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The History of FADA Radios

Fada radio logos

Frank Angelo D'Andrea (born 1888, Salerno, Italy {1}) was the creator of FADA Radios.
The D'Andreas' recently widowed mother moved the family to New York in 1890 when Frank was 18 months old.
At age 11, he had to leave school and go to work, but spent his nights studying drafting and mathematics.
Frank's youth endeavors included a newspaper boy, stable boy and boxer.
He left all this behind when in 1913 he graduated from an engineering course,
and began working for the Frederick Pierce Co. doing experimental work for inventors.
Guglielmo Marconi came to the lab one day and had Frank work on a radio apparatus for him.
Shortly after this meeting, Frank left the Pierce lab and began a job with Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the audion tube.
Frank worked with De Forest as the first voice was broadcast using De Forest's tube.
Frank soon became a plant manager for the De Forest company.
In 1918, Frank Andrea went into business for himself, with his 16-year-old half brother.
They rented space in a Bronx butcher shop to begin production of crystal radio parts and kits.
He married his childhood sweetheart Concetta Ambrose.{1}
For the name of his company he adopted his initials: F.A.D.A.
When the radio boom hit in late 1921, FADA couldn't produce crystal detectors fast enough,
and soon was renting space in three different places on the same street, Jerome Ave. in the Bronx.
Frank Angelo D'Andrea photograph Fada crystal radio

Frank's brilliant foresight recognized that crystal radios would be replaced by tube radios and around 1923,
FADA started manufacturing vacuum tube radios which were well accepted by the public and experienced a rapid growth.
FADA licensed the Neutrodyne radio technology from the Hazeltine Corporation.
In 1925, Frank expanded marketing to Canada and the UK.

1925 FADA radio models
FADA radio models from the 1920s

FADA toronto, london, san francisco

Apparently Frank Andrea's employer-employee relationships were very poor,
and in 1926, 500 of his 600 employees went on strike.
In 1927, his chief engineer, Lewis Clement, left for a better offer with another company.
Soon after, his second in command of the company, Dick Klein, had quarreled with D'Andrea and left also.
In 1928, FADA status was in the top five of radio manufacturing companies, despite these issues.
But the stock market crash soon followed and FADA more-or-less fell apart.
Radio production dropped drastically and the company was sold in 1932
to a group of Boston businessmen and then in 1934 FADA filed for bankruptcy.

Andrea Radio logo

Frank retired in 1932 quite wealthy, but decided after 2 idle years that retirement was not for him.
Frank Andrea created a new radio company, F.A.D. Andrea Inc. in 1934.
His $10,000 investment grew into a 2nd fortune.{1}
F.A.D. Andrea Inc. began marketing radios in direct competition with
the newly resurrected FADA Radio & Electric Co. now under new ownership.

The FADA radio name was known around the world.
A mid 1930s F.A.D. Andrea radio brochure from Paris reveals that after FADA was sold,
Frank was still capitalizing on the FADA name, boldly using his initials in Andrea Radio ads.
1930s advertising show active marketing for both FADA and Andrea radios in Italy and France.
In the early '30s SIARE, Piacenza was granted a license to produce and distribute FADA radios in Italy.
SIARE, Piacenza also produced Crosley radios in Italy with a similar license arrangement.
This was a common practice in the '30s, easing the need to export as many radios,
eliminating customs fees and helping to keep the radios more affordable.
Other radio manufacturers such as Sonora and Pilot Radio also produced radios in Europe.
Some models were similar and some were unique designs compared to their US-made models.
Both Fada and Pilot radio designs have surfaced in Australian radio models as well.

French and Italian FADA ads

Although many of FADA's export designs are not found in the US,
some of the popular US models have been found with European dial markings.
These two unique designs are 1930s FADA radios found in South America,
possibly made in South America under license, as was done in Italy.

South American FADA radios

In 1937 F.A.D. Andrea Inc. officially changed its corporate title to Andrea Radio Corp.
Shortly after, in 1938, Andrea Radio Corp began television production, and in 1939
displayed their new television model at the New York World's Fair.
As with every radio manufacturer, Andrea consumer tv and radio production was suspended as WWII began,
and in 1942 all resources shifted to the production of military electronics to aid the war effort.
In 1946, following WWII, consumer manufacturing resumed and Andrea Radio
again offered new yearly line-ups of radio and television models.
Frank continued running the company until his death at the age of 77 (Dec 22, 1965).
His business was continued by his son F.A.D. Andrea, Jr., and his daughter Camille.
Radio News magazine with FADA, may 1950
Frank and his daughter, Camille on the cover of Radio & Television News, May 1950.

