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Musician Playing Air
Norman Baker was born on November 27, 1882 in Muscatine, Iowa and
was the youngest of ten children. He dropped out of school at the
age of sixteen and took a job in a machine shop and learned to be
a machinist. He then is known to have worked as a tool and die maker.
Following his attendance at a magic show, Baker decided to try
something similar. He experienced several failures during the first
few efforts, but finally, in 1904, his magic show developed a following
and became successful. The star of his show was "Madame Pearl
Tangley," a mind reader. For over four years, the show was
a success, then "Madame Pearl Tangley" decided to leave
the troupe in 1909!
A college girl, Theresa Pinder, was hired to replace Madame Tangley.
About a year later, Baker and Pinder were married. The show continued
to run until the summer of 1914, when the Bakers decided to take
a break from the show. They returned to Muscatine with intentions
of staying there, relaxing until fall, but that changed.
One day Norman began tinkering in his brother's shop and came up
with an idea. The larger, more well-to-do churches had organs that
were powered by steam. Norman started work on one that was powered
by air, making it more efficient to operate. Upon completion of
the organ, Norman sold it. He then built another and sold it also!
He called the contraption the Air Calliaphone. He soon decided to
guit the magic show in 1915 and concentrate on manufacturing air
Calliaphones. He had become a wealthy man and in 1915, divorced
In 1920, Norman opened the Tangley School, which offered a correspondence
course in art. Norman knew nothing about art and would freely admit
it, yet, he earned over $75,000 within a three year period, "teaching"
others to draw!
All of Baker's business endeavors were described and presented
as being for the benefit of mankind. Norman Baker was usually portrayed
as one who would fight for the underdog, forsaking all profit in
doing so. However, profit was Baker's real concern, possibly his
Espousing concerns about the image of Muscatine, Baker approached
the Muscatine Chamber of Commerce, offering to build a radio station.
Through the radio station the image of Muscatine could be enhanced
in hopes of luring more business there. Baker stated that he would
give daily talks, promoting Muscatine. Baker only asked for free
electricity, free water and no taxes on the radio station. The Chamber
of Commerce agreed.
Baker acquired a license for a 500 watt station and chose the call
letters, KTNT, which according to him stood for Know The Naked Truth.
He knew that the average, rural resident had almost no trust in
big business and government; he was going to start using that in
his own favor.
On Thanksgiving Day of 1925, KTNT went on the air for the first
time. Baker came on strong, saying that their station KTNT was just
a small station, but the Radio Trust was out to get him off the
air already! His fight was a fight to save the airwaves! His audience
believed the scenario whether there was any truth to it or not.
His attacks were against the American Medical Association (AMA),
the Radio Trust, the Aluminum Trust and Wall Street in general.
During these presentations, he also sold various products while
building his reputation as the working man's friend and warrior.
He quickly learned the power of Radio marketing.