This is the third-part about early radio and television of what now is going to be a four-part series focusing on how we came to the place where we are today related to the origins and development of a new culture and a new narrative about our history.
I have already looked into the role of dime westerns, old west shows, and western movies in shaping the new narrative in the first part of the series; and in the second part I looked at the role of candy, dime museums, circuses, the early movie industry, and daredevils.
In the fourth part, and probably last part, of the series, I will be looking into the rise of computers and video games.
Before I go into the main feature of Early Radio and Television, I want to pass along a piece of information concerning an individual in our historical narrative about which I had no knowledge of.
I received a comment about Father Eusebio Kino, who has been referred to as Arizona’s first rancher.
We are told that Father Kino was a Jesuit, missionary, geographer, explorer, cartographer, and astronomer, who was born in northern Italy, and spent the last 24-years of his life in modern-day Sonora in Mexico and southern Arizona in the United States…
…in what was then part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain known as the Pimeria Alta, or “Upper Pima Land.”
From the moment he arrived in Pimeria Alta, he started to lead expeditions across northern Mexico, California and Arizona, following ancient trade routes, establishing missions and making maps of the region along the way.
We are told that Father Kino was important to the economic growth of the area, teaching the natives of the area to farm and raise cattle, sheep, and goats, and this his initial mission herd of 20 imported cattle grew to 70,000.
The Kino Heritage Society in Tucson is currently working on the process of getting him canonized as a saint.
Tributes to Father Kino include, besides various towns, streets, schools, monuments and geographic features being named after him:
A statue in the U. S. Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall Collection…
…the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza across from the Arizona State Capital building in Phoenix…
…which has a time capsule in the base placed there in 1967, and to be opened in the year 2235…
…and in 1963, Father Kino was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Also, interesting to note I know of at least one language, German, where the word “kino” means “movie theater.”
Now on to the main features of this post – early radio and television as “Shapers of the New Narrative.”
James Clerk Maxwell was the Scottish mathematician and scientist credited with the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, and in 1865 published a book called “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” in which he demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light, and his work predicted the existence of radio waves.
Maxwell was regarded as a founder of the modern field of electrical engineering.
Radio as we know it started to come into being in the late 1880s to 1920, during which time the technology of transmitting sound was developed (or recovered depending upon how you look at it).
The world’s first long-distance radio signal was sent by Gugliemo Marconi from Alum Bay near The Needles on the Isle of Wight in the year 1897.
Alum Bay sand includes extremely pure white silica, an important component for enhancing radio frequency transmission.
Marconi gets the credit for the creation of the first radio wave-based wireless telegraph system that was practical, which led him to being credited as the inventor of radio, and Marconi shared a Nobel prize in Physics in 1909 with Karl Ferdinand Braun for their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.
Karl Ferdinand Braun was a German electrical engineer and physicist who contributed significantly to the development of radio and television technology, including the first Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), also in 1897 like Marconi’s first long-distance radio signal.
The Cathode Ray Tube was fundamental in developing the first fully-electronic television, of which the first demonstration of a television that employed a Cathode Ray Tube display was in 1926 in Japan at the Hamamatsu High School by Kenjiro Takayanagi.
Kenjiro Takayanagi, a Japanese electrical engineer, is referred to as the “Father of Television” for developing the world’s first all-electronic television receiver, though his research on creating a production model was halted by the United States after Japan’s loss in World War II.
He went on to play a role in the development of television at the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation and at JVC, or the Victor Company of Japan, and was involved in the development of color television and video tape recorders.
The early days of radio technology included communication by wireless telegraph, in which an operator tapped on a switch which caused the radio transmitter to produce a series of pulses of radio waves which spelled out messages in Morse Code.
Samuel F. B. Morse was an American painter and inventor of the 19th-century…
…who contributed to the development of the telegraphic code which bears his name.
The precedent before the radio for broadcasts of live drama, comedy, music and news were called “Theatrophones” which were commercially introduced in Paris in 1890 and available through the early 1930’s.
It was developed as a subscriber service in Europe that allowed people to listen to such things as opera and theater performances over the telephone lines.
Between 1900 and 1920, the first technology for transmitting sound by radio that was developed, Amplitude Modulation (AM), was used for radio broadcasts.
