Majestic (Grigsby-Grunow) 161 Tombstone Radio (1933/34)
Grigsby-Grunow introduced their fabulous Majestic model 161
"smart set" during the "twilight" of their regrettably all-too-short
reign in the radio business. The first of the company's modern-
istic "smart sets" had been introduced back in the summer of
1933 and they had been instant hits. Encouraged by their
success, the company went on to introduce additional models,
including in late September the four modernistic consoles of
which the Lido , Ritz and Park Avenue are striking examples.
The rarely seen model 161 appears to have been one of the
last of the line to have made its debut, in late 1933 or early
1934, shortly before the company closed its doors for the last
Grigsby-Grunow was declared bankrupt in February of 1934. If
there was ever a perfect illustration of "twilight's last gleaming",
it occurred when the company introduced their "smart sets". For
these magnificent examples of the radio art came tantalizingly
close to averting the company's inexorable slide towards bank-
ruptcy and corporate oblivion. So popular were the sets that for
the nine months ended November '33, the company sold eight
times more radios than in the corresponding period a year
earlier. However, it was not enough to save them.
Most "smart-sets" were given an official name, such as Lido,
Mayfair or Ritz, a practice which Grigsby-Grunow had begun a
few years earlier. However, for whatever reason, the 161 is
among the minority of the sets that had to make do with just a
When was the Model 161 Introduced?
Just when the model 161 was introduced is unclear. It does not
feature in the list of models introduced during the summer of
1933, nor have I found any evidence of it being introduced in
the fall. Moreover, the earliest advertising that I've found for it
was in April of 1934 for a clearance sale (see below and thumb-
nail far right).
On November 24th of 1933 Grigsby-Grunow went into equity
receivership. They continued to manufacture their "smart sets",
albeit at a reduced rate, up to and even beyond February 20th
1934, when they were declared bankrupt. Announcements in
Radio Retailing reveal that new model introductions continued
during receivership, through at least January of 1934 (one of
the last was the model 608 "Mayfair"). Additionally, a press
release announcing a company hosted meeting of Majestic
distributors that was scheduled to take place just days prior to
the bankruptcy spoke of yet more model introductions; what
the models were, whether they were radios, refrigerators or
some of each, and whether or not any were manufactured,
appears lost to the annals of time. Media advertising for Maj-
estic radios and refrigerators was sustained through Decem-
ber 1933, the receiver having allocated a $35,000 advertising
budget for that month. Corroborating this, newspaper ads are
plentiful through December but dry up after that. However, I've
found no mention in any of these sources of the model 161.
This all leads to the speculation that the 161 was first offered
for sale in late 1933 or early 1934. If this is correct, its late
introduction, not long before the company closed its doors for
the last time, offers a good explanation as to why it's such a
Model 161 Advertising
On April 26th 1934, two months after Grigsby-Grunow's untime-
ly demise, Gamble Stores ran an advertisement in numerous
newspapers across the central USA that featured the model 161
along with several other Majestic "smart sets" (see thumbnail
above). This is the only newspaper ad that I've found that shows
the model 161. According to this ad, the store chain had pur-
chased $200,000 worth of late production sets, which they then
proceeded to liquidate at discounted prices. This particular ad
appeared only on this one date, as I found no earlier or later
occurrences of it*. One might therefore conclude that Gamble
Stores was successful in quickly selling off most of its inventory
of these sets. Given the stylishness of the merchandise, this
should be no surprise!
For more about the rise and fall of Grigsby-Grunow, see my two-
part article published in Antique Radio Classified: part 1 part 2.
..without a doubt the most beautiful mantel radio ever designed.
*Actually, I located one small ad for a SINGLE store of the Gamble chain in
July of 1934. It advertises the 161 and one other model at the same prices
as shown in the April ad reproduced above. So perhaps this one store had
just a few models left over from the initial sales campaign.
I purchased this set "as found" from an online sales site.
It sports the original chrome, grille-cloth, knobs and finish.
The ivory stripes below the two knobs are original to the
set; the lighting has accentuated them to some extent in
the photograph. I cleaned up the cabinet & touched up
sections of missing black finish using black lacquer app-
lied with an artist's brush.
Advertising for a clearance sale
of bankrupt stock including the
model 161 (click thumbnail)
gives its 1933/34 list price as
$47.50. The ad is dated April
26th 1934. Grigsby-Grunow was
declared bankrupt in Feb 1934.