Showers "Consola"
Showers Brothers Company
601 N. Morton Street,
Bloomington, Indiana USA

    Charles Showers, an established cabinet maker from Harrodsburg, Indiana, settled in Bloomington, Indiana with his wife and six children on April 13, 1856.  He set up a cabinet making shop on Kirkwood Avenue and later, in 1868, opened a small factory at 104 North Walnut which is on the east side to the town square where the Wiles Drug Store stands today.  The little factory was fitted with various wood working machinery, a second hand boiler and three employees to run its operations.  Neighboring business, soon however, voiced their objections about the loud noises that emanated from the little factory during its furniture production so Charles moved his operation to the corner of Third and Grant streets.  To maintain the company's visibility on the square, Charles opened a furniture showroom above what is now Bloomington Hardware and displayed finished bed stands, bureaus, chairs and coffins.  During the Civil War, the factory prospered from the production of coffins but when the war ended, it went back to manufacturing furniture.
    In 1867, Charles's two oldest sons, William n. and James D. Showers, who had learned woodworking skills from their father, bought out their father's interest in the factory.  Business was good and soon the brothers bought a small building on the corner of Ninth and Grant streets with $300 that they managed to save up.  The company continued to prosper and the brothers constructed another factory in 1872, then younger brother Charles joined up with the two brothers in 1878 and the brothers another factory in 1880.  The company grew from just 5 workers in 1870 to over 50 workers in 1884 when the factory burned to the ground.  The city of Evansville, hearing about the mishap,  tried to persuade the company to move it's operations to their area, but because the company had proven to be such an important factor to Bloomington's local economy, the city, in it's attempt to induce the firm to stay, contributed nearly half of the total costs in building a new factory on an open plot of land along Morton Street.  The company chose to stay and once again grew and prospered.  In 1907, James Showers became president of the Citizens Loan and Trust Company and sold his interest of the company to his brother William whose son, Ed W. Showers, would in time take charge of the company during it's most prosperous years.  The Showers Company was one of the first businesses in Bloomington to use electricity and the process of laminating which was both developed and named by the company.  They acquired large tracts of timberland and sawmills while adopting the slogan, "From the Tree to the Trade", and in 1910, the U.S. Census Bureau determined that the south end of the main factory building was the exact center of the U. S. population.  By the 1920s the company was billing themselves as "America's Largest Furniture Manufacturer", having grown to four plants in Bloomington and in Iowa.  The Bloomington plants alone were producing up to 16 train car loads of furniture per day and it was estimated that all of the Showers plants combined were producing about 60% of all of the furniture output in the United States, most of which were being sold through various furniture stores and mail catalog companies.
    In the spring of 1925, the Showers Brothers Company ventured into the new field of radio when Ed W. Showers, who was now at the helm of the company, began to notice that there was a growing popularity for radio tables and radio console cabinets. The company brought out a line of radio cabinets consisting of five different speaker cabinets, a radio cabinet which was interchangeable with three different tables to produce a variety of radio cabinet combinations, and a complete console that would house both a standard radio receiver and speaker, all of which were designed by Isaac Bault, Showers chief furniture designer.  In October of 1925, Showers was approached by the Ramway Radio Corporation to produce console cabinets for the Ramway radio line.  Showers superintendent C. A. Sears designed the cabinet, which was styled in an Italian Renaissance design.  During the production, Ramway shipped their chassis and speakers to the Showers factory where they were fitted into the cabinets and shipped out to the various Ramway dealerships.  The over all sales of the Ramway consoles, especially during the Christmas season, so impressed Showers management, that they decided to manufacture and market their own brand of radio after they were finished producing cabinets for Ramway.  Showers felt they could produce a quality radio set that would compete well in the radio market.  The making of the cabinets was no problem, that was their area of expertise, but they had to develop the radio and speaker.  During the summer of 1926, a laboratory was set up in one of the company's auditorium but this was only temporary and later the laboratory was permanently located at the end of packing plant #4.  Showers hired two radio engineers, Ralph Cutts and Charley Hotchkiss, to work in the laboratory and develop the new radio receiver.  Edward W. Showers and William Sears kept in constant touch with the two engineers to the point, at one time, when Edward Showers was ill and at home under orders from his doctor, he surrounded himself with various types of radios and refused to be held down on the project that he had personally spearheaded.  By the end of the summer the company had their radio, which they named the "Consola".  The radio consisted of a metal front panel, that was specially manufactured by Crow of Chicago, featuring gold flowers, flower decorated knobs, and two dial pointers with the Showers "S" logo at their base.  The chassis, which was manufactured by Showers, was made of aluminum.  They chose this metal because it was easy to cut, punch and bend, therefore requiring less expensive machinery to work it.  The tuning condensers and potentiometers were made by national brands but the manufacturer of the RF coils and audio transformers is unknown.  Judging on their crude and simple construction, it's well to guess that they were made locally, possibly by Showers.  The speaker, called the "Purotone", was developed by Dr. A. L. Foley, head of the Physics department at Indiana University who, for 15 years, worked on sound reproduction and acoustics.  The box horn was crafted out of spruce wood and fitted with a Utah reproducer.  