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date: 20 June 2018

American Radio and Technological Transformation from Invention to Broadcasting, 1900–1945

Summary and Keywords

Radio debuted as a wireless alternative to telegraphy in the late 19th century. At its inception, wireless technology could only transmit signals and was incapable of broadcasting actual voices. During the 1920s, however, it transformed into a medium primarily identified as one used for entertainment and informational broadcasting. The commercialization of American broadcasting, which included the establishment of national networks and reliance on advertising to generate revenue, became the so-called American system of broadcasting. This transformation demonstrates how technology is shaped by the dynamic forces of the society in which it is embedded. Broadcasting’s aural attributes also engaged listeners in a way that distinguished it from other forms of mass media. Cognitive processes triggered by the disembodied voices and sounds emanating from radio’s loudspeakers illustrate how listeners, grounded in particular social, cultural, economic, and political contexts, made sense of and understood the content with which they were engaged. Through the 1940s, difficulties in expanding the international radio presence of the United States further highlight the significance of surrounding contexts in shaping the technology and in promoting (or discouraging) listener engagement with programing content.

Keywords: radiotelegraphy, broadcasting, radio, commercialization, shortwave, propaganda, national identity, news

Invention and Transformation of Radiotelegraphy to Broadcasting

The late 19th century inventors of radio did not envision a mass medium for entertainment broadcasting. Inspired by telegraphy, they intended to create a wireless version of what had been, up to that point, a wired communications medium for sending telegraph messages between specific locations. During the latter part of the 19th century, experimentation with electricity and power generation sparked the realization that unseen electromagnetic signals might travel across space just as light waves did. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell first theorized about this possibility in 1873. Over the next quarter century, a succession of other physicists, including Heinrich Hertz of Germany, Edouard Branley of France, and Oliver Lodge of Britain, applied and furthered Maxwell’s theories to invent the devices that enabled the transmission, detection, and reception of radio signals.1

Italian experimenter Guglielmo Marconi (Figure 1) was one of the first and perhaps most prominent figure in early radio who also had the vision to create a successful business from these discoveries. Though he loved science and was particularly obsessed with electricity, Marconi lacked formal training. Related on his mother’s side to the Jameson family of whisky fame, his wealthy parents hired private tutors, which allowed Marconi to indulge his interests in electricity and radio during his youth. In the mid-1890s Marconi, who turned twenty in 1894, directed his attention toward creating a viable wireless communications system based on the body of knowledge built by the likes of Maxwell, Hertz, Branley, and Lodge. In 1897, after leveraging his prominent family’s connections and receiving a British patent for his wireless system, he founded the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Company. By 1899, he became an American sensation when the New York Herald hired his company to cover the America’s Cup yacht race by wireless telegraph. With his name and image splashed across the pages of newspapers and magazines across the country, the name Marconi became nearly synonymous with wireless technology.2

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Figure 1. Guglielmo Marconi, c. 1908. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-39702.

The publicity Marconi secured after his dramatic appearance on the American scene has frequently obscured the contributions of many others who furthered the development of radio. Individuals such as Cyril Elwell, John Stone, Lee DeForest, and Reginald Fessenden often worked in the employ of corporations such as General Electric, Westinghouse, and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company; they pursued innovations in reception and transmission that not only made wireless telegraphy more reliable, but also ultimately provided the foundation for what became broadcasting.3

Fessenden’s efforts proved especially significant. Like Marconi, he had little formal education but was passionate about electricity and radio. By the turn of the century, he built a resume that included employment under Thomas Edison, university appointments, and the founding of his own electrical manufacturing company. It was in the early 20th century that Fessenden, then working with General Electric, invented a “continuous wave” transmitter. This type of transmitter confined a radio transmission to a single frequency; it was an improvement over the older transmission technologies that blasted the entire frequency spectrum with one signal. By confining a transmission to a single frequency, the continuous wave transmitter allowed the simultaneous broadcast and reception of many transmissions over the spectrum. Continuous wave transmission also proved to be the key to transmitting voices. The prospect of wireless telephony motivated Fessenden’s pursuit of a continuous wave transmitter and ultimately established the foundation for broadcasting.4

Still, the US subsidiary of the Marconi Company and its competitors, including American Telephone and Telegraph, Western Union, and General Electric, maintained their focus on radio as an alternative to wired telegraphy and telephony. By the mid-1910s, however, patent disputes and lawsuits among the major American corporate actors, including American Marconi, had stifled radio’s further development. The U.S. Navy intervened. Its interest was in creating an American-controlled global wireless communications network as an alternative to the wired one dominated by Britain. Achievement of that objective would remedy a vulnerability realized during World War I. However, the Navy’s preferred model of government ownership of radio was not politically feasible. Instead, the Navy helped negotiate the 1919 agreement that pooled the key patents and placed them under the control of a single corporate entity, the Radio Corporation of America. In exchange, each contributing corporate actor received an ownership stake in the new company. The Navy, in turn, claimed a seat on the new company’s board as a means of ensuring that the creation of this new American company would be mindful of American national interests.5

By 1919, however, wireless telegraphy was receding as the primary focus of radio’s development. By this point, Lee de Forest’s early 20th century invention of the audion vacuum tube (Figure 2), a continuous wave transmission technology subsequently acquired by AT&T for its potential in radiotelephony, was the most efficient and effective at transmitting voices (Figure 3). Since the 1912 passage of the first radio-specific legislation in the United States, amateur radio operators (Figure 4) had been experimenting with early forms of entertainment broadcasting. The law, inspired greatly by the disastrous sinking of the Titanic and a desire to impose order on the frequency spectrum to facilitate emergency rescue operations, also provided amateurs with a legitimate and legally recognized place on the frequency spectrum.6 From that point, their numbers grew exponentially. In 1913, there were only 322 licensed amateurs. By 1916, the number of licensed amateur operators (also known as “hams”) in the United States exceeded 10,000, and a year later had risen to almost 14,000, while the number of unlicensed operators was estimated at 150,000. During this decade, the hams dominated the airwaves with their voice and music broadcasts. This growth was aided by the discovery of crystals, such as silicon, which proved to be effective and inexpensive detectors of radio waves. Consequently, the number of listeners grew too, because radio receivers were simple to build with parts inexpensively purchased at the local “five and dime” store.7

American Radio and Technological Transformation from Invention to Broadcasting, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 2. Lee De Forest. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-35781.

American Radio and Technological Transformation from Invention to Broadcasting, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 3. De Forest Audion Radio Reciever, 1915. Courtesy of the Proceedings of the IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers, New York). Creative Commons License, Public Domain.

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Figure 4. Ham Operator with His Amateur Radio Equipment (c. 1921). Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-41936.

During the 1920s, broadcasting surpassed wireless telegraphy and telephony as the most popular and profitable part of the medium. Thus, the “big” personalities of radio’s history, such as Marconi, and the wealthy corporations such as AT&T, GE, and RCA were only one part of broadcasting’s rise to prominence. As the hams demonstrated, users themselves shaped networks and pushed them in unexpected directions to serve their own purposes and objectives. The result was a radio technology that deviated from the original visions embraced by inventors, governmental leaders, and the large companies that often dominated the narrative.8

Entertainment and the Commercialization of the “American System” of Broadcasting

By the early 1920s, American radio reached a turning point. Broadcasting was positioned to define radio’s future. But who would control it? Who would pay for it? A variety of constituencies, including organized labor, civic groups, religious organizations, and educational interests, jockeyed for position on the frequency spectrum. Many of these groups argued that broadcasting should be a refuge from, not an adjunct to, consumerism. Many colleges and universities established their own stations emphasizing educational broadcasting to their communities, in the process helping lay the foundation for present-day public radio. Low powered local stations proliferated in urban areas that were designed to entertain specifically local audiences. Radio audiences also included immigrant communities, which listened to entertainment broadcast in the language of their distant homelands (Figure 5). Organized labor established other stations, such as WEVD in New York and WCFL in Chicago, to speak to those interests.9

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Figure 5. Family Group Listening to Radio, 1921–1929. Courtesy Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection, LC-DIG-hec-45134.

In the 1920s, a corporate controlled system of network broadcasting with a national reach, supported by selling advertising, gained traction over low-powered local broadcasting. The 1912 Radio Act gave the Commerce Department oversight over radio, but that legislation had not anticipated voice broadcasting and therefore did not offer any specific guidance or mechanisms for regulating it. It fell to Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover (Figure 6) to find the way forward. Hoover’s seven-year tenure in that office, spanning 1921 to 1928, coincided with broadcasting’s rapid rise. Faced with the unexpected challenge of voice broadcasting, he sought to balance concerns that government licensing could limit free speech and lead to official censorship against his concurrent determination to protect the public from harm at the hands of disreputable broadcasters, such as anarchists, Bolsheviks, or even quack doctors seeking to take advantage of the medium’s ubiquity. To find this balance, Hoover forged a cooperative relationship and demonstrated preferences toward major radio corporations. Those calculations reflected his larger corporatist political philosophy of associational progressivism. This ideology, shared by his fellow Republicans, presumed that big business would pursue economically beneficial strategies that also furthered the public interest when properly advised and encouraged by supportive policymakers. As an engineer, Hoover embraced with equal strength the notion that technology and societal progress were intertwined. In radio, Hoover confronted a medium that intersected with his combined confidences in big business and technology. With multiple interests jockeying for position on the limited number of available frequencies, the favor that Hoover bestowed upon radio’s large corporate actors over competitors in frequency assignments and permissible broadcasting times loomed large as broadcasting moved beyond its origins in ad-hoc amateur activities and low-powered local broadcasting toward a government-sanctioned national approach to broadcasting that favored big business.10

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Figure 6. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, Washington, 1928. Courtesy Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection, LC-DIG-hec-34871.

