University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Border Radio Collection, 1917-[2010]

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Roth, Durell M.
Title: Border Radio Collection
Dates: 1917-[2010]
Abstract: The Border Radio Collection, 1917-[2010], contains papers, audio, video, and photographs documenting the history of super-power radio broadcasting along the U.S.-Mexico border. The collection includes research materials on Dr. John R. Brinkley and Norman Baker.
Accession No.: 2009-099; 2009-284; 2010-234
OCLC No. 458315806
Extent: 2 ft.
Language: Materials are written in English and Spanish.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

In the early 1930s, many AM radio stations began broadcasting from Mexico into the United States. These "border-blasters", as they were called, spanned the entire U.S.-Mexico border and used super-power transmitters that were heard across North America and other countries. The first known border-blaster, XED, the "Voice of the Two Republics" in Reynosa, began broadcasting in 1930.

The next year radio station XER, owned by Dr. John R. Brinkley, began regular broadcasting from Villa Acuña, now Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Brinkley, a controversial physician, lived in Del Rio, TX, after being banned from the practice of medicine and from the air-waves in Kansas on his station KFKB ("Kansas First, Kansas Best"). In 1934, Mexican authorities closed XER, but the following year Brinkley began broadcasting over his new station XERA, and by 1938 the station had a 500,000-watt homemade transmitter designed and constructed by James O. Weldon. In late 1941, Mexican authorities closed XERA and had dismantled the station by early 1942.

In 1947, a new border-blaster, XERF, began broadcasting from the old XERA building. During its earliest years, XERF was under the control of Ramon D. Bosquez, Don Howard, and Walter Wilson. Attorney Arturo Gonzalez was station manager, and Paul Kallinger, and "Wolfman Jack" Bob Smith were famous members of the XERF on-air team. Engineer Mike Venditi, in 1981, repaired the station's RCA 250,000-watt transmitter which, until that time, had only operated at about 80,000 watts.

Norman Baker also controlled a border blaster, XENT, in Nuevo Laredo, after being forced off the air in Iowa from his station KTNT ("Know, The, Naked, Truth").

Durell M. Roth is a border radio historian in Austin, TX.

Scope and Contents

The Border Radio Collection, 1917-[2010], contains papers, audio, video, and photographs documenting the history of super-power radio broadcasting along the U.S.-Mexico border. The collection includes research materials on Dr. John R. Brinkley and Norman Baker.

The audiocassettes portion of the collection contains eighteen, C60, audio cassettes of miscellaneous interviews, air-checks, and NPR programs from random sources regarding border radio. May be some duplication of material.

There are reel-to-reel tapes and compact discs within the collection dubbed from the original border station air checks recorded at Radio House on 16-inch transcription discs. [The original 16-inch transcriptions are in the UT Radio House Records.] A detailed accession list containing data taken from the transcription label such as transcription number, station call sign, broadcast date, times, transcription condition, etc., is kept with the tapes and with the CD dubs. Researchers are encouraged to use this list in order to obtain the most complete information regarding the recorded material.

Archivist’s note: Inventory provided by the donor with edits by the archivist. The donor also notes, "audiocassettes 1-17 have not been equalized. These are raw recordings from various sources, and many of tapes are only partially recorded."


Access Restrictions

Use of audio reels by appointment only; please contact sound archivist for more information.

Use of photographic negatives by appointment only; please contact photo archivist for more information.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Baker, Norman, 1882-1958.
Brinkley, John Richard, 1885-1942.
Gonzalez, Arturo C.
Roth, Durell M. -- Archives.
Wolfman Jack, 1939-1995.
Subjects (Organizations)
XER (Radio station : Ciudad Acuña, Mexico)
XERA (Radio station : Ciudad Acuña, Mexico)
XERF (Radio station : Ciudad Acuña, Mexico)
Radio broadcasters -- Mexican-American Border Region.
Radio broadcasting -- Mexican-American Border Region.
Radio stations -- Mexican-American Border Region.
Del Rio (Tex.) -- History -- 20th century.
Ciudad Acuña (Mexico) -- History -- 20th century.
Mexican-American Border Region -- History -- 20th century.
Milford (Kan.) -- History -- 20th century.

