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Sun Jan 13, 2019, 09:33 AM

109 Years Ago Today; The Birth of public radio broadcasting

Last edited Sun Jan 13, 2019, 11:17 AM - Edit history (1)


The birth of public radio broadcasting is credited to Lee de Forest who transmitted the world’s first public broadcast in New York City on January 13, 1910. This broadcast featured the voices of Enrico Caruso and other Metropolitan Opera stars. Members of the public and the press used earphones to listen to the broadcast in several locations throughout the city. This marked the beginning of what would become nearly universal wireless radio communication.

First public broadcast

A 1907 Lee De Forest company advertisement said,

It will soon be possible to distribute grand opera music from transmitters placed on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House by a Radio Telephone station on the roof to almost any dwelling in Greater New York and vicinity ... The same applies to large cities. Church music, lectures, etc., can be spread abroad by the Radio Telephone.

Several years later, on January 13, 1910, the first public radio broadcast was an experimental transmission of a live Metropolitan Opera House performance by several famous opera singers. This transmission was arranged by Lee de Forest.

The wireless radio broadcast consisted of performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. Riccardo Martin performed as Turridu, Emmy Destinn as Santuzza, and Enrico Caruso as Canio. The conductor was Egisto Tango. This event is regarded as the birth of public radio broadcasting.

The New York Times reported on January 14, 1910:

Opera broadcast in part from the stage of the New York City Metropolitan Opera Company was heard on January 13, 1910, when Enrico Caruso and Emmy Destinn sang arias from Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, which were "trapped and magnified by the dictograph directly from the stage and borne by wireless Hertzian waves over the turbulent waters of the sea to transcontinental and coastwise ships and over the mountainous peaks and undulating valleys of the country." The microphone was connected by telephone wire to the laboratory of Dr. Lee De Forest.


The few radio receivers able to pick up this first-ever "outside broadcast" were those at the De Forest Radio Laboratory, on board ships in New York Harbor, in large hotels on Times Square and at New York city locations where members of the press were stationed at receiving sets. Public receivers with earphones had been set up in several well-advertised locations throughout New York City. There were members of the press stationed at various receiving sets throughout the city and the public was invited to listen to the broadcast.

The experiment was considered mostly unsuccessful. The microphones of the day were of poor quality and could not pick up most of the singing on stage. Only off-stage singers singing directly into a microphone could be heard clearly. The New York Times reported the next day that static and interference "kept the homeless song waves from finding themselves".

Lee De Forest's Radio Telephone Company manufactured and sold the first commercial radios in the demonstration room at the Metropolitan Life Building in New York City for this public event.

The wireless transmitter had 500 watts of power. It is reported that this broadcast was heard 20 km away on a ship at sea. The broadcast was also heard in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


I'm not a Lee de Forest fan, but this was momentous enough to mark its anniversary today.

On edit / fun fact: Lee de Forest had a relative, known to TV audiences as Larry "Bud" Melman, aka Calvert deForest:

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Reply 109 Years Ago Today; The Birth of public radio broadcasting (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jan 2019 OP
MineralMan Jan 2019 #1
Dennis Donovan Jan 2019 #3
MineralMan Jan 2019 #4
Persondem Jan 2019 #2

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2019, 11:03 AM

1. That's what inspired Rush Limbaugh.

He's been singing bad songs for years over the radio.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 13, 2019, 11:20 AM

3. ...or, even earlier, Father Coughlin:


Charles Edward Coughlin (/ˈkɒɡlɪn/ KOG-lin; October 25, 1891 – October 27, 1979), was a Canadian-American Roman Catholic priest based in the United States near Detroit. He was the founding priest at the National Shrine of the Little Flower church. Commonly known as Father Coughlin, he was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience: during the 1930s, an estimated 30 million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts. He was forced off the air in 1939 because of his pro-fascist and anti-semitic rhetoric.

Initially, Coughlin was a vocal supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal, but became a harsh critic of Roosevelt, accusing him of being too friendly to bankers. In 1934, he established a political organization called the National Union for Social Justice. Its platform called for monetary reforms, nationalization of major industries and railroads, and protection of labor rights. The membership ran into the millions, but it was not well-organized locally.

After hinting at attacks on Jewish bankers, Coughlin began to use his radio program to broadcast antisemitic commentary. In the late 1930s, he supported some of the fascist policies of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Emperor Hirohito of Japan. The broadcasts have been described as "a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture". His chief topics were political and economic rather than religious, using the slogan "Social Justice". Many American bishops as well as the Vatican wanted him silenced. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, the Roosevelt administration finally forced the cancellation of his radio program and forbade distribution by mail of his newspaper, Social Justice.


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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 13, 2019, 11:22 AM

4. Father Coughlin was Limbaugh's Mentor.

Of that I have no doubt.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2019, 11:19 AM

2. A nice slice of history. Thnk you K & R nt

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