The Good Life: Don't touch that dial

By December 19, 2018Advertising
Credit: Philco

“There’s a thrill for young and old” in this ad for Philco radios. And indeed, as Sally sits beaming with her new portable sound system, Mom and Dad look on, each leaning on a luxe hunk of mahogany. The 48-1276 Sheraton model was Philco’s top-of-the-line radio-phonograph for the 1948 season, selling for the eye-popping price of $695 ($1,626.30 in today’s dollars). Only 1,216 were ever made. The faux top drawer flips open to reveal a tuner and equalizer knobs; the oval patterned frontispiece folds down for access to the turntable. It’s odd that the ad doesn’t showcase these fine features.

Times were rapidly changing: That same year, Philco rolled out its first consumer TV set, a 10-inch screen that sold for a more modest $395. But the radio is the star of this Christmas ad. And so is Bing Crosby. Wednesday was “Bingsday,” the fine print reminds us, as the multimedia megastar’s “Philco Radio Time” show had entered its third and final season that September. The show would introduce revolutionary technical inventions including prerecorded shows and, sadly, the laugh track. Also in 1948, the crooner would appear on television for the first time to sing in “A Christmas Carol” for NBC.

“This year, there is no need for compromise,” the ad promises. Philco was a juggernaut that would expand into other products, including the surface barrier transistor, hardware for NASA and water purification systems, before ultimately filing for bankruptcy in 1960. But at least we’ll always have the laugh track.

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