University of Maryland Newsdesk.www.newsdesk.umd.edu
For Immediate Release
Radio Enters the Home
Return with us now, to the days of yesteryear. A time when radio burst across America and ushered in a new world of news and entertainment for everyone - made possible by the newfangled ideas of time payments and advertising.
An exhibit in the Maryland Room Gallery on the first floor of the Hornbake Library this semester helped return visitors to the 1920s and 30s - to really see how radio got its start and just how quickly it became part of the American landscape. A joint effort by Maryland's Library of American Broadcasting and the Radio History Society, Radio Enters the Home begins with the early 1920s - when it was a hobbyist's dream to build his or her own crystal set and listen to a neighbor broadcasting music just down the street.
Moving through time, the exhibit escorted visitors on a technological journey through the 20s and into the 1930s. Using the collections of the Radio History Society (and its Radio and Television Museum in Bowie, Maryland), it was possible to see just how quickly a hobbyist's homebrew turned into true works of home Art Deco furniture, with sophisticated receivers that "any child could operate" according to ads at the time."Radios were still pretty expensive" during the 20s and 30s, says Library of American Broadcasting Curator Chuck Howell. but with the advent of credit, anyone could buy a radio - even at $2.00 a week. "People of every economic strata had a radio by 1930 or so. And the way they did that was by going down to Woolworths and opening an account."
The LAB curator says there are parallels between how radios were marketed in the early days, and the way plasma high definition TVs have been marketed in the past few years. "You see in the exhibit that a lot of the early advertising for the radios was aimed at the upper class, or at least was trying to depict radio as a gentile and upper class activity. So even if you weren't a member of that class, by buying a radio, you could become one." Howell says even though plasma TV prices have come down, he still sees "a similar kind of thing going on" with the advertising.
See our "A Conversation With..." feature for a full audio interview with LAB Curator Chuck Howell. Below, you'll find two audio clips from the 1920s, the Radio Enters the Home brochure and a slideshow of the exhibit.
(Audio Courtesy Library of American Broadcasting.)
See a slide show presentation of the exhibit.
Radio Enters the Home Website