RCA, for its part, recognized the rising national popularity of broadcasting and, in 1926, founded the National Broadcasting Company as its subsidiary. A year later, the Columbia Broadcasting System followed NBC into network broadcasting. The networks cooperated with local affiliates to broadcast programs to a national audience. A favorable regulatory environment, influential political connections, and robust finances bolstered the networks’ position. They purchased high-end equipment and successfully lobbied for a regulatory system that favored national commercial broadcasters and advertisers when it came to frequency allocation and transmission power. Powerful, corporate owned, and expensive “clear channel” stations broadcasting at 50 kilowatts, many of which were affiliated with the networks, also covered large areas with their far-reaching signals and nationally exclusive frequency assignments.11

NBC tried to remain mindful of the different constituencies that lobbied for alternative visions of broadcasting, while also embracing the public interest priorities espoused by Hoover’s Commerce Department. For this reason, at its founding the network established the NBC Advisory Council to advise the network on the development and promotion of public interest programs. Programs that targeted children, agriculture, religion, and politics all fell under this public interest designation. The Council, staffed with prestigious members not employed by or beholden to NBC, offered advice and guidelines to help such programs steer clear of controversy. The Council thereby provided a supposedly neutral forum where protests over allegedly improper or inappropriate content might be lodged and decisions about the appropriateness of that content rendered. This structure helped insulate NBC from accusations of censorship. This approach to public interest programming ultimately influenced the strategies adopted by other broadcasters seeking to present themselves as mindful of the public interest as understood by the Department of Commerce.12

The Radio Act of 1927 and the Federal Communications Act of 1934 institutionalized preferences given to commercial radio and the national network broadcasters that originated with Hoover’s Commerce Department. Those two laws, which respectively created the Federal Radio Commission and its successor the Federal Communications Commission, enshrined the expectation that broadcasters serve the public interest. Licensing decisions privileged technical standards and programming expectations most easily achieved by the wealthier and national-minded corporate networks. The networks were best positioned to weather the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. They gained a national audience by distributing their programs to network affiliates through the very expensive method of renting telephone lines from AT&T, which ensured the highest quality transmissions. Buttressed by a favorable regulatory framework, the networks claimed the prime frequencies, offered national broadcasts of the best possible technical quality, and adopted regular and predictable schedules assuring that listeners across the nation could find their desired programs with little difficulty.13

These broadcasters framed their vision and practices of national broadcasting as the “American system.” The networks and their proponents argued that network efforts to engage a truly national American audience across the expansive country reflected a uniquely American approach to radio broadcasting. This claim of a distinctly American “radio exceptionalism” effectively obscured the significant degree to which transnational and particularly British influences shaped American broadcasting styles and practices. That nuance aside, to sell national advertising, the networks supported programs that they believed appealed to the largest possible audience of potential consumers. This responsiveness to such listener preferences, the argument went, rendered the commercial approach to broadcasting as the one most consistent with American democracy and freedom, the one best suited to facilitate democratic free expression through the multitude of voices that could fill airwaves. By contrast, the networks claimed, the visions and plans for radio promoted by educational, labor, religious, or any other narrowly defined interest groups only sought to promote and engage parochial needs and perspectives.14

This so-called American system underpinned the quickly growing popularity of radio in the United States. By 1931, only four years after the 1927 Radio Act attempted to impose order on the increasingly chaotic and poorly regulated frequency spectrum, the two major networks and their affiliates accounted for nearly 70 percent of nighttime programming. That figure reached 97 percent shortly after the passage of the 1934 act. More importantly, receiver ownership skyrocketed from less than 1 percent of households in 1922 to 40 percent in 1930. By mid decade ownership reached 67 percent of households overall and 90 percent among households earning more than $10,000 per year. In fact, radio ownership among American families actually increased at an accelerated rate during first two years of the Depression when compared to steady growth over the previous eight years before 1929. Ownership continued to increase steadily for the duration of the 1930s. By 1940, radio ownership reached more than 80 percent of all households. By that year, listeners from across the country, urban and rural alike, could enjoy advertising supported network programming available from coast to coast. During this tumultuous era, a radio became many households’ most highly valued possession. By 1940, the number of families owning radios surpassed those with electricity, plumbing, telephones, or cars.15

Counter-intuitively, this Depression-era embrace of radio reflected a deliberate effort by listeners to personalize their engagement with impersonal mass culture. The Great Depression, in fact, impressed upon many Americans’ the true extent of their vulnerability to the impersonal national and international forces of the mass consumer economy. To a certain extent, entertainment broadcasting epitomized these very processes. By the 1930s, listeners often engaged with programming produced and broadcast from a distant locale with the objective of appealing to a “typical” consumer whose interests and values cut across geographic and class lines. Listening to the radio, however, could be both personal and participatory. The popularity of the entertainment program Vox Pop, for example, grew from its intentional efforts to foster a sense of personal participation through its “man on the street” interviews, quizzes, and other listener contests. Reflecting the adaptation to radio of the time-honored practice of writing letters to maintain personal relationships, by the late 1930s Vox Pop received 1,000 letters a week. Political broadcasting, perhaps best epitomized by President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats,” created a sense of personal participation and engagement with distant and impersonal national politics; as was the case with Vox Pop, the White House invariably received an avalanche of letters following each “Fireside Chat.” Nationally popular radio comedians of the 1930s, such as Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, and Edgar Bergen, often cracked self-effacing jokes based on ethnic and gender stereotypes that resonated personally with many listeners precisely because of the national currency they enjoyed by that decade. In yet another example personalizing engagement with mass culture, when radio comedian Eddie Cantor revealed it was his 40th birthday on the air, listeners did not just send birthday greetings, but some 15,000 birthday presents too.16

National Identity, Unity, and Division

The nationwide expansiveness of broadcasting’s growth inspired many radio scholars to convincingly connect national broadcasting’s attributes to Benedict Anderson’s notion of national identity as an “imagined community.” Tracing the origins of national identities back to the early modern era, Anderson explored mass circulation newspapers, magazines, and books to illustrate how millions of readers came to understand that there was a larger nation of likeminded individuals, the vast majority of whom were unknown to any single person, but who nonetheless shared a common language and values and answered to the same national political authorities within clearly defined national boundaries. By the 1930s, national broadcasting intersected with comparable dynamics. However, it did so in a way that went beyond the cognitive and temporal limitations of print-based national media due to the knowledge that the unseen but imagined millions of presumably likeminded listeners were also tuned in to a program at precisely the same time. The simultaneity inherent in this listening experience is a part of what historian Stephen Kern has termed a “thickening” of awareness about the present. National broadcasting nurtured, in the words of radio historian Susan Douglas, “a sense of national communion .|.|. on entirely new geographic, temporal, and cognitive levels, inflating people’s desire to seek out, build on, and make more concrete the notion of the nation.”17

Radio’s potential to nurture widespread notions of a shared and common national identity is not synonymous with forging national unity, however. Reliance on advertising to support national broadcasting infused programming with its own parochial perspective. To sell advertising, the networks were bound by one overarching consideration: the need to appeal to a national audience perceived to hold the greatest aggregate purchasing power. In the 1920s and 1930s, that consideration dictated targeting a predominantly white middle class audience whom broadcasters perceived as the American mainstream. The specifics of programming varied greatly, but all shared a common denominator in their appeal to the most prominent consumer demographic. Symphonies directed by the great conductor Arturo Toscanini (Figure 7) coexisted on the air alongside the slapstick comedies of Abbot and Costello and the racial and ethnic stereotyping that infused a program like Amos “n” Andy (Figure 8) and The Goldbergs. Children’s programming goaded its youthful audience into pestering parents to purchase a sponsor’s products directly; alternatively, children were encouraged to collect the labels and box tops of products, such as Post breakfast cereals, Ovaltine, Wrigley gum, or tasty children vitamins, which could then be mailed in as “payment” for a toy, trinket, or other such rewards designed to appeal to the consumer tastes of its presumed audience of middle class children. Educationally minded science programs responded to the pressures of commercialization by increasingly emphasizing dynamic personalities that appealed to a white middle class demographic, unlike the earlier pioneering science programs that had sought to offer substantive scientific knowledge to a presumably more diversified audience.18

American Radio and Technological Transformation from Invention to Broadcasting, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 7. Toscanini, Date Unknown. Courtesy Library of Congress, Bain Collection, LC-DIG-ggbain-38917.

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Figure 8. Publicity Photo of Freeman Gosden (left) and Charles Correll Preparing to Dig into a Cake for the Celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Radio Program Amos “n” Andy on NBC (1938). Creative Commons License, Public Domain.

