By THE CURRENT STAFF
When a group of engineering and drama students banded together in 1945 to create a new campus radio station, they named it WXPN, for Experimental Pennsylvania Network.
Then a student-run enterprise, WXPN-AM first hit
the airwaves on Nov. 14, 1945. The audience was small, most likely because
the signal was limited to buildings close to its broadcasting home of
Houston Hall. In those early AM radio years, WXPN aired live coverage
of sporting events, campus news, classical music and dramatic presentations.
Alum Hal Princeówho went on to become a preeminent Broadway producerówrote
a daily soap opera that was performed on the station. In 1956, WXPN applied
for and got a license from the FCC to also broadcast on an FM frequency, and
by 1960, FM broadcasts could reach up to 50 miles away. Initially,
both stations carried news and sports coverage, as well as programs on classical,
jazz and folk music. By 1965, the AM station was airing a ìfour-hour rock
chaosî showóearly progressive radioóand by 1968, had devoted nearly all its
schedule to rock music. WXPN moved from its original location in Houston Hall
to 3905 Spruce St. in 1970 and continued as a student-only enterprise until
1975. That year, the FCC fined Penn $2,000 for obscenity and other violations
at WXPN. The next year, the Trustees decided that a professional station manager
should guide the stationóan arrangement that is still in place today.
In the late 1970s the AM frequency changed its name to WQHS (for Quads, Hill
House and Superblock) and today is Pennís only student-run station.
For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, visit the University
Archives website at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on December 8, 2005