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Radio Boys and Girls to the Rescue

Juvenilia for the radio set

Once upon a time, early in the previous century, there was an enormous market for children’s adventure books. A running theme featured a plucky kid, often an orphan, making his way in the world. Some stories were pure adventure, sometimes in an exotic locale, but more sophisticated stories involved mysteries.

Mike Adams, a professor at San Jose State University in California and board chairman of the California Historical Radio Society, has focused on a radiophiliac subset of these stories in “The Radio Boys and Girls — Radio, Telegraph, Telephone and Wireless Adventures for Juvenile Readers, 1890–1945,” from McFarland & Co. (230 pages, $39.95).

Adams discovered quite a few books featuring the use of early radio technology by youths in adventures or to help solve a mystery. Topping the offerings was a lengthy series featuring the “Radio Boys” (along with a smaller run of “Radio Girls” books) and various imitators and permutations. Even the Hardy Boys got in on the radio gig.

The usage of radio varies from hobbyist to more technical. Some of the books even encouraged readers to build their own radio and provided technical information to do so. Radio was new and shiny in those times. It could also be educational.

For the radio enthusiast who thought he had it all.