(c) 1999,2022 Peter McCollum

RDR Corp., N.Y.C.

Many of the OSS and early-CIA sets were developed with the involvement of Radio Development & Research Corp. of New York City. This company, which used the logo "RDR", was mentioned several times in the other associated sections. Their name appears in accounts of the SSTR-1 development, on SSTR-4 schematic diagrams, on the meters of the RT-4 transmitter, and on early-production RS-1 components. CIA documents confirm that RDR manufactured the RS-1 set until about early 1952, when production was transferred to NEMS (predecessor of NEMS-Clarke).

RDR was incorporated in NYC on February 9th, 1938. The original legal contact address for RDR in 1938 was a law firm in New York City. During the 1940's, RDR was active in building clandestine radio gear, and also some commercial radios. In 1952, RDR became one of the first companies to manufacture transistors. Irving Weiss formed the Germanium Products Corp., a subsidiary of RDR, in 1952. It is possible that RDR got out of the “spy radio” business at that time, because there is no further evidence of that type of work. At some point prior to 1959, RDR apparently sold its name and assets to Bogue Electric (as of 1959, RDR's address in Paterson NJ was the same as the address for Bogue, which still exists at that address). RDR was voluntarily dissolved on December 30th 1965, probably because Bogue Electric no longer wanted to legally support the RDR name.

For wartime projects, Major Henry Shore was probably the representative from OSS that dealt with RDR. Irving Weiss was an RDR employee at that time, and was probably the lead engineer.

S. Irving Weiss is named as the Inventor on at least 6 patents, including 2,453,477, which describes the design of a rotary inductor (used in the SST-1-D and SST-1-E transmitters), filed July 1944.


Evidence of RDR's involvement in clandestine radio design: A portion of the SSTR-4 schematic which identifies RDR as the producer of the design, dated 12-27-43; the "RDR" mark on the tuning knob of an RR-2B; and the "RDR" mark on RT-3 terminal posts. There are also declassified CIA documents that confirm a relationship with RDR.


Inside view of an SST-1-E (SSTR-1 transmitter). The rotary inductor with the RDR label is described in patent 2,453,477, by S. Irving Weiss.


This building at 233 W. 54th St. in NY City, is one of the two known facilities used by RDR. Built in 1911 on an 80' X 100' lot, with 5 floors and a freight elevator, it was demolished within the last few years.


This building at 26 Cornelison Ave. in Jersey City, is the other known RDR facility. This location was also used by Germanium Products Corp. by 1952 (see picture and caption below regarding Germanium Products Corp.).


An aerial view of the Cornelison Ave. facility.

RDR's "Magic-Tone" radios

RDR also produced commercial AM radios under the brand name "Magic-Tone", with an address of Jersey City, NJ (and later NYC). Four chassis designs have been identified, and were sold under six known model numbers. The first of these was designed in early 1946, and the third in early 1948. The first chassis is a very conventional 5-tube design, in two variants with either octal or loktal tubes. Another model is a portable 4-tube battery set.

The three later designs are simple 4-tube styles, and were packaged as 'novelty' radios. The model 504 is in the shape of a large whiskey bottle, using the bottle's cap as the on/off/volume and tuning controls. A variation was reportedly a promotional item for Lord Calvert whiskey, with a matching label. Models 508 and 900 are in the shape of a root beer keg; the 900 also having a lamp socket and lampshade on top, and a Hires Root Beer marking. The model 510 is a battery portable covered in snake skin, with a carrying strap, and a closure/clasp like that on a lady’s handbag. It would seem likely that it was a promotional item also.

The Magic-Tone radios are electronically very ordinary, simple designs. Considering that RDR already had much experience building expensive and sophisticated equipment for the OSS, why would RDR dabble in commercial "novelty radios" and "promotional items"? At about the same time as the "root beer keg" radio, RDR would have been starting work on parts of the RS-1 set, and the large RT-4 transmitter. Perhaps the Magic-Tone products were a 'cover' activity, to hide their work on secret CIA projects. The simple Magic-Tone designs would not have been much of a distraction to RDR engineers that spent most of their time on much more "serious" work. Two examples of the model 501 (see picture below) show that although the chassis is solid and well-built, the wood case is quite poorly made. For example, the varnishing is a very sloppy job - the bottom of the grill-slats are not varnished, and have drips on them; the cutouts are not straight and true; and the bottom panel is a piece of ordinary unvarnished plywood. This shoddy construction seems inconsistent with a company experienced at making very expensive equipment with much attention to detail.

