The Sparton Mirrored Radios, designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, were among the most beautiful ever produced. The initial 1936 Teague-designed series consisted of four radios whose release was preceeded by an advertisement showing four covered objects with the caption "The Style Sensation of the radio world is under these covers." This was apparently intended to stir curiosity and increase interest in the new Teague designs. Actually unveiled by Sparton on September 18, 1935 at the Annual National Electrical & Radio Exposition, Grand Central Palace in New York (See below),one of those radios was the 1186 Nocturne (bottom) and the 566 "Bluebird" (top, 2nd from right) was another. The 557 "Sled" (top right) was released later in 1936 for the 1937 model year. The 558 "Sled" (top left) was not produced until 1937 (for the 1938 model year) and was the "Deluxe" replacement for the 557. The 409-GL (top, 2nd from left was the last of the series, released in 1938 (1939 model year). All models were produced in two flavors: Midnight Blue and Old Rose (Peach). I've seen pictures of a Green 558 which has the same etched mirror but I don't have documentation to support that it was available for the 1938 model year. That does not mean it isn't real. The Old Rose color was not as popular and fewer sales resulted in those sets being a little more rare today than the Blue. While the ads stated "Although extremely revolutionary, they will be immediately accepted and set an entirely new trend in radio designs.", in actuality, the sets did not sell particularly well. This is most likely due to the prices which were a little higher than similarly capable models and the U.S. was still in the clutches of the Great Depression. This fact as well probably adds to the scarcity of these sets. The links below will take you on the tour of the Midnight Blue series and other Sparton radios.
Note: Sparton seems to have normally released the models about mid-year for the next model year, causing a lot of confusion today about when a model was actually produced. Beginning with 1936 models, the last digit of the model number indicates the model year of the set. 506, 566, 1186 were 1936 models. 557, 517 were 1937 models. The 558 was 1938 and 409-GL was for 1939. The first number of the model number (or 2 numbers if the model number is 4 digits long) represented the number of tubes in the chassis design. More on this may be found on the Sparton 506 page. The 1935 model year sets utilized the first character (or 2 if the model was 3 characters long) as the chassis tube count and the last digit seems to basically designate the type of set (table model, mantle set, console, console with phono, etc.) but was not strictly adhered to as with the 566. Nothing in the model number indicated the model year.
Please note: All images on this site are protected by Copyright and are not intended for other use without permission. The ads on these pages are not as they were scanned from the original pages but have all been considerably enhanced to make them more legible.
The Annual National Electrical & Radio Exposition at the Grand Central Palace in New York City was the premier event of the day for Radio and other electrical device manufacturers. It was the opportunity to showcase their product lines in view of a quarter of a million people who were expected to attend, no easy task in 1935. There were many similar shows around the country as well but this was the big show. Interestingly, this preview made no mention of the Sparton line at all. I would like to add a special Thanks to Geoff Shearer of Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club for his assistance in finding information about this show.
The following year, Sparton used a more aggressive approach to promoting their line of Radios and Refrigerators by renting a Pullman car (See articles below) and touring a large part of the country. Even with the addition of the Teague-designed Model 557 "Sled", while initial orders from dealers were rather impressive, fire sales each year thereafter before the new model releases seem to show that end user sales never became what they had hoped for the Teague line.
Impressive as their trip might have been, Sparton was not the only one touring with their 1937 lines. You might recognize some of the sets in this picture.
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