[JPL] the origins on the "W" and "K" in station call letters

JASS JASSav at comcast.net
Fri Dec 3 10:21:29 EST 2004

On the way to taking my 15 y/o son to school this morning, he asked me about
the origins on the "W" and "K" in station call letters. I researched it a
tad bit this a.m. and thought I'd share some of what I found.  I know this
is old news to most of you, but . . .

I would also appreciate any further information or clarifications.


Larry Dane-Kellogg
WHCJ  90.3 FM  Jazz 90

Notice the policy was that calls for ocean-going ship stations started with
a different letter than the land stations they communicated with: in the
West ships received W-- calls and land stations were assigned K--, while the
reverse was true in the East, with K-- ship calls and W-- land calls. (NOTE:
The assignment of W and K to the United States appears to have been
completely arbitrary--they have no particular significance. N, however, had
been commonly used by the U.S. Navy since November, 1909).

In the early teens most non-amateur land stations engaged in ship-to-shore
communication, and were found clustered along the coasts. As other services
were developed stations crept inland, and a dividing line between the
western K's and eastern W's was needed.  Beginning in 1913, the United
States government has generally separated the assignment of K and W call
letters. For land stations, the original policy was that stations in the
west normally got K-- calls, while W-- calls were issued to stations along
the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic seaboard. The original K/W boundary ran
north from the Texas-New Mexico border. However, in late January, 1923, the
K/W boundary was shifted east to the Mississippi River. With this change,
K's were assigned to all new grants west of the Mississippi. However,
existing W stations that were located west of the Mississippi were allowed
to keep their now non-standard calls.

For more info:  http://earlyradiohistory.us/kwtrivia.htm

JASSav at comcast.net
Larry Dane-Kellogg
19 E. 64th Street
Savannah, GA 31405

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