Rather than inspire national unity, popular programs could highlight and magnify the existing fissures within American society. Political broadcasting in particular illuminated deep partisan divisions and the airwaves provided a forum to articulate those schisms. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” personally engaged supporters (Figure 9), but also mobilized opponents with equal fervor. While Roosevelt won re-election to the second of his unprecedented four terms, conservative firebrand and Roosevelt-hater Boake Carter was by the mid-1930s was one of the most listened to radio commentators in the country. Father Charles Coughlin, the infamously political “radio priest,” first supported Roosevelt but turned on the President around mid-decade. Coughlin’s popularity subsequently spiked as his increasingly anti-Roosevelt and anti-Semitic broadcasts tapped into the latent prejudices of his audience (Figure 10).19

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Figure 9. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Delivering a Fireside Chat on U.S. Supreme Court Reform Plan, 1937. Courtesy Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection, LC-DIG-hec-47304.

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Figure 10. A Family Listening to the Radio and Reading Father Coughlin’s Newspaper “Social Justice.” Royal Oak, Michigan, 1939. Courtesy Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, LC-DIG-fsa-8d13634.

Broadcasting could also underscore and antagonize existing and long-standing racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural divides. For example, the program Amos “n” Andy was extremely popular among its predominantly white audience. That program, through its use of white actors voicing caricatures of black characters speaking in a hurtfully stereotypical dialect, reminded African American listeners of the prejudice and racism they faced in American society. The program, in the words of one such listener, conveyed a “false impression of the Negro, which is just as bad as the K.K.K.” Foreign language stations, though banished to the margins of American radio because of the licensing criteria embedded in the American system, still managed to provoke visceral nativist opposition from irate listeners who demanded that the foreign menace, even when broadcast at low power on the fringes of the airwaves, be removed in favor of English-only programming. Radio also reflected America’s gender divide, providing few employment opportunities for women beyond those in daytime programming specifically created to appeal to a white female audience fulfilling their expected obligations in the home. Many rural constituencies charged that the American system of radio unfairly favored urban interests and perspectives, a grievance that reflected the larger rural-urban tensions that long infused American political culture.20

There were alternatives, however. Many rural listeners, unhappy with the choices offered by the major stations of the American system, turned to the few remaining outlets whose musical, religious, and informational programming served their needs, interests, and sensibilities better than the national network system. Many listeners from the coveted white middle class demographic resisted and defied the corporate model by writing protest letters to broadcasters or fan magazines; they patronized local or regional stations more attuned to their programming preferences and demanded accountability from advertisers when products did not live up to their billing. Listeners fought to retain autonomy and choices within a system that otherwise seemed determine to limit them. Broadcasting became a national phenomenon, but one not solely contingent on the enthusiastic embrace of national network broadcasting. Radio historian Susan Douglas, in fact, dismisses claims that radio built national unity during the 1930s. “What radio really did (and still does today),” she argues, was to “allow listeners to experience at the same time multiple identities—national, regional, and local—some of them completely aligned with the country’s prevailing cultural and political ideologies, others of them suspicious of or at odds with official culture.”21

Hopeful Visions, Scary Realities, Technological Determinism, and American Radio

Douglas’ observation about the realities of how broadcasting engaged its audience runs counter to the original expectations placed on the medium. When broadcasting entered the public consciousness by the early 1920s, it became the focal point for a familiar American pattern of expressing exuberant enthusiasm for a new technology’s presumed world-changing potential.22 Radio was “spreading mutual understanding to all sections of the country, unifying our thoughts, ideals, and purposes, making us a strong and well-knit people,” trumpeted a 1922 article in Collier’s. A Century Magazine article echoed that sentiment two years later: radio could “do much to create a sense of national solidarity in all parts of the country, and particularly in remote settlements and on the farm.”23 Immigrants who “still cling to alien tongues will have English forced upon them, the more they listen to broadcasting; with the result that radio proves to be an important if unconscious Americanizing influence.”24 Radio would give the farmer the ability to “hear all the sports they missed when they were young” and “listen to the finest symphonies.”25 Radio, the “great leveler” according to a celebratory 1930 tome, promised to eliminate the “mutual distrust and enmity of the laborer and executive, .|.|. businessman and artist, scientist and cleric, the tenement dweller and estate owner, the hovel and the mansion.”26

That so many clung to the promise of radio-inspired unity in the face of the enduring fissures magnified by broadcasting testifies to the strength of technological determinism in American society. Deterministic views that celebrated—or in some cases, feared—technology’s ability to drive societal change had long infused American thought. This determinism conceives of technology as an autonomous agent of change unaffected by any forces within the society. Instead, a technology’s consequences, for good or bad, are presumed to have been both obvious and inevitable nearly from its inception.27 Communications technologies long attracted the attention of such deterministically infused enthusiasm. In their early histories, the pre-radio communication technologies of the telegraph and movies, as well as the subsequent technologies of television and the internet, became the focal point of utopian predictions foreseeing imminent unity. In each period, the enthusiasts foresaw a technology-driven process deploying language almost identical to that describing radio’s promise and potential.28 These unrealistic visions failed to grasp how calculations inspired by political, economic, and cultural influences all shaped the ways any technology developed and defined the parameters of how it was used, often in ways that defied expectations.

American broadcasting offered an excellent example of this verity by the time of the Second World War. By this point, pioneering academic research, particularly that occurring at the Princeton University-based Office of Radio Research (ORR), had chipped away at deterministic assumptions about the power of communications to affect change, although popular beliefs continued to lag behind. It discredited the so-called “hypodermic needle” theory that envisioned programming content being “injected” into a listener to compel some easily controlled and pre-determined change of opinion. This research instead demonstrated that listeners’ preconceived notions and existing worldviews shaped how they selectively engaged, distorted, or otherwise made sense of (or ignored) the media content they encountered.29

The iconic October 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, which occurred amidst escalating European and international political tensions, is a source of compelling evidence that discredits the deterministic hypodermic needle theory. A radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’s 1898 novel about a terrifying alien invasion, the broadcast was performed as a serious “special report” news broadcast that repeatedly interrupted the presumably regularly scheduled programming, with actor-producer Orson Welles (Figure 11) using the techniques of professional radio journalism to play the part of the lead newscaster. The program frightened an estimated one million people across the country, who in some well-documented cases fled their homes, prayed in churches, or lit up telephone switch boards with frantic calls. Far from proving the hypodermic needle theory, though, the exhaustive research that followed the broadcast, especially that done by ORR-affiliated researchers, demonstrated that only a small minority of more gullible listeners were fooled. This group included those who lacked in self-confidence, were otherwise emotionally insecure, or held particularly strong religious beliefs. These listeners were less likely to critically evaluate the information they received, such as noticing that no other station was covering the ongoing and devastating invasion. This research effectively demonstrated that audience reactions were not predetermined by the content being conveyed but reflected the ways people applied their internal filters to evaluate the information they were receiving.30

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Figure 11. Portrait of Orson Welles, 1937. Courtesy Library of Congress, Van Vechten Collection, LC-USZ62-119765.

ORR-affiliated studies and radio research from other communications scholars informed the U.S. government’s approach to radio propaganda during the wartime period. The United States entered the conflict in 1941 on the side of England and China, primarily opposing Germany and Japan in the respective European and Pacific theaters. U.S. officials cooperated with the radio industry to create programming that illuminated official concerns and policies during the war. That choice reflected the astute understanding that most Americans objected to being propagandized directly by their government. Listeners resisted engaging with such content or accepting messages that the U.S. government directly produced. Popular programs like Fibber McGee incorporated references to the importance of rationing or preparedness in response to U.S. official concerns, but did so in a subtle way that at times gently mocked official priorities in a way that meshed well with listener sensitivities. Advertisers often framed the value of their products as complementary to the general welfare of Americans, but did so with a soft touch to avoid seeming too transparently self-interested in profiting from the national crisis. Wartime programming also reflected American racist and ethic prejudices. The German people, for example, were depicted as victims of Hitler and Nazism (“Women versus Hitlerism” was the title of one program). No such distinctions applied to the Japanese enemy. The Japanese were represented as a monolithic opponent indistinguishable from each other, “a savage little beast,” in the words of one program. Such depictions were consistent with other images of enemies that flooded American media and illustrated the extent to which wartime radio was firmly embedded in, reflective of, and shaped by the society of which it was a part.31

Unscripted live news broadcasts covering the war from Europe particularly resonated with American audiences. Reporters like CBS’ Edward R. Murrow broadcast from the rooftops of London and wove richly textured stories that encouraged listeners to visualize the surrounding destruction as airplanes could be heard roaring overhead and bombs falling across the city (Figure 12). “Listeners could almost smell the fumes from the fires burning in the streets and feel the heat emanating from the smoldering ruins,” writes Gerd Horten, a historian of American wartime radio. These reports from Murrow and his colleagues at both CBS and NBC effectively encouraged Americans to sympathize with the beleaguered British. It was no accident. CBS and NBC’s London offices were in the hardest hit area of the city. Murrow and his colleagues lived through the bombing, experienced the same daily chaos and deadly risks encountered by any Londoner, and not surprisingly, identified with Londoners’ plight. At the same time, such broadcasts did not create support for England or opposition to Germany where there had been none. They reached an American audience long primed to support Britain against Germany. Well before the Battle for Britain, news reports informed Americans of German broken promises and agreements, paving the way for successive takeovers of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France. Nor was radio the only source of information for these events. Long before the bombing of London began, newspapers and the newsreels shown in movie theaters worked alongside radio to inform Americans of persistent German efforts to upend the world order in which the United States was invested.32

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Figure 12. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Amid Smoke and Flames during the Night Air Raid of December 1940. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-61239.