Crystal radios were the first widely-used type of radio receiver, and the main type used during the wireless telegraphy era.
Not needing external power, crystal radios use the power of the radio signal to produce sound using a component called a “crystal detector,” made from a piece of crystalline mineral like galena, and could be made with a few inexpensive parts.
Said to have been sold and homemade in the millions, the crystal radio was a major driving force in the introduction of radio to the public and contributed to the development of radio as an entertainment medium with the beginning of radio broadcasting in 1920.
Mass radio communication came into fashion after the sinking of the Titanic on April 15th of 1912, inspired by the work of amateur, also known as “ham,” radio operators, which used radio for the non-commercial exchange of messages, including emergency communications.
Then World War I brought big developments in radio, which took place between July 28th of 1914 and November 11th of 1918, as it was critical for wartime communications.
Developments like the introduction of the transceiver…
…and vacuum tube technology.
On August 31st of 1920, the first radio news program was broadcast on local election results in Detroit on the station 8MK, which came to be known as WWJ.
It was owned and operated by the Detroit News, the first newspaper to have a radio station.
In the same year of 1920, on November 2nd, the first commercial radio station, KDKA, was established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in time to broadcast the results of the 1920 Warren G. Harding-James M. Cox Presidential election race before they could read it in the newspaper.
The “Golden Age of Radio” was the time period when radio, the first electronic mass media technology, was dominant in home entertainment, beginning with the birth of commercial radio broadcasting in the early 1920s, and lasting through the 1950s, when television replaced radio as the preferred choice for scripted programming, variety, and dramatic shows.
The ability for multiple radio stations to simultaneously broadcast the same content came about with the development of radio networks, and by early 1922, AT & T announced plans for the development of the first radio network using its telephone lines to transmit content, and for the development of advertisement-supported broadcasting on the radio stations it owned, with WEAF becoming the first commercially-licensed radio station in New York City on March 2nd of 1922.
WEAF began selling time for “Toll Broadcasting,” which allowed anyone to use a licensed AT & T radio station to broadcast any message of their choosing for a fee based on time-of-day and duration, and the idea of selling blocks of times to advertisers to fund broadcasts came from here.
In 1926, AT & T decided to leave the broadcasting field, we are told, and sold its entire network organization to a group headed by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which in turn used the assets to form the National Broadcasting Company, and WEAF eventually became WNBC in 1946, which was on the air until October of 1988.
Long story short, RCA was founded as a patent trust in 1919 as a reorganization of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, and was owned in partnership by General Electric; Westinghouse; AT & T; and the United Fruit Company.
RCA became an independent company after the partners were required to divest their ownership as part of a government antitrust suit, and became the dominant electronics and communications firm in the United States for over 50-years.
The Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was formed as an oversight body after the U. S. Congress passed the Radio Act of 1927, which increased the government’s regulatory powers over radio communication, and functioned as such…
…until it was replaced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1934.
The capacity of radio to get information to people created the new formats like radio news; headlines; remote reporting; sidewalk interviews; panel discussions; and weather and farm reports.
News programs included things like the radio station KFUL in Galveston, Texas, doing a special broadcast in August of 1929 about the world flight of the German Airship Graf Zeppelin, said to have been the only airship to fly around the world, and which was funded by the multimillionaire newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, who known in history for yellow journalism, sensationalism, and emotional human-interest stories.
A local concert orchestra would play “appropriate” music, and an announcer would give details about each of the countries being traversed.
The Vox Pop radio program, also called “Sidewalk Interviews” and “Voice of the People,” broadcast “man in the street” interviews, quizzes, and human interest features from the early 1930s to the late 1940s…
…and was turned into a board game by Milton Bradley in 1938.
A major advertising sponsor of the Vox Pop radio program was Bromo-Seltzer, an early brand of antacid that was used to relieve the pain of heartburn, upset stomach, indigestion, and had a sedative effect that helped relieve hangovers.
The product took its name from a component of the original formula called sodium bromide.
Bromides are a class of tranquilizers that were withdrawn from the U. S. market in 1975 because of their toxicity.
Most early radio sponsorships involved the selling of the naming rights to the program.
