Westinghouse Model H-417TS Plastic Radio (1954)


This jaunty little table radio is in flawless condition and it works like a champ. My wife found it for me while traveling home from a conference. She's crazy about 1950s furniture with wire legs, so this set practically jumped off the shelf into her hands! It didn't require a bit of work, other than some polish to bring out the glow on its dazzling face.

As you can see from the interior view, it uses five all-glass miniature tubes. From left to right in this photo, they are types 35W4, 12BE6, 12BA6, 12AV6, and 50C5. The tubes all bear the Westinghouse Reliatron name and appear to be factory originals.

The big flat tuning knob is attached directly to the axle of the variable capacitor. Direct-drive tuners are finicky to use if the knob is small, but this large knob gives plenty of leverage, making tuning easy.

You can see some family similarities between this radio and my Westinghouse H-496P4 tube portable, which was made two years later. Both faceplates create a beautifully radiant effect with rows of clear plastic bars.

While the 1940s saw lots of dark, fairly restrained radio designs, radios of the 1950s seem almost jubilant by comparison, as modern plastics encouraged designers to experiment with new forms and colors.

Another feature shared by these Westinghouse radios is the copper-plated metal chassis, which is ingeniously folded to carry lots of components in a small space. The chassis also uses tabs and rivets to attach components, a measure that reduced manufacturing costs, but didn't make repairs any easier.

For example, look at the audio output transformer, visible to the right in the interior view. Its right side is attached to the chassis with a rivet and the left side slips under a little metal slot. To replace it, I guess you would have to drill out the old rivet and attach the replacement with a new rivet or a screw. Not a big deal, but it seems like a harbinger of late 20th-century "disposable" society, where electronic items are often thrown out rather than repaired.

This model came in maroon as well as ivory plastic. On page 228 of the Bunis collector guide (4th ed.), you can see what looks like the same radio, identified at model H-418TS.

The speaker in this radio is mounted a bit askew, although the factory wiring obviously hasn't been disturbed, and the speaker bears the Westinghouse part number. I suppose there's some good reason why it was done this way, although it looks odd.

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