The Story of the Radio Hat

In 1949, Victor Hoeflich held a press conference to introduce the “Man from Mars Radio Hat.” He knew a picture is worth a thousand words, so he had several people model the radio hats for the reporters and photographers. Soon, stories appeared in newspapers coast to coast. While the transistor radio had already been invented in 1947, it was still experimental and not widely available. The Radio Hat relied on vacuum tube technology, and Hoeflich made the tubes a prominent feature, as well as the loop aerial. The tuning knob sat between two valves and the battery was carried in the user’s pocket. The Radio Hat was sold in department stores and by mail order for $7.95. Designed after a pith helmet, it could be ordered in eight colors: Yellow, Blush Pink, Rose Pink, Tangerine, Flamingo, Chartreuse and Tan. Later seven more color options were added. The massive publicity didn’t, however, lead to lasting sales. Its failure was primarily due to technical limitations. The loop antenna was directional and the signal could be easily lost with the turning of the user’s head, and it only had a transmission range of 20 miles. Radio stations that were out of range came in as a high-pitched squeal. It wasn’t long before the Radio Hat faded into the background and became just another name on a long list of invention failures.