In October of 1935, a small group of radio parts representatives gathered in New York City to share experiences and exchange ideas and knowledge about the still-developing industry. This momentous meeting led to what has become today’s Electronics Representatives Association. The representatives, who held that first meeting in the office of D.R. “Danny” Bittan, decided to call their organization “The Peddlers.” By the following month, more than 32 representatives gathered at the Hotel Edison in New York to elect the association’s first officers: President Jack Price, Vice President Earl Dietrich and Secretary/Treasurer Dave Sonkin. At this time, the name “The Peddler’s was deemed rather unsophisticated for a group of professional salesmen, and a new name, “The Representatives of Radio Parts Manufacturers’ ” was adopted.
By 1936, membership had grown to 78, and plans were initiated to establish “chapters” or”sections” in leading cities throughout the country. During these early days, the association established its bylaws and initial objective — “To create a spirit of mutual respect, esteem and cooperation among its members and the radio and allied industries” — paving the way for the future.
Unlike many similar organizations, ERA endured throughout the years of World War II, thanks to the guidance and perseverance of its leaders, namely then-president Sam MacDonald. During the latter half of the 1940s, the office operation of the association was moved from New York to Chicago. At this time, the first staff members were hired to help the Industry Relations Committee publish directories and send mailings to industry members. And in 1948, the first Representor newsletter was published as a service to both the membership and the radio-parts industry.
The 1950s was a critical period in ERA’s development. In 1953, membership in ERA changed from an individual basis to a company basis, and in 1954, the association adopted its first official Code of Ethics. During this time, ERA officially became a professional trade association, rather than a semi-social group. Also during this decade, the first, full-time executive director was hired to manage the affairs of the national operation. In 1958, the association changed its name to the Electronics Representatives Association.
As ERA has continued to grow with progressive programs, so has its role as a functional group in the electronics industry. Many of ERA’s most successful programs serve to bring the rep to a closer working relationship with manufacturers and distributors. These programs include the expansion of the Lines Available service, the restructuring of the ERA Insurance Trust, the development of educational and industry seminar programs, the restructuring of the national offices to include product group vice presidents, and increased involvement in the participation of ERA on trade show boards.
Today, more than 80 years after that first meeting in New York City, the association has seen revolutionary developments in the electronics industry, many of which ERA itself was instrumental in bringing about. The Electronics Representatives Association has undergone countless changes in its history, but it has retained the original spirit and objectives of its founding.