Related Material

UT Radio House Records contains Border Radio Air Checks: 16-inch transcription discs recorded at Radio House, which were used in creating audio materials listed in inventory.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Border Radio Collection, 1917-[2010], Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Detailed Description of the Papers



2L310 "Border Radio - An Overview: and Selected Border-Radio Reading List" by Durell M. Roth, [2010]
1. List of Mexican radio stations from 1938 Broadcasting Yearbook, 1938
2. Xerox of postcard showing one of J. R. Brinkley's Arkansas hospitals
3. Letter from Norman Baker on XENT letterhead, 1934
4. Letter to Senator Morris Sheppard on Crazy Water Hotel letterhead
5. Letter from satisfied Brinkley patient, as edited by doctor for broadcast
6. Correspondence, border radio general
7. List of additional research material available but not included in this file
8. Chronology of the life of J. R. Brinkley
9. Brinkley family history
10. Chronology of border radio
11. Brinkley letters: business and personal, 1928-1942
12. Dr. Brinkley's platform in race for Governor of Kansas, 1932
13. KFKB general information, including Xerox of booklet from KFKB Milford, Kansas, with photos of Brinkley, the radio station, and information about his work and clinic in Kansas
14. Xerox of the KFKB daily broadcasting schedule from the station’s souvenir album, January 1930
15. Research notes from Kansas Historical Society (KHS), including accession lists for the John R. Brinkley Papers, collection 107, and for the Gerold Carson Papers, collection 108
16. Copies of the newspaper The Pink Rag, Topeka, Kansas, including articles on Doctor and Mrs. Brinkley and about his time in a Carolina jail, October 7, 14, and 21, 1932
17. KHS research, 1917-1964
Article, "John R. Brinkley: His Contribution to Broadcasting" by Maurice E. Shelby, Jr.
Bill of sale for Dr. Brinkley's three-story pipe organ purchased from The Reuter Organ Company in 1934 and built into the house in Del Rio, TX
Booklet, "Your Health" by Brinkley, 1917
Booklet has information about the Brinkley Hospital in Milford, a description of The Compound Operation, and the treatment of various diseases of the prostate gland.
Pamphlet titled "John Romulus Brinkley" by Ruby Nixon, 1964
Assorted newspaper articles
Assorted papers and correspondence, including list of some Brinkley photos available from KHS
18. "That Troublesome Old Cocklebur: John R. Brinkley and the Medical Profession of Arkansas, 1937 – 1942" by Albert J. Schneider from Arkansas Historical Quarterly
19. Assorted newspaper articles
"The House Where Dr. Brinkley Lived" by Leon Hale of the Houston Post, June 4, 1978
Article from Radio World about Wolfman Jack
20. Copy of Roswell Hotel letterhead and QSL card from XERF
21. Assorted papers, including patient information, general hospital business data for the Del Rio hospital including prices for various operations, assorted correspondence and copy of the paper "Steinach II Operation for Prostatic Obstruction" by A. Elliot-Smith, F.R.C.S., 1936
22. Assorted articles and correspondence regarding radio stations XER/XERA and Dr. Brinkley
Copy of a cartoon series "Doctor Brinkley a Man and His Calling"
"A Tribute to Dr. John R. Brinkley- - - the man without a parallel," an address delivered by David Parmer over XER in February 1936
Program for "An Evening to Remember," (a party at Dr. Brinkley's house in Del Rio) sponsored by the Del Rio Council for the Arts, October 6, 1990
The magazine Radio Today with an article about the 500,000-watt transmitter at WLW
From the 'Atlantic Monthly', an article by William C. Martin, "The God-Hucksters of Radio 'Keep those cards and letters coming in'"
23. Xerox of photo taken with Brownie camera of Dr. Brinkley's house in Del Rio, 1939