To the extent that radio possessed distinct qualities as source for this information, the potential power of these broadcasts can be understood without lapsing into discredited deterministic tropes. Cognitive psychology suggests that when listeners engage with a purely aural source of information, the mind and imagination work extremely hard to create visual images to accompany and contextualize the disembodied voices and sounds emanating from the speaker. That content is filtered through a web of preconceived notions, beliefs, and prejudices to produce those mental images. The very absence of visible cues, in fact, engages an audience more powerfully than visual media. The mental process of trying to visualize the context surrounding the aural information received, whether it be of bombs falling on London or the “savage little beast” that was Japan, compels the imagination to work far harder than is the case when those images are readily provided by visual media. As such, the mental images created in the “mind’s eye” leave a more lasting mark on one’s consciousness through the sheer imaginative force of their creation. Rather than prove the hypodermic needle theory, wartime radio instead provides one of the best examples of how preconceived notions and existing worldviews shaped how both listeners and producers understood, distorted, or otherwise made sense of the media content with which they engaged.33

American Radio in the International Arena

Americans applied many of the same unrealistic expectations and assumptions about radio’s presumed unifying powers to global arena. Just as many saw in domestic broadcast the promise of true national unity, the same determinist visions of radio’s unifying potential excited the imaginations of the internationally minded. It would shrink the world in the service of peace and goodwill. “More powerfully than any other single agency,” radio could foster “better understanding between peoples” and “guarantee the peace of the world,” proclaimed retired Army General and incoming RCA president James Harbord in 1922 (Figure 13). The statement came just three years after the end of World War I and reflected the hopeful rhetoric that was typically applied to radio throughout the 1920s and 1930s.34

American Radio and Technological Transformation from Invention to Broadcasting, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 13. Gen. J. G. Harbord. Courtesy Library of Congress, Bain Collection, LC-DIG-ggbain-38259.

In the eyes of many Americans looking to expand radio abroad and attain such lofty visions, the achievement of radio’s true potential depended on whether something akin to the American model of development was possible. Based on this measure, Uruguay rated highly as a potential radio market in the mid-1920s, while other analyses dismissed larger prospective markets in Brazil, Mexico, and China. These tepid analyses pointed to a presumed lack of individual purchasing power (Brazil), an ignorant population of “primitive” peons (Mexico), and anti-technology superstitions (China), among other factors. Brazil, however, ended up as the fifth-ranked market for American radio exports and second in South America behind Argentina. The rapid growth of Mexico’s broadcasting market by the early 1930s eventually provoked a U.S.-Mexican frequency war, as Mexico tried to break the U.S. stranglehold over frequencies in the Western Hemisphere to provide more room for its own burgeoning number of stations to operate. For its part, China had more than 100 radio stations by 1937, more than half of which were based in Shanghai (Figure 14). Shanghai was, in fact, the city with the most stations in the world at that time, while, in the words of one surprised observer, “a network of bamboo poles and wires on the humblest of buildings in small villages attests the extent to which radio has penetrated the country.”35 In short, the perceived prospects for an American model of radio development to take root proved a poor measure to assess a foreign market’s potential.

American Radio and Technological Transformation from Invention to Broadcasting, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 14. Shanghai Radio, 1923. Radio Broadcast, September 1923.

Broadcasting content that crossed international borders was no more effective at eliminating differences and fostering cross-cultural understanding than broadcasting was within US borders. In 1931, the Mexican newspaper La Prensa editorialized against one “exceedingly impertinent” American broadcaster in Mexico who should be resisted by “protesting patriots” for peddling the “propaganda of Yankee imperialism.”36 Despite other more deliberate efforts on the part of the US government to use shortwave broadcasts to improve the fraught US-Mexican relationship, the Mexican audience never warmed to these programs, in part because listeners found them to be insufficiently Mexican, which in turn depressed the Mexican market for shortwave receivers.37 Nor did the first shortwave station to broadcast directly to China in 1939 become “an excellent thing for American Chinese relationships,” as one official expected. American listeners used the station, KGEI, not for cultural exchange, but to listen to NBC programs, hear the accompanying commercials for familiar consumer products, and keep abreast of current events through American news broadcasts. As was the case with their Mexican counterparts, Chinese listeners entrenched in the nationalism of the era could be prone to railing against foreign programs heard on Chinese airwaves. “Your ads for Palmolive disgust me,” one such listener complained about a Chinese station that broadcast commercials for American products. “Why not peddle domestic goods?”38

At first blush, Australia appears to be a success story of exporting American content, but the reality was more nuanced. American programming eventually enjoyed remarkable popularity in the Australian market, but not initially. Australia’s production of original radio programming lagged in the 1930s. Consequently, the broadcast of original American programming through pre-recorded transcriptions imported into Australia dominated the Australian airwaves. Critics panned these shows as “deplorable,” “culturally decadent,” and “the most powerful agent of social destruction.” Such programming “contribute[d] nothing whatever to the improvement of the Australian way of life.” The programs found an enthusiastic audience only in the postwar period after American scripts were slightly re-written to eliminate American colloquialisms in exchange for Australian ones and then performed with Australian voice talent. Soap operas, in particular, became the most popular American programming import. Some programs, such as Portia Faces Life and Doctor Paul, ultimately ran longer in Australia than in America.39

This contrast in reactions between the prewar and postwar periods is telling. Linguistic research demonstrates that, in the absence of a visual image, a listener will make assumptions about a speaker’s background, upbringing, and intelligence based primarily on how the voice sounds. The culturally rooted assumptions a listener holds about people who speak with specific accents are especially important. In such cases, listeners can be prone to draw conclusions about the intelligence of a speaker and the quality of a program based more on how a voice sounds rather than the substance of the content being spoken. It is another example of the cognitive process in which the “mind’s eye” works hard to visualize and contextualize the sounds heard. The judgments that flow from this cognitive contextualization will often reflect deeply-held prejudices rooted in assumptions about ethnicity, class, gender, race, and, as demonstrated in the Australian example, nationality.40 However, American dramas and comedies, similarly rewritten and re-recorded, did not find the same enthusiastic Australian mass audience. That distinction underscores the ways in which soap operas intersected with an existing point of common cultural ground that did not extend to those other types of programs, even when spoken with the “correct” accent or colloquialisms. As such, the Australian example, rather than illustrating international exchange facilitated by broadcasting, instead confirmed how preconceived notions and existing worldviews shaped how listeners selectively engaged with, distorted, or otherwise made sense of the media content they encountered.

Broadcasting Technology from Radio to Television in the 20th Century

The history of American radio followed a trajectory that is familiar in the history of technology. The new technology was greeted with abundant enthusiasm for its prospects to drive monumental change in values, attitudes, and outlooks. Those expectations were not always met when unforeseen influences propelled technological development in unanticipated directions. Radio, initially pursued as a means of wireless telegraphy and then telephony, became a mass medium of entertainment broadcasting. The surrounding political, economic, social, cultural, technological, and regulatory contexts not only shaped radio’s trajectory of development toward broadcasting but also provided the parameters by which listeners engaged, made sense of, and at times took action in response to the programming content they heard. Moreover, when television emerged as a viable broadcast technology in the 1940s, American radio practices that had emerged in the previous decades, including the predominance of national networks, powerfully shaped the ways that television took root in America’s continuously evolving media environment.41

Discussion of the Literature

Historians of technology provide some of the most insightful studies of the invention and early development of radio from its inception as a means of radiotelegraphy through its transformation into a medium of entertainment broadcasting. Embracing an approach known as the social construction of technology, these studies explicitly challenge technological determinism in their exploration of how radio technology was invented, developed, adapted, and became profitable in its earliest years. By situating the history of radio’s development within the economic, political, social, technological, and cultural contexts that shaped it, such studies also have the benefit of positioning prominent inventors, such as Guglielmo Marconi, within the larger contexts and relationships that motivated these individuals and their decision making. In so doing, such studies, most notably Susan Douglas’ Inventing American Broadcasting, also have the effect of challenging another popular, if misguided, narrative that often pervades popular histories of technology: the visionary “inventor-hero” singularly responsible for a world-changing invention because of his (the vast majority were indeed men) exceptional aptitude and remarkable abilities. What such accounts show, in both radio and other technologies, is that the celebration of the inventor-hero was more a reflection of popular attitudes in America toward technology and invention, rather than a balanced analysis of processes of invention and technological development.42

The preponderance of literature on American radio before 1945 focuses on some aspect of broadcasting’s commercialization. Some accounts tackle the medium’s commercialization broadly.43 Other valuable studies offer a closer focus on one particular aspect of American broadcasting, including such topics as politics and regulation,44 news,45 race and ethnicity,46 rural radio,47 network radio,48 religion,49 labor,50 science,51 advertising,52 sports,53 gender,54 and women.55 The Radio Reader, an outstanding edited collection of essays, covers these subjects and many more in its twenty-four chapters.56 In addition, valuable chapters on American broadcasting can be found in several more broadly focused studies on American mass consumption and culture, including in Lizabeth Cohen’s path-breaking study of labor organizing in the 1920s and 1930s, Ronald Kline’s exploration into technology and mass consumption in rural America, Roland Marchand’s pivotal study of the rise of the advertising profession before 1920, and Lisa Jacobson’s insightful study of advertising that targeted children.57

In more recent years, important scholarship has made a point to highlight those parts of American radio that challenged the predominance of the so-called American system. These studies include those that focus on the persistence of regional networks, tensions between the networks and their affiliates, “rogue” broadcasters that deliberately bucked the American regulatory regime, and listeners who challenged the priorities and programs of commercial network broadcasters.58 Other historians have applied the innovative insights of cognitive psychology and sound studies to help reclaim the listeners’ perspective and explore the dynamics of their engagement with broadcasting.59 Taken together, these accounts underscore the ways in which listeners could resist the priorities of the nationally expansive and corporate-dominated American system of broadcasting.

