Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades of Promise and Pain

By David E. Kyvig | Go to book overview

4

Radio and the Connecting of Daily Lives

The new electrically powered technologies with perhaps the greatest impact on the daily lives of ordinary Americans in the 1920s and 1930s were radio and sound motion pictures. Interestingly enough, they represented instances in which the presence or absence of electrical wiring did not force a wedge between city and countryside. Battery-operated radios in particular, but also movie projectors driven by electric generators, made it possible for rural and small town Americans to experience the same striking sounds and, occasionally, sights as city dwellers. Town and country could share experiences impossible to obtain in their own immediate cultural environment. Thus far more than any previous systems of communication, radio and the movies drew Americans together into a new and common culture


RADIO LINKS THE NATION

Radio became enormously popular in a very short period of time. It soon linked rural and urban America together in a common listening experience. In the two decades after the first commercial radio broadcast in November 1920, nearly 41 million radios were manufactured in the United States, considerably more than one for every household in the nation. For the first time in the nation’s history, one could realistically talk of a national audience for a political, sports, or other event. People across the country could simultaneously hear exactly the same thing, whether it was a presidential speech, a musical performance, an adver-

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