Oldest Surviving Airchecks

Michael Biel

Michael Biel, Ph. D., is Professor of Radio-Television, Morehead State University, Morehead, Ky. These posts are reproduced here with his permission.

Date: Wed, 08 Oct 1997 22:53:23 -0400
From: "Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net"
To: old.time.radio@airwaves.com
Subject: Earliest real broadcast recordings

When discussing the re-creations of the KDKA broadcast, someone asked whether 1925 is the year of the earliest real recording of a broadcast. Happily the answer is no.

For many years the earliest broadcast recording I could find was the recording Frank L. Capps made of ex-President Woodrow Wilson's Armistice Day broadcast, November 10, 1923. I have data with specific dates of recordings made experimentally at Brunswick, Victor, and Columbia of broadcasts as early as 1921 but none have ever turned up. A couple of years ago a friend sent me a box of discs (on loan, drat!)of some early Bell Laboratory recordings of classical music. They were dated, and all but one date corresponded with a WEAF broadcast of the New York Philharmonic Symphony. I don't have my sheets here, but a few of them preceded the Wilson recording by several months. The discs are now owned by the Philharmonic, and just this week they released some of them on the first CD of a 10 CD historical set that they are selling as a fund raiser. Having heard all of the originals, I can tell you that, unfortunately, there are no announcers heard on any of the discs.

The next important broadcast recording is FDR at the 1924 Democratic Convention—and this one I KNOW is real. Whether it was recorded off the air or off of the public address system there is no way for us to know, but it was recorded by the Advertisers Recording Service, so it might be an air-check. On the other side of the original disc there is a bit of business from the podium about someone finding and returning a lost purse or a valuable stick-pin. Also from 1924 there is the lengthy Defense Test Day broadcast from September 12, 1924 from the WEAF network. A little bit of the opening announcement is heard in the TV documentary "Empire of the Air." It is evident that all of these Bell Labs recordings were made off of the phone lines, not off the air.

Then, in 1925, there ARE numerous recordings, although unfortunately, not too numerous. I should also mention that there are two recreations of segments of the first WEAF advertisement of August 1922. One of them was done on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the event in 1947 and repeated when WRCA changed their call letters to WNBC. There also are some recordings of code transmissions recorded by Charles Apgar in 1915 that are real, but these are not, strictly speaking, broadcasts, but ARE off the air recordings of radio transmissions. And finally, the 1920 recording of FDR that the Museum of Television and Radio keeps on saying is their earliest broadcast recording, is not a broadcast. It is a phonograph record, pure and simple, made by FDR for the Nations Forum label.

Date: Wed, 08 Oct 1997 22:04:51 -0400
From: "Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net"
To: old.time.radio@airwaves.com
Subject: KDKA Re-creation

At last count I have about five different recreations of the KDKA first broadcast. As mentioned in several other posts, the most famous of them is from Edward R. Murrow's "I Can Hear It Now, Volume III" Columbia ML-4340 (later retitled as Vol I in the three disc box D3L-366.) After having done two records which utilized real recordings of people and events, this third record of earlier years (1919-1933) consisted almost entirely of recreations About 15 years ago I tabulated all the recordings in the album and to my amazement I discovered that only FIVE recordings were real! Two were of FDR, but I also found that FDR's nomination of "The Happy Warrior, Alfred E. Smith" at the 1928 Democratic Convention was also a FAKE! Remember, this album was done in 1951, and the legacy of "The March of Time" was still with us. Dramatic recreations of news was still an acceptable practice. In the original liner notes Murrow and Friendly worried about MIXING the recreations with real recordings, but felt that their explanation was enough. Unfortunately, a listing of who did what would have been more valid.

But I have a suspicion about the KDKA recording. In the very first printing of the album jacket there are two errors. One is on the front cover. It states that the recordings are "Read and Re-created." In subsequent printings it is "Real and Re-created." Subtle difference, eh?

The other mistake related directly to KDKA. The announcer of that first broadcast was Leo Rosenburg. His name appears on the list of acknowledgments starting with the SECOND printing of the album, the one where the correction of the front cover is also made. Additionally, at the time of the production of the album, Leo Rosenburg was an executive with an advertising agency. In the description of the type of people that were used for the recreations, one of the types they mention is an advertising agency executive.

Thus, although it is obvious—VERY obvious—that this is a modern re-creation, there is a possibility that the voice on the recording is that of the person who announced the broadcast, Leo Rosenburg. In the mid-80s when Westinghouse had a short-lived effort at an all-news cable TV network, for their inaugural telecast they had as one of their guests Leo Rosenburg. Does anyone have a tape of this telecast???

Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 22:59:58 -0400
From: Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: Oldest Remotes

Someone recently posted to one of the newsgroups an NBC remote of Lindbergh's return to America after his historic solo flight across the Atlantic. Where does this rank in the pantheon of surviving remotes?

Not even close to being the earliest surviving remote. In fact, MOST of the earliest known legitimate recordings are remote broadcasts! First there is the speech by former President Woodrow Wilson which was aired from his Washington, D.C. bedroom on November 10, 1923. Then there are excerpts from more than a dozen New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra concerts from Carnegie Hall from WEAF in 1923 and 24. A couple of them were issued on the large historical CD set the NY Philharmonic issued two years ago. The earliest one I have is from December 13, 1923 from the original discs.

On Sept 12, 1924 the Defense Test Day broadcast on the AT&T network included a series of reports from military bases all over the country. Coolidge's inauguration from 1925 exists. The March 14, 1925 and January 1, 1926 recording of a trans-Atlantic broadcast from 2LO London via 5

Daventry over WJZ included dance music from Ciro's Club and the Westminster Chimes from the House of Parliament. The rest of the 1/1/26 broadcast included segments from Washington, DC, Schenectady, and NYC, but these were probably all from the studios of the stations on the network so were not really remotes.

There also are some recordings of several 1925 and 1926 broadcasts of The Associated Glee Clubs from the Metropolitan Opera House from WEAF. Some of these AGC masters were released on Columbia and Victor. Unreleased sides exist in the Library of Congress. Compo of Canada released on Apex Raditone two hymns from an Aug 9, 1925 church service broadcast from the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal, and a speech by William Lyons Mackenzie King broadcast on Oct. 19, 1925 from the Montreal Forum. This one is particularly interesting because some prankster turned all the lights out in the middle of the speech, and Mackenzie King is heard trying to silence the crowd by saying "You will find you will be able to hear just as well in the dark!"