The incorporation of transnational perspectives has also enriched the recent histories of American broadcasting. Particularly significant in redirecting the insular focus away from commercialized national radio is Michele Hilmes’ exploration of the international influences, particularly from Britain, in shaping what had been presumed to be a distinctly American commercialized system of broadcasting.60 Comparative histories offer an excellent counterpoint to presumptions that there is a particularly unique and exceptional “American system” of radio, and instead help contextualize the development of American radio in a larger global context.61

Studies focused on American radio in the international arena before 1945 are less plentiful than those on domestic radio, but growing in number. They include those comparative studies referenced in the preceding paragraph. In addition, Hugh Aitken’s important study of the rise of American broadcasting from a historian of technology’s perspective contains expansive information on the international context in general and the U.S. Navy’s concerns in particular that led to the formation of RCA.62 Daniel Headrick, Dwayne R. Winseck, Robert M. Pike, and Jonathan Winkler address this story in their monographs on international telecommunications, with Headrick, Winseck, and Pike focused more broadly on the “Great Powers,” including the United States, and Winkler more closely concentrated on US military and foreign policy.63 Several historians of US foreign relations touch on radio as one component within larger analyses exploring efforts to expand American economic and cultural influence abroad.64 In addition to articles and monographs on international and shortwave broadcasting,65 both Latin America and East Asia are the focus of book-length studies on American radio’s international activities before 1945, initiatives that included efforts to expand imports, market share, and foreign audiences for shortwave programming.66

Primary Sources

Archives exploring the early history of radio’s technological development encompass both individual and corporate records. The Marconi Archives are held at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The papers of Reginald Fessenden are held at North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. The Special Collections Department of Stanford University houses Cyril Elwell’s papers. The Perham Collection of Early Electronics at the History/San Jose research library offers an extensive collection spanning radio’s earliest days through the 1960s, and includes more of Cyril Elwell’s papers, Lee DeForest’s papers, and the records of the Federal Telegraph Company, a firm that established a close relationship with the U.S. Navy in the 1910s and with RCA in the 1920s. The Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady, New York is the home to several archival collections related to the radio-related initiatives of General Electric. St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York is the home to the papers of Owen D. Young, a top GE executive who was instrumental in creating RCA, became GE’s President in 1922, and served as RCA’s first chairman of the board until 1929. The Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware has extensive holdings pertaining to RCA, including corporate records, RCA publications, and the David Sarnoff Papers.

The NBC records housed in the Mass Communications Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society offer an ideal starting point for exploring the history of network radio. The Library of Congress is the home to additional NBC records, as well as recordings. The Library’s Recorded Sound Research Center offers a broad range of research resources in the history of radio. Library of Congress is also home to a CBS radio script collection and the papers of Eric Sevareid, a pioneering newscaster for CBS. The New York State Archives in Albany, New York houses audiotapes of CBS news broadcasts, including a World War II collection. The American Radio Archives at the Thousand Oaks Library in Thousand Oaks, California offers a wide-ranging collection of scripts, recordings, and other memorabilia, with a particular focus on West Coast broadcasting.

In addition to the Library of Congress, the Washington, DC area is home to several valuable archival sources documenting the history of radio before 1945. The National Archives in College Park, Maryland holds the records of the Federal Communications Commission (and those of its predecessor organization, the Federal Radio Commission). The radio-related records of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce and the State Department are especially valuable in documenting efforts to expand American radio’s international presence. The State Department’s decimal filing system makes it particularly easy to locate radio-specific files pertaining to specific countries; many of these records have been microfilmed and can be easily acquired via interlibrary loan.67 At the Smithsonian Institution’s Archive Center, the George H. Clark Radioana Collection is particularly strong on the history of early radio through its holdings of correspondence, article and news clippings, photographs, and corporate literature. The Library of American Broadcasting located at the University of Maryland at College Park has a remarkable collection of radio magazines, pamphlets, photographs, oral histories, and scripts. The listener letters and discursive reports that are often preserved not just in radio magazines, but in the Commerce Department, FCC, and State Department files can also prove very useful in gauging the difficult-to-assess perspectives of listeners.

For further insight into listener perspectives, Columbia University houses records of the Bureau of Applied Social Research and the Paul Felix Lazarsfeld Papers, pioneers in audience research. The Radio Pioneers Project of the Columbia Oral History Collection at Columbia University preserves the reminisces of several major figures in early radio, including Herbert Hoover. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa has an extensive collection of radio-related records pertaining to both his Commerce Department and Presidential years. Given President Franklin Roosevelt’s embrace of the radio through his “fireside chats” and the medium’s continued growth in popularity during the 1930s, the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York also offers a rich collection of radio-related archival sources.

Archival sources that look beyond the corporate American system network system of broadcasting include those of the American Radio Relay League, held at the Museum of Amateur Radio in Newington, Connecticut. Starting points for the history of educational broadcasting include the papers of the National Advisory Council on Radio in Education at the New York Public Library and the National Association of Educational Broadcasters Records, 1925–1977 at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Also useful are the archives of the numerous college and university radio stations, such as pioneering stations at Iowa State University, Kansas State University,68 and Ohio State University, which are housed in the special collections of the respective institutions. The Presbyterian Historical Society offers an entry point into researching religious radio through the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America Broadcasting and Film Commission Records and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Division of Mass Media Records.

The above accounting only scratches the surface of the primary sources available to explore radio history before 1945. The bibliographies in the important monographs by Douglas Craig, Robert McChesney, Barbara Savage, and Hugh Slotten also offer valuable roadmaps to available archival sources.69 Published research guides that offer a more expansive array of source options include Mass Communications Research Resources: An Annotated Guide and A Resource Guide To The Golden Age Of Radio: Special Collections, Bibliography And The Internet, the latter identifying more than 2,000 archival and special collections pertaining to nearly every conceivable topic in the history of radio.70

Digital Materials

American Radio History (Radio periodicals).

The Broadcast Archive (Multiple primary and secondary resources).

On the Shortwaves (Shortwave history).

Old Time Radio Downloads (Programs).

Old Time Radio (Programs).

Radio Days (Programs).

Radio Heritage Foundation (Multiple primary and secondary resources, focused on the Pacific).

Simply Scripts—Radio (Scripts).

United States Early Radio History (Multiple primary and secondary resources).

Vintage Radio Logs (Programs).

Further Reading

Hugh G. J. Aitken. Syntony and Spark: The Origins of Radio. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976.Find this resource:

Hugh G. J. Aitken. The Continuous Wave: Technology and American Radio, 1900–1932. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Erik Barnow. A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933, Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.Find this resource:

Louise M. Benjamin. Freedom of the Air and the Public Interest: First Amendment Rights in Broadcasting to 1935. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Douglas B. Craig. Fireside Politics: Radio and Political Culture in the United States, 1920–1940. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2000.Find this resource:

Steve Craig. Out of the Dark: A History of Radio and Rural America. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Clifford J. Doerksen. American Babel: Rogue Radio Broadcasters of the Jazz Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Susan J. Douglas. Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899–1922. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Susan J. Douglas. Listening In: Radio in the American Imagination. New York: Times Books, 1999.Find this resource:

Fred Fejes. Imperialism, Media, and the Good Neighbor: New Deal Foreign Policy and United States Shortwave Broadcasting to Latin America. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing, 1986.Find this resource:

Kristin Haring. Ham Radio’s Technical Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Michele Hilmes. Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922–1952. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Michele Hilmes. Network Nations: A Transnational History of British and American Broadcasting. New York: Routledge, 2012.Find this resource:

Gerd Horten. Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda during World War II. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Michael A. Krysko. American Radio in China: International Encounters with Technology and Communication, 1919–41. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.Find this resource:

Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette. Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Bruce Lenthall, Radio’s America: The Great Depression and the Rise of Modern Mass Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007Find this resource:

Jason Loviglio. Radio’s Intimate Public: Network Broadcasting and Mass Mediated Democracy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Robert McChesney. Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928–1935. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Elena Razlogova. The Listener’s Voice: Early Radio and the American Public. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Alexander Russo. Points on the Dial: Golden Age of Radio beyond the Networks. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Barbara Dianne Savage. Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 1938–1948. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.Find this resource:

James Schwoch. The American Radio Industry in Latin America, 1899–1939. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Hugh R. Slotten. Radio’s Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasting in the United States. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Susan Smulyan. Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting, 1920–1934. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Hugh G. J. Aitken, Syntony and Spark: The Origins of Radio (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 104; Susan J. Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899–1922 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 13–14, 17, 37–38; Erik Larson, Thunderstruck (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 22.

