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1920's Radio and Advertising


1920's Radio and Advertising: Warren Harding was the 29th American President who served in office from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923. One of the important events during his presidency was the 1920's Radio.

Definition and Summary of the 1920's Radio and Advertising
Summary and definition:
Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi succeeded in transmitting the first radio broadcast in 1900. The United States Radio Industry began in 1913 when American engineer, Edwin Armstrong, invented a special circuit that made long-range radio transmission of voice and music practical. Crystal radios required earphones so only one person could listen at a time.

Vacuum tube radios could drive loudspeakers, which allowed the entire family to listen to the radio together.  In just a few short years nearly every home  had a radio and this brought about many cultural and social changes to America.

1920's Radio Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the 1920's Radio.

What was America's first Radio Station? The first station was KDKA who were issued with the first ever license on Oct. 27, 1920

What was the first radio broadcast in 1920? The first broadcast was an election night broadcast made by KDKA from the Westinghouse Electric buildings in East Pittsburgh which began at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 1920. Leo Rosenberg, radio’s first announcer, relayed the news to about 1,000 listeners that Warren Harding had beaten James Cox in the race for the White House.

What was the cost of a 1920's Radio? In the mid-1920s, a typical set cost about $150

Facts about 1920's Radio and Advertising
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on 1920's Radio and Advertising.

The Radio Industry in America began in 1913 when American engineer, Edwin Armstrong, invented a special circuit that made long-range radio transmission of voice and music practical.

The first systematic transmission of radio waves was performed by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. Guglielmo Marconi made practical improvements to develop them into commercial system of wireless telegraphy. In 1907 Reginald A. Fessenden became the first to send audio (wireless telephony) by means of electromagnetic waves. By 1910 these systems had come to be referred to by the common name of "radio".

Amplifying vacuum tubes revolutionized radio receivers and transmitters. Many famous scientists, including Thomas Edison, Eugen Goldstein, Nikola Tesla, David E. Hughes and Johann Wilhelm Hittorf, experimented with Vacuum tube technology. The groundwork laid by these inventors and scientists and was critical to the development of vacuum tube technology which led to the introduction of Vacuum tube radio receivers.

Guglielmo Marconi Marconi invented of the first practical radio signaling system in 1895 and is therefore generally credited as being the inventor of the radio. The Birth of public radio broadcasting is credited to Lee de Forest. It was described as the "sound factory."

The idea of radio as entertainment took off in 1920, with the opening of the first radio stations established specifically for broadcast to the public such as KDKA in Pittsburgh and WWJ in Detroit.

A crystal radio receiver was a very simple kind of battery-less radio receiver that do not need a battery or power source, except for the power that they receive from radio waves using a long outdoor wire antenna.

Crystal radios required earphones so only one person could listen at a time.

  • The small radio is pictured on the table

  • Crystal sets work off the power received from radio waves, so they were not strong enough to power loudspeakers

  • The family members are shown wearing earphones

  • Crystal sets were the most widely used type of radio until the 1920s, when they were gradually replaced by vacuum tube radios.

The line-operated vacuum tube radio receiver was invented in 1925 by Edward S. Rogers, Sr. Vacuum tube radio receivers could drive loudspeakers, which allowed the whole family to listen to the radio together

Early radio receivers used horn loudspeakers, as shown in the top left of the picture at the top of the page, were used to get adequate volume from the low gain early tubes.

The first commercial radio station, KDKA, went on the air on November 2, 1920. The first ever license was issued to KDKA, on Oct. 27, 1920. By 1922 there were 500 radio stations in America

Radio drew the nation together by breaking down provincialism. The  radio programs brought news, music entertainment, and advertisements to millions of listeners. Important sporting events were broadcast live across the nation increasing the popularity of Sports in the 1920's.

In 1926 the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) established a network of stations distributing programs on a daily basis. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) established their rival network in 1928.

By the end of the 1920s there were over 100 million radios in use in America.

Sales of radio equipment skyrocketed from $12.2 million in 1921 to $842.5 million in 1929

At first the government, the public and the emerging radio corporations viewed radio as a means of public service. Only the industry manufacturers were making real money.

Radio Advertising changed the public service face of radio, to one of private enterprise and profit and radio Advertising became big business in the late 1920's.

NBC and CBS sold advertising time and hired famous movie stars, musicians, singers and comedians to advertise products and appear on their shows.

In the 1928 presidential election campaign networks sold more than $1 million in advertising time to the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Mass advertising promoted a vast range of new products in the consumer society of America and led to the general acceptance of buying by installment plans as a way to finance consumption. 70% of radios sold in the 1920's were purchased through credit agreements. For more facts refer to Consumerism in 1920's America.

Popular broadcasts included newscasts, weather reports, popular classical and jazz music, sporting events, lectures, stories, newscasts and stock market updates. Comedy shows became a great favorite of the nation's listeners especially Amos ‘n’ Andy.

Jazz music was introduced to the whole nation due to the introduction of of large-scale radio broadcasts in 1922. Americans could listen to the new style of music without leaving their homes of going to a jazz club in a big city.

The US Government began to pass laws to govern the radio. The Federal Radio Commission was set up in 1926 and the Radio Act of 1927 organized the Federal Radio Commission

The Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was given the power to grant and deny licenses and ensured programs could not include "obscene, indecent, or profane language." The FRC was not given the authority to make any rules regulating advertising

In just a few short years the radio became a part of virtually every home in America. It supported the growing consumer culture and brought about many other cultural and social changes to America

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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