"No history of the radio or television industry would be complete
without the saga of Frank A.D. Andrea..."

Andrea Radio logo
In 1961 Andrea became a public corporation now trading under the ticker symbol ANDR.
During the 1970s and '80s, Andrea was a big supplier for Boeing, Lockheed and others.
In 1990 the name was officially changed from Andrea Radio to Andrea Electronics Corp.{2}

frank andrea and jm marks portraits

The new FADA Radio & Electric Company, 1935

FADA Radio logo

FADA gears back up in 1935 under new direction and leadership,
revived as the FADA Radio & Electric Co., Inc.
New owners purchased a factory site at 30-20 Thompson Ave., Long Island City, NY.
J.M. Marks took over the helm and never minced words about its position in the radio industry,
"...our company is the original Fada Company and controls all the rights and trade-marks, patents, etc.,
dating from its inception since 1921; and that the firm of F.A.D.Andrea Inc., selling Andrea Radios,
outside of the fact that Frank Andrea is the head of the company, has no more relationship
to our trade-mark (Fada) than Mr. DuPont has to the General Motors Co., with which he
was importantly affiliated at the time of its inception.
Our company is a bonafide licensee of RCA as well as Hazeltine." (Radio Today, June 1937)
Marks was a great marketer and played a big role in the push for retail promotions and
encouraged radio cabinets with bright colors.

FADA Radio marketing

The re-established FADA was an early success.
FADA's "Coloradio" and "Fadalette" lines in 1936-37 radios sold well.
The radios were made with colorful plastics, some with chrome or gold trim.
FADA produced what have become some of today's most sought after radios.
Some designs were so popular that they were shared with, or "borrowed" by other radio makers.
In 1938, a couple years after the Coloradio line was released,
Australian radio maker "Hotpoint" issued the "Bandmaster" model with a nearly identical cabinet.
Other than the dial and knobs, every other design line was copied.

FADA 250 and Hotpoint Bandmaster comparison photo

In 1941, Fada's president JM Marks recruited well-known radio pioneer McMurdo Silver.
McMurdo Silver radios of the 1930s were beautiful high-end, chrome plated radios.
In 1938 Silver had sold out the remainder of his company to his competitor, E.H. Scott Radio Laboratories.
He was appointed as vice-president of FADA's Special Equipment Division,
handling commercial and National Defense radio production.

Radio Today, July 1941
Fada president Marks with McMurdo Silver

In 1942 when World War II began, consumer radio production
was halted at all factories mandated by the government.
All factory resources were focused on the contribution to the war effort.
FADA production shifted to equipment made only for military use from 1942-1945.
This oscilloscope was made by FADA for the US Navy.

FADA oscilloscope

When World War II ended, FADA returned to consumer radio production.
FADA picked up where they left off, continuing sales of the popular catalin FADA "Bullet".
Before the war they were sold as the model 115, issued now as the model 1000.
Other radio cabinet molds were also revived after the war
with updated circuitry and newly assigned model numbers.
Many of the radios that Fada produced in the late '30s and '40s are highly prized by radio collectors.
Today, the FADA model 115 or 1000 "Bullet" radio has become a true icon in design history.
There is no documentation on the designer of this great piece.
Different size reproductions have surfaced over the years,
and the design surfaces frequently from ad graphics to clocks and cookie jars.

Fada bullet radios, thumbnail group

Like radio-makers Belmont and Wells-Gardner, FADA also sold their radios to independent distributors
who displayed their own retail brand names on the radios.
Some of FADA's bakelite and wood models from the late 1930s were labeled "Co-op", "Lafayette" or "Dictograph".
Dictograph Products Company Inc patented the "Silent Radio Mystic Ear" pillow speaker and sold the idea to FADA
who then incorporated the idea into many different models.
In some instances, a "Dictograph Silent Radio" or "Co-op" metal nameplate was applied over the top of the embossed FADA name.
The Lafayette equivalents of the FADA L96 and L56(bakelite series) models were identical
except that Lafayette had the molds adjusted so their name was embossed in the plastic, in place of the FADA name.