For 1927 I was pretty impressed by the quality of the audio.

It was professionally recorded by Victor records, and eight sides were issued. There are three 12-inch discs with Lindbergh and Coolidge speeches directly from the original masters, and a 10-inch compilation of commentary which were dubbed and edited from the original masters. There is a slight loss in sound quality on the two dubbed sides compared with the original masters. There were about 20 sides recorded, so there is over an hour of unreleased material which still exists. Columbia records was also recording the broadcast and two sides survive in the Library of Congress. I remember the sound quality being superior to the Victor recording, but I realize now that I did not have the original Victor masters to compare with at the time. I only had the two dubbed sides back then. There also are two sides at LC from Columbia's recording of the New York City parade a day or two later.

Date: Fri, 2 Aug 2002 09:30:00 -0400
From: Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: 1925 Transatlantic Broadcast 2LO London

About half an hour's worth of excerpts exist, recorded on 78rpm wax masters by an unknown recording facility

There is a possibility that the recordings were made by the Western Electric gang who were still working on their electrical recording process. Along with the multiple pressings of the ten sides containing the broadcast, there was one pressing of a frequency sweep test recording made that same day, and there are initials engraved in it that Arthur Keller told me might indicate his name and that of his assistant whose last name was Refuce (sp?).

the technicians apparently tuned in the program on an ordinary radio and placed a microphone in front of a horn speaker to pick up the sound.

This was my theory I reported in my dissertation back in 1977, and this technology and the sound quality of the recording would be a giant step back for the WE boys if this indeed was recorded by them. But remember, all of the broadcast recordings they are known to have made during the previous two years were from the lines of their own radio station WEAF. WJZ was the rival RCA station, and they probably didn't have any other access to WJZ audio other than to take it off the air like this. As you noted, RCA had to resort to using Western Union lines for this broadcast—AT&T wouldn't let RCA use theirs!!

the sound is rough and metallic and you can sometimes sense the sound of music under the noise. The local station ID by Milton Cross, on the other hand, comes thru clear and strong.

But it still suffers from the hollow metallic sound. It is the sound quality of Cross's announcement which I used to determine my analysis of how it was recorded. But that test tone recording is something else. The level is razorsharp flat throughout the sweep frequency range up to 5,000 Hertz. I don't think any recording system other than WE's could have done that. (I have a flat unequalized first generation dub of all of these discs.) I did discuss these recordings with Keller back in the early 80s and need to go back to my tape of the phone call to get the details. Someday maybe we might be able to get access to the Bell Labs files that Keller told me should exist detailing all of their experimental work.

These discs may have been made for Dr. Albert Goldsmith of RCA,

It's Alfred Goldsmith, and his name was on the box that the discs were in when I found them back in the late 1960s. Significantly, these discs were also with an incomplete set of discs of the January 1, 1926 Victor Hour broadcast which I have every reason to believe were the discs Goldsmith played to Radio Broadcast magazine editor Edgar H. Felix later that year. (Felix wrote about the recordings in the December 1926 issue, but did not specifically remember them when I spoke to him in 1973.) That January 1, 1926 broadcast also included a section of yet another special retransmission of a 2LO/5

broadcast which sounds almost as bad as the earlier one, and this is despite the vastly superior recording quality of the January 1, 1926 discs.

I wonder if they used the Big Ben, hourly chimes in 1926?

Yes they did. In fact, Milton Cross mentions that we have just heard the chimes of Big Ben, but for the life of me I swear that I hear absolutely no evidence of this sound thru the din of the noise-to-signal ratio of that recording!!! . . . Tom Kneitel's "Radio Station Treasury 1900-1946" . . . reprinted a collection of early, published radio station logs. No information about the broadcast content, however.

There are weekly broadcast listings magazines from the 1920s which give great details of the scheduled contents of the 2LO and other British and European broadcasters. I was able to pick up some from the later 20s when I was in London last year. There also are a number of British comedy records which re-create in parody form the sound of these broadcasts. For the BBC's 75th anniversary in 1997 they trotted out some recreations of these early broadcasts that they did for an anniversary program in the 1930s, and they sound funnier than the comedy records do! (The BBC does not publicly acknowledge that those 1920s broadcasts are from a 1930s re-creation. It was with great difficulty that I got a BBC cataloger to let slip the identity of the listing of anniversary program.)

Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net

Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 16:22:51 -0400
From: "MICHAEL BIEL" mbiel@kih.net
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: early news coverage on radio

Chris Holmes wondered if there were recordings of very early news coverage. Actually, most of the earliest REAL recordings of broadcasts that exist are of special event coverage. Woodrow Wilson's armistice day address Nov 10, 1923, Defense Test Day Sept 12, 1924, Coolidge Inauguration March 4, 1925, Lindbergh arrival in Washington June 11, 1927, Lindbergh arrival in NYC June 13, 1927, Dempsey-Tunney fight Sept 22, 1927. There also are excerpts of NY Philharmonic-Symphony broadcasts in 1923-24, and the Association Glee Clubs broadcasts of 1925. I described in great detail all of the 1920s recordings that were known in the 1970s in my dissertation back in 1977. (This includes the recently mentioned WGY pallophotophone films from 1922 and 1923—but remember, those are recordings that were made FOR broadcasting, not recordings OF a broadcast.) Elizabeth has taken some of this info and has updated it with info on recordings that have been found since then. It's on her web site and it's where I go to see what is new that is old.

Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net

Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 21:53:11 -0400
From: "MICHAEL BIEL" mbiel@kih.net
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: 1915 recordings

Robert Angus reminded the group that there were cylinder recordings made by Charles Apgar in 1915 of the code transmissions from the Sayville, Long Island, Telefunken station. I've known about them for many decades and had a long discussion of them in my Ph.D. dissertation thirty years ago. I didn't mention them in relation to the Museum of Broadcasting because they have never claimed to have them, and, strictly speaking, these recordings are of point-to-point transmissions, not broadcasts. (The intentions of a transmission determine their status, not whether multiple people could hear them. Your cordless phone transmissions are not broadcasts even though people with scanners might be able to hear them.)

Ironically, with the organization's changes of names from "Broadcasting" to "Television & Radio" to "Media", the recordings might not have fit the original designation but now they DO qualify! Since the recordings consist of beeps, buzzes, and whistles, I don't think they would be big draws to the Paley Center where they seem to mainly have people interested in seeing things no more rare than the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Actually, if the Paley Center does manage to get a copy of the recordings, I think they would consider them important only in bringing the age of their earliest recording back a few more years closer to 100.

