Sound waves from
has one of the largest collections of antique radios in U.S.
By BOB BUTTGEN
LIGONIER - One man's interest in radios has helped
bring success to the Indiana Historic Radio Museum and allowed
thousands of visitors to view one of the largest collections
of antique radios in the United States.
And it all takes place in Ligonier.
The Indiana Historic Radio Museum opened in Ligonier in May
1995. The museum's Noble County location is the result of the
work of Fred "Fritz" Schultz who has been around radios
for most of his life. He had a 20-year career as a communication
specialist with the Indiana State Police and the majority of
those years were spent at the state police post which was in
Ligonier until 1984.
has been a member of the Indiana Historic Radio Society for many
years. He credits with the society and its many members for the
success of the museum for keeping the memories alive for multiple
The society housed its museum at the Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg
Museum in Auburn for about 14 years. The display, which was much
smaller than the 400+ radios now in Ligonier, was then moved
to Union Station in Indianapolis.
Society members knew they had to find a bigger home for the
collection, and Schultz alerted them to a potential location
Ligonier. The city's tourism bureau had just secured a prime
location at the corner of Lincolnway South and West Union streets
in Ligonier, and the building - a former gas station and car
dealership - had plenty of room for the radios.
The collection of radios comes from various members of the
Indiana Historic Radio Society including Schultz, who has over
100 radios on loan to the museum. Many of the radios have been
donated outright to the museum and others are on loan.
The collection represents not only a history of the radio
- from the latter part of the 19th century to the present, but
also parallels American history.
The museum is visited by several hundred of people a year
including tourists just passing through town or radio buffs who
have heard of the museum. In addition, dozens of bus tours include
the museum during their stops, and the museum is a regular attraction
for field trips by school children from throughout Northeastern
The collection of radios is ever changing as some on loan
are taken back by their owners but replaced by others. Schultz
and other society members are always on the lookout for radios
being sold at auctions, flea markets and radio conventions.
In the 1,000-square-foot showroom at the back of the Ligonier
Visitors Center, the radios are set up in a logical order, with
radios from the same era or the same kind of radios grouped together.
One wall features "farm" radios which are large
battery-powered sets that were popular on farms before electricity
reached rural areas.
Another section features radios from the World War II era
and other display showcases early crystal sets.
There is a definite Indiana flavor to the museum. "At
one time there were 1,200 radio manufacturers just in Indiana,"
noted Schultz. Among those radio makers was Glen Decker of Ligonier,
who made radios here from the 1920s to the 1950s. Two of his
sets are in the museum.
There are many novelty radios based on old radio and TV stars,
including a mint condition set featuring Hopalong Cassidy, a
cowboy-movie star from the 1930s and '40s. Another set on display
in perfect condition is from the 1933 World's Fair in New York,
complete with the box it came in and the receipt.
In addition to radios and radio parts, the museum displays
old radio signs and advertisements, some of which are more valuable
than the radios. A large collection of radio-related magazines
and brochures are available for viewing.
You don't have to be a radio expert to enjoy the museum, stresses
Schultz. "You could come here for a half-hour or spend an
entire day here," he said.
The museum's partnership with city's Visitors and Tourism
Bureau works well for both groups. Volunteers from the tourism
council help keep the museum open, and the museum provides another
good reason for people stop at the visitor center.
The museum is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and
Saturday and by request for groups tours.
More information the Indiana Historic Radio Museum is available
by calling 894-9000, or toll-free at 1-888-417-3562, or 894-3779.
The museum has a website that can be reached at:
A direct link to the website will be available soon. Call
any of the above numbers for the new web page address.