Extracts from other original Sparton
ads for the 557 can be seen in the
two grey colored boxes to the right.

The references to "rare" and "fine"
woods in these clippings constitute a
touch of advertising hyperbole, as the
wooden elements of the cabinet are in
fact composed of common, if not eleg-
antly contoured, plywood. It is how-
ever surely the dark crystalline finish
to which the descriptions allude, an
effect allegedly achieved by mixing
naptha into the black lacquer prior to
its application to the wood*. However,
it seems to be prone to flaking off and
is frequently in poor condition or
missing from these models when
found today. Fortunately mine is still
in excellent original condition.


The original purchase price of the
557 was $39.95, about the same as
for the model 566
Bluebird of the
previous year.

         
Technical Details

The chassis of the 557 is an ac-
powered 5-tube superhet covering
standard broadcast (540-1720kc) and
shortwave (5900-17,500kc). The tube
line-up is:- 6A7 (mixer/ LO), 78 (IF),
75 (2nd det/AVC/1st AF), 42 (AF
output) & 80 (rectifier). The three
knobs are, from left to right, on/off/vol,
band selector and tuning. The design
is very similar to that used in the
deluxe model
558 sled introduced a
year later. That model however added
a tone control and switched to the
latest octal-based tubes.
Sparton Model 557 "Sled" Blue-Mirror Radio (1936/1937)
Sparton 557 Sled
Sparton 557 rear view
The Sparton model 557, the first of
Sparks-Withington's mirrored "sled"
radios, was introduced in June of '36,
almost a year after their celebrated
Bluebird. These sleek and wonderful
sets, attributed to Walter Dorwin Tea-
gue, are bold reflections of the mid-
century streamlining movement. Quite
understandably, they have gone on to
become highly revered and collectible
icons of the Art Deco radio era.

One newspaper advertisement from
1936 proclaimed the model 557 as
...a radio of chrome and crystal
Copyright TubeRadioLand.com
"a radio of chrome and crystal..
Mirrored crystal, rare woods,
streamlined chromium.. A master
radio as outstanding as its case.."
1937 Sparton Radio Special
1937 Sparton Radios Special
Pullman
Colorful crystal glass.. chrome and wood cabinet of unusual design.
The new Sparton radios received acclaim far beyond fondest
expectations. Everyone agrees that Sparton offers the biggest
"eye-full" and most amazing "ear-full" in 1937. The outstanding
opportunities are readily apparent. With such smartness of style, such
cleverness of design, such quality of reproduction, and such a distinct
price advantage, dealers recognize the record rapid-turnover volume
that is in sight. The surprise of the season, Sparton should prove to be
a fast seller and quick money maker. Investigate NOW - hitch your
wagon to a rising star. The Sparks-Withington Company, Jackson, Mich.
Sparton of Canada, Ltd., London, Ontario.
           
from an ad in Radio Retailing, August 1936, p. 4.
Original - Individual - Entrancing - Modern
"Enchanting Ensemble of Colorful Crystal Glass, Chrome and Fine
woods - Five Tubes - Foreign and Domestic Broadcast including Police
and Airplane in Two Bands - Straight AC - An Ideal Radio Receiver for
Individualized Taste - For a Gift - An Added Luxurious Touch to Any
Well Appointed Room. Height 8
3/4 inches. Width 18 inches. Depth 8
inches"
Mellow tone, two bands with considerable foreign reception..
The Journey of the 1937 SPARTON SPECIAL

Newspaper reports reveal that the Sparks Withington
Company (aka Sparton) adopted a novel approach to
introducing and promoting their 1937 line, which
included the model 557 sled. The line had been
originally presented in June of 1936 to an audience
of over 250 radio dealers at a convention held in
Jackson Michigan, Sparton's hometown. However, in
early July, as part of a drive to increase their radio
business by 80%, they took the show on the road, or
should I say, the rails. A
 Pullman car, nicknamed the
Sparton Special, was outfitted as a travelling exhibit,
complete with executive office, fifteen Sparton
executives and supporting staff. For over a month,
starting in Jackson, this Special travelled a 7000 mile
loop through Central and Western states, making 26
stops, including Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, San
Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas,
Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Louisville,
Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit!
At each of the stops, dealers and key account
holders, who had been telegraphed invitations prior
to the Special's arrival, visited the exhibit to view,
hear and learn about Sparton's 1937 home radios,
refrigerators and auto radios. Advertising was
prepared for release in each city visited, with much of
it placed in the local newspapers as part of what was
one of the largest publicity campaigns in the
company's history. At the outset, it was hoped that by
the time all was said and done, at least 5000 dealers
and distributor's salesman would have attended the
exhibit.

The Special Pullman, which cost $48 a day to
charter, was headed by Arthur T. ("Art") Haugh,
Sparks-Withington's General Sales Manager.
Company executives had initially decided upon the
trip as a means of taking Sparton products to the
dealers who had not been able to make the recent
Jackson convention. During an interview with a
newspaper reporter at the stop in El Paso, Haugh is
on record as having said "
This is a bit of pioneering,
going over the country with our merchandise in a
Pullman car. Formerly we brought dealers to the
factory. We already have taken more than $250,000
in orders and have made only nine of our scheduled
26 stops
".
                                                           Continued...


Also among the 15 executives along for the ride were
Harry Sparks, General Manager; William Sparks,
President; Charles Kayko, Factory Superintendent;
Harold Nielson, Sparton's chief radio engineer; Alex
"Scotty" Smith, District sales Manager, and Guy C.
Core, Advertising Manager. Radio Weekly's Curt
Wessel went with them too. With the company's key
executives mostly all on the train for a period
exceeding one month, business that would ordinarily
have been transacted from the factory was handled
from the Special, which was outfitted as a rolling
administrative office, complete with secretaries. The
car was painted its entire length on both sides and
bore the slogan "SPARTON. Radio's Richest Voice".
What a trip it must have been!

At the stop in Ogden, Salt Lake City, it was planned
to have over 200 Sparton dealers and key account
holders from the surrounding territory visit the exhibit
while it was parked at the Union Pacific Railroad
Depot all day Wednesday July 8th. The car arrived at
7.30am that morning and departed for Portland,
Oregon, that evening, ahead of it's sweep down the
West coast.

How successful was this sales jaunt? I've been
unable to find out the final tally, but if the $250,000 in
orders taken after just nine of the twenty six stops, as
allegedly stated by Art Haugh to a reporter in El
Paso, was any indication, I would have to say very!
Moreover, a report in the August 1936 edition of
Radio Retailing paints an even rosier picture; it
states that by close of business in Los Angeles,
several stops
before El Paso, total bookings of
$432,000 had been made! One of these reports
however would seem to be incorrect. Radio retailing
also notes that the train departed Jackson on July
14th, but this is for sure incorrect, as Salt Lake City
newspapers published on the 8th report the Special
as due or having arrived in their town on that day, a
chronology consistent with that provided by other
publications made later in the journey.

Refs:
i.   Salt lake Tribune, Jul 8th 1936, p 3
ii.  Ogden Standard Examiner, July 7th 1936, p 20
iii. Radio Retailing, August 1936, p 40
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