Classic Radio Gallery logo dial

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 chidhood 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

It seems though, that 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.
The following year of the stock market crash, FADA more-or-less fell apart.
Radio production dropped drastically when it was sold in 1932
to a group of Boston businessmen and 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, Andrea Radio Corp. in 1934.
His $10,000 investment grew into a 2nd fortune.{1}
The Radio Retailing ad from September 1938 seen below shows Andrea Radio Corp.
marketing radios in direct competition with the new FADA Radio & Electric Co.
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 other radio manufacturers during World War II,
they contributed to the production of military electronics.
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.

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}

FADA Radio logo

In the mid-'30s under new direction, the FADA Radio & Electric Company was revived
by the new owners and a factory site on Long Island was purchased.
In 1938 their address was listed as 30-20 Thompson Ave., Long Island City, NY.
In 1947, FADA president, JM 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

In 1942 when WWII began, consumer radio production was halted at all factories mandated by the government,
instructing that all factory resources be focused on contribution to the war effort.
FADA production shifted to equipment made only for military use from 1942-1945.

FADA oscilloscope

When World War II ended, FADA returned to consumer radio production, continuing sales of the popular FADA "Bullet".
Before the war they were sold as the model 115, issued now as the model 1000.
Other cabinet molds were also revived after the war with updated circuitry and newly assigned model numbers.
Many of these 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.
Many reproductions have surfaced over the years.

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

Throughout the years, 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.
Fada designed different electronic variations providing many options for buyers of various demographics.
AM and 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 2 or 3 knob chassis versions and only the knob hole placement shifted
still leaving a geometric design in tact as seen above. Different knob and dial designs were also shared between models.

Exquisite designs using chrome and gold metal trims on colorful plastics
in the "Coloradio" and "Fadalette" lines of their radios were a huge success.
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

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

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!
Some FADA wood console and table models with high-tube-count designs from the early '30s are highly sought after.
And plastic radio cabinet construction material is a huge factor in disireability.
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".
Although a few of the wood table models were offered with
a white, ebony or Chinese red laquered cabinet (see the Fada 351JV),
FADA never offered any of the plastic radio models with a painted finish.
In the late '40s, FADA began using polystyrene for cabinets,
and although they were able to reproduce the marbling effects,
they did not have the depth and lustrous qualities of catalin.
(see our Plastics page that shows the differences between catalin, bakelite and others.)
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.
In the case of the Fada model L56 bakelite/plaskon/catalin models;
they are all rare, but the "Bakelite Color Series" radios, although worth 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.
Green Jade or Blue Lapis Lazuli catalin examples have sold for over $10K at auction!

Fada dial logo

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

Fada NYC map factory location

Below are a couple interesting articles from the 1930s Radio Retailing magazine
regarding the divide between the Fada name and Frank Andrea.
Fada article Fada article

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

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

1937 Fada Coloradio 254advertisement

Fada Coloradio advertisement

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

Fada Fadalette L56 advertisement

Fada Piano Radio ad 1940 Radio Retailing NOV 1940

Fada Bullet catalin radio advertisement

(Radio Retailing, MARCH 1943)
FADA wwII advertisement

Fada catalin radio advertisement

(Radio News, 1946)
Fada catalin radio 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

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

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

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}, "About; History", 2019.

gold divider bar

See many more beautiful radios inside Classic Radio Gallery!

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

Copyright Classic Radio Gallery
All pages created by Merrill L. Mabbs