KFNF Radio Station

Address unknown (north side of town)
Shenandoah, IA 51601

Builder: Hillgreen, Lane & Co., Op. 809, 1925.
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 8
Compass: 61/32
Action: Electro-pneumatic

Notes: In 1924, pioneering Shenandoah seedsman Henry Field built a radio station on top of his seedhouse. He began broadcasting country entertainment, information and of course, using the medium to inform folks about his wares. His company expanded their product offerings  including the radios to listen to his broadcasts on!

To put this into context, this use of the brand new technology of broadcast radio put Field on the cutting edge and one of less than 300 radio stations operating in the country at the time.

Henry Field’s response to this new throng of visitors was to build his own KFNF studio building - a one story Spanish stucco building at the south side of Henry Field Seed House Number 1. The new KFNF building featured an auditorium where visitors could sit in pew-style benches and view the broadcasts in the large draped studio through a plate glass window. A dining room and kitchen in the rear was used for serving coffee and sandwiches to visitors. Both stations soon installed grand pianos and large pipe organs in their studios for live music broadcasts.

Not to be outdone by his competitor, Earl May constructed an even larger and more elaborate auditorium studio across the street from his seed company headquarters. The massive Mayfair auditorium was decorated in a Moorish motif with two minaret towers. The auditorium seated 1,000 people, and the studio/stage was separated from the audience by a 7 x 22 ft. sheet of glass weighing three tons that could be lowered into place to provide sound isolation. It was thought at the time to be the largest single sheet of glass ever made. The theatre was decorated in the style of a Moorish garden, with miniature electric lights in the blue ceiling canopy giving the impression of a starry night sky. May’s investment in KMA now totaled $90,000 for the station and another $100,000 for the auditorium. His operating costs exceeded $1,000 a month with no advertising revenue. All of this was supported by his booming catalog seed business.

Original contract (1925) price: $3,200. Organ Historical Society as of 2018.