(2.) Larson, Thunderstruck, 16–18, 25, 44–45, 288–289; Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 3–28. See also Michael Brown, “Radio Mars: The Transformation of Marconi’s Popular Image, 1919–1922,” in Transmitting the Past: Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Broadcasting, ed. J. Emmett Winn and Susan Brinson (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005), 16–33

(3.) Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 29–101.

(4.) Hugh G. J. Aitken, The Continuous Wave: Technology and American Radio, 1900–1932 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 28–86, esp. 72–76.

(5.) Aitken, Continuous Wave, 250–354. On the U.S. Navy and its strategic considerations pertaining to wireless, see Jonathan Reed Winkler, Nexus: Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008); see also Daniel R. Headrick, The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics, 1851–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), esp. 138–172.

(6.) David Sarnoff, future head of RCA, frequently but incorrectly gets credit for supposedly being the first to prophesize around 1915 that radio’s future lay in a so-called “music box” that entertained families with concerts, sports, and news. There is, however, no hard evidence of this memo’s existence before 1920. Journalism scholar Alfred Balk notes that the only surviving copy of the Sarnoff memo is dated 1920 and that no archive contains an earlier version and no memoir before that year ever referenced it. Even if it could be confirmed that Sarnoff wrote the memo in 1915, by then he was hardly alone in envisioning broadcasting as radio’s future. See Alfred Balk, The Rise of Radio, from Marconi through the Golden Age (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006), 33. For examples of books that fall prey to the Sarnoff myth that Balk corrects, see Tom Lewis, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (New York: Harper, 1993), 115–116; Anthony J. Rudel, Hello Everybody: The Dawn of American Radio (Orlando, Harcourt, 2008), 28.

(7.) Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 292–293; Susan J. Douglas, Listening In: Radio in the American Imagination, rev. ed. (New York, Times Books, 1999), 58–59; Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939, 2d ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014). For amateur “ham” operators, see Kristen Haring, Ham Radio’s Technical Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007). For more on the development of crystal control, see Shaul Katzir, “War and Peacetime Research on the Road to Crystal Frequency Control,” Technology and Culture 51, no. 1 (2010): 99–125.

(8.) Though writing about the Internet, Janet Abbate’s explanation of user influence over shaping communications networks is equally apt for radio. See Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 5–6.

(9.) On the overall commercialization of American broadcasting, see Susan Smulyan, Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting, 1920–1934 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994). On educational broadcasting and the initiatives of colleges and universities, including the land grant schools, see Hugh R. Slotten, Radio’s Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasting in the United States (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009). On radio, organized labor, and the stations WCFL and WEVD, see Nathan Godfried, WCFL: Chicago’s Voice of Labor, 1926–1978 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997); and Nathan Godfried, “Struggling over Politics and Culture: Organized Labor and Radio Station WEVD During the 1930s,” Labor History, 42, no. 4 (November 2001): 347–369. On immigrant and foreign language radio stations, see Cohen, Making a New Deal, 99–159; and Michael A. Krysko, “ ‘Gibberish’ on the Air: Foreign Language Radio and American Broadcasting, 1920–1940,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 27, no. 3 (August 2007): 333–355. On “silent nights,” see Douglas, Listening In, 73–74; and Smulyan, Selling Radio, 17.

(10.) Louise M. Benjamin, Freedom of the Air and the Public Interest: First Amendment Rights in Broadcasting to 1935 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001). For more on Hoover’s political philosophies and worldview, see David Burner, Herbert Hoover: A Public Life (New York: Knopf, 1978), esp. 139–140, 171; and Emily Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890–1945 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), esp. 138.

(11.) This transformation is well told in Smulyan, Selling Radio. For the history of clear channel stations, see James Foust, Big Voices of the Air: The Battle over Clear Channel Radio (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2000).

(12.) Louise M. Benjamin, The NBC Advisory Council and Radio Programming, 1926–1945 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010).

(13.) In addition to Smulyan, Selling Radio, see Philip T. Rosen, The Modern Stentors: Radio Broadcasters and the Federal Government, 1920–1934 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1980).

(14.) For the so-called, “American system,” see Robert W. McChesney, Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928–1935 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), esp. 114. For British influences in American radio, see Michele Hilmes, Network Nations: A Transnational History of British and American Broadcasting (New York: Routledge, 2012). For the larger trend in transnational historical writing pertaining to U.S. history, see Thomas Bender, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York, 2006); Akira Iriye, Global and Transnational History: The Past, Present, and Future (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013).

(15.) For statistics pertaining to network affiliations, see McChesney, Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy, 29. On receiver ownership, see Douglas B. Craig, Fireside Politics: Radio and Political Culture in the United States, 1920–1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2000), 11–12; and Douglas, Listening In, 162; Bruce Lenthall, Radio’s America: The Great Depression and the Rise of Modern Mass Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 12.

(16.) For broadcasting’s growth in the context of the larger emergence of the American mass consumer economy, see Lenthall, Radio’s America, 8–13. For Vox Pop and “Fireside Chats,” see Lenthall, Radio’s America, 68–70, 88–90, 97, 109; Jason Loviglio, Radio’s Intimate Public: Network Broadcasting and Mass Mediated Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 1–69. For radio comedies, see Douglas, Listening In, 100–123; Lenthall, Radio’s America, 62, 70.

(17.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 1991), 42–45, esp. 44. For examples of radio scholars informed by Anderson’s theorizing about national identity, see Douglas, Listening In, 23–24 (includes quoted portion); Michele Hilmes, Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922–1952 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997) 11; Brian Regal, Radio: The Life Story of a Technology (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005), 123; Alexander Russo, Points on the Dial: Golden Age of Radio beyond the Networks (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 3.

(18.) Smulyan, Selling Radio, esp. 65–92, 111–124; Lisa Jacobson, Raising Consumers: Children and the American Mass Market in the Early Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 184–214; Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette, Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), esp. 2–3.

(19.) Lenthall, Radio’s America, 88–90, 97, 109, 118–126; Craig, Fireside Politics, 159–160, 220, 222; Douglas, Listening In, 25, 128–129, 164–165, 172–175.

(20.) On race, see Barbara Dianne Savage, Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 1938–1948 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 6–9 (quote regarding Amos ‘n’ Andy from p. 8); Cohen, Making a New Deal, 142. For nativist reactions, see Krysko, “‘Gibberish’ on the Air.” For women and broadcasting, see Hilmes Radio Voices, 14, 130–150, esp. 141. For rural radio, see Randall Patnode, “‘What These People Need Is Radio’: New Technology, the Press, and Otherness in 1920s America,” Technology and Culture 44, no. 2 (April 2003): 285–305; and Steve Craig, Out of the Dark: A History of Radio and Rural America (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009).

(21.) Elena Razlogova, The Listener’s Voice: Early Radio and the American Public (Philadelphia, 2011); Clifford J. Doerksen, American Babel: Rogue Radio Broadcasters of the Jazz Age (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 90, 124; Douglas, Listening In, 24. In addition to low-powered local stations, rural listeners who felt disenfranchised from the American system could also tune in to the American-owned “border blasters” that operated just south of the U.S.-Mexican border (and just outside of the reach of U.S. regulatory authorities). The resulting US-Mexico radio dispute was not fully resolved and these controversial “border blasters” remained on the air until the early 1940s. See Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford, Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves, rev. ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002).

(22.) David E. Nye offers some particularly valuable insights about this longstanding American exuberance for technology; see David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994) and David E. Nye, America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginnings (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).

(23.) Colliers and Century Magazine quotes are from Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 306; for an analysis of the popular enthusiasm directed toward radio by the 1920s, see pp. 292–314.

(24.) Quoted in Hilmes, Radio Voices, 20.

(25.) Quoted in Randall Patnode, “‘What These People Need Is Radio’: New Technology, the Press, and Otherness in 1920s America,” in Technology and Culture 44, no. 2 (April 2003): 298.

(26.) Quoted in Cohen, Making a New Deal, 138.

(27.) Leo Marx and Merritt Roe Smith, “Introduction,” in Does Technology Drive History, ed. Marx and Smith, ix–xii, esp. xi. See also David E. Nye, Technology Matters: Questions to Live With (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 17–31.