More examples of this advertising practice included:
The “A & P Gypsies,” a musical series on radio featuring gypsy folk music that began in 1924…
…the “Champion Spark Plug Hour” music program, broadcast on New York’s WJZ and WGY during the late 1920s and early 1930s…
…and the “Cliquot Club Eskimos,” a popular musical variety show that started in 1923, which featured a banjo orchestra directed by Harry Reser.
“Cliquot Club” was a popular ginger ale that was “Canada Dry’s” main rival, until the Cliquot Club Company was bought by Cott Beverage Company in 1965 and dissolved in 1980.
Country music was popular, and in 1924, the “National Barn Dance” radio program began in Chicago on the WLS radio station and was picked up by NBC Radio in 1933.
The National Barn Dance radio program had such sponsors as “Alka-Seltzer” -remember “plop-plop-fizz-fizz-oh what a relief it is…”
…another antacid and mild pain reliever available on the market, which still exists today, and has been owned by Bayer Pharmaceuticals since 1978…
…the very same company which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $66-billion in cash.
The National Barn Dance went on-the-air in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1925, and was renamed the “Grand Ole Opry” in 1927, and NBC carried portions of the program from 1944 to 1956, and which apparently had the Prince Albert in a can cigarette and pipe tobacco as one of its early sponsors.
The Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 31-years.
Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music…”
…the Ryman Auditorium became the home of the “Grand Ole Opry” show from 1943 until March 15th of 1974.
This is a good place to mention Radio City Music Hall from this same era.
It was said to have been built in the late 1920’s and opened in 1932 as part of Rockefeller Center in New York City, with what was at the time the world’s largest auditorium…
…and is well-known for the “Rockettes,” the world-famous precision-dance company.
The theater was said to have been conceived of by John D. Rockefeller Jr as the cornerstone of the Rockefeller Complex he was building, and was built in partnership with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which planned a mass media complex called “Radio City” on the west side of Rockefeller Center.
Radio attracted top comedians from Hollywood and Vaudeville, ranging in style from burlesque acts like Abbott & Costello…
…to the understated comedy of Jack Benny…
…to the satirical southern humor of Minnie Pearl…
…to the voice characterizations of Mel Blanc, known as the “Man of a Thousand Voices,” which included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig.
Interesting to note that Mel Blanc was also a Shriner, like John Wayne and Roy Rogers, and many other famous entertainers of the day.
Other radio shows were adapted from popular comic strips, like Dick Tracy…
…Little Orphan Annie starting in 1930, based on comic strip inspired by the 1885 poem “Little Orphant Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley…
…and Popeye the Sailor.
Soap Operas also got their start in the early days of radio.
The first daytime drama-installment series, was widely regarded to be a show called “Painted Dreams,” which got its start in October of 1930 on the Chicago radio station WGN, and ran for thirteen-years, through July of 1943, and was about the relationship of Irish-American widow Mother Moynihan and her unmarried daughter.
The first nationally-broadcast daytime serial drama about three women and their families who lived in a small-town duplex was “Clara, Lu, ‘n Em,” which started on February 15th of 1932, and “Super Suds” was their first program sponsor.
As daytime serial programs were becoming popular in the 1930s, they soon became known as “soap operas” because many of them were sponsored by soap products and detergents.
That was for the moms.
For the kids, programming included a late afternoon line-up of adventural serial programs like “Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders,” about the adventures of an orphaned 12-year-old who inherited his parents’ ranch after they died…”
…and “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy,” created by General Mills to promote Wheaties, about a fictitious “everyboy” whom listeners would emulate.
Radio plays were presented on such programs as Orson Welle’s Mercury Theater, where the infamous Halloween broadcast on October 30th of 1938 of “The War of the Worlds,”an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ 1898 novel, was formatted to sound like a breaking-news broadcast about a hostile alien invasion, creating mass panic within the listening public, and cited as resulting in at least seven deaths.
Game shows also saw their beginnings in radio.
“Information Please” was one of the first, starting in 1938…
…and “Dr. I. Q.” in 1939 was one of the first major game show successes.
Radio was the most popular medium during World War II.
It helped entertain and inform the public, and encouraged citizens to join in the war effort.