FADA L56 and Lafayette JS-178 close-up

FADA, Dictograph Silent Radio, Co-Op close-up

FADA was very resourceful when designing cabinets for various electronic designs.
Many of their radio cabinets, both wood and the bakelite models, were made to house different chassis designs.
AM only, AM/Shortwave, AC/DC, farm battery sets, and other options led to different chassis mounted into identical cabinets.
This explains why so many different FADA model numbers are found on what look like the same radios.
Some cabinet designs accommodated a 2 or a 3 knob chassis with only the knob hole placement shifting,
and still leaving a geometric design in tact as seen above.
Different knob and dial designs were also shared between models.

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In 1947, Marks announced FADA's expansion and move across the Hudson River
to Belleville, New Jersey into a larger updated plant.
Much of the expansion included space for other electronics including
FADA "Motoset" automobile radios and also televisions for the emerging television market.
FADA branded radios and televisions were successfully marketed into the 1950s.

FADA article about move to NJ FADA Motoset and TV drawing

Keeping up with the latest technology, FADA offered a full line of television models and
also introduced an FM-only radio in 1947, the model 795 (shown in an ad below).
The last consumer radios FADA made were in 1955.
An ex FADA distributor emailed me info on a model in the collection,
"This is a model 660. These were the last new radios that FADA produced and were made in 1954 & 1955.
They came in Ebony, Ivory, and Maroon with a gold grille on the Maroon & Ivory, Silver on the Ebony models.
There was a very good looking replacement for the 790 scheduled but they ran out of money before it went into production.
As an ex FADA distributor I saw these items at the plant in 1953/54."

FADA model 660 thumbnail
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Today, FADA radios from the past are well-known to collectors
and many FADAs are the highlights in any radio collection.
Values of FADA radios differ greatly, with the primary factor being their cabinet design.
FADA radios on todays collectors market can range from $40 to hundreds and even thousands!
FADA made some fabulous wood cabinet floor and table radios that are sometimes overlooked
because the FADA name is so closely associated with their famous plastic models.
Some FADA wood models with high-tube-count designs from the mid '30s are highly sought after,
and can command as much as the expensive catalin models.
A few wood versions of the iconic catalin "bullet" and "temple" models were also made.
The wood model 252 is one example.

Fada wood radio 16 tube Fada wood radio sold at Estes Auction 2009

Fada wood radios

Fada wood radio
1933 "Century" model 105 (ch.RN)
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Fada's plastic radio colors and materials is the big factor in their collecting appeal.
The red plaskon "Coloradio" cabinets and any of the catalin cabinets bring the highest prices.
In the mid-'40s, FADA referred to their catalin cabinets as "Fada-lucent".
The Bakelite Corporation referred to all their different plastics as "Bakelite" which have now
been broken down into different categories; bakelite, catalin, plaskon, beetle and styrene by collectors today.
(see our Plastics page that shows the differences between catalin, bakelite and others.)
Although a few of the wood table models were offered with a ivory, ebony or Chinese red laquered cabinet,
FADA never offered any of the plastic radio models with a painted finish. (wood Fada 351JV in ivory)
In the late '40s, FADA began using polystyrene for some radio models,
and although they were able to reproduce the marbling effects,
they did not have the depth and lustrous qualities of catalin.
The blue styrene model 1005 will bring top dollar.
Once you have seen a beautifully marbled catalin radio in person,
you quickly realize why there is the incredible demand for them.
The look and feel of catalin radios it truly unique and unparalleled with their glass-like surface.
Fada L56 Radios
In the case of the Fada model L56 bakelite/plaskon/catalin models;
they are all rare, but the "Bakelite Color Series" radios, although valued less,
are actually more elusive than the catalin versions,
most likely due to the fact that they were introduced at the same time -
and although the plaskon versions are so beautiful,
anyone faced with the choice, would likely have chosen the similarly priced,
fabulously marbled, glass-like qualities of the catalin cabinets over the plaskon versions.
The unfortunate, unforseen shrinkage characteristic of catalin plastics has made
any Fada catalin radio rare to find without damage.
Some Green Jade or Blue Lapis Lazuli catalin examples have sold for over $10K at auction!

Fada dial logo
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Click on the FADA radio collection below for much more information on each radio and close up photos.

