Sparton Nocturne

A Machine Age Icon

Walter Dorwin Teague’s Sparton Nocturne radio, model 1186, was unveiled at the New York Radio Exposition in September of 1935. Billed as “The Style Sensation of the Radio World” by the firm’s advertising campaign, the Sparton radio encapsulated in its design the ground-breaking architectural innovations in glass and steel of the modern skyscraper. Standing over four feet in height, the construction portrays the vibrant energy and speed of the era.

A Sparton advertisement published in 1935.

The large midnight blue Tufflex mirrored glass radio was the most daring of four designs Teague created for Sparton in 1935 for their 1936 catalogs. Embracing industrial materials, Teague’s Nocturne radio elegantly transforms a utilitarian object into a work of art. The form evokes the dynamic spirit of 1930s urban architecture through its curves, contrasted by rectilinear contours and chrome-plated surfaces that suggest the stacked construction of the modern skyscraper. Marketed to high-end clientele and intended for stylish interiors, hotels, theaters or other similar venues, the deluxe Nocturne cost $350-$375 or nearly the cost of an automobile during the Depression. Few works of American Modern design have embodied the visual sensibility of the machine aesthetic like the Sparton radio.

Sparton brochure distributed in 1935.

It is unknown how many examples of the Nocturne radio were produced. As a result of the original high price and the fragility of the materials, few are known to exist today. Other examples can be found in a small number of private collections and in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Wolfsonian—FIU in Miami Beach, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Philbrook Museum of Arts in Tulsa.

The present lot was acquired in the 1940s and has remained in the same collection since. This Sparton Nocturne radio is a true untouched example retaining its original condition and played with great regularity.

We are not building big and little gadgets— we are building an environment.

—Walter Dorwin Teague