(28.) For the application of this “unity discourse” to the telegraph, see Menahem Blondheim, News Over the Wires: The Telegraph and the Flow of Public Information in America, 1844–1897 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 191. For movies, see Lary May, Screening out the Past: The Birth of Mass Culture and the Motion Picture Industry, rev. ed. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1983), esp. 65–66; and Susan L. Aronstein, Hollywood Knights: Arthurian Cinema and the Politics of Nostalgia (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 57. For television, see James Schwoch, Global TV: New Media and the Cold War, 1946–1969 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 152. For the Internet, Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 230. Blondheim, May, Aronson, and Schwoch engage in scholarly analyses that includes an examination of the expectations and assumptions of past historical actors about the respective communications technology on which their books focus. Negroponte’s study is different. Writing in the early days of the internet’s popularization, he explicitly embraced that unity discourse himself by making a rather bold prediction about the internet’s unifying potential. “Digital technology can be a natural force drawing people into greater world harmony,” Negroponte effused. Unlike the other scholars cited here, so explicitly embracing a conviction about the internet’s future potential to unify instead echoes views from earlier eras that celebrated the presumed unifying potential of new communications’ technologies, including those quoted above that were published in Colliers and Century Magazine during the 1920s. However, by the mid-1990s, a well-established body of scholarship critiquing technological determinism rendered Negroponte’s prediction vulnerable to attack. Eminent historian of technology David Nye specifically singled out Negroponte’s prediction in his larger critiques of technological determinism, calling it “nonsense,” “fundamentally wrong,” and further pointing out that “no technology is, has been, or will be a ‘natural force.’” See David E. Nye, Consuming Power: A Social History of American Energies (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), 2 and Nye, Technology Matters, 19.

(29.) Gerd Horten, Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda during World War II (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 63–64; Douglas, 129–160.

(30.) Douglas, Listening In, 165; Edward D. Miller, Emergency Broadcasting and 1930s American Radio (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003), 106–140; Horten, Radio Goes to War, 27; Craig, Fireside Politics, 232–233; Lenthall, Radio’s America, 1–5. The best-known contemporary study of listeners’ reactions to the broadcast is Hadley Cantril, The Invasion from Mars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1940).

(31.) Horten, Radio Goes to War, 55–63, 118–123.

(32.) Horten, Radio Goes to War, 29–39; Douglas, Listening In, 161–198.

(33.) On radio’s orality and cognitive processes, see Douglas, Listening In, 4–8, 12, 22–36, esp. 26–27 (direct quote is from 23–24). See also Miller, Emergency Broadcasting and 1930s American Radio, 7–10; and John Durham Peters, Speaking Into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 214–217.

(34.) “World–Wide Peace Through Radio: An address by Major General J. G. Harbord, President–elect of RCA, before the Illinois Manufacturers Association at the Twenty–Fifth Annual Dinner,” published in Manufacturers News, December 1922, pp. 7–8, 12, copy filed in Series 95 (Articles on Radio Subjects), Box 392, Clark Radioana Collection, Archives Center at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

(35.) For Brazil and Uruguay, see James Schwoch, The American Radio Industry in Latin America, 1899–1939 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 100, 103–104, 111. For Mexico, see “Radio Equipment,” Report authored by U.S. Consul Walter F. Boyle in San Luis Potosi Mexico, May 11, 1923, 812.74–02, Record Group 59, Department of State Central Decimal Files 1910–1929, United States National Archives at College Park, Maryland. For China, see Michael A. Krysko, American Radio in China: International Encounters with Technology and Communication, 1919–41 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 69–77; Leo Oufan Lee and Andrew Nathan, “The Beginnings of Mass Culture: Journalism and Fiction in the Late Ch’ing and Beyond,” in Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, ed. David Johnson, Andrew Nathan, and Evelyn Rawski (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 374–375; and A. Viola Smith, “Radio Markets-China,” March 11, 1937, p. 73, file “Foreign Service-Copies of Reports-Peiping-1937-March,” Record Group 151, Records Relating to the Commercial Attaches’ Reports, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce (BFDC), Department of Commerce, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland.

(36.) “Radio Station in the Yankee Tongue,” December 27, 1931, La Prensa, copy of translated article sent by the U.S. Ambassador in Mexico J. Rueben Clark to the Secretary of State Henry Stimson, December 29, 1931, 812.76-Brinkley/79, Record Group 59, Department of State Central Decimal Files 1930–1939, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland.

(37.) Joy Elizabeth Hayes, Radio Nation: Communication, Popular Culture, and Nationalism in Mexico, 1920–1950 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2000), 107–109. For a broader look as US shortwave broadcasting to Latin America and the challenges it encountered, see Fred Fejes, Imperialism, Media, and the Good Neighbor: New Deal Foreign Policy and United States Shortwave Broadcasting to Latin America (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1986).

(38.) A. V. Smith to the BFDC’s Electrical Division, September 20, 1935, file 544, “China-Radio-1929–1936,” Box 2478, Record Group 151, BFDC General Records, 1914–1958, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland. Direct quote of the Chinese listener objecting to Palmolive is from Carlton Benson, “From Teahouse to Radio: Storytelling and the Commercialization of Culture in 1930s Shanghai” (PhD diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1996), 82. For more on the history of KGEI in China, see Krysko, American Radio in China, 90–125. For a more expansive history of shortwave broadcasting to 1945, see Jerome S. Berg, On the Shortwaves, 1923–1945 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999); and Jerome S. Berg, The Early Shortwave Stations: A Broadcasting History through 1945 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013).

(39.) David Goodman and Susan Smulyan, “Portia Faces the World: Re-Writing and Re-Voicing American Radio for an International Market,” in Radio’s New Wave, Global Sound in the Digital Era, ed. Jason Loviglio and Michele Hilmes (New York: Taylor and Francis, 2013), 166–173 (direct quotes from 166–167).

(40.) Nina Sun Eidsheim, “Marian Anderson and ‘Sonic Blackness’ in American Opera,” in American Quarterly 63, no. 3 (September 2011), esp. 644–645.

(41.) Two excellent studies that consider radio and television in tandem include Hugh R. Slotten, Radio and Television Regulation: Broadcast Technology in the United States, 1920–1960 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); and Michele Hilmes, Hollywood and Broadcasting From Radio to Cable (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990).

(42.) Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting. Nearly all the scholarly studies of radio cited in this article situate radio’s development firmly within the influences of the broader surrounding context and avoid problematic deterministic frameworks. Other excellent studies in this vein, but not cited in the preceding article include (but are certainly not limited to): Gary L. Frost, Early FM Radio: Incremental Technology in the Twentieth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010); Noah Arceneaux, “Wannamaker’s Department Store and the Origins of Electronic Media, 1910–1922,” Technology and Culture 51, no. 4 (2010): 809–828. Alternatively, Tom Lewis’s Empire of the Air, written for a mass rather than academic audience perhaps treads a bit too close to embracing the overly simple inventor-hero story of technology when he writes “radio as we know it was created by the genius of three men,” (p. 2), whom he identifies as David Sarnoff, Lee DeForest, and Edwin Howard Armstrong (the latter having been a critical figure in the development of FM radio, which became so important in the post-1945 period).

(43.) See Erik Barnouw, A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966); and Erik Barnow, The Golden Web: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, 1933–1953, Volume 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968). The late Erik Barnouw still remains one of the preeminent historians of U.S. broadcasting. He came to academia in 1946, following a successful career in radio working for both NBC and CBS. See also Smulyan, Selling Radio, Hilmes, Radio Voices, and Douglas, Listening In.

(44.) Louise M. Benjamin, Freedom of the Air; Douglas Craig, “Political Waves: Radio and Politics, 1920–1940,” in Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life, ed. Michel Keith (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 237–260; Daniel J. Leab, “US Radio Fights Political Control: 1936,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 9, no. 2 (1989): 189–196; Fritz Messere, “The Davis Amendment and the Federal Radio Act of 1927,” in Transmitting the Past, ed. J. Emmett Winn and Susan L. Brinson, 34–68; Geoffrey Storm, “FDR and WGY: The Origins of the Fireside Chats,” New York History 88, no. 2 (Spring 2007): 176–197; McChesney, Telecommunications and Mass Media; Craig, Fireside Politics; and Rosen, Modern Stentors.

(45.) Jim Cox, Radio Journalism in America: Telling the News in the Golden Age and Beyond (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013); David Culbert, News for Everyman: Radio and Foreign Affairs in Thirties America (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1976); Michael Sweeney, Secrets of Victory: The Office of Censorship and the American Press and Radio in World War II (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013); and Susan Douglas and Gerd Horten also offer excellent chapters in their books on radio news; see Douglas, Listening In, 161–198; and Horten, Radio Goes to War, 13–40.

(46.) William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999); Donald Browne, “Speaking in Our Own Tongues: Linguistic Minority Radio in the United States,” in Keith, Radio Cultures, 23–46; Sato Masaharu and Barak Kushner, “‘Negro Propaganda Operations’: Japan’s Shortwave radio Broadcasts for World War II Black Americans,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 19, no. 1 (1999): 5–26; Brian Dolber, “Strange Bedfellows: Yiddish Socialist Radio and the Collapse of Broadcasting Reform in the United States, 1927–1938,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 33, no. 2 (2013): 289–307; Derek W. Vaillant, “Sounds of Whiteness: Local Radio, Racial Formation, and Public Culture in Chicago, 1921–1935,” American Quarterly 54, no. 1 (2002); Chadwick Jenkins, “A Question of Containment: Duke Ellington and Early Radio,” American Music 26, no. 4 (2008): 415–441; Stefano Luconi, “Radio Broadcasting, Consumer Culture, and Ethnic Identity among Italian Americans in the Interwar Years,” Italian Americana 20, no. 20 (2002): 150–159; Kathy Newman, “The Forgotten Fifteen Million: Black Radio, Radicalism, and the Construction of the ‘Negro Market,’” in Communities of the Air: Radio Century, Radio Culture ed. Susan Merril Squier (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 109–133; Savage, Broadcasting American Freedom.

