Canadian AM Radio started 100 years ago (20 May 1920)

Canada has an honourable place in the early development of radio. Marconi, is credited with accomplishing in 1901 the first trans-Atlantic ‘interrupted code’ transmission, from St John’s, Nfld, but it was a Canadian, Reginald A. Fessenden is was the pioneer in developing radio, including the foundations of AM Radio. Fessenden first transmitted the sound of the voice in 1900 over a distance of 50 miles, and six years later transmitted the first two-way radiotelegraphic communication across the Atlantic Ocean from Boston to Scotland.

Fessenden was bitterly disappointed that Marconi’s company, rather than his own Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada, was granted by the Canadian government exclusive rights to build the first transmitting stations in Canada. Fessenden’s aim had been to make Canada a world centre for long-range radio transmission, but he never again chose to live in his native country. His name as one of the great radio pioneers has remained largely unknown, even to Canadians.

Regularly scheduled radio broadcasting did not begin until after World War I  when the Canadian Marconi Company station XWA (now CFCF) in Montreal transmitted at 9:30pm on 20 May 1920, the first scheduled broadcast in North America, possibly in the world. It was a performance by soprano Dorothy Lutton. This broadcast was heard by guests at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier hotel’s ballroom over 100 miles away.

Canadian consumers soon began to demand the latest in radio technologies, and the manufacturing and selling of radio became lucrative. Recognizing the potential of the new technology, retailers like the T. Eaton Company created specialized catalogues and cultivated a tech-savvy sales staff.

Over the past hundred years, radio has enabled Canadians to keep abreast of current news and events, discover and promote musical artists, stay in touch with their communities and enjoy original Canadian content. As radio’s popularity grew, so did the need to expand the communications system. By 1922, the country had 39 radio stations in operation. By 1932, there were 77 stations. Shortly after, in 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada was established as a way to ensure citizens stayed connected across the country. The CBC later established news bureaus abroad to provide its audience with a Canadian perspective on international events.

Canada Post issued a pair of stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the first scheduled radio broadcast in Canada.  Booklets of 10 Permanent domestic-rate stamps (five of each design) are available, along with an Official First Day Cover.
Stamps and collectibles are available at canadapost.ca