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 trav-
elled 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.
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.
|The Journey of the 1937 SPARTON SPECIAL
|"a radio of chrome and crystal..
Mirrored crystal, rare woods,
streamlined chromium.. A master
radio as outstanding as its case..",
|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.
|"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 83/4 inches. Width 18 inches. Depth 8 inches"