Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
250 linear feet
The Radio Corporation of America was incorporated in Delaware on October 17, 1919, and changed its name to RCA Corporation on May 9, 1969. For over fifty years it was one of the country's leading manufacturers and vendors of radios, phonographs, televisions, and a wide array of consumer and military electronics products. Through subsidiaries, it operated the country's first radiotelegraph, radiotelephone and radio facsimile systems, as well as its pioneer radio and television networks. The company will always be identified with David Sarnoff (1891-1971), who began working for a predecessor company as an office boy in 1906, became vice president in 1922, president in 1930, and served as chairman from 1947 to1970. Sarnoff was one of the first to grasp the full potential of radio and television and imparted to the company its reputation for research and innovation. David Sarnoff's son Robert succeeded to the presidency in 1966 and was named CEO in 1968. The younger Sarnoff began a program of conglomerate diversification, acquiring publisher Random House, Inc., and the Hertz Corporation rental car business in 1966. In a makeover designed to erase its historic connection with radio, the Radio Corporation of America became RCA Corporation on May 9, 1969. Robert Sarnoff also began an ill-fated push to make RCA the number two computer manufacturer, but after only a year, RCA sold its entire computer business to Sperry Univac in 1971-73. Robert Sarnoff was ousted in 1975. The company continued to lose market share in consumer electronics to Japanese competition. Subsequent managers pursued a program of divestiture and downsizing that reduced the company to a core of telecommunications, electronic components, aerospace and military electronics and the NBC radio and television networks. RCA Corporation was merged into the General Electric Company on June 9, 1986. The records of the RCA Corporation consist of three unassociated record groups and are not a complete archive. The larger of the two groups consists of materials removed from the technical library on the 6th floor of Building 10 of the Camden Plant in July 1993 after the plant had passed into the hands of the Martin Marietta Corporation. This group embraces several series of RCA manuscript technical reports, standards, engineering notebooks, manuals and miscellaneous publication. Hagley received a large quantity of books, trade journals and company publications at the same time, and these have been integrated with the general collections of the Imprints Department. Hagley had earlier received the files of company historian B. L. Aldridge and items from the Secretary's Contract File through an individual who had salvaged them from the company's defunct "Hall of Progress" exhibit in Cherry Hill, N.J. The Secretary's files document the formation of RCA. Aldridge's files deal almost entirely with the history of the Victor Talking Machine Company, RCA-Victor and the Camden Plant. Hagley subsequently acquired a second collection of materials dealing with the history of the Victor Talking Machine Company and RCA-Victor from retired Director of Public Affairs Nicholas F. Pensiero. This material is cataloged separately as Accession 2138. Upon the closing of the Camden Plant in 1995, Hagley received over 100,000 negatives from the photo lab on the 4th floor of Building 10. These are arranged and cataloged separately in the Pictorial Collections Department. The photographs (1930-1968) cover most company products and activities, particularly at the Camden manufacturing plant but also at Radio City in New York and various field tests and installations. There are work scenes from the Camden Plant and scenes of recording and broadcasting sessions and of individual recording and broadcast artists. Additional records of the RCA Corporation are scattered in several other repositories. A collection of administrative records, including papers of David Sarnoff, may be found at the David Sarnoff Library, 201 Washington Road, CN5300, Princeton, N.J. A collection of laboratory, advertising and company publication, including Voice of the Victor, may be found at the Camden County Historical Society, Park Boulevard & Euclid Avenue, Camden, N.J., and the company's former collection of historic instruments and other RCA-Victor memorabilia is now located at the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover, Del.