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Broadcasting After World War One (1918-1921)
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Although still unfocused, scattered broadcasting activities, taking advantage of improvements in vacuum-tube technology, accelerated after the end of the Great War. Initially there was a shortage of equipment, especially vacuum-tubes, due to ongoing patent disputes, and many of the early efforts were government related or by persons who had access to surplus military equipment. But the experiments continued to expand, as the radio industry returned to civilian control.
Post-War Experimentation and Development -- Pioneering News and Entertainment Broadcasts


Broadcasting experimentation, in most cases using vacuum-tube transmitters, accelerated beginning in 1919, especially after the end of the wartime civilian radio restrictions. In late 1918, A. A. Campbell Swinton, in an address to the Royal Society of Arts in London, suggested that radio was poised to develop in its "proper field" of "communication of intelligence broadcast over the earth", as reported in
New Possibilities in Radio Service from the December 28, 1918 issue of Electrical Review. Swinton's talk dealt mainly with the idea of transmitting news accounts to tickers located in businesses and private homes. (In Device to Supplant News Tickers, from the February, 1920 Radio Amateur News, Guglielmo Marconi wrote about plans to change ticker connections from fixed telegraph lines to the flexibility of radio transmissions, which would make possible mobile tickers located in automobiles.) However, Swinton also envisioned the possibility, in the near future, "of a public speaker, say in London, in New York or anywhere, addressing by word of mouth and articulate wireless telephony an audience of thousands scattered, may be, over half the globe."

Louise Wallace Hackney's The Call of the Goddess, a short story appearing in the January, 1919 Miladay Beautiful, although primarily a formulaic melodrama, also addressed concerns that entertainment broadcasts might interfere with critical emergency radio communication. Lee DeForest, in Predicts 12,000 Mile Radio Phone from the February 10, 1919 New York Sun, prematurely anticipated that the recent development of a high-powered Alexanderson alternator-transmitter would soon mean that "music lovers of New Zealand or any other country equally distant will be able to enjoy the pleasures of vocal or instrumental concerts given in New York or any part of the world". In a paper about Radio Telephony given by E. B. Craft and E. H. Colpitts, presented at the Convention of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and reported in the May, 1919 issue of Telephone Engineer, the authors noted that, in addition to being a future adjunct to standard telephone links, radio had a potential "third class of service... which is concerned, not with single individuals, but with groups; such service as the broadcasting of news, time and weather signals, and warnings".

Prior to World War One, jewelers in particular had been fans of the daily time signals broadcast by government stations, but they lost access to this valuable service during the wartime ban on the use of radio receivers by private citizens. At least one jeweler, in Norwalk, Ohio, got a little too impatient for the restrictions to end, which resulted in its Wireless Outfit Dismantled, according to the April 8, 1919 Cleveland Plain Dealer. However, the listening restriction was in fact lifted a short time later, effective April 15, 1919, and, responding to the existence of a niche consumer market, a short notice appeared in the October, 1919 issue of QST announcing the availability of a Jeweler's Time Receiving Set, sold by the Chicago Radio Laboratory, which was "ideal for the jeweler to whom receipt of time signals is a matter of business and who cannot spare the time to learn the operation of a more complicated set". A small advertisement in the May 12, 1920 The Jewelers' Circular offered an installation service, by the Radio News & Music Inc. of New York City, of The DeForest Radio Time Receiver, while the 1921 William B. Duck Company catalog noted that "All the progressive jewelers are taking advantage of the time being sent out daily by a great number of Government Naval Radio Stations" and offered a Type RS-100 Jewelers Time Receiver, manufactured by the DeForest Radio Telephone and Telegraph Company, which, when combined with a loud-speaker, promised to be an "exceptional commercial value to the jeweler since the time signals may be heard all over his store, and should produce an excellent advertisement for his business".


The pioneer broadcast which appears to have had the most international impact was Nellie Melba's June 15, 1920 concert transmitted from the Marconi station at Chelmsford, England, which was reviewed in
Radio Concerts by Hugo Gernsback for the September, 1920 issue of Radio News, Melba Entertains Europe by Wireless Telephone in the July 10, 1920 Telephony, A "Wireless" Concert, in the June 18, 1920 issue of The Electrician and The Voice Around the World, from the October, 1920 The Mentor, by A. A. Hopkins. One observer however was less than impressed, as A. P. Herbert groused that "I cannot get enthusiastic about this Wireless Singing" in Modern Nuisances, from the August 7, 1920 Living Age.

Numerous broadcasting experiments were also taking place throughout the United States, although at the time most had only a local impact. The independent nature of these efforts later led to conflicting claims about primacy, still being sorted out. But, separately, for a variety of reasons, the possibilities of broadcasting were starting to be developed in earnest, especially after the April 15, 1919 lifting of the wartime ban on public reception of radio signals. A few of these pioneering stations, in 1919 and 1920, included: In the June 8, 1919 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, Francis A. Collins' When the President at the Phone May Speak to All the People foresaw the imminent expansion of radio broadcasting into a nationwide service, reviewing the "astonishing advance of wireless by which a single voice may actually be heard in every corner of the country", as recent radio advances were poised to "work a revolution comparable to that of the railroad and the telegraph". In the June, 1920, Electrical Experimenter, "Newsophone" to Supplant Newspapers reported on a proposed news service by recorded telephone messages, and also predicted that readers could expect to soon see "radio distribution of news by central news agencies in the larger cities, to thousands of radio stations in all parts of the world", which would mean that "any one can simply 'listen in' on their pocket wireless set". And the San Diego Sun noted Nellie Melba's Chelmsford concert and Dr. Clayton B. Wells' weekly sermons, as reprinted in the Current Radio News section of the September, 1920 Pacific Radio News, and wondered -- "Why can't all the world listen in?" Meanwhile, as Christmas, 1921 approached, the comic pages reported that the young son of Cicero Sapp was hoping that this year Santa Claus would bring him his very own "wireless telephone outfit" -- would he get his wish? (spoilers).

"Some fascinating stories were given to me by Thomas H. (Tommy) Cowan, the first announcer in the New York metropolitan area. He put Westinghouse's WJZ on the air in September, 1921. 'Because I had knowledge of the theatre, Colonel E. F. Harder, Newark plant manager of our company, selected me to talk over its new 'radio-telephone broadcaster.' After only about ten days on the air, we received a trunkful of mail, some from as far west as the Mississippi.' Despite the favorable reaction of WJZ's fans, Colonel Harder had a sour view of the broadcasting setup. Pointing to the loudspeaker in his office one day, he remarked to Cowan, 'I continue to ask myself why anyone would bring this thing into his home to destroy its peace.' Not long thereafter Cowan brought to the station the Gallo Opera Company for a full length performance of Aïda and again the Colonel showed some interest in radio. But not for long. One morning he called Tommy to his office and said decisively, 'I want this fantastic thing out of here! It's too demoralizing. Why, we open an envelope expecting to find a big order for electric fans--and what do we get? A letter from a silly woman telling us how well some nincompoop sang last night!'"--Ben Gross, I Looked and I Listened, 1954.