24. XERF profile: Time line generated from a telephone interview with Mike Venditi, Noyes (Nockey) Willett, and Arturo Gonzalez
25. Articles about XERF
Coverage area map
Reception report from the Arctic Radio Club
Advertising rate sheet
Reception report from Finland
Article about Mineral Wells, TX
Article about Wolfman Jack
Copies of photos of XERF transmitter at secret location
26. Articles about XERF, Wolfman Jack, station announcer Paul Kallinger, including story of the Wolfman's return to Del Rio
27. Commercials read on XERF, includes Ulcer preparation, typewriter offer, Government surplus offer
28. Assorted legal papers, including Dr. Brinkley's Income Tax return data for 1934 and a list of equipment at the Country Club Hospital in Little Rock, Ark. in 1941
29. Correspondence to and from Ms. Laverne Wilkinson, R.N., who worked for Dr. Brinkley in Del Rio, re: Dr. Brinkley, his operations, and medications
30. Correspondence to and from Ms. Beryl Brinkley Palmer, regarding her father Dr. Brinkley
31. Assorted medical papers
Lawsuit against Brinkley in Arkansas
Letter from Mrs. Brinkley to Dr. Huggins, June 12, 1953
Xerox of "Dr. Brinkley's Doctor Book"
Numerous magazine articles
Statements of witnesses for legal action, re: Dr. Brinkley in 1932
Material obtained from Texas Medical Association
32. Correspondence from American Medical Association regarding their holdings having to do with Dr. Brinkley
33. Correspondence to and from Jim Weldon and Francis Schruben, 1953-1989
Early draft and published copy of "Early Kansas Radio Stations" by Schruben
Assorted papers dealing with Brinkley
34. General information about Del Rio, TX, and the Brinkley Mansion
Accession list of books and papers at Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, which may relate to Brinkley and/or the Del Rio area
Map of Del Rio
35. Research notes on sources of information about eclectic medicine, including call numbers and OCLC numbers
36. Newspaper articles on alternative medicine and treatments
37. Transcript of the case of Brinkley vs. Fishbein from the proceedings of a libel suit based on an article published in Hygeia, from the US Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, No. 9230 AMA Journal, May 13, 1939
38. Procedures for taking a Thermal Bath in Bath Houses of Arlington and Majestic Hotels
39. Autobiographical sketch of Arturo C. Gonzalez, Attorney at Law, in Del Rio, TX, with cover letter to Gene Fowler, December 10, 1999
39a. Willett, Noyes "Nockey" obituary, 2011
40. Correspondence, legal documents, and minutes of meetings having to do with XER/XERA/XERF, 1932-1977
41. Translation of certified material from the Mexican Public Health Dept. allowing Brinkley to broadcast a lecture on "The Prostate" with printed translation by John Wheat
[See audiocassette 8A for Wheat’s audio translation.]
42. Documents regarding Brinkley provided by Jose Luis Ortiz from his doctoral dissertation research about Brinkley and border radio from the Mexican viewpoint
43. Materials about Brinkley and border radio
Newspaper and magazine articles about Brinkley
Materials related to Brinkley and/or border radio
Copies of photographs of Brinkley in operating room and other radio station photos and info
Del Rio Chamber of Commerce documents
Copies of stock certificates
"Folk Medicine in Denton County Today: or, Can Dermatology Displace Dishrags?" by Paul W. Schedler, M.D.
44. Original medical booklet by Dr. Morris Fishbein, 1958
45. Fax copy of Brinkley's Army discharge papers, available from Archives at Camp Mabry, Austin, TX
46. Don and Earl's "Old Camp Meeting Song Book," including associated materials and autographed photo
47. Publications:
Souvenir Album of the Artists and Others at Radio Station KFKB Together with Photographs of the Hospital Staff and Appended Radio Log. Milford, Kan.: The KFKB Broadcasting Association, 1930
