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Arthur Atwater Kent (1873–1949) was an inventor and prominent radio manufacturer based in Philadelphia. In 1921, he patented the modern form of the automobile ignition coil.

He was born December 3, 1873 to a family of moderate means. His father was a doctor who had also been a machinist, and who maintained a machine shop in Worcester, Massachusettsmarker when Arthur was a child. Kent attended Worcester Polytechnic Institutemarker in the 1890s but dropped out twice without receiving a degree. During this time the Kent Electric Manufacturing Company was launched, which created a number of small electric motors, fans, and later automobile ignition systems.

In 1902 Kent set up a new company in Philadelphia, which produced an expanding range of electrical products, including early telephones, automobile horns, and further developments with electric ignition systems. During World War I his factory also produced equipment for the American military, such as theodolites for artillery gunners to determine the range to their target, and a clinometer for use on rifles.

In 1921 Kent produced his first radio components, selling the do-it-yourself kits consisting of "breadboards" that could be assembled by early radio enthusiasts. In 1923 his firm started producing complete radio sets, using a facility on Stenton Avenue. In 1924 the company moved to a new $2 million plant at 4745 Wissahickon Avenue in North Philadelphia. This plant, constructed in sections, would eventually cover . In 1925 the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company became the largest maker of radios in the nation. The company also sponsored the popular The Atwater Kent Hour, a top-rated radio concert music program heard on NBC and CBS from 1926 to 1934. The show featured top entertainment and became one of the most popular and acclaimed regular radio programs of the era. At its peak in 1929, the company employed over 12,000 workers manufacturing nearly one million radio sets. The plant itself was an architectural sensation and received hundreds of visitors annually. By 1931 the company boasted that it had produced over three million radios.

The onset of the Great Depression greatly hampered sales volumes of Atwater's premium radio sets, along with the invention of the superheterodyne circuit—which led directly the development of the inexpensive All American Five radio circuit design—meant that new firms could easily enter the market without the same level of capital investment Kent had put into his production process, which relied on heavy metal presses for the relatively large radio chassis the firm produced. The firm stopped producing radios and briefly shifted to making refrigerators before Kent decided to retire and sell off the business.

In 1937, Kent helped organize and pay for the restoration of the Betsy Ross Housemarker in Center City Philadelphia. In 1938, Kent helped found the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphiamarker, Philadelphia's city history museum.

Kent's son-in-law, William L. Van Alen, is the founder of the United States Court Tennis Association

Kent is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendalemarker.

Patents

  • - Induction coil structure - 1921
  • - Induction coil - 1923
  • - Induction coil - 1923
  • - Ignition coil - 1926
  • - Radio apparatus - (Filed Nov 29, 1922; Issued Aug 31, 1926.)


References

  1. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 12–13. Vol. 10 1996.
  2. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 14–18. Vol. 10 1996.
  3. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 23–31. Vol. 10 1996.
  4. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 31–32. Vol. 10 1996.
  5. McMahon, Morgan E. A Flick of the Switch 1930–1950 p62. Antiques Electronics Supply, 1990. 0-914126-10-5
  6. Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia: "AKMP History"
  7. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 70. Vol. 10 1996.
  8. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 71. Vol. 10 1996.
  9. Williams, Ralph O. Atwater Kent: Master of Marketing, The American Wireless Review, p. 72–73. Vol. 10 1996.


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