Milwaukee Journal Stations Records, 1922-1997

Biography/History

The Journal Company was founded by Lucius Nieman in 1882 when he purchased a newspaper which became the Milwaukee Journal.

In 1924, the Journal Company, in partnership with Marquette University, owned and operated radio station WHAD. The Journal Company built complete remote control facilities and a modern studio in their plant at 4th and State Streets and purchased a license from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company for remote broadcasts. The station did regular remote broadcasts from the Milwaukee Athletic Club and the Hotel Wisconsin as well as band concerts from Washington Park and Little Symphony Concerts from the Milwaukee Turnverein.

In 1927, on the advice of the Federal Radio Commission, the Journal Company dissolved its partnership with Marquette University and purchased radio station WKAF. A new transmitter was built in Brookfield, and WKAF became WTMJ radio.

In 1929, the Journal Company filed a lawsuit against the Federal Radio Commission for the destruction of WTMJ's service area. The Federal Radio Commission had assigned radio stations in Florida and Cleveland, Ohio to the same channel as WTMJ and had increased the evening power of a station in Maine, also on the same channel, which greatly disrupted the ability of people to clearly receive WTMJ's signal. This lawsuit was resolved in 1931. The station is now known as AM 620 WTMJ Newsradio.

The Journal Company applied for and was granted a permit by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1939 to construct an experimental FM transmitter. The transmitter, control rooms, studios, and workshop for the station, W9XAO, were located on the 22nd floor of the Wisconsin Tower at N. 6th and W. Wisconsin Avenue. The station went on the air on February 11, 1940 and was the first FM station west of the Alleghenies and one of the first five FM stations in the country. In April 1941, the Journal Company launched one of the first commercial FM stations in the country, W55M. By 1948, W55M had become WTMJ-FM and was the most powerful FM station in the United States thanks to its 50,000 watt transmitter in Richfield. However, the Journal Company suspended operation of WTMJ-FM on April 2, 1950 because of the lack of FM radio receivers, the reduction of broadcast hours, and competition from television. By 1958, FM radio was attracting more listeners and advertisers and WTMJ-FM went back on the air on June 1, 1959. The station would eventually change its call letters to WKTI-FM which it still uses today.

Starting in April 1929, The Journal Company began experimenting with television and was granted a construction permit and license for station W9XD in September 1931. The Company's early experiments took place in the corner of the garage used to house the newspaper circulation trucks. The television laboratory was later relocated to the 25th floor penthouse of the Schroeder Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Experiments on television as well as radio newspapers or facsimiles, were continued until 1938 when the licenses were allowed to expire.

In 1941, construction permits were received for an experimental television station, W9XMJ, and a television relay station, W9XCV. By late 1941, the station received permission to change its permit from experimental to commercial and the station became WTMJ--the second commercial television license issued by the FCC. The development of television was delayed by World War II but progressed rapidly after the war. WTMJ-TV went on the air on December 3, 1947; it was the seventeenth television station in the country to go on the air, the first television station in Wisconsin and the first commercial station in the Midwest.

The Journal Company is now known as Journal Communications, Inc.