The Naked Truth, published by Norman Baker, containing the general philosophy of Norman Baker, 1930
Monitoring Times, containing border radio article by D. M. Roth, and information on Wolfman Jack and other major characters in the border radio scene
Proceedings of the Radio Club of America, containing paper by D. M. Roth about the XERF transmitter, Spring 2000
3So87 "Gravure Picture Section," of Kansas City Journal-Post, features Dr. Brinkley's family, business, and radio station shots with additional photos of old Milford, KS, April 27, 1930
2L310 48. Technical folder XER - XERF:
Misc. technical papers on XER/XERA and XERF
Photos annotated by J. O. Weldon and Nockey Willett
Schematic diagram of 500,000-watt amplifier
49. Photographs, data, and schematic diagram of 500,000 watt transmitter of XERA:
1. Eight slides (mounted) of XER/XERA
2. Dr. Brinkley's business card original document
3. Photo of house in San Antonio, TX, where Dr. Brinkley died, taken by Dr. Charles Hulse
4. Dr. Brinkley's Medicine bottle label, provided by border radio researcher Dr. David Moore of Houston
5. Photos of old KFKB transmitter and studio site in Milford, KS, and of Brinkley material (with permission) from the KHS, provided by Dr. David Moore
6. Photos and negatives of XERF taken and provided by Noyes W. Willett
7. Brinkley related photographs from the KHS
8. Photos by Noyes Willett of XERA
9. Photos of the 250,000-watt XERF transmitter taken and provided by Noyes Willett
10. Copy of "Characteristics and Operating Data 320A Vacuum Tube," one of eight tubes used in the 500,000-watt Doherty amplifier at XERA
11. Copy of a photo of the first two-element antenna at XER
12. Copy of the schematic diagram for the 500,000-watt amplifier at XERA, provided by Jim Weldon
13. Photo of the gold cup won by station KFKB as the "Worlds Most Popular Radio Station," given by Radio Digest in 1930 and residing at the KHS
50. Photos used for the paper on XER by D. M. Roth, published in the Proceedings of the Radio Club of America
51. Copies of XER/XERA photos from Warren Studio in Del Rio, TX
52. Photos of XER/XERA, provided by Jim Weldon, containing only known photo of the eight Western Electric 230A vacuum tubes in the 500,000-watt amplifier
53. Mexican (Spanish-language) documents with English translations
54. Assorted publications
Proceedings of The Radio Club of America, containing an article titled "From the Birth to the Demise of Super-Power Station XERA," by Durell M. Roth, Spring 1996
Newspaper article about border radio
Photocopy about the XERF super-power Ampliphase transmitter written by D. M. Roth
55. Multiple copies of schematic diagram of 500,000-watt amplifier at XERA
3W108 Audiocassettes:
1A. LA border radio material: W. L. O'Daniel, singing "Beautiful Texas"
1B. Assorted Dr. Brinkley recording
2A. Mrs. Brinkley
2B. Pickard Family
3A. Dr. Brinkley
3B. Dr. Brinkley
4A. Light crust dough boys
4B. unknown
5A. Laredo Jamboree from XENT
5B. unknown
6A. Brinkley discusses female problems
6B. unknown
7A. Radio program "Sunday Live," where D. M. Roth and Bill Bragg discuss border radio, April 13, 1997
7B. unknown
8A. J. R. Brinkley lecture, "La Prostate," 1936
8B. blank
9A. LA border stuff: music, W. L. O'Daniel
9B. LA border stuff: Carr Collins, W. L. O'Daniel, music
10A. Mike Venditi talks about his time at XERF in a recorded telephone interview, April 1, 1997
10B. blank
11A. "Border Blasters," aired on National Public Radio, July 22, 1994
11B. Arturo C. Gonzalez, July 22, 1994
12A. Dr. Brinkley, obtained from University of Memphis, 1939-1940
12B. unknown
13A. Dr. Brinkley on XERA, obtained from University of Memphis, 1940-1941
13B. unknown
14A. Dr. Brinkley on XERA, obtained from University of Memphis, 1939-1940
14B. unknown
