President Harding Installed a Radio in the White House
February 8, 1922, was a big day at the White
House. On this day President Harding had a radio installed. At
the time, radio was the hottest technology there was, and the
White House was on the cutting edge. Almost two years later,
Calvin Coolidge, who followed Harding, was the first president
to broadcast from the White House. Coolidge's address for
Washington's Birthday was heard on 42 stations from coast to
Before that historic broadcast, radio had played
a big role in Coolidge's victory in the 1924 presidential
election. The night before the election, Coolidge made history
when the largest radio audience ever tuned in to the broadcast
of his final campaign speech. Coolidge won the election easily,
and in March, Americans listened for the first time to their
president take the oath of office on the radio.
the 1920s, radio was in what is now called its "golden age."
Broadcasting was more than a business or a job--it was
considered to be a very glamorous profession. Radio was a formal
affair; announcers dressed up for work in tuxedos and evening
gowns, even if there was no studio audience. Many local stations
had a staff orchestra, and some had their own dramatic groups.
Each station had its own group of fans who tuned in each week to
listen to their favorite programs. Radio was at its peak then,
and its influence is much like that of TV or the Internet today.
Starting in the 1920s, people gathered around the radio
to listen to programs or the news, much like we gather around
the TV. With its new popularity, radio became a powerful
communication tool in politics. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who
became president in 1933, used the radio to deliver regular
updates to the American public. In his first address, he
explained his plan for fighting the Great Depression, "My
friends, I want to tell you what has been done in the last few
days, why it has been done, and what the next steps are going to
be." The talks became known as "fireside chats," named by Harry
Butcher, a CBS station manager in Washington.
although we still have radio addresses by the president, more
people see the president speak on television than listen to him
on the radio. In 1939, Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to
deliver a televised speech. The "golden age" of radio was about
to fade as television entered its "golden age."