In the late summer of 1923, two boyhood friends and school-mates from Providence RI, Harold L. Dewing and Charles Messter, were planning their future in broadcasting. Dewing was into ham radio (1ATY) and while Messter enjoyed the amateur game, he decided to try his hand at putting a portable transmitter on the air. Given that he sold radio equipment for a living, this made perfect sense; many of the early stations were operated in stores where electronics or radio receivers were sold. What better way to demonstrate your product than by doing an actual broadcast for potential customers? This had generated lots of favorable publicity for Edison Electric Illuminating in Boston, and although Charles Messter didn't have the money that the electric company had, he was still able to build a serviceable little station.
Charles Messter, again in 1924 started another portable station, this time based in the Providnece srea. He was a radio equipment retailer, and he built 50-watt WCBR to promote his products. Messter had a 200 foot long wire antenna that he would set up in temporary locations. The station then went on the road. It broadcast from Lynn's Strand Theatre in late May, and from the German Theatre in Roslindale in June. 4 Mostly in Eastern Massachusetts it did one occasion traveling as far north as Portland Maine. Messter later returned to Rhode Island and broadcast from the Rocky Point Amusement Park.
WCBR went on the air with 5 watts at 246 meters (1220 kc), in March of 1924, and not long afterward; it was able to go to 50 watts. In an early 1925 article about him and his station, a reporter for the Providence Journal described WCBR this way "Mr. Messter's broadcasting equipment consists of a 50-watt standard Western Electric transmitter using 600 volts on the plate. He carries storage batteries and a charger so that he will not be caught without power. His three-wire outside antenna is 200 feet long and is usually erected on top of the building in which the outfit is being used... The entire outfit can be easily set up and taken down, and this makes practicable its shipment from place to place on short notice." 1
WCBR seemed to settle down a bit in 1925 at Fays Theater in Providence.
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January 4, 1925
The portability of the station was demonstrated in 1926 with ads/articles found at 4 different locations in 7 months and it switched from 209.7 meters to 234.2 meters.
WCBR spent much of its first year travelling all over New England. Messter was invited to appear in communities as far north as Portland, Maine. Eventually, Messter took his station back to Rhode Island, where he set it up at fairs, theatres, and amusement parks. When it broadcast from Rocky Point Amusement Park during the summer of 1926, Just after the famous Shore Dinner Hall was built, WCBR had 100 watts and could be found at 210 meters (1430 kc). At some point later in 1926, Charles Messter returned to selling radio equipment (he also managed several small theatres);
WCBR's appearances decreased as the novelty of portables wore off. 2
WCBR's final death blow came from the Radio Commission in April of 1927 when they cracked down on portable station and required their locations to be permenant to obtain an licence.
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April 22, 1927
It seems, despite the Radio Commissions ruling, WCBR did broadcast at least one time in July of 1927 as found is this ad.
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July 9, 1927