The Consola was offered in three cabinet models, the 556, a mahogany cabinet with the loud speaker housed above the receiver, the 448, an Italian Renaissance styled cabinet that closely resembled the Showers cabinet originally manufactured for Ramway, and a table model cabinet of simple design.  To round off the line, individually housed loudspeakers were offered in the forms of coffee tables, magazine racks and pedestals, all containing the Purotone speaker.  These speaker cabinets were offered in a choice of either a blended walnut finish, Chinese red or green enamel.  D. F. Fester and H. T. Roberts, directors of the radio division, were put in charge of the road salesmen and were successful in retaining every dealer that sold the Ramway sets.  They established a sales headquarters in Chicago at 1517 Tribune Building, later to be moved to 914 South Michigan Avenue, to cover their western sales region. For the eastern sales region, an office in New York City was established.  By September Showers was flooded with orders and production was well under way for the upcoming fall and Christmas season.  It was at this time that Showers introduced two new cabinets, the models 444 and 450.  During October, production reached more then 100 sets per day and by November, Showers was so overwhelmed with orders that they had their Burlington, Iowa plant took up the slack for a while.  After the Christmas season was over and the orders dwindled, Showers phased out the coffee tables, magazine racks and pedestal tables with the last few being bought up by the employees at a discount price.  Showers estimated that they had produced over 25,000 radio pieces, which include complete radio sets, speakers and empty cabinets. 
    A new cabinet was introduced in January of 1926 called the LaPhonic.  This model was a lowboy with a drop leaf door, which opened up to reveal the Consola radio receiver.  The speaker compartment, which occupied most of the cabinet, was fitted with a 22 inch Utah cone speaker with room to house all of the batteries and / or AC power supply.  As production on the "LaPhonic" geared up, the Crosley Radio Corporation approached Showers with the prospects of becoming their supplier of cabinets for the 1926 / 1927 line of Crosley Radios.  A number of sample cabinets, designed by Isaac Bault, were made up and presented to Crosley.  Soon Showers was awarded the contract and preparations for the manufacturer of Crosley cabinets.  During this time Showers was working on a new product with help from some Indiana University personnel, on a the development of an electrical phonograph pickup unit which was to be used in a new radio / phonograph combination set was named the "Electrope".  It consisted of a phonograph and a Consola receiver, housed in an elaborate double door cabinet and was to be out on the market for the upcoming Christmas session.  Showers hired C. T. McKelvy, who was formerly the district manager for the Brunswick Phonograph Corporation, to join the Chicago sales office and help establish a phonograph dealer base.  By July Showers was shipping sample lots of the newly made up Crosley cabinets to the various Crosley dealerships across the U.S. and preparations were made for the production and the build up of warehouse stock for the 1926 / 1927 Christmas season.
    Showers soon realized that with the limited factory resources and warehouse space they had, they could not manufacture both Crosley cabinets and the Consola sets at the same time so the decision to phase out the Consola radio line was adopted.  This proved to be a good decision since they were in no position to compete with the oncoming of AC powered radios that would soon dominate the market.  The last of the Electropes were quickly sold since few were ever built and the last of the Consola radio chassis were fitted into a special cabinet, the 409, which were specifically designed to quickly sell and deplete the last of the radio stock.  Many of these sets were sold to the factory employees at close to wholesale price.  Once the last of the Showers radio stock was sold, full attention was directed to the manufacture of the Crosley cabinets.  Showers benefited greatly in the production of cabinets for one of the worlds largest companies and so ended the short life of the Showers "Consola". 
    Showers went on to produce Crosley radio cabinets for at least a couple more years but it's not known if they made cabinets for Crosley or any other radio company during the 1930s.  The company survived through the depression by producing their normal array of furniture but because of low sales, Showers felt they had more buildings then they needed, so in 1939, they enticed RCA to purchase their plant on south Rogers Street in Bloomington.  The plant, built in 1919 to manufacture kitchen cabinets, was where RCA manufactured some of their television sets from the time of WWII up until when Thompson Consumer Electronics purchased the facility and moved it's operation to Mexico in 1998.  After WWII, the furniture manufacturing industry gradually went south where timber was plentiful and labor was cheap.  Showers, however,  opted to stay in Bloomington but gradually began to lose their dominance in the home furniture market due to their failure to invest in more modern and efficient machinery.  By 1955 the company was in serous trouble so the Showers family sold the company to the Stork Line Furniture Company of Chicago.  Stork Line was only able to keep the factory going for another three years until they finally had to shut the factory down for good.  Indiana University purchased the property from Stork Line in 1959 and used the buildings for storage and other purposes.  For years the buildings stood boarded up and unkept with half of the buildings being lost in 1970 in a large fire of which the whole city turned out to watch.  The 1980s brought new life to the factory complex when Indiana University and the city of Bloomington worked on a plan to revitalize the buildings and grounds.  Today the Showers complex is now Bloomington's new technology complex and the old main factory now houses Bloomington's City Hall along with various IU offices and several companies, most of whom are state of the art research and development firms in the computer software fields.  The grounds around the old factory have been beautifully landscaped with brick walkways, trees and flowers.  Today the Showers complex is a shining jewel in the city of Bloomington as it once was long time ago.