For this group, which is a bit more historically minded, I will mention why these recordings really are important. They show that even prior to broadcasting, even back into the early 1890s, there always had been the technology available to make recordings of radio transmissions and broadcasts. Thus it is possible that ANYTHING could have been recorded. The German manager of the station stated that this was impossible, and his quote about this on the front page of the NY Times is rather funny. But there is more to these recordings, including the real reason why the station manager tried to downplay the possibility of recordings. The transmissions themselves were recordings. They were magnetic wire recordings of Morse code messages that were speeded up for transmission with the intention for the German receiver to record them at high speed on a similar wire recorder and slow them back down for decoding. Apgar's spring wound cylinder recorder could be slowed down while playing, and then it became obvious that the high pitched buzzing was really standard code. This was not a new idea. Edison had been working with a mechanical disc recorder in 1876 attempting to do this very same thing. It is said that when Edison played the code recordings at high speed the high pitched sound gave him an idea that sound could be recorded on a similar machine.

So there were many intersecting aspects of the Apgar recordings. Off the air sound recording, magnetic recording and playback, and compression and expansion of recordings like Edison had attempted. But I'm not sure what the Paley Center would do with the recordings because to them they would not be very entertaining.

Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net

Elizabeth McLeod

Date: Wed, 15 Jul 98 08:29:43 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
To: old.time.radio@broadcast.airwaves.com
Subject: Re: Surviving Early Broadcasts

I would like to know what is the earliest surviving broadcast? The first comedy broadcast? The first drama/mystery broadcast?

Since Mike Biel still isn't home to answer this one, I'll do my best to answer in his stead. For a very detailed, fully-documented explanation of this subject, see his dissertation, "The Making and Use of Recordings In Broadcasting Before 1936."

So far as is known the earliest actual broadcast recording known to survive is from a series of New York Philharmonic musical broadcasts recorded by Bell Laboratories in late 1923. At least one of these recordings predates by a short time the recording of former President Woodrow Wilson's talk on the meaning of Armistice Day recorded off WEAF by Frank L. Capps of New York on 11/10/23. The Wilson talk appears to be the earliest surviving recording of a voice broadcast.

As has often been pointed out, the recordings circulating which purport to be the KDKA election night coverage from 1920 are recreations. The 1920 campaign speech by vice presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt in the Museum of Television and Radio's collection comes from a "Nation's Forum" phonograph record, and I've seen no documentation to support the claim that it is a broadcast recording. The "Nation's Forum" records were made in a studio by conventional acoustic-recording methods, and were not made from broadcasts or for broadcasting.

In addition, there are recordings of morse-code transmissions, including a New York Herald news summary, from 1915, made by Charles Apgar on a cylinder recorder. While the original cylinders are apparently lost, a set of uncoated aluminum discs exists of a 1934 broadcast in which Apgar is interviewed and plays these cylinders.

The earliest surviving comedy broadcast would depend on what you mean by comedy. A brief segment recorded by Western Electric survives from a July 1925 WEAF broadcast featuring song-and-patter comedians Billy Jones and Ernie Hare doing the song "Pretty Puppy." This seems to be the earliest surviving recording of comedy performers on radio.

There are a number of recordings in circulation purporting to be of 1926 WGN broadcasts by "Sam and Henry." These are not broadcast recordings, however, nor were they recordings made for broadcasting. They are commercial phonograph records, on the Victor label, recorded in Victor's Chicago studio. 8 sides were recorded in 1926-27 containing vaudeville-style skits, and remained in the Victor catalog thru the early 1930s. No actual recordings exist of the "Sam and Henry" broadcasts. There are also several Victor records of "Amos 'n' Andy" routines which are not broadcasts, including the famous "Presidential Election" bit from 1928.

Syndication recordings of Amos 'n' Andy survive from 1928-29, however. These are 12-inch 78rpm shellac pressings recorded originally at Marsh Laboratories in Chicago, and later at the Brunswick studios in Chicago or Los Angeles. These are not recordings of the live WMAQ broadcasts—they were made in advance of the actual broadcasts, and were broadcast over subscribing stations at the same time that the episode was going out live over WMAQ, in an attempt to create the effect of a network. The syndication recordings include only the story portion of each episode—opening and closing were done live, and there were no commercials. (The syndicated series was sold on a sustaining basis, and was scheduled in a ten-minute time slot by subscribing stations, not a fifteen minute slot. Amos 'n' Andy never had a sponsor until they went to NBC in August 1929.) Each disc includes one nine-minute episode, with 4 1/2 minutes on each side. I have documented the survival of seventeen episodes from 1929, and I know of a number of additional programs from 1928 which are not available for circulation. These are serial format shows, and are more melodrama than comedy. Other than a few segments on RCA Victor Home Recording discs from 1933, no recordings of the network version of "Amos 'n' Andy" are known to exist before 1936. (I've heard rumors that the 12/24/35 episode in which Amos and Ruby marry is extant, but I've never encountered it.)

I've recently confirmed the existence of a number of Eddie Cantor "Chase and Sanborn Hour" programs from the early 1930s, with the earliest dating to 1931—which would make it the earliest extant network comedy broadcast. These programs are not circulating, and I haven't actually heard them. But they do exist...

The earliest network dramatic programs that I've encountered are the "Empire Builders" broadcasts from 1930-31. These are airchecks of station KYW, Chicago recorded on uncoated aluminum discs. The earliest network mystery program I've heard is an NBC Blue Sherlock Holmes broadcast from January 1933, which appears to come from an RCA Victor pressing made for an extension-spotting campaign. There are also various dramatic and mystery programs made for syndication in 1930-32, such as the George Edwards "Frankenstein" serial, early episodes of Chandu the Magician, "George Bruce's Air Stories," "Detectives Black and Blue," and similar programs. Most of the "Witch's Tale" broadcasts in circulation come from syndication pressings dating to 1934 and later, although there seems to be at least one WOR aircheck in existence dated November 1934 and featuring voice-over commercials for Kruschen Laxative Salts. There are also several "Eno Crime Clues" broadcasts from disc pressings made probably for extension spotting. These are dated 1933-34, and may have been made off the NBC line from live broadcasts.

A log of surviving pre-1932 broadcast recordings (which doesn't include syndicated shows) can be found in my article Documenting Early Radio. This log is as complete as I've been able to make it—but there are always new discoveries being made!


