Between the summer of 1925 and spring 1932, Victor Harrison-Berlitz, the General Manager of 410 U.S. Berlitz language schools, taught French, Spanish, German and Italian over WNYC. The regular classes were a pioneering effort for American radio.
From July 1939 to March 1942, conductor and composer Macklin Marrow led the WNYC Concert Orchestra. The 35-piece ensemble was sponsored by The New York City Music Project, a unit of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). One of Marrow's earliest assignments at the station was the August 2, 1939, dedication of the WNYC WPA murals when the orchestra performed the scherzo from William Grant Still's Afro-American Symphony (audio above).
From 1940 to 1942 Ralph Berton hosted WNYC's daily foray into jazz called Metropolitan Review, dedicated to "the finest in recorded hot jazz." The program was radio's first serious jazz music show on the air.
Walter James Miller (1918-2010) was Professor Emeritus at New York University and host of WNYC’s Reader’s Almanac (1970-1985) and WNYC-TV’s Book World (1968-1970). He conducted early interviews with writers such as Nadine Gordimer, Erica Jong, Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Gallagher and Jerzy Kosinski.
"This microphone is not an ordinary instrument,
For it looks out on vistas wide indeed:
My voice commingles now with northern lights and
asteroids and Alexander's skeleton,
With dead volcanoes and with donkey's ears
It swims with minnows and it's in the Sphinx's jaw.
It drifts among whatever spirits pass across the night.
Here is a thought to fasten to your throat:
Who knows who may be listening