WEW Radio: We Enlighten the World

Saint Louis University and the Early Days of Radio

Radio Station WEW, the original radio station of Saint Louis University, played an important role in the history of early radio. In 1921 it became only the second radio station in the U.S. and the first station west of the Mississippi River. In 1939 it became the first station to broadcast Sacred Heart Radio, a Catholic religious program which eventually grew to include over a thousand stations around the world. Finally, in 1947 WEW became the first FM radio station in St. Louis.

WEW was founded by Saint Louis University meteorologist Brother George Rueppel, S.J. (1864-1947). Born in Rothenback, Bavaria, Rueppel left Germany in the late 1870s to escape Bismarck’s persecution of Catholics during the Kulturkampf. He moved to New York and then later took a job in the library at Canisius College in Buffalo, where he joined the Society of Jesus in 1882. Rueppel became a coadjutor brother in the Jesuits and worked at several Jesuit colleges as a teacher and librarian before coming to Saint Louis University in 1908. 

A meteorologist by training, Brother Rueppel began experimenting with radio around 1912 as a way to share data with other researchers and with the U.S. Weather Bureau. His experiments with “radio-telephone” station 9KY eventually grew into WEW, which Rueppel claimed stood for “We Enlighten the World.” He remained the station’s technical director for over 25 years, from its beginnings in 1921 until shortly before his death in 1947, only one day before WEW made its first FM broadcast.

View the WEW Radio Exhibit.

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