Date: Fri, 17 Jul 98 20:06:10 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
To: old.time.radio@broadcast.airwaves.com
Subject: Re: FW: Surviving Early Broadcasts

A quick search of our old audio masters produced a list of 7 1925 recordings, including the comedy piece cited. It did not produce the 1923 NY Philharmonic recording. It might be here, but not properly cataloged.

I believe that over on 78-L Doctor Mike once mentioned examining these recently-discovered recordings (so fill us in, already!!) I know one of them, dated 12/5/23, shows up on the Philharmonic's "Historic Broadcasts" CD set released last year. It's a five minute excerpt of a Beethoven selection, with no announcers heard.

Another WE recording in this series that's of interest is a recording made the same day as the Jones and Hare piece. Performer Edwin Searle is featured, with a female announcer who I think is Rosaline Greene. What's significant about this particular extract is that it's the earliest 33 1/3 rpm recording known to survive. (WE was at work developing the Vitaphone process around this time—and one of the problems they often ran into in the early days at the Vitaphone Studio in Brooklyn is that the unshielded equipment they were using would pick up radio programs, spoiling the take! They were recording on wax, so none of these accidental radio recordings were saved.)

There's also a full-length recording of the Second Defense Test Day Program from July 4, 1925, which I just recently found out about. There are pressings at the National Archives, but apparently a reference tape has never been made (or at least it hadn't been as of early this year)

All of the 1920s/1930s experimental recordings exist in the form of metal stamping masters, which can not be easily played. (At least we do not have the equipment here).

There are vinyl pressings of many of these discs in the A. F. R. Lawrence collection at the Library of Congress.

It's possible to play a stamper directly with a special forked stylus, but it's not the easiest thing in the world to do!

Another early 1925 piece that we have is Calvin Coolidge's inauguration.

This recording was issued last year by Rhino Records in a collection of Historic Presidential Speeches (which you might be able to locate at your local Giant Chain Bookstore) It's about 25 minutes long, and apparently only one recording machine was used since the sides are non-continuous (pieces are missing between each side.) It's apparently a line check of the WCAP feed, and is of excellent audio quality. It's also a very articulate, well-delivered speech—while Coolidge was no FDR at the microphone, he was a far more comfortable radio speaker than Hoover.

So—when is AT&T/Lucent going to package all this material on a special promotional CD?? (It'd be high on my shopping list!!)


Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2001 23:37:28 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: The Monkey Trial

I was reading that the Scopes "Monkey" trial was the first court case broadcast live on radio. Do any recordings exist?

Rumors have floated around for years about this—the stories vary in details depending on who's telling them, and usually stating that WGN in Chicago had recorded portions of the broadcast on acoustic equipment. If they did, no pressings are known to have survived, nor does any documentation.

Speaking in general terms, it's safe to say that if an event was broadcast before about 1932, the odds of a recording of that broadcast having been made are very slim, and the odds of such a recording surviving are even slimmer.


From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
Subject: Re: What's the oldest surviving aircheck from a radio show?
Newsgroups: alt.radio.oldtime
Date: 2000/03/22

Just curious...I've heard plenty of things from the 1930s, and I wonder what is available from the early 1930s or even the 1920s. Can anyone fill me in...and can they be found at the Museum of Television & Radio, or on the Net?

While there's quite a great deal of material extant from 1931-35 (it's just not widely collected, perhaps because of audio-quality issues), there are only a handful of genuine broadcast recordings extant from before 1931, the earliest voice broadcast being a three minute clip of a broadcast by ex-president Woodrow Wilson dating to November 1923. (the KDKA clip that frequently turns up is one of several fakes made over the years, the best known being the version put together by Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly for their "I Can Hear It Now" record series in 1950.) There is also a genuine recording of code transmission dating back to 1914.

For specific details on most known pre-1932 broadcast recordings, see my article "Documenting Early Radio" at http://www.midcoast.com/~lizmcl/earlyradio.html

The Museum of Television and Radio claimed for many years that a recording in its files of Franklin D. Roosevelt delivering a speech during his 1920 vice-presidential campaign was "the earliest known broadcast recording," but they didn't know what they were talking about—the recording is actually a tape dub of a phonograph record made for the Columbia Graphophone Company's "Nation's Forum" label in mid-1920 (Nation's Forum #20, "Americanism" by F. D. Roosevelt, matrix #49871. I've seen and handled an original pressing of this recording, and it was not made from a broadcast or for broadcasting. It was part of a series of discs acoustically recorded in Columbia's New York studio by various political personalities of the day, and commercially sold thru the usual distribution channels.)

Last I knew, the Museum had finally backed away from their claims about this recording although they still haven't totally abandoned them. Take their statements with a barrelful of salt - there's a lot in the MTR collection that came in the form of tape dubs from the OTR community, which has historically been rather lax in documenting the origins of the recordings it circulates. There's quite a few "1920s Broadcasts" in the MTR collection that are actually nothing more than ordinary commercial phonograph records by artists who were also radio performers.

From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
Subject: Re: getting shows that were never recorded
Newsgroups: alt.radio.oldtime
Date: 2002-03-20 15:56:41 PST

My personal interest is in the 1920-1925 era, when unfortunately most broadcasts were not recorded due to the technological difficulty of recording anything longer than 5 minutes.

True, but not for lack of trying—by 1927, the Edison Company had developed an experimental 12 rpm microgroove disc that could hold ninety minutes of audio per side. This later evolved into a 30 rpm disc holding half an hour per side, and there are a number of recordings of 1927-29 broadcasts being discovered as researchers work thru the recordings stored at the Edison Historic Site.

So far less than a dozen genuine pre-1926 broadcast recordings are known to exist in the US and Canada, with the longest of these running nearly 90 minutes on a series of 12" 78rpm discs.

Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2002 12:16:08 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: 1925 Transatlantic Broadcast.

I remember reading that the first transatlantic broadcast happened in 1926. It was a broadcast from station 2LO London that was relayed to the us. Does anyone on the list have any technical details on it, frequencies, content etc?

You're thinking of a special transatlantic relay program which took place on 3/14/25. The program originated at 2L0, London, and consisted of two main segments—a dance band remote from London's Savoy Hotel, and a studio program featuring a violin and piano. The transmission was not received from 2L0 directly—the station was linked by land line to 5 X X, Daventry, an experimental high-power longwave station which transmitted 25,000 watts at 1560 meters. (5 X X had been established in Chelmsford in 1924, but the new Daventry transmitter wouldn't officially go in service until July 1925—the March 15th program was strictly experimental.)

