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curiousKC | A Brief History of KC Radio and the Broadcaster Who Started It All

Recalling Arthur B. Church

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Last month, a curious Kansas Citian wrote: “Who was Arthur B. Church and what was his contribution to early KC Television and Radio?” 

Considered a “broadcast pioneer” in the heartland, Church got his start in radio broadcasting in 1913 when he was in college. 

According to the University of Missouri-Kansas City library, Church made his first big professional move in 1914. That year, Church helped found an experimental wireless station called 9WU at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. 

“Church became one of the first to use radio to advertise merchandise,” according to UMKC’s Arthur B. Church KMBC Special Collections. 

Arthur B. Church (second from right) and a group of young men sit around radio equipment. (LaBudde Special Collections | University of Missouri-Kansas City)

What’s more, his station also covered local, national and international news, which can still be heard in the UMKC’s Marr Sound Archive. The station’s broadcasts ranged from music programs to news coverage of Pearl Harbor. 

Church’s career in radio quickly took off. 

Four years after founding 9WU, Church enlisted in the U.S. Signal Corps during World War I. The Signal Corps, a separate branch of the Army, were “responsible for implementing and designing radio technology.” Church taught telegraphy in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was stationed. 

When the war ended, he created the Central Radio Station and a school of the same name, according to UMKC’s special collections. 

In 1921, Central Radio Station began operating channel 9 AXJ broadcasts. After switching hands a few times, 9 AXJ became WPE in 1922, then KMBC and, later, KMBZ. Church’s influence in the radio world happened during what was known as the Golden Age of Radio, between 1920 and the 1950s.

Arthur B. Church (on horseback) shakes hands with Karl Koeper at the KMBC farms. (LadBudde Special Collections | University of Missouri-Kansas City)

Church also was credited with starting the first broadcasting studio – AXJ – in the Midwest.  

According to Leah Weinryb Grohsgal’s blog for the National Endowment for the Humanities, his station was seen as the “model for the industry.”


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