Tube Line Up:
01A...1st. R.F. Amplifier
01A...2nd. R.F. Amplifier
01A or 00A ...Detector
01A...1st. Audio
01A...2nd. Audio
01A or 12A ...Audio Output

Height...40.5 inches
Width...32.5 inches
Depth...17 inches

Frequency Range:
BC Band...550 kHz to 1500 kHz

Click here to view, by means of TerraServer, the factory site as it looks today.

Power Source:
Battery....+6 Volts
...............+45 Volts
........... ...+90 Volts
...............-4.5 Volts

    View of the chassis. The wires are for the battery connections and the posts are for the C- battery, antenna, ground, and speaker. Many of the Showers radios existing today are found as only the chassis with the cabinet missing. The delicate RF coils are usually found bent up or broken.

Noblesville Daily Ledger
December 23, 1926
Page 5

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    This pocket flier probably dates to 1927. The early large cabinets have been replaced by smaller cabinets with the speakers located below the receiver.

Ralph Cutts and Charlie Hotchkiss in the company's radio laboratory.

A. L. Foley, Physics professor at Indiana University, who developed the Purotone speaker.

    A. L. Foley holding one of the Purotone speakers in an office with W. Ed. Showers and another gentleman. The triangular arrangement of the knobs of a Consola can be seen behind Mr. Foley.

    These are the office buildings of the former Showers Brothers Company. The building on the right has the address of 601 N. Morten St. which was the companys official address. On the second floor of that building was the company's auditorium, and for a time, the company's radio laboritory. The Showers family home was accross the street from the smaller office building.

    Bloomington's City Hall as it looked in 1998. It occupies a portion of what was the largest factory building of the Showers complex. Today, it's probibly the only City Hall in the nation to feature a saw tooth roof.

This web page was last updated: February 18, 2007