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Last updated 10/16/2017

Early History of the Bendix Radio Division

The history of Bendix Radio is a history not of one company but in reality of a number of pioneering organizations which through a mutual interest in broadening the scope of their individual efforts and in strengthening their economic positions, joined together to make up Bendix Radio.  Many of the men and women to whom this booklet is dedicated started their radio careers with these original firms.

Although the histories of the parent companies can be traced back to the late Twenties, it was not until 1936 that the Bendix Radio Corporation was formed as a result of the sale of an interest in the Radio Research Company, of Washington, D.C., to the Bendix Aviation Corporation.  As the benefits of this association became apparent, Radio Research became a fully owned subsidiary of Bendix Aviation Corporation and was joined by the W. P. Hilliard Company, the Jenkins & Adair Corporation and Industrial Instruments, Inc., all of Chicago, and the Radio Products Company, of Dayton, Ohio.  After several years of operation as a subsidiary, Bendix Radio became a full-fledged division of Bendix Aviation Corporation and has maintained this status up to the present time.

Although it was accomplished quietly and unobtrusively, the merger that was responsible for the establishment of Bendix Radio, was destined for brilliant future success.  At a time when much emphasis was being placed on the development of home radio applications, men such as L. A. Hyland, of Radio Research, and W. P. Hilliard, with his own company, were devoting their efforts to an enthusiastic and penetrating development of hitherto unexplored fields in the new electronics industry.

Radio Research, in particular, had by this time developed a wide range of unusual applications in the field of military communications equipment. Such items as the crystal frequency indicator, radio direction finders, later to be made famous, installations of remote controls for the convenience of pilots, setting up of interphone systems, and a great variety of then revolutionary devices for aviation purposes, were being or had already been developed and used.

It is not surprising that initially it was decided to have a plant of the Bendix Radio Corporation located in Chicago since the majority of the firms had been located in Chicago and since, too, the location was conveniently close to the Aircraft Radio Laboratories at Wright Field with which the new corporation had already had much business through its component companies.  In addition, however, because Radio Research was already set up in Washington and because it was close to the Naval Research Laboratories as well as the government procurement agencies, the Washington factory was maintained and functioned actively both as a research and production center.

However, the demands made on the new company for research and production soon became so heavy that the Washington plant was inadequate and as a consequence it was decided to find suitable space in Baltimore which could be used.  The General Motors plant located at 920 East Fort Avenue was found to be ideal to accommodate the then existing and anticipated needs of the Washington branch.  As a consequence all these activities were moved to Baltimore in November of 1937. Both the Baltimore and Chicago plants soon began to buzz with activity, and the Corporation enjoyed a period of increased production and research engineering demands which resulted in further plans for expansion.

About a year after the Washington plant moved to Baltimore, it was felt desirable to consolidate the Baltimore and Chicago plants in one place, the major part of the Corporation's business being with the Government and the highly technical and precise nature of the manufacturing necessitating closer correlation of activity.  Because of Baltimore's proximity to Washington, the vote was cast in favor of moving all of the Chicago operations to what is now known as the "Fort Avenue Plant" in Baltimore.

After the consolidation of activity in Baltimore, there were about 500 employees working on a very extensive line of Bendix Radio products which included radio direction finders, manual and automatic radio compasses, precision frequency measuring units, and other highly specialized radio equipment.

In addition to supplying commercial airlines and the United States Government, specialized equipment of all types was already in use in France, Great Britain, Poland, South America, Canada, China and the Dutch East Indies.  With the outbreak of war in Europe, a greatly increased volume of business was added, as well as new orders from the French and British.

Once more Bendix Radio enlarged its manufacturing facilities to include a group of buildings across the street from the original location at 920 East Fort Avenue.  In addition, construction work was begun on an entirely new, modern, air-conditioned plant at Towson, followed almost immediately by the leasing of a number of other buildings in various parts of Baltimore for assembly, installation and storage purposes.

It was in March of 1941 that many of the departments that had for some time operated out of Fort Avenue, moved into the new plant at Towson.  Since then the Fort Avenue and Towson plants have been the hub of a widespread network of Bendix Radio operations throughout the Baltimore area.  When it became inevitable that the United States must enter the war, the prime interest of Bendix Radio, like that of other American firms, was in the welfare of our country.  Its designs, methods, and complete specifications were turned over to the Government and to the other radio manufacturers so as to increase the volume of radio production for war purposes.

Bendix Radio was one of the few firms in the entire country which had for many years specialized in military and commercial aviation communications equipment and as a consequence it was able almost immediately to make an exceedingly significant contribution to the war effort.  Other firms were spared the necessity of long months of research which they would have faced were it not for the fact that we had done the research and were in a position to turn over all of our results and designs.

In these early days of World War II, Bendix Radio was one of a small nucleus of firms which single- handedly fought to keep the supply lines for military aviation flowing.  With Bendix already equipped for the fight, it assumed and has maintained a leading role as one of the country's ablest electronic warriors.

Backed by an organization which had grown from a few able and far sighted engineers to its peak during wartime manufacture of approximately 7,600 employees, we at Bendix Radio are proud of the fact that we were able to take our place on the fighting front beside the brave and gallant men and women who have performed so heroically.  We have carried through with a program of expansion, engineering design and development from the dark days just after Pearl Harbor to the increasingly brighter days which we now face.  Let us not, however, forget for a moment that we are still fighting this war. Neither the Germans nor the Japs have been defeated.

The greatest tribute to the men and women of Bendix Radio, who have made this outstanding record of achievement possible, cannot be paid until we have attained our goal of final and complete victory by the Allies over our enemies.  Nevertheless this booklet, as a tribute to the men and women of Bendix Radio, is a sincere expression of personal appreciation for a job well done-a salute to what has already been accomplished-a belief in what we trust will be a bright future in a world where the miracles of the electronics industry, which have come out of this wartime production effort, may be applied to the progress of peacetime civilization in this, our America.

Re-Printed 2002 from a Bendix Radio Division Special Booklet Dedicated to the Employees completing five or more years of service and also to the Bendix Men and Women in the Armed Forces.