The 5 X X transmission was received by RCA's experimental relay station BF, in Belfast, Maine (coincidentally my birthplace, and I can tell you there's no trace of station BF there today). The signal was then retransmitted by BF by shortwave, on 70 meters, and received at the RCA laboratory at Cortlandt Park in New York, from which it was sent by Western Union land line to station WJZ which transmitted the signal over its regular medium-wave channel. The program was also sent by Western Union land line to WRC in Washington, another RCA station often linked in network programming with WJZ. Milton J. Cross of WJZ served as stateside announcer for the broadcast, but no US material was transmitted to London during the event—it was strictly a one-way experiment.

The quality of the transmission varied. Reports from Belfast, ME indicated that the longwave signal came in loud and strong at station BF—but the quality of the shortwave relay from BF to WJZ was extremely poor, and the program material could barely be heard underneath the static and fading.

Does a recording of this program exist?

About half an hour's worth of excerpts exist, recorded on 78rpm wax masters by an unknown recording facility—where the technicians apparently tuned in the program on an ordinary radio and placed a microphone in front of a horn speaker to pick up the sound. The result makes a barely-audible program even less audible—the sound is rough and metallic and you can sometimes sense the sound of music under the noise. The local station ID by Milton Cross, on the other hand, comes thru clear and strong.

These discs may have been made for Dr. Albert Goldsmith of RCA, but exactly who did the recording has never been positively determined. (The only substantial clues are the red-brown Pathe-Perfect style shellac from which some of the discs were pressed, and the voice of one of the recording engineers, who can be heard at the start of one of the segments saying "Hello, Carl!") The actual discs are now held by the Library of American Broadcasting, from which tape copies can be obtained.


Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2002 11:41:34 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: 1951 Playoff Calls

I would like to get copies of the radio broadcast of the last game of the 1951 Giants/Dodgers playoff game done by all three announcers: Russ Hodges, Red Barber and Gordon McClendon. Can anyone help out?

The McLendon broadcast, an aircheck of WCFL, Chicago via the Liberty network, is available thru the Miley Collection. Try www.baseballdirect.com as one possible source. This is the only complete recording of this game known to exist, and while the audio is quite acceptable, McLendon himself will take some getting-used-to if you've never heard him before. It's obvious he usually did recreations rather than live broadcasts, because he constantly tries to impose excitement on the game thru his voice rather than letting the game carry him along naturally, and personally, I find him exhausting to listen to.

All that survives of the Russ Hodges/WMCA broadcast is the last half of the ninth inning, followed by the Giants' clubhouse celebration. The recording is very crude, and is obviously the result of someone sticking a microphone in front of a small, cheap table radio tuned to the broadcast. The story is that the recording was made by a Dodger fan—who tuned in the Giants broadcast in the last of the ninth and switched on his tape recorder for the sole purpose of hearing Hodges break down and cry when the Giants lost the game. When that didn't happen, he realized that Hodges himself might want to hear what his call sounded like, and sent him the tape. That tape was the source for the 78 rpm promotional record distributed by Ligget and Myers, which in turn has been duped and dubbed all over the place. The entire original tape, from the last half inning thru the celebrations, used to be available from Danrick Enterprises, but as noted in a prior post, they no longer sell baseball recordings.

The only place I've ever heard the Red Barber call is on a 1986 broadcast of "Costas Coast-to-Coast," in which Bob Costas interviews Barber and Ernie Harwell about the game, and plays clips of all three calls. The Barber clip is also an open-mike recording—although it seems to have been made off a better-quality radio than the Giants recording—and was supposedly recorded off WMGM by a salesman for the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company, one of the Dodger radio sponsors.

The clip begins with Barber summarizing the just-finished top of the ninth. His sidekick Connie Desmond then delivers a commercial for Schaefer beer, and Barber returns for the bottom of the ninth—noting that some of the Giants fans in the stands appear "ill" as a result of the 4-to-1 Brooklyn lead. The inning then proceeds, with Barber sounding confused and surprised to see Branca brought in to pitch to Thomson instead of Clem Labine. Desmond sums up Branca's pitching record as Branca warms up, and Barber then takes over, noting that Thomson hit a two-run homer off Branca the last time they met. The Barber call of the home run:

Big Branca called on for his most important job in his baseball career.....well, everything's the most important, for all of these players that come around......here it is.....Branca pumps....delivers....curve ball....swung on and belted deep out to left field! It is....A HOME RUN! AND THE NEW YORK GIANTS WIN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE PENNANT—AND THE POLO GROUNDS GO WILD! (Barber is silent for exactly 59 seconds, allowing the hysterical crowd noise to tell the story.) Well friends, we've got to try and get back above the screaming, howling, compestuous noise that has reached an unprecedented height. Never was there a more dramatic finish to a pennant race! There couldn't be—there never was such a playoff! And, the Giants coming to bat apparently a beaten ball club in the last half of the ninth inning have now ripped in four runs for the game—the playoff—the pennant!

Contrary to popular myth, Barber was neither cold nor dispassionate in this call—he raised his voice quite markedly for the portion in caps. Letting the crowd noise tell the story of what happened after the home run was a typical Barber touch, and one which is still widely used by his modern disciples—his protege Vin Scully has made an art out of knowing when not to talk. That, to me, is the real difference between an ordinary baseball broadcaster and a great one.

I'd also suggest that, with the possible exception of Ned Martin (who had an enormous vocabulary and used it masterfully), Red Barber is the only baseball broadcaster in the business who could get away with using a word like "compestuous."


Date: Sun, 4 Aug 2002 16:06:45 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: OTR Baseball Recreations

Anyway, when I tuned in the day promoted, they played the entire Dodgers-Giants game from 1951, concluding with Russ Hodges' hysteria. Incidentally, Hodges was still the Giants' announcer at that time, too. I didn't listen to the whole thing, but now I wonder.

It was most likely a studio recreation, since Hodges was still working for the Giants at the time (he remained active thru the 1970 season, I believe). It wouldn't have been difficult for him to reconstruct what he had said in the actual broadcast, since he had the recording of that final inning as a template, and probably had his original scoresheets to work from for the rest of the game. I don't believe the McLendon broadcast was known to exist until the late 1980s.

