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

Jim Wilke jwilke123 at comcast.net
Fri Dec 3 20:41:11 EST 2004

That's great info, some of which I'd heard before, some I hadn't - 
especially the part about ships and land stations calls beginning with 
different  letters.    I grew up in Iowa and there were a number of 
stations there who were grandfathered "W" stations despite being West 
of the Mississippi - WSUI Iowa City (started in 1919 with the call 9YA! 
), and some three-letter calls (really old)  WHO, Des Moines and WMT, 
Cedar Rapids.   Out West there were some three letter K calls - KGO, 
San Francisco,  KOL and KJR in Seattle and KSL, Salt Lake and KOA in 
Denver - most of these still operating except KOL.

Did you know WLS, Chicago was originally owned and operated by Sears 
Roebuck and the WLS stood for World's Largest Store?

Jim Wilke   (former WSUI announcer)
Jazz After Hours
729 North 66th Street
Seattle WA  98103


On Friday, December 3, 2004, at 07:21  AM, JASS wrote:

> 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.
> Thanks!
> 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

More information about the jazzproglist mailing list