History Nebraska Blog

Nebraska’s first radio station?

After years of experimental broadcasting, Nebraska’s first commercial radio stations went on the air in 1922. Who was the first?

The usual answer is WAAW, which signed on the air April 19, 1922. Owned by the Omaha Grain Exchange, it broadcast ag market news and originally had a broadcast radius of a thousand miles.

But Dr. John Jensen, a physics professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, claimed that Wesleyan’s WCAJ was the “oldest station in Nebraska.” He acknowledged that WAAW received its commercial license before WCAJ, but argued that WCAJ was on the air first, broadcasting market and weather reports as radio station 9 YD (under an experimental license) starting in October 1921.

The point was arguable, but no one disputed that Jensen was a genuine Nebraska radio pioneer. Before founding WCAJ, in 1905 he had demonstrated a radio transmitter in his classes, and put together a radio exhibit for the 1906 Nebraska State Fair. He’s shown here at the controls of the WCAJ transmitter in 1921 or 1922.


--David L. Bristow, Editor


(Posted 9/14/2022. Photo: History Nebraska RG2158-0-1626)    

For further reading: In 1922 Nebraska historian Addison Sheldon announced the beginning of the "era of radio."


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