Radio


Radio
   During the 1930s and 1940s, radio increasingly became a chief source of news and entertainment. Already well-established in the 1920s, radio had two national networks, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). By 1930, approximately 12 million homes had radio, and by the end of the decade, that number had risen to 28 million, or 80 percent of the population. By 1945, the number was about 33 million. With the development of Bakelite, radios became stylish pieces of furniture around which the family would gather to listen to the comedy of Amosn’ Andy, Jack Benny, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Will Rogers, and Bob Hope. Audiences were entertained by such characters as Dick Tracy, The Green Hornet (originally The Hornet), and The Shadow. So convincing was Orson Welles’s 1938 reading of the H. G. Welles novel War of the Worlds as a newscast that audiences believed Martians really were invading, while other listeners were shocked by the sexual references of Mae West in a 1937 skit about the Garden of Eden. Music programs and sporting events were also major attractions, but audiences could also be reached directly by such politicians as Father Charles Coughlin, the “radio priest,” or by the president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, through his influential “fireside chats.” During World War II, Americans listened to the radio reports of Edward R. Murrow and others, and it was through radio that many first heard of Roosevelt’s death. Commercial advertising on radio was suspended for several days as the nation mourned. Radio broadcasts covered many of the events of the Cold War era, ranging from presidential addresses to congressional hearings featuring Senator Joseph McCarthy.
   See also Cantor, Eddie; Crosby, Bing; Fields, William Claude (W. C.); Goodman, Benny; Guthrie, Woodrow Wilson (“Woody”); Miller, Glenn; Peale, Norman Vincent; Sinatra, Francis Albert; Television; Vallee, Rudy; Voice Of America.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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