf
NBC TRADE NEWS SERVICE RCA Building Radio City New York April 25, 1940 CHIMES WHICH AREN'T THERE RING IN TIMES SQUARE The little man who wasn't there now has a musical companion in the chimes which sound the hour from the giant Gilette clock over- looking the statue of Father Duffy in Times Square. For although the chimes strike the hour and are then heard in the familiar bing! bong! bing! on every quarter hour, there is nothing to strike, and no bells to ring. And it's not done with mirrors. In fact, the chimes are not really chimes at all, but amplified oscilla- tions in radio tube circutes. The chimes, which are expected to be to Time Square crowds what Big Ben is to Londoners, began their musical time-signal yesterday (Saturday, April 27) at 5:00 p.m. Invented by J. L. Hathaway, an NBC engineer, the notes heard throughout the Times Square section are pro- duced through the vibration of electrons in a series of radio tubes. Each note has a vacuum tube adjusted, by means of inductance and capacity, to vibrate at a definite musical frequency. A master clock hand makes a contact and Note Number One is heard, then Number Two, then Number Three. According to Dr. O. H. Caldwell, editor of "Radio Today", who listened to tests of the new instrument; each of the three notes is a rich, tone with some harmonics which heighten the musical relish. Through arrangements completed between NBC and Douglas Leigh, America's sign king, an amplifier is situated in the gigantic Gillette clock on the Northeast corner of 47th St. and 7th Ave., New York City. A line runs to the sign from the Radio City studios where the electronic chimes, no larger than a small radio set, are located. The notes are actuated by a small master clock in Radio City which trips a control, starting the chimes. The Gillette clock, which dominates Duffy Square, has a giant swinging pendulum, marked out in neon tubing. Leigh, its inventor, looks upon it as one of his sign masterpieces. The amplifier, located midway in the stell frame which supports the clock, booms forth the notes which have a tonal radius of approximately 10 blocks. The idea of a Times Square rival to Big Ben belongs to an Englishman, E. P. H. James, Advertising Manager of NBC. When James broached the idea to Engineer Hathaway, the latter was working on chime notes which could be produced without any motors or any mechanical- ly moving parts. The successful completeion of Hathaway's work first was marked when the electronic chimes were installed in the huge clock located in the International Building, Radio City. The new chimes differ sharply from the old type still in use on the networks, which produces the initial sounds from steel reeds plucked by a rotating cylinder. Under the old system, the three notes heard are made up of eight partial notes. These 24 partials are tuned to perfection by an oscilloscope and standard frequency oscillator. Tuning of new chimes is vastly simplified in that it is impossible for the individual notes to get out of tune, and initial tuning is accomplished by simple electrical adjustments. The sound of the NBC chimes sequence, according to Dr. Caldwell, is the melody played most frequently in this country. Dr. Caldwell estimates that the average radio set is used at least four hours daily, with the chimes ringing in the ears of the average listener at least 16 times a day. "Out of the United States' present 44-million radios," Dr. Caldwell says, "we will have at least 35 million sets in use four hours a day, and hearing the NBC chimes probably sixteen times daily. That means the NBC chimes will be heard 500 million times each day. Or about 20 billion times a year. In this compilation, the many millions of times the NBC chimes are heard daily on short-wave programs reaching Europe and South America are not included. "Twenty billion 'plugs' a year isenough to make any theme song or 'musical trademark' the best-known sound sequence on the planet!" The NBC chimes have found a wide variety of uses in the years they have been NBC's trademark. They have been used, for example, to call diners on boats and in railroad trains, and to mark the passing of the hours not only in Radio City but in Chicago's immense Merchandise Mart. - - -Note: the script was not preserved in the Library of Congress Chimes File.
To: Mr Niles Trammell From: E P H James Date: April 300, 1940 Subject: NBC CHIMES IN TIMES SQUARE On Saturday, Aril 27th, at 5 pm we announced the installation of NBC Chimes on the large Gillette clock at 47th Street and Broad- way, facing Father Duffy's statue in Times Square. These chimes ring every fifteen minutes, and on the hour we have an additional note which strikes the hour itself. This is a cooperative arrangement which I have made with Douglas Leigh, the operator of the sign. It costs NBC only about $12 a month for the telephone line which connects the amplifiers on the sign with the electronic chime equipment on our fifth floor here in Radio City. I have been working on this development for more than a year past, following the successful installation of chimes on the clock in the International Building overlooking the Plaza. I understand that similar equipment is being installed in the Merchandise Mart and I have suggested to Mr Morgan that we try to get the NBC Chimes sounded every fifteen minutes over the amplifying system of the New York World's Fair. It is my thought that our chimes should be applied to public clocks in every city where we have equipment to provide fifteen minute service. Attached is a copy of the script of Saturday's radio program, ar- ranged by Clay Morgan, in which we inaugurated the first ringing of the chimes in Times Square. E P H James cc Messrs Dyke Witmer Morgan
[NB: This would have been a homebrew machine built by KYW engineers. KYW was owned by Westinghouse and was not an NBC owned network point of origin, and thus KYW would not have a set of the Rangertone NBC Chimes Machine in their possession.]