15A. NPR Show on border blasters
15B. possibly second half of show
16A. Jim Weldon on Dr. Brinkley and XERA, September 9, 1989
16B. unknown
17A. Dr. J. R. Brinkley on XERA from University of Memphis Archive #1100, 1939
17B. unknown
18A. Teodoro Renteria interview, recorded on C60 cassette, October 13, 1997
[This tape is an English translation of a Spanish document. See folder "Mexican Doc’s" for original Spanish text.]
18B. unknown
Brinkley Transcriptions: Eight C-60 audio cassette dubs of Dr. Brinkley’s radio broadcasts taken from 16-inch discs housed at the Whitehead Museum, Del Rio, TX, [ca. 1938-1941]
2L310 56. Brinkley Transcriptions: Accession list with detailed program information of eight C-60 audio cassette dubs of Dr. Brinkley’s radio broadcasts taken from 16-inch discs housed at the Whitehead Museum, Del Rio, TX, [ca. 1938-1941]
57. Border Radio Sampler: Accession list of air checks from various border stations recorded at Radio House by Nockey Willett on 16-inch transcription discs.
[These listed air checks are within the collection on dubbed reel-to-reel tapes and CDs.]
58. Ortiz Garza, José Luis. Una Radio Entre dos Reinos. Buenos Aires et al.: Vergara, 1997. Includes inscription in book, letter from the author to Durell Roth, and English summary of several chapters by J. Deroy Howard, 2009.
3W108 Three 7-inch reel-to-reel tapes containing air checks of numerous border stations copied from 16-inch electrical transcriptions that were recorded at Radio House by Nockey Willett.
Compact discs copied from three 7-inch reel-to-reels copied from 16-inch electrical transcriptions that were recorded at Radio House by Nockey Willett:
CD-1 contains all of reel #1 and beginning of reel #2
CD-2 contains the continuation of reel #2
CD-3 contains the conclusion of reel #2 and beginning of reel #3
CD-4 contains the conclusion of reel #3
"Mexican Radio" CD: Misc. border station air checks and copy of the rare commercial for LRO Tablets. This CD was recorded and provided by Nockey Willett.
Videocassettes and film strip negatives of XER and possible XERA:
1. Television program titled "Eyes of Texas", recorded by KPRC TV in Houston and containing the Brinkley story, footage of XERF studio and transmitter, San Felipe Springs in Del Rio, and some footage of Villa Acuña
2. PBS documentary on Brinkley, includes "Making a World’s Record"" the 1936 Brinkley Vacation
3. Trip to Kansas, including visit to Kansas Historical Society’s Brinkley collection, interview with several people at store in old Milford, a tour of KFKB transmitter site and old Milford, interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Brighton in old Milford, and "Making a World’s Record" 1936 Brinkley vacation, April 19, 1990
4. Speech by Doctor in 1938, obtained from KHS
5. Interview with Beryl Brinkley Palmer, July 27, 1995
6. Interview with Angela Brinkley Womack in Del Rio, and tour of old Del Rio firehouse, October 18, 1998
7. Interview by D. M. Roth with Drs. Leon Kopecky, Harry Spence, Charles Hulse, and Paul Gorsuch at the NIX Memorial Hospital, May 18, 1993
8. Interview with Jim Weldon, February 1993
9. Video tour of Dr. Brinkley’s home, "The Mansion," in Del Rio, including all rooms in the house, Doctor’s three-story pipe organ, the grounds, and fountains
10. Video tour of a portion of Del Rio and the Roswell Hotel in which Dr. Brinkley had his hospital and lab; extensive interviews with Del Rio attorney, Arturo Gonzales, and XERF announcer Paul Kallinger; and Kallinger does one of his long XERF station ID’s
11. Copy of interview with Angela Brinkley Womack, recorded in Del Rio, TX, by D. M. Roth, October 18, 1998
[part of #6 above]
2.116/top of cabinets Schematic diagrams of XERF 250,000-watt RCA transmitter:
Full-size photocopy (3 ft. x 10 ft.)
Two reduced-size photocopies (12 in. x 36 in.)