March 12, 1933, FDR’s First Fireside Chat on the Banking Crisis
As one of his first acts to confront the worsening impact of the Great Depression, newly elected President Roosevelt declared a nation-wide bank holiday starting on March 6, 1933 effectively shutting down the American banking system following a month long run on their reserves. Roosevelt went on the radio in his first “fireside chat” to dispel rumors and explain his actions. When banks reopened on March 13th, the public lined up to redeposit their cash. The bank holiday, along with the Emergency Banking Act passed on March 9th, is credited with restoring public confidence in the banking sector.
“A Fine Play” or a Public Nuisance? Conflicting views on The War of the Worlds
On October 30, 1938, the popular Mercury Theater broadcast a radio play directed by Orson Welles, entitled “Invasion from Mars.” This adaptation of H.G.Wells’ novel “War of the Worlds” dramatized a surprise attack on a town in New Jersey. Many took the radio play to be real — causing widespread panic. Not everyone took to the streets however, and many, like the writer of the first letter, felt that others were overreacting.
What would you have done upon hearing Welles’ broadcast? Take to the streets, pick up the phone, or sit back and enjoy some good radio drama?
As the honorary “junior curator” is actually a huge fan of the Big Broadcast, we’ll be “tuning in” tomorrow night:
(It’s almost shocking, albeit gratifying, that a 9-yr-old will put down his Nintendo DS to listen to the radio.)
We released the 1940 census on April 2, and this Thursday at 7 pm, we host a program on the radio shows that Americans of that era listened to!
Ed Walker, host of WAMU’s longest-running radio show “The Big Broadcast,” and Rob Bamberger, host of “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” will discuss the history of the show. They’ll also present a sampling of the vintage radio broadcasts and discuss how the programs enriched the lives of Americans in the 1930s and 1940s. (Details here: http://go.usa.gov/VvU)
What radio shows or stations did your family listen to when you were growing up?
Photographs of Iva Toguri, consisting of two “mug shots” taken at Sugamo Prison on March 7, 1946.
Captions on the reverse of both photographs state:
“Captain Denton took me to Iva Toguri’s house and made her wear the light tan coat and had her put on her rimless glasses. I recognized her as the same girl who broadcast on the Zero Hour program. (Signed) Emi Matsuda.”
An American citizen trapped in Japan at the start of World War II, Toguri was convicted for treason for her role in the “Tokyo Rose” propaganda broadcasts but ultimately received a presidential pardon.
Cranks, Crack-pots, and Martians
On October 30, 1938, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) broadcast an adaptation of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The hour-long radio program began with an announcer introducing a musical performance and moments later interrupting with a special news bulletin describing the landing of Martians in New Jersey and their subsequent attacks with death rays. Although CBS made four announcements during the broadcast identifying it as a dramatic performance, millions of Americans who heard it were scared into some sort of action, many wrote letters. The newly created Federal Communications Commission received more than 600 letters about the broadcast, including the one featured here.
“…coming to you from Berlin and the German Overseas Service…”
This sound recording of a Berlin broadcast to Allied forces contained the war news report “Surpassing the Enemy’s Head Start” by Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels; “Home Sweet Home” read by a Nazi commentator; and a program consisting of American music and comments by “Midge,” Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, an American citizen dubbed “Axis Sally” by the American military.