The accessibility and availability of radio meant it fueled propaganda and could reach large numbers of people.
The World War II radio show You Can’t Do Business with Hitler with John Flynn and Virginia Moore was a series of programs that was broadcast at least once/week by more than 790 radio stations in the United States.
It was written and produced by the radio section of the Office of War Information (OWI).
Edward R. Murrow first gained prominence as a news reporter covering the nightly bombing raids of London on the radio.
By 1947, according to a C. E. Hooper Survey, which measured radio ratings during the “Golden Age of Radio,” 82-out-of-100 families were found to be radio listeners.
Television gradually superseded radio as the preferred choice for programming, variety, and dramatic shows in the 1950s.
The world’s first television stations started showing up in America in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The first mechanical television station was W3XK, and it was operated by the Charles Jenkins Laboratories in Wheaton, Maryland, which was granted the first commercial television license in the United States.
Its first broadcast to the general public was aired on July 2nd of 1928.
The way to view television at the time was through mechanical television sets.
Mechanical television relied on a mechanical scanning device, such as a rotating device with holes in it, to scan and generate the video signal, and a similar mechanical device at the receiver to display the picture.
It would take until 1938 before the American television sets were produced and released commercially, after which time they were an instant hit.
The first television commercial was broadcast before a baseball game in New York on July 1st of 1941 on NBC for a Bulova watch, and lasted ten-seconds.
A “watch?” Like to “watch” TV?
Color television systems first began to be seriously considered after World War II, as Black & White television was considered old and it was time to do something new, even though the concepts for color television had received attention in 1904 and 1925.
The industry giants CBS and RCA engaged in a color television war at this time to be the first to market a successful color television.
In 1951, CBS came out with its version of a color television first.
It was a mechanical television, and not compatible with Black & White television sets already in use across the country.
Regardless, the FCC at first declared the CBS model to be the national standard for color television.
RCA continued to develop their own color television system that would be compatible with already existing RCA Black & White television sets.
The FCC acknowledged the RCA system was better than the CBS system in 1953, and starting at the beginning of 1954, color RCA systems were sold across America, though few people owned color television sets between 1954 and 1965.
Starting in the 1950s, television turned into the major form of communication that it still is today.
Notable dates in the history of modern television include:
The sit-com “I Love Lucy Show” was born in 1951, and became the number one show in America for four of its six seasons.
It was sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes.
Bob Hope took his comedy from radio to television when “The Bob Hope Show,” sponsored by the Timex “watch” company this time, and it debuted in October of 1952.
By the end of 1952, there were an estimated 20-million television sets in American homes, an increase of 33% from the previous year.
NBC television launched “The Tonight Show” in 1954, with comedian Steve Allen.
In 1958, 525 cable television systems across the United States served almost a half-a-million customers, and in 1964, the FCC regulated cable television for the first time.
Four debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were broadcast in 1960, and forever changed the way presidents would campaign.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 Mission walked on the moon for the first time in 1969 as millions of viewers watched live on network television.
Ted Turner launched CNN in 1980, a channel devoted to showcasing the news 24-hours/day.
Digital satellite dishes hit the market in 1996…
…and the first DVD was introduced in 2000.
Flat screen and HD Televisions were introduced in 2005, and became affordable for the general public in 2006 to have bigger television screens displaying clearer and crisper pictures.
You get the idea. Bigger and more of is better for the buyer. Right?
But the Latin phrase “Caveat Emptor,” or in English “Let the Buyer Beware,” is well-known to us in our culture.
That being said, how big of a stretch is it to believe that the all the technology needed for radio and television was fast-tracked in order to program Humanity into, among other things, accepting a virtual reality existence as a normal life through these very powerful “programming” mechanisms from the very beginning?
The reason why is now becoming clear and is literally at our doorstep, ringing the door-bell, and waiting to be let in the house.
Choose what you want your future to be wisely.
Do you want your future to be a virtual reality world like Facebook-turned-Metaverse that has been planned for us by beings that do not have our best interests at heart, and which we have been programmed to accept for a very long time…
…or do you want to live a full-life as a true human being with a full range of emotions, experiences, blessings and gifts, and to grow as the powerful spiritual being that you are as the master of your fate and the captain of your soul?