The Patriot Radio is an iconic symbol of American nationalism, and as such, it couldn’t be more relevant to today. At a time when many people fear that the U.S. has become increasingly xenophobic, the Patriot Radio offers some clues as to why there’s been a sudden rise in jingoism.
Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corporation manufactured the Patriot Radio in 1940. It was designed by Norman Bel Geddes, who was a renowned industrial architect during that time. It was immensely popular and came at a time when tensions were high due to growing concerns over World War II.
And that’s the connection between then and now. Fanatical patriotism resurges anytime that there is a war at stake. That’s because items like the Patriot Radio are used as propaganda. Governments and institutions want people to support the war, so they appeal to peoples’ need for a sense of belonging.
Nationalism and a sense of belonging are closely tied together. However, the downside of nationalism is that it puts people in a state of mind of “us vs. them.” It’s a critical concept to understand following the political dissent in the U.S.
That’s why it’s extremely important that items like this are preserved. As the old saying goes, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Fortunately, in this case, the item has been preserved. For those who want to see it in person, there is an authentic Patriot Radio on display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. Industrial design collector George Kravis gifted the radio to the Cooper Hewitt Museum back in 2014. It is part of the Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection and will be on display until March 12, 2017.
The radio comes in three different models. The one on display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum is a 400-1 model, meaning that its base color is blue. The 400-2 model has a white base color and the 400-3 model has a red base color.
Due to its historical significance, the Patriot Radio has seen a price hike in its value. At the time of its release in 1940, the radio sold for just $15. Now, in 2016, the radio is worth an estimated $1,500.