Westinghouse model H-126 "Little Jewel"

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Westinghouse H-126
A Westinghouse "Little Jewel." This one was made sometime between 1946 and 1949.

Little Jewel
Little Jewel
A six tube superheterodyne AM receiver; there is a lot of radio packed into a small cabinet. Made in America by American workers, with parts that were made in America by American workers. What would those workers think if they knew that in 2017 it would be repaired with parts that were made in Communist China?

Sometimes called a "refrigerator radio" because of its styling, there is a story that in 1945 Westinghouse gave you one for free if you bought a Westinghouse refrigerator. This account is repeated over and over on the Internet but I can't find any of evidence that it's true.

So before we go on, let me state this: (In my opinion) no, you did not get a "Little Jewel" for free with a Westinghouse refrigerator, and Westinghouse never referred to it as a "refrigerator radio."

This is a six tube radio. The outer case is made of over 24 different parts (not including the grille cloth and knobs) and there are almost 50 components that make up the circuitry. There is a lot of labor involved just assembling the chassis into the case. Who would give one of these away for free when you could give away a cheap plastic "All American Five" radio instead?

The nail in the coffin - home refrigerator production ceased during World War II. After years of austerity measures, food shortages, rationing and scarcity of every imaginable consumable good, a "free radio" wasn't needed as bait to get a customer to buy a new refrigerator in 1945.

The origin of the myth is explained on Page 5. There actually was a "refrigerator radio" you got for free, but it wasn't a Westinghouse, it was a Philco. In addition, the Philco "refrigerator radios" were manufactured prior to the beginning of WWII, not in 1945 after the war had ended. As the decades went by, the "free radio with a refrigerator" story became intertwined with the Westinghouse H-126.

"Oh my gosh, Bill. That radio looks like a little refrigerator! It's... it's a refrigerator-radio!!"

If I had gone outside dressed like this, the other kids would have beaten me up.

Here's how the radio looked at the beginning of September, 2017. It looks pretty good in the picture. Actually, there are several cosmetic and electrical issues with this radio. I had "fixed" it in 1987, spray painted the sides and put it in a box. The next time I looked at it, 30 years had passed.

I remember I thought this was the dumbest looking radio I had ever seen. Either I or my brother Chris had found it in the trash. It was in such bad shape I was tempted to put it back in the trash. Instead, I brought it back to life, painted the sides and stuck it in a box.

Too bad I didn't have more experience with radios. This radio has six tubes and is actually a very fine radio receiver. I didn't know what the extra vacuum tube did, but something told me to hold onto the ugly thing.

So what's wrong with the radio? It doesn't work very well. Nor does it have a handle. We can make it work better, but the only way to get a replacement handle is to buy another radio and steal the handle. While searching the Internet and sending out emails looking for a handle, I found that these are very collectible and a junker on ebay goes for over $100. No, I'm not going to spend $100 to get a handle.

There is a chunk missing from the bottom and the top has a crack where the handle inserts into the Bakelite case. (It may not be Bakelite, it might actually be an early type of plastic.)
Guess what. The "crack" is actually a repair of the case, which had been broken into several pieces. What kind of glue is holding it all together? This is an accident waiting to happen. Again.  
By putting a handle on the radio, Westinghouse encouraged people to carry it from room to room. This also encouraged people to drop it.

Would the case break where the handle is attached by picking the radio up by the handle? It's possible; the radio weighs almost six pounds. What if someone was swinging the radio by the handle or walked away with it while it was plugged in?

I can imagine the case breaking, the radio crashing to the floor (taking a chunk out of the bottom) and the owner being left with a handle in his hand that was no longer attached to anything.

Why would you carry it into another room? It isn't all that portable, you have to plug it in. It was because after World War II, radios became so affordable you could buy your own radio and partake in something the radio manufacturing industry called  "individualized listening." In other words, you no longer had to listen to what everyone else was listening to on the only other radio in the house.

  This is what the handle would look like if it had one. There is really no way for it to fall out of the metal
brackets, so it must have been broken. I would like to have seen what actually happened to this radio.

If you hold a flashlight obliquely to the side you see blemishes in the new paint that, by sheer coincidence, correspond exactly to scratches in the old paint. What are the odds that it would be dinged in the exact same place TWICE?

There was a sag in the 1987 paint but it turns out it was complements of Westinghouse. It became more visible (visible-er) by adding another coat of paint.
Removing the 1987 spray paint with paint remover. It melted instantly. The paint remover didn't touch the 1946 paint. I used three coats of paint remover, two different brands. I may as well have used water.

Here's the radio case, sort of as it appeared when I found it 30 years ago, because the spray paint came off with the paint remover. It looks like a robot head with a black eye. The shell on the right side had twice as much paint on it, that's why it's not so scratched up. That is the side that had the sag in the paint.

Looking at the "black eye," fingernail length might not have been of paramount importance after WWII but there was probably lead in that paint which ended up in somebody's ham sandwich.

There are tiny blue-green spots all over the radio. I thought it was mold, but it's paint. Somebody painted the room the radio was in, and the radio got splattered. It's oil paint; it won't scrape off with your thumbnail.

There are some decorative features on the case that are supposed to be shiny, but actually look worse than the painted part. The medallion lights up, but has a chip out of it that allows an annoying dot of bright light to shine through.

To change the tubes, you take off the side and remove the antenna. The wires are connected with small No. 15 Fahnestock clips.
All the tubes tested good but there was a 12SK7 in the 12SJ7 socket.
The radio chassis out of the case. There doesn't seem to be any damage from the radio being dropped.
But wait! While I was working on it I noticed the speaker was crooked and I couldn't straighten it. Did this happen when the radio was dropped?

I wrote to the Antique Radio Forum asking for someone who has a Little Jewel to take a look for me. Right away a guy named Tom Albrecht sent a picture showing that it is supposed to be at an angle. Whew!

Gouges in the plastic dial. How did this happen? The window for the dial is smaller than a dime, yet somehow something sharp managed to get in there and scratch it up. No complaints about the speaker; it is in excellent condition.