The History of Radio

Donna Halper

StudyWeb Donna Halper, a well-qualified broadcast historian at Lesley University, has graciously volunteered to write a series of articles on the history of old-time radio. Rather than just expound on radio and radio personalities, Donna also includes some of the "environment" surrounding the periods: examples of what folks of the time thought were important, and affected their lives. Older readers can check their memories against the historical happenings of the day, and younger readers can relate today's socioeconomic, personal and political activities to those of decades past.

Among other books, Donna is the author of Invisible Stars : A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting. Click on the title for more information. You might encourage Donna to continue her efforts, by sending email to

When using any material from Donna's pages, or from any other WWW page, please include appropriate credits to the author and source.

1931The "birthyear" of Little Orphan Annie, in the midst of the Depression, when gasoline was a dime a gallon.
1934A year after the end of prohibition, the average citizen could find entertainment in both bottles and radios. Adolph Hitler was just named fuhrer of Germany, and British radio commentators were predicting storms from the East.
1937The year FDR signed the U.S Neutrality Act, and the US Supreme Court ruled that the minimum wage law also applied to women. Pittsburgh beat Washington 21 - 0 in the Rose Bowl. The British "Policy of Appeasement" was instituted with Hitler, and radios grew pushbuttons.
1939A year after Orson Welles' "Invasion From Mars". President Roosevelt asks Congress for $535 million defense budget, but declares US is neutral. Harry James hires Frank Sinatra. First appearance of baseball on TV. Glenn Miller's band celebrates first birthday. US radio stations send commentators to Europe.
1941The year after FDR was reelected and the Selective Service System was created. US declares war on Japan, Germany and Italy declare war on the US. FCC authorizes TV broadcasting. Aerosol spray cans introduced. Orson Welles directs and stars in Citizen Kane. Greta Garbo retires. Joe DiMaggio hits safely in 56th consecutive game.

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1943 WW II continues. The US begins to recapture some Pacific islands previously lost in the war. Italian government surrenders. Income tax withholding begins. Oil pipeline from Texas to Pennsylvania starts operating. President Roosevelt freezes wages, salaries and prices. New York beats St. Louis in World Series. Juan Peron starts a revolution in Argentinia.
1945 The United Nations (U.N) formed. A-Bombs dropped on Japan. Mussolini Assassinated, Hitler commits suicide, Germany surrenders; Japan surrenders. WW II ends. George Orwell writes Animal Farm. Rogers and Hammerstein's musical, "Carousel" debuts in New York. Republic of Viet Nam formed (under pres. Ho Chi Minh). Pres. Frankin D. Roosevelt dies.
1947 Marshall Plan to help Europe begins. Palestine partitioned by UN. India and Pakistan created as separate dominions. Polaroid camera introduced. Dead Sea Scrolls discovered. Bell's X-1 rocket plane makes first supersonic flight. Worst Winter in Britain since 1894.

Don't forget to visit our OTR: The Golden Years page for info on when some favorite OTR shows started and stopped.

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