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Air King 66 with "Globes" & "Mother of Pearl" Finish (1935)
The Air King type 66 tube radio is one of several
Air King models introduced in the 1930s that today
are known as the company's
skyscraper models. In
recent years these rare and iconic artifacts have
become highly sought after by collectors. Examples
can be found on display in a number of museums
as illustrations of artistic exceptionalism in the Art
Deco genre.

Circa 1932, Air King Products of Brooklyn NY real-
ized that in order to stay competitive during the
Great Depression they needed a way of reducing
the cost of manufacturing their radios. They envis-
ioned that one way of accomplishing this was by
using injection molded plastic for their cabinets,
providing an alternative to traditional wooden des-
igns that were labor intensive to produce. Follow-
ing a national trend at the time, they sought an in-
dustrial design firm to design their innovative cab-
inet. They duly hired Harold Van Doren and John
Gordon Rideout, partners in Van Doren and Ride-
out of Toledo, Ohio, to do the work.

It is claimed that Van Doren and Rideout's inspir-
ation for the design came from a new Toledo Art
Deco skyscraper building* visible through their off-
ice window. They fabricated the cabinet from plas-
kon, a plastic molding compound the commercial-
ization of which was a specialty of Van Doren and
for which he was becoming nationally known. The
result was the 5-tube
model 52, considered by
some as "
one of the most important plastic radios
ever made
". Being one of the first radios fabricated
using the new material and the largest compress-
ion molding produced in the USA to date, it set the
bar on what could be achieved.

The model 52 was announced to the trade in the
March 1933 issue of Radio Retailing, priced at
$34.50 and offered in a variety of colors and with
a front-mounted electric clock. Egyptian or World
Globe motifs were optionally available in place of
the clock, either at the time of release or shortly
thereafter. See the clipping below left.

Following on as a modest evolution of the model
52, Air King introduced their 6-tube model 66 in
the summer of 1935 (see Radio Retailing cutting
below). It featured new knobs, an airplane-style
dial sporting an
Atlas graphic, and an updated
chassis. The extent to which Doren and Rideout
were involved with the 66 is unknown. Rideout left
the partnership on amicable terms sometime in
late 1935, after the 66 had been completed. Per-
haps the 66 was derived from model 52 blueprints
by Air King's own in-house designers following con-
sultation with Doren and Rideout. But even if they
did not participate, the 66 indubitably portrays its
model 52 pedigree and retains if not enhances the
design essences of their original masterpiece.

Like the model 52, the 66 was available in a range
of colors. It was available with either an electric
clock insert, or as seen opposite, with the "globes"
graphic. The Egyptian motif was not offered, per-
haps as it was the least popular of the original
model 52 offerings. My set sports the "mother of
pearl" finish, consisting of ivory plastic coated with
semi-clear crystalline lacquer. The finish shows
some wear, but I've left it original as found.

The model 66 embodies a 6-tube super-hetero-
dyne chassis covering two bands: 550 - 1650 kcs
(standard broadcast) and 5,800 - 17,500 kcs
(shortwave). Tube line-up is 6A7 (mixer/LO), 6D6
(IF), 75 (2nd detector/AVC/1st AF), 43 (AF power),
25Z5 (rectifier) and 340 (ballast). The schematic is
here, courtesy of NostalgiaAir.

* Probably the  PNC Building (aka National City Bank),
completed in 1932.
Air King 66 Radio with Globes & Mother of Pearl Finish (1935)
Air King 66 Radio with Globes & Mother of Pearl Finish (1935)
Radio Retailing,
July 1935
Air King Skyscraper Radio Rear View (1935)
I'm told it 's common
practice to remove
the speaker and
baffle from inside the
top of the case to
lessen the weight
stress imposed on
the cabinet.
Why "mother of pearl"? Injection Molding of large plaskon
objects was an imperfect process. Sometimes the housing for
a skyscraper set would, upon removal from its mold, exhibit
surface flaws. It is conjectured that Air King used the crystalline
finish as a way to conceal minor cabinet defects and thereby
maximize yield. For ivory sets the result was "
mother of pearl".
Radio Retailing,
March 1933