Magic-Tone Models:


Tube Complement


Sams Photofact



12SA7, 12SK7, 12SQ7, 50L6, 35Z5

August 1946 (Photofact)

463-28, 465-40

Wood case, AC/DC, 455KC IF. RDR address: 233 W. 54th St., New York 19, NY.


12SA7, 12SK7, 12SQ7, 50L6, 35Z5

October 1946 (Photofact)


Wood case, AC/DC, 455KC IF. RDR address: 26 Cornelison Ave., Jersey City 4, NJ.


12SK7, 12SQ7, 50L6, 35Z5

August 1947 (Photofact), RDR schematic dated 1-16-47

Set #22-Folder #4712-18

Whiskey bottle design, AC/DC, TRF. RDR address: 233 W. 54th St., New York 19, NY.


12BE6, 12AT6, 50B5, 35W4

April 1948 (Photofact)

Set #38-Folder #9 (488-9)

Keg design, AC/DC, 455KC IF. RDR address: 233 W. 54th St., New York 19, NY.


12BE6, 12AT6, 50B5, 35W4

April 1948 (Photofact)

Set #38-Folder #9 (488-9)

Hires Root Beer keg with lamp socket and lampshade on top, AC/DC, 455KC IF. RDR address: 233 W. 54th St., New York 19, NY.


1R5, 1T4, 1S5, 3Q4

December 1948 (Photofact)

Set #52-Folder #10 (4822-10)

Portable with snake skin exterior and strap, battery power (67.5V, 1.5V), 455KC IF. RDR address: 233 W. 54th St., New York 19, NY.



Some theories about the purpose of the commercial models:

·         The model 500 and 501 may have actually been intended to generate revenue for RDR, since 1946 would have been somewhat of a 'recession' in the spy radio business. No further orders were coming from OSS, and the CIA would not be formed until the following year. But if actual revenue were the goal, why make ugly wood sets, and obscure novelty sets?

·         Maybe RDR sub-contracted the wood work (wood-work tooling was not needed for the govt projects), and they told the sub "we don't care much what they look like, just do it cheap". So cheap is what they got. This theory could apply if a 'front activity' was the true goal.

·         Perhaps the sloppy externals was deliberate, because making something that was truly nice would attract unwanted attention - trade magazines, radio distributors, etc. They wouldn't want too many people knocking on the door of their "spy radio factory"... By making a "loser" radio they could be pretty much ignored, yet justify the existence of their factory and employees.

·         Perhaps the novelty sets were another way to stay 'under the radar', on the assumption that they were distributed for use in bars/restaurants, or maybe given out as promotional gifts? Stay away from the normal distribution channels. Maybe the novelty sets were never sold in regular stores, next to the RCAs and Philcos?


A Magic-Tone model 501 AM table radio. It uses the same set of 5 octal tubes as many other radios of that time. There is an RDR logo on the tuning dial, and also on the emblem below the speaker. The poor varnish job is visible, especially around the dial window. Author's collection.


A close-up of the emblem from the model 501 radio.


The Magic-Tone model 504 radio. Note the "RDR" logo in the middle of the label. The 2-piece cap is the on/off/volume and tuning controls, and the bakelite base contains the speaker. The 4-tube chassis is inside the 'bottle'. The design of this set is described in U.S. Patent #2,455,716, filed Oct. 1945, inventor S. Irving Weiss. Image courtesy of Mike Schultz.


The Magic-Tone model 900. Note the Hire's Root Beer logos on the base and on the lampshade. Image courtesy of Steven at www.NewEraAntiques.com .


In the early 1950's, RDR became one of the first companies to manufacture transistors. Irving Weiss formed the Germanium Products Corp., a subsidiary of RDR, in 1952. By 1959, RDR's address had become 100 Pennsylvania Ave., Paterson, NJ; which is still the address for Bogue Electric (which had owned the RDR name). Above is shown the packaging for a transistor, and two of the transistor models that they produced. The text in the top center is from a trade magazine ad in June 1952. Images courtesy of Jack Ward at www.transistormuseum.com .