Recreations have often been done by old-time announcers for games for which no recordings were known to exist, and aired as part of special tribute or nostalgia programs, and they can be very confusing if you don't recognize them right off, especially when modern documentary types try to pass them off as the genuine article Off the top of my head, I know that there are similar recreations extant of longtime Philadelphia broadcaster Byrum Saam calling the 1950 Phillies pennant clincher—a game he didn't actually broadcast, since he was exclusively the Athletics broadcaster that season, and of Bob Prince and Jim Woods of the Pirates calling the seventh game of the 1960 World Series—a game Prince actually called on television for NBC with Mel Allen. I was also interested to note that in many of the recent tributes to Ted Williams aired over New England television stations, they used what appeared to be a recreation of Curt Gowdy's 1960 call of Williams' final homer. While no acknowledgement of the source was given by anyone using the excerpt, I'm near-certain this clip actually came from a studio recreation done by Gowdy for WBZ's "Big Broadcast" in 1975. I listened to that recreation when it first aired, and remember being very annoyed that the broadcast ended with the home run—they didn't bother to recreate the last half-inning of the game.

Speaking of baseball broadcasts, I just learned of a discovery that's quite exciting—a complete color video tape has been unearthed in Boston of the entire WHDH-TV broadcast of the next to the last game of the 1967 season, a crucial matchup between the Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, as called by Ken Coleman, Ned Martin, and Mel Parnell. This tape was shown publicly for the first time in nearly 35 years at a summer conference of the Society for American Baseball Research, and now stands as the oldest surviving complete color telecast of a major league baseball game—and the oldest surviving complete telecast of any regular season baseball game. The tape is in the possession of the New England Sports Museum in Boston, and hopefully Major League Baseball will eventually arrange to license it for commercial release.


Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2002 00:06:47 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: Yankee Broadcasts/Ben Chapman

I have the circulating broadcast of the 09-20-34 Yankees/Tigers game broadcast by WWJ in Detroit. This game is purported to be the oldest complete game transcription extant (I'm sure a digester will prove that wrong) and the announcer is WWJ's Ty Tyson.

A complete aircheck of the 1934 All Star Game, called by Ted Husing for CBS, survives in the collection of the Baseball Hall Of Fame Library in Cooperstown, and this game is about two months older than the WWJ broadcast. But no authentic recordings of baseball are positively known to exist before 1934. I've heard rumors that at least part of the 1933 World Series exists, but I've never been able to document these rumors. Recordings purporting to date from the 1932 World Series are fake, as are recordings purporting to be of Babe Ruth's 60th home run in 1927.)

Regular season broadcasts of Yankee home games did not begin until 1939. and after the 1934 season, all regular season broadcasts were prohibited by the team—even recreations broadcast by the other team's station. The Yankees even went so far as to crack down on station WINS for broadcasting a "nightly baseball summary" which recreated highlights from games played earlier in the day—the team was extremely hostile to radio thru the thirties.

One broadcasting tidbit I gathered from the transcription—Mr. Tyson both announced the game--and--served as stadium public-address announcer!

This wasn't uncommon during the thirties—you'll hear Walter Johnson doing the same thing during the segment of a Washington Senators broadcast included in the WJSV 9/21/39 set. Baseball owners were notoriously cheap, and as long as there was someone in the booth, there was nothing to stop him from doubling on the PA system—and this would save the owner the dollar or so per game it might have cost to have a second person handling those duties.

Lastly a non otr related question (sorry)—was this Ben Chapman the player who was killed by a pitched ball—the only death from a thrown ball up to the present?

That was Ray Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians who was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays of the Yankees in a game at the Polo Grounds in 1920. Chapman tried to stand up and walk to the clubhouse after being hit, but collapsed and never regained consciousness—and died later that night. Mays was known and reviled by the fans of that era as a dirty competitor, and to the end of his life he complained that killing Ray Chapman was the only thing that kept him out of the Hall of Fame. In fairness to Mays, however, the fatal pitch was thrown as twilight was falling, and the ball was scuffed, dirty, and very difficult to see.

Ben Chapman had his own claim to infamy—he was one of baseball's most aggressive bigots, who was traded by the Yankees to the Washington Senators after several years of complaints from Jewish patrons that Chapman had the habit of shouting venomous ethnic slurs into the stands. (In a bit of crude irony, the man the Yankees got in return was Jake Powell—who ignited a furor of his own in July 1938 when in a pregame interview with Chicago White Sox announcer Bob Elson of WGN, Powell commented that he was looking forward to his off-season job as a police officer, because it gave him a chance to keep in shape by "cracking [extreme racial slur] in the head and throwing them in jail." After the broadcast generated national outrage in the African-American press, the Commissioner's office suspended Powell without pay for ten days, and required him to spend the period of his suspension walking the streets of Harlem, introducing himself to passersby, and apologizing for his remark.)

In the late 1940s, Ben Chapman resurfaced as manager of the Phillies—where he led that club in racial harassment of the most loathsome kind against Jackie Robinson during Robinson's rookie season with the Dodgers. Chapman was challenged to a fight by Dodger infielder Eddie Stanky, who dared him to mouth off to someone who was allowed to defend himself, but Chapman refused the challenge. Under pressure, Commissioner A. B. Chandler fined Chapman and forced him to publicly apologize for his actions—and there's a famous picture of Chapman and Robinson posing together before a game, holding a bat and looking as though both of them would rather be anywhere else. Years later, Robinson acknowledged that what he really wanted to do was shove the bat down Chapman's throat, and it took all the restraint he could muster to avoid doing so.


Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 16:17:52 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: WGN Recordings

Since the trial was in 1925, transcription disk would have been the only option, and I don't think they recorded any of their live remotes.

"Transcription discs" as such didn't exist in 1925, and no genuine recordings are known to exist of any of WGN's special-events coverage until the two-hour broadcast of the funeral of Mayor Anton Cermak in early 1933, with Quin Ryan describing the events from Chicago Stadium.

However, WGN did figure in a significant early experiment with broadcast recording. The following is extracted from the 5/10/24 issue of Radio Digest:


Novel Experiment Conducted by WGN Chicago

Chicago—Re-recording the broadcast of a phonographic record of a previous broadcast was the recent achievement WGN, Tribune-Zenith station, listeners were party to.