Fada Radio Collection

FADA service sign FADA Radio Neon Sign GIF

FADA Radio dial collage

Fada 316, Fada 260RG, Spanish Cradial Pulgarcito Super II

FADA 550 or 855 logo embossing
(from the 1950 model 550 or 855)

Fada NYC map factory location

Below are a few interesting articles from the 1930s
regarding the divide between the Fada name and Frank Andrea.
Fada article Fada article Fada article

FADA Radio Dec 1934 Radio Retailing advertisement

(Aug 1936 Radio Retailing)
FADA Radio Aug 1936 Radio Retailing advertisement

(Sept 1936 Radio Retailing)
FADA Radio Sept 1936 Radio Retailing advertisement

Fada wood radios J,K,L descriptions

1937 Fada Coloradio 254 advertisement
1937 Fada Coloradio advertisement

The catalin Fada L56 is found in the 1940 ad below, boasting of the use of green in the cabinet grille.
The Bakelite Corporation referred to all their different plastics as "Bakelite".
Fada L56 in Bakelite Corp ad advertisement

Fada Coloradio advertisement

(some of the Dictograph Mystic Ear Silent Radio models)
FADA SilentRadio ad

DICTOGRAPH-FADA SilentRadio label

FADA SilentRadio label

Fada Fadalette L56 advertisement

Fada Piano Radio ad 1940 Radio Retailing NOV 1940

Fada portable radio advertisement

Fada Bullet catalin radio advertisement

(Radio Retailing, MARCH 1943)
FADA wwII advertisement

(Radio News, October 1945)
These two ads came out just as WWII was ending, including a message
that FADA is ready to make radios again for the public, waiting for the government's OK.
Both subtly include in the artwork, one of FADA's iconic models, the 652 "Temple".
FADA wwII advertisement

FADA wwII advertisement

(Radio News, 1946)
Fada catalin radio advertisement

Fada catalin radio retailing advertisement

Fada catalin radio advertisement

Fada catalin radio 1947 advertisement

(Radio Retailing, November 1947, FADA's FM-only model 795
and catalin model 711 and the P80 portable)
FADA catalin model 711 and 795 FM-only model 1947 ad

(Radio Retailing, 1948)
Fada television advertisement

Fada television advertisement

Fada 200 advertisement


(Andrea Radio, January 1938 Radio Retailing)
Andrea Radio January 1938 Radio Retailing advertisement

(Andrea Radio, Sept 1938 Radio Retailing)
Andrea Radio Sept 1938 Radio Retailing advertisement

Andrea 1950 TV advertisement

F.A.D.Andrea Radio French brochure

F.A.D.Andrea Radio French brochure


FADA Radio 1920s advertisement
FADA Radio 1920s advertisement
FADA Radio 1920s advertisement

FADA Radio dealer lithograph

FADA Radio 1925 advertisement

FADA Radio 1920s advertisement

FADA Radio 1920s advertisement

FADA Radio 1922 advertisement

Fada L56 color grill group photo

FADA Temple family photo

And after...
Frank Zappa Left of the Dial CD with Fada Temple Radio on the cover
Frank Zappa 1996 promo-only CD release, "Left of the Dial"
featuring a wildly painted FADA model 652 "Temple" radio on the cover.

Fada 1935 logo

1935 Fada articles Radio Retailing

In early 1937, Marks released the private color coding
of resistor components used in the earlier FADA radios,
and began using the standard RMA color coding for components.

Radio Today, March 1937
FADA Radio private color code

(Radio News, August 1941)
1941 Fada article re McMurdo Silver

1947 Fada article re NJ move Radio Retailing

1932 FADA Radio stock certificate

{1}The American Weekly, May 27, 1951, "Two Fortunes for the Immigrant Boy" by Sam Shulsky.
{2}AndreaElectronics.com, "About; History", 2019.

Additional links:
Andrea Electronics
Frank Andrea history from WSHU (Note: Some FADA information on this site is inaccurate.)
The Gouverneur Museum

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LINK to Belmont Radio History Page
LINK to FADA Radio History Page
LINK to Remler RadioHistory Page
LINK to Truetone Radio History Page

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See many more beautiful radios inside Classic Radio Gallery!

Sparton Radio art with Strider the watchdog
1936 Sparton model 557 mirrored radio

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All pages created by Merrill L. Mabbs