(47.) Craig, Out of the Dark; Patnode, “What These People Need Is Radio;” Reynold M. Wilk, “The Radio in Rural America during the 1920s,” Agricultural History 55, no. 4 (1981).

(48.) Louise M. Benjamin, The NBC Advisory Council; Jason Loviglio, Radio’s Intimate Public: Network Broadcasting and Mass Mediated Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005); and Michael J. Socolow, “A Wavelength for Every Network: Synchronous Broadcasting and National Radio in the United States, 1926–1932,” Technology and Culture 49, no. 1 (2008):, 89–113.

(49.) Tona Hangen, Redeeming the Dial: Radio, Religion, and Popular Culture in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Alexander Pavuk, “Constructing a Catholic Church out of Thin Air: ‘Catholic Hour’s’ Early Years on NBC Radio,” American Catholic Studies, 118, no. 4 (2007): 37–67; Michael Stamm, “Broadcasting Mainline Protestantism: The Chicago Sunday Evening Club and the Evolution of Audience Expectations from Radio to Television,” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 22, no. 2 (2012): 233–264; and Kip Anthony Wedel, “Permission to Dissent: Civil Religion and the Radio Western, 1933–1960,” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 22, no. 1 (2012): 31–52.

(50.) Brian Dolber, “Strange Bedfellows”; Godfried, WCFL; Godfried, “Struggling over Politics and Culture.”

(51.) LaFollette, Science on the Air.

(52.) Kathy Newman, Radio Active: Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935–1947 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004); and Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, “Creating a Favorable Business Climate: Corporations and Radio Broadcasting, 1934 to 1954,” The Business History Review 73, no. 2 (1999).

(53.) Samuel J. Brumbeloe and J. Emmett Winn, “WAPI and Sports Broadcasting at an Educational Radio Station in the 1920s,” in Transmitting the Past, ed. Winn and Brinson; Katherine O’Toole, “John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of Sports on Radio in the 1930s,” Journal of Sports History 40, no. 2 (2013); and James R. Walker, Crack of the Bat: A History of Baseball on the Radio (Lincoln, Nebraska, 2015). An excellent chapter on sports broadcasting is in Douglas, Listening In, 199–219.

(54.) Louis Carlott, “‘A Cleanser for the Mind’: Marketing Radio Receivers for the American Home,” in His and Hers: Gender, Consumption, and Technology, ed. David Horowitz and Arwen Mohun (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998) offers an excellent account of how radio began as a predominantly male “toy” used for the male-dominated hobby of ham radio, banished to out-of-sight locations in the home such as an attic or garage. With broadcasting’s emergence, it became an item that occupied prominent space in the presumed feminine domestic sphere, thus requiring a recasting of radio as a more feminine object and accessible to women. See also Leah Lowe, “‘If the Country’s Going Gracie, So Can You’: Gender Representation in Gracie Allen’s Radio Comedy,” in Communities of the Air: Radio Century, Radio Culture, ed. Susan M. Squier (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 237–250.

(55.) Michele Hilmes, “Femmes Boff Program Toppers: Women Break into Prime Time, 1943–1948,” in Transmitting the Past, Winn and Brinson; Donna Halper, “Speaking for Themselves: How Radio Brought Women into the Public Sphere,” in Keith, Radio Cultures, 77–94; David H. Hosley, “As Good as Any of Us: American Female Radio Correspondents in Europe, 1938–1941,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 2, no. 2 (1982); Susan Smulyan, “Radio Advertising to Women in Twenties America: ‘A latchkey to every home,’” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 13, no. 3 (1993): 299–314; and Sue Carter, “‘Women Don’t Do News’: Fran Harris and Detroit’s Radio Station WWJ,” Michigan Historical Review 24, no. 2 (1998): 77–87.

(56.) Michele Hilmes and Jason Loviglio, eds., Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio (New York: Routledge, 2002).

(57.) Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 88–110; Ronald R. Kline, Consumers in the Country: Technology and Social Change in Rural America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), 113–127; and Lisa Jacobson, Raising Consumers, 183–214.

(58.) Excellent studies in this category include Razlogova, The Listener’s Voice; Russo, Points on the Dial; and Doerkson, American Babel. See also Stephen Lippman, “Rationalization, Standardization, or Market Diversity? Station Networks and Market Structure in U.S. Broadcasting, 1927–1950,” Social Science History 32, no.3 (2008): 405–436.

(59.) Douglas, Listening In and Miller, Emergency Broadcasting are good examples of studies in this vein. See also Brenton J. Malin, “Electrifying Speeches: Emotional Control and the Technological Aesthetic of the Voice in the Early 20th Century US,” Journal of Social History, 45, no. 1 (2011): 1–19; Bonnie M. Miller, “‘The Pictures are Better on Radio’: A Visual Analysis of American Radio Drama from the 1920s to the 1950s,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (June, 2017): published online; Neil Verman, “Honeymoon Shocker: Lucille Fletcher’s ‘Psychological’ Sound Effects and Wartime Radio Drama,” in Journal of American Studies 44, no. 1 (2010): 137–153; Emily Thompson and Karin Bijsterveld weave in discussions of radio and broadcasting into their larger studies focused on sound, modernity (Thompson), and noise (Bijsterveld): see Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustic and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900–1933, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004); and Karin Bijsterveld, Mechanical Sound: Technology, Culture, and Problems of Noise in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).

(60.) Hilmes, Network Nations.

(61.) Bridget Griffen-Foley, “Australian Commercial Radio, American Influences—and the BBC,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, 30, no. 3 (2010): 337–355; Jeffrey Richards, Cinema and Radio in Britain and America, 1920–1960 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2012); Derek Vaillant, “At the Speed of Sound: Techno-Aesthetic Paradigms in U.S.–French International Broadcasting, 1925–1942,” Technology and Culture 54, no. 4 (2013): 888–921; and Goodman and Smulyan, “Portia Faces the World.

(62.) Aitken, The Continuous Wave. The latter half of the book is particularly strong on incorporating the international perspective behind RCA’s formation.

(63.) Headrick, The Invisible Weapon; Dwayne R. Winseck and Robert M. Pike, Communications and Empure: Media, Markets, and Globalization, 1860–1930 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007); Jonathan Winkler, Nexus: Strategic Communications. In addition to the aforementioned monographs, classic articles by Harry Kirwin and John Rossi also approach the topic from an international economic and strategic perspective, with particular emphases on telecommunications and China. See Harry W. Kirwin, “The Federal Telegraph Company: A Testing of the Open Door.” Pacific Historical Review 22, no. 3 (1953): 271–286 and John P. Rossi, “A ‘Silent Partnership’?: The U.S. Government, RCA, and Radio Communications with East Asia, 1919–1928,” Radical History Review 33 (1985): 32–52.

(64.) Most such studies remain focused on radiotelegraphy and RCA; see Emily Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream, 92–97; Kirwin, “The Federal Telegraph Company”; and Michael J. Hogan; Informal Entente: The Private Structure of Cooperation in Anglo-American Economic Diplomacy, 1918–1928 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977); Rossi, “A ‘Silent Partnership’?; and Frank Costigliola, Awkward Dominion: American Economic, Political, and Cultural Relations with Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), 62–63, 151–153, 162.

(65.) Berg, On the Shortwaves; Berg, The Early Shortwave Stations; Stephen P. Phipps, “The Commercial Development of Short Wave Radio in the United States, 1920–1926,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 11, no. 3 (1991): 215–227; and Wood, History of International Broadcasting (London: Institution of Engineering and Technology, 1993).

(66.) Fejes, Imperialism, Media, and the Good Neighbor; Krysko, American Radio in China; and Schwoch, The American Radio Industry in Latin America.

(67.) Under the decimal filing system, the internal affairs files begin with the number 8 and are followed by a two-digit country code. Cuba’s country code, for example is 37. Radio files are designated by the decimal numbers .74 (for wireless telegraphy) and .76 (for broadcasting). Using this system, a researcher interested in the State Department’s files on radio pertaining to Cuba would find them located in the documents spanning 837.74–837.76. The .74 and .76 subject identifiers also apply to the files from international conferences and congresses, all of which begin with 5 (meaning that a file numbered “574” would pertain to international telegraphy conferences).

(68.) The early records for this university’s radio station, KSAC, are found within the papers of Presidents Jardine and Farrell, in addition to the station’s newsletters, also housed in the university’s Special Collections.

(69.) See the valuable lists of archival and primary sources in Craig, Fireside Politics, 329–339; McChesney, Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy, 373–376; Savage, Broadcasting Freedom, 357–359; Slotten, Radio’s Hidden Voice, 251–256.

(70.) Christopher H. Sterling, James K. Bracken, and Susan B. Hill, Mass Communications Research Resources: An Annotated Guide (New York: Praeger, 1998); and Susan Siegel and David S. Siegel, eds. A Resource Guide to the Golden Age of Radio: Special Collections, Bibliography, and the Internet (Yorktown Heights, NY: Book Hunter Press, 2006).