The Sparks-Withington Company of Jackson, Michigan, was founded in 1900 by the
Withington brothers, Philip and Winthrop. Within a matter of months they were joined
Captain William Sparks, who would go on to be a key figure in the company's
development. The new company grew quickly and within the space of a few years it
became known as the
Sparks-Withington Company, producing products under the
Sparton tradename. At first they manufactured small metal parts for agricultural hand
implements, but they quickly diversified into the making of parts for the burgeoning
automobile industry. One of their early products was the first all-electric horn for
automobiles in 1911. Beginning in the mid twenties, they commenced the production
of domestic radio receivers, starting out with battery sets, followed by the first
"all-electric" receiver in 1926. They soon progressed onto large and impressive
console models, many featuring highly ornate cabinetry. One of their catch phrases
was "Radios Richest Voice", another was "The Pathfinder of the Air".

They are of course most famous for their series of highly acclaimed mirror and
chrome radios produced in the mid to late  1930s, at the height of the Art-Deco
period, following their association with the noted industrial designer Walter Dorwin
Teague. These magnificent creations became the status symbols of the day and shot
the Sparton name to fame. In 1935 they introduced the Nocturne and Bluebird
models, followed by the 557 sled in 1936, the deluxe 558 sled in 1937 and, the last of
their mirror radios, the seven-sided 409GL in 1938.

Through the thirties the company manufactured not only radio sets and automobile
parts but also, commencing in 1932, refrigerators. However, this was not a profitable
operation for them and by the end of the decade they had given up on this business.
During this period they employed in excess of 6000 people in their six plants, five of
which were in Jackson, Michigan and one in Canada.

In 1950, John J. Smith, a disgruntled stockholder, dissatisfied by the meagre returns
on his investments, orchestrated a management overthrow. He teamed with the
biggest stockholder, Theodore Schofield, a Sparton engineer of 41 years who had
just been fired, and together they decided it was time for a change. As a result, at the
October stockholders meeting, Harry Sparks, son of the co-founder, was voted out as
president, and Smith, the leader of the revolt, was in. He at once cut costs, expanded
advertising and retained in-house business that had previously been subcontracted
out. Business did improve for a while and the new board was soon able to declare a
20c dividend.

Through 1956 the company continued trading as Sparks-Withington, producing radios
and, by that time, television sets under the Sparton trade name. However, beyond that
date, given the late ousting of the original controlling families, Sparton was officially
adopted as the company name. Unlike many of the pioneering domestic radio
manufacturers, the
Sparton company is still in business today in the field of high-tech,
though no longer as a manufacturer of home radios. Until its closure in 2009, their
headquarters remained at the same address,
2400 East Ganson St, Jackson,
Michigan as one of their earliest plants. Unfortunately, on March 26th 2011 the by
then vacant Ganson Street plant
burned to the ground, a sad end for the once proud
building.  More information on  the history of the corporation can be found at
Link to SparksWithington_40thAnniversary.pdf
The thumbnail to the left links to a copy of a document
produced to commemorate Sparks-Withington's 40th
anniversary in 1940. The file is large, but it contains much
interesting information regarding the roots of the company.
Unfortunately, it does not say a lot about the company's
radio business, focusing instead on their role in the
automotive parts trade. The content is nevertheless
fascinating and highly informative. In particular, the photos of
the Withington brothers are the only ones I've come across.

I located this document in 2009 in the University of Michigan
Library and was able to access it and legitimately obtain a
copy. The document was fragile and did not lend itself to
flatbed scanning, but I was able to photograph it with
reasonable success.
SPARTON "Sparks-Withington" History