To: Mr Ken R Dyle From: E P H James Date: April 17, 1941 Subject: PUBLIC EXPLOITATION OF NBC CHIMES Answering your request for a brief history of the use of our chimes in various cities, the first time I suggested their use was when we were build- int the new studios in Cleveland, which must have been in 1936 or 1937. There was a skeleton framework on the roof of the building, left from a large electric sign used by the previous occumant, and it was proposed to place a neon clock on this sign, bearing the call letters WTAM and the ini- tials NBC. When Vernon Pribble was in town talking about their plans for the new studios, I suggested to him that we have the chimes hooked up with a large and powerful loud speaker on the roof the building, and synchron- ized with the clock. For some reason this idea was not carried out. On June 22, 1939, I authorized the Engineering Department to go ahead with the manufacture of special equipment for the clock on the International Building overlooking Rockefeller Plaza. On August 15, 1938, the Rockefeller Plaza chimes commenced operation and I had a memorandum sent out to all branch offices by our Engineering Depart- ment explaining just how this equipment was designed. For some reason the branch office engineers did not take any action at the time, with the ex- ception of those at KYW who were, I believe, Westinghouse men. While I have no record of the date, it must have been toward the end of 1938 that chimes were set up on the KYW studios in Philadelphia operating in synchronization with the clock on the face of the building.
On April 27, 1940, we officially inaugurated chimes on the Gillette Razor clock at 47th Street and Broadway. On July 1, 1940, we learned that our Chicago engineers had installed chimes on the top of the Merchandise Mart. Apparently this action was the outcome of the memorandum which had been sent to Chicago on August 17, 1938. On August 15, 1940, we installed chimes on a temporary basis in the main waiting room of the Grand Central Station. On October 7, 1940, I wrote to the Hollywood studios and gave them full details of the equipment we have here in Rockefeller Plaza, with the idea that they should make a similar installation on the NBC building at Sunset and Vine. I do not know whether this suggestion is being acted on or not. Summarizing all of the above, we have had the chimes ringing on public clocks in Rockefeller Plaza, Times Square and Grand Central in New York, the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and the Westinghouse-KYW Building in Philadelphia. At present however, the installations at Grand Central and Times Square are not operative. We had only temporary equipment in Grand Central and some of the equipment needs replacing on the Times Square Chimes, involving an ex- pense which we are not willing to undertake at this time. My feeling is that further use of this idea depends entirely on the value to NBC of the chimes themselves. If we really want to continue plugging them as a musical trademark, then I am sure it will not be difficult to have these chimes installed in many other public clocks. * * * * * * * During the winter of 1937-1938 we worked out a deal with NuTone Chimes of Cincinnati for manufacturing NBC chimes in a table model, making them available to the public through consumer advertising in "Listen" and selling them through department stores. In the period from March 1938 to January 1941 we purchased a total of 4300 table chimes from NuTone and I understand they also sold sev- eral gross to department stores. On July 15, 1939, I obtained a "go ahead" to supply table chimes in quantities to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for their dining cars. On August 8 we equipped the New York Central System's dining cars. Shortly after- wards the Pennsylvania Railroad and several other railroads and coastal steam- ship lines were likewise equipped. I might add that I have been dickering with Sessions Clock Company with a view to having electric clocks, suitable for home use, equipped with the NBC chimes. So far they have not been very interested, however, because it would involve the manufacture of several thousand before they could be econ- omically produced. E P H James
To: Mr. H Luttgens From: C A Rackey Date: August 20 1941 Subject: Electrical Chimes Mr McElrath has referred to me your inquiry concerning electrically operated chimes for sounding NBC chime notes. We have located a firm that can supply this equipment at what we consider a reasonable price, but we have no experience with this firm or their products, so cannot guarantee same. They claim, however, that they use good material, and if there is any further interest in the matter we will inves- tigate them more thoroughly. The device they are willing to make up would consist of three hanging type tubular chimes, somewhat similar to the doorbell variety but equipped with an electric motor striking mechanism which will cycle the three N.B.C. notes. A single unit can be supplied for $75.00, about two weeks delivery; $50.00 in lots of 10. I am assuming, of course, that you refer to mechanical-acoustic equip- ment. The problem of electrical pick-up and reproduction is much more compli- cated and will be considerably more costly. Mello-Chime and Signal Company Ch 2-5235 New York N Y Mr L O Naylor Dimensions, 11 1/4" x 4" x 55 3/4" 1-1/8" or 1 1/4" dia tubes c/c Mr McElrath C A Rackey
To: Mr. H Luttgens From: C A Rackey Date: August 26 1941 Here is some additional information on inexpensive chimes unit. Mr E P H James of Blue Sales has secured one which was made by the following company:- NuTone Chimes Inc Third and Eggleston Avenue Cincinnati Ohio This one sells for $12.50 and, as would be expected from the price, its mechanism is not too reliable. The striking cycle is operated by a slow action solenoid with mechanical escapement - no dash pot - and it has stuck several times during operation. I believe a motor operated one would be more reliable. C A Rackey cc: Messrs G McElrath E P H James