The opening program of WGN was recorded in the New York laboratories of Frank Hoyt, inventor of a new method of phonographic recording. The records were sent to WGN here, where they were recently broadcast. Mr. Hoyt picked up the broadcast of the records and recorded it a second time together with the announcement telling of what was being done. The second broadcast, from the first records made by Hoyt, was sufficiently clear to be recorded a second time.

No additional documentation has surfaced to describe exactly the technique used—whether it was discs or cylinders, acoustic or electrical, or even some photographic process—but there was a lot of experimentation with various electrical recording methods going on around this time, and it's quite possible this is what Hoyt was doing. There is also no additional information available on Hoyt himself.

In the end, this news item is the seed of a mystery—who was Hoyt, what was his process, and where did his recordings end up? The answers may never be known.


Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2004 13:46:43 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: Inaugural Addresses

My question is do recordings of the 1925 Calvin Coolidge Inauguration or Herbert Hoover's 1929 inauguration exist, and if so how could one go about getting a copy of them, since neither is likely to be copyrighted any longer?

The 1925 Inaugural speech was recorded experimentally off the WCAP-WEAF line by Western Electric, and pressings survive in the Library of Congress. The speech was released as part of a CD/cassette boxed set "Historic Presidential Speeches from the Library of Congress" from Rhino Records in the late 1990s.

The recording was made on 12" 78rpm masters using one turntable, so there are gaps in the speech between sides. No announcements or broadcast commentary are included on the recording with the exception of three words spoken by Graham McNamee just before the speech begins: he can be heard saying "We are ready..." and then after a pause Coolidge is sworn in by Chief Justice Taft and then moves directly into the Inaugural Address.

No genuine broadcast recordings are known to exist of Hoover's 1929 inauguration, although sound newsreel footage of the event survives. All extant audio of the speech comes from newsreel sources. The National Archives would be a good place to check for that material.

All presidential speeches by all Presidents are considered to be public domain. However, rights to any broadcast announcements or commentary surrounding those speeches remain with the originating networks or news organizations.


Date: Mon, 2 Nov 98 07:40:24 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
To: old.time.radio@broadcast.airwaves.com
Subject: Re: Lost Tapes Of Sports Events

In the SporTView column in today's Boston Globe ("Unfortunate Tale of the Tape", p. C3), Howard Manly reports that ESPN Classic has learned what many participants in this roundtable have told me: audio and video tapes of sporting events as recent as the mid 80s are simply gone. Interestingly, the oldest surviving video tapes of a complete regular season baseball game dates to 1969 and of a world series game to 1952.

This is a real loss—a few years back, WSBK-TV did an interesting documentary on the '67 Red Sox, filled with color video clips taken from the original WHDH-TV telecasts—but it turned out that those clips were all that survived, the rest of the games having been wiped thirty years ago.

We can go back a bit further with regard to radio—but there's still an awful lot that's missing. And there's also a lot of fakery—for example, Babe Ruth's 60th homer in 1927 was never broadcast—but that hasn't prevented various creative producers from coming up with rather unconvincing recreations.

The earliest surviving radio broadcast of a sporting event would be the release of the 9/22/27 Dempsey/Tunney fight on the Paramount label, a set of ultra-rare 78rpm records that have been discussed on this forum from time to time. I was in touch last winter with the Mills Music Library in Wisconsin, the main repository of Paramount materials, and was told that they didn't have this set—but were hoping to get it thru a donation. They did tell me that no more than 5 thousand copies of this set were pressed—and possibly as few as a thousand sets.

Moving forward in time, there is an RCA Victor Home Recording disc of the 6/20/32 Sharkey-Schmeling fight which covers the first four rounds, the final round, and the wrap-up. I've also confirmed the existence of a set of aluminums containing a segment of track-and-field coverage from the 1932 Olympics, but I haven't gotten any additional details.(If anyone knows anything about these, please fill me in!!) I've been told that much of the 1932 Olympics was recorded off the air by Bert Gottschalk's Electro-Vox Studio in Los Angeles, but whether these recordings survive anywhere is unknown.

As to baseball, the Library of Congress holds World Series games from 1935 onward, and I've heard recurrent rumors to the effect that the 1933 and 1934 series are also extant. I'd particularly like to hear the '33 series—it featured a rare network appearance by pioneering New England broadcaster Fred Hoey, who showed up drunk and had to be taken off the air. In addition to the Library of Congress holdings, the Gillette company is known to hold recordings of all the World Series and All Star games that they sponsored, from 1939 to the 1960s.

For regular season broadcasts, the earliest to have surfaced would be a 9/20/34 Tigers/Yankees game from WWJ, Detroit as broadcast by Ty Tyson. Then there are a couple of 1936 White Sox games with Hal Totten and George Watson, as airchecked off WCFL, and miscellaneous fragments of other broadcasters. The WJSV set includes a Senators-Indians game, which is probably the best-known early sports recording.

As to football, there's an interesting bit of lore in Mike Biel's dissertation, mentioning that Universal Recording Laboratories of Chicago airchecked a complete college football game as a publicity stunt in late 1931. Anyone out there ever run across these discs?

(who is always looking for regular season 1960s Red Sox games, especially 1967 thru 1969.)

Date: Tue, 19 Jan 99 07:23:11 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
To: old.time.radio@broadcast.airwaves.com
Subject: Re: Earliest Disc Jockey Recording

I'm looking for the oldest known recording (aircheck) of a disc jockey program. Would this be an Al Jarvis or Martin Block show, or are there others? Thanks all, in advance, for your help.

There's a segment of a Martin Block program from 1935 extant in the National Archives, but it's not the oldest example of DJ programming—I know of five short fragments that date back even further.

Four are Canadian, and come from a collection of celluloid Victor Home Recording discs discovered in Vancouver by collector Tom Hood (who, I believe, is a OTR Roundtable member—Hi Tom!). One of these fragments is an aircheck of CKMO, Vancouver, and features announcer Billy Brown playing records of British music hall performers. It's a brief excerpt, recorded at 78rpm, and runs about three minutes. Another 78rpm disc contains an unidentified announcer playing a classical record on the "Works Of The Masters Programme". A third excerpt, on two 78rpm sides, dates to 7/10/33, and features an announcer whose first name is "Stanley" introducing recorded selections on "Songs Of Gaiety And Romance" This is probably an aircheck of station CRCV, Vancouver. And two more 78rpm sides include a segment of "The Victrola Shop," hosted by announcer Will Reeder (whose RCA Victor radio recorded these discs). This also a probably CRCV aircheck, and is dated 1/29/33.

But the oldest bona fide recording of a proto-DJ that I know of is included in a group of excerpts taken from discs originally owned by Jim Jordan, and circulated several years ago by Tom Price. Most of this material is taken from two "Smackout" programs from March and June of 1931, as heard over WMAQ. But after the "Smackout" excerpts, there are several very short snatches of other programming—probably recorded as test cuts. These include a fragment of a tenor solo, a piece of a commercial for the "California Fur Company," a short clip of an announcer reading local news direct from the paper—and the introduction of a phonograph record. The announcer, in a very stiff voice, states that the next selection will be "Clarinet Marmalade," by Phil Napoleon's Orchestra—"from a phono-graph record." And then you hear a few bars of this hot-dance recording.

There is no definite date on this recording (unless the labels of the discs include details that weren't included with the circulating tapes) but I think it's safe to guess that it dates to the first half of 1931. It's just a few seconds long, but it's a fascinating glimpse into the past. Phonograph records were an important part of radio all the way back to the beginning of the medium—and this clip gives invaluable evidence of how they were used before the era of the "personality DJ."


Date: Sat, 23 Jan 99 09:33:06 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod (lizmcl@midcoast.com)
To: old.time.radio@broadcast.airwaves.com
Subject: Re: Local OTR

I wonder how many of this type of OTR broadcasts actually survive. Is there any library of "local or regional OTR" ?

This is a good question—and one which involves one of my own special interests.

There's very little "local" radio available before the late 1930s—because almost no stations had recording equipment before approximately 1936. Recordings could have been made off-the-air on bare aluminum discs by private recording studios—but these discs would have been retained by the person for whom they were made. There are probably quite a few interesting local shows for which such private airchecks exist—but the challenge is actually finding the discs. Usually such recordings are now in the hands of the heirs of people who performed on local radio—and often the relatives will have no idea what it is that they have on those weird silver-colored records up in the attic, or that the discs are even there. There are probably some very interesting finds still lurking in these attics!

Aircheck studios were quite common in larger cities—but were less common in smaller markets. Recordings of 1930s local stations from rural areas are the rarest radio recordings of all—sometimes these will turn up on the old pre-grooved RCA Victor Home Recording discs, but then you're faced with the challenge of playing these back properly. (If anyone has some of these discs, and figures they're no good because "the sound is so faint" it's because you need a special needle to play them back! Don't discard them—there may be some very interesting material on these discs!)

Once recording equipment using lacquer discs became commonplace, stations themselves would often record shows. But not all the time—blank discs were expensive, and stations would be careful about how they used them. Most of the local material that seems to survive from station libraries involves some special occasion—a big local news story, a visit by a celebrity, or something like that. Ordinary day-to-day local programming is very hard to find—and thus very interesting to hear when it is found.

By the later forties, there's quite a bit of local material available from such organizations as SPERDVAC, like a very interesting run of shows featuring west coast country-music personality Cliffie Stone. Clubs are probably the best bet for tracking down such material—there doesn't seem to be a lot of commercial interest in it, and few big time dealers will bother to list local shows since there's no name recognition.

Local radio was a very important and very interesting part of the OTR era—and while it's difficult to find this material, it's often very rewarding. If you're looking for an offbeat listening experience, give local shows a try!


Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2006 21:30:18 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Complete Broadcast Days

Is anyone aware of recordings of complete broadcast days aside from the ones I know of Sep 21, 1939 & June 6, 1944 that were recorded and are available?

Memovox recordings exist of the entire output of NBC Red and Blue from 2pm on December 7, 1941 thru the full day of December 8. Most of these were issued on cassette by Radio Yesteryear in the mid-1990s.

Some others that exist, but aren't in general circulation—

NBC recorded everything aired over WEAF from June 6, 1944 to August 16, 1944, and this over two-month-long continuous recording survives, give or take the occasional broken disc, at the Library of Congress. Only the first 40 hours or so have ever been circulated.

The Federal Communications Commission had recordings made of the entire broadcast days of all six stations active in Washington DC on July 6, 1945, for use in a study of the percentage of time devoted to advertising in a typical broadcast day. These recordings were analyzed and discussed in "Public Service Responsibility of Broadcast Licensees," the famous "Blue Book" report released by the commission in 1946. It's not known if these recordings still exist in some deep-storage National Archives file box, or even the format in which they were made—it's likely they were not high-quality discs, but rather Memovoxes or some such low-grade system.


Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 10:50:55 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Greatest Loss

As much as I'd like to hear all 4091 of the serial A&A's, I'd have to say the Greatest Loss of OTR is of even greater scope than that—I'd call it the loss of practically the entire first fifteen years of broadcasting. The relative handful of existing recordings prior to 1935—and especially the almost complete loss of 1920s broadcasting—means that the vital formative years of the medium have become a field for all sorts of speculation and conjecture, with dozens of extremely important programs, personalities, and creators having been completely forgotten.

Ever heard of Bradford Browne and his Nit Wit Hour? Or "Old Gold on Broadway?" Or David L. Lawrence? How about the Dodge Victory Hour or the Radio Follies or the Columbia Experimental Dramas? How about George Frame Brown or William Ford Manley? Clarence L. Menser or Don Bernard or Peter Dixon? The list goes on and on—people and programs which all contributed to the evolution of forms and techniques that became essential in years to come. But because no recordings were ever made of their work, their contributions have been utterly erased from most of the received history—leaving behind a very shallow and distorted image of what the formative years of network broadcasting really were like.


Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2007 08:28:45 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: 1925 broadcasts

Elizabeth recently mentioned, in the digest, that no radio broadcasts from 1922 exist today. Does anyone know if there are any from 1925, specifically about the diphtheria serum run from Nenana Alaska to Nome Alaska.

Unfortunately not. Only the barest handful of broadcasts survive from the twenties, and while a few do exist from 1925, nothing survives of this specific incident. The only news-type material to exist from that year are an incomplete linecheck of President Coolidge's inaugural address, as heard over AT&T's Red network, recorded by Western Electric, and a Herbert Berliner-Apex recording of parts of a campaign speech by Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

All of the known broadcast recordings from 1925 were made under laboratory conditions by phonograph record companies testing various types of apparatus, not by civilians. The recording of broadcasts for historical or other preservation purposes would not become widespread until the uncoated aluminum recording process became popular in the early thirties, so, with very few exceptions, the unfortunate answer to any "Does such-and-such event/program from 192x exist?" is going to have to be "No."


Return to front page