As submitted to http://www.lookoutlee.blogspot.com/ in 2002:
by James Snyder
(I want to personally thank James Snyder for sending me this. I think this is probably the most accurate history of WTOP's beginnings that you'll ever see. -Lee)
I've done quite a bit of work on the early years of what became WTOP,
and I noted the Peter O'Reilly email about who first owned the
station and the meaning of WJSV. I can shed some light on both.
The Twentieth District Regular Republican Club of Brooklyn, NY put
station WTRC on the air in 1926. While it might seem a simple case
of a Republican committee having a radio station, it is part of a
much larger story. The Republican party in New York City was locked
in a battle for control between the mainstream Republicans and
members of the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, who at the time controlled
political parties in a number of states and was attempting to take
control of Brooklyn and New York City politics, since as went NYC so
went New York State. The Republican party in Brooklyn was organized
into several dozen Districts, each District responsible for putting
forth candidates and bringing in public support in elections. The
Klan was systematically taking control of each District's governing
boards. The Twentieth District was one of the largest, most powerful
and well funded.
WTRC was put on the air by the Klan faction that had taken control of
the Twentieth District Republicans. WTRC stands for "Twentieth
Republican Club". It was funded and run by James S. Vance and his
publication, "The Fellowship Forum". The subheading of "The
Fellowship Forum" is "The Voice of the Ku Klux Klan in America".
During 1927 there was a severe legal and public backlash against the
Klan and its cronies in the Republican Party throughout the nation.
There was quite a bit of heat being put on the Republicans in
Brooklyn who were seen as Klan cronies, so one of the first actions
the Klan faction was to transfer the station out of New York. There
was a second reason I believe encouraged them to move, and that is
the coming of the Federal Radio Commission. In 1927 there was a move
afoot to regulate radio, which would mean the shut down of hundreds
of radio stations that were interfering with each other since they
all operated on two frequencies. I have found no references to
potential regulation being a factor in the move, but many stations
were trying this method to stay alive in the months before the
Federal Radio Commission came into being.
The station was moved to Mount Vernon Hills, VA in 1927, and the call
letters were changed to WTFF, for "The Fellowship Forum". Within a
year, the call letters were changed again to WJSV, named for James S.
Vance, the publisher of "The Fellowship Forum" and a Grand Wizard of
the Ku Klux Klan in Virginia. Given that one of the Klan's primary
arguments was Christian (in other words, Protestant) purity, I
wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Vance put forth the "Jesus Saves
Virginia" slogan so the station didn't seem quite such a personal
exercise in ego.
Mount Vernon Hills was not an ideal spot for a 50 watt radio station,
so Mr. Vance started to invest in a 10,000 watt station on 1460 in
1928. He quickly realized how expensive such an undertaking would be
and that his daily program of religious programming wouldn't pay for
the electricity, so he quickly worked a deal with the new Columbia
Broadcasting System to become the primary station for CBS in
Washington, DC. CBS would take over all programming and engineering
costs for the operation of the station, with an option to renew or
purchase the station after five years.
The FCC file implies that CBS quickly realized they were in bed with
the Klan, and negotiations started in 1931 to purchase the station &
license outright by CBS, which they did.
CBS also quickly realized the value of WJSV as their originating
station in the nation's capital and moved the transmitter to Potomac
Yards in Alexandria in 1930 to boost power and improve the coverage
pattern, then to Wheaton in 1940 due to the construction of National
Airport and the expansion of the RF&P Potomac Yards switching yard.
The station kept the call letters until 1943, when Frank Stanton paid
$60,000 to the Tiffen, Ohio Police for the call letters "WTOP".
I hope this helps. Keep up the good work!
James P. Snyder - All rights reserved. No portion of this document may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without prior written permission of the author.
This page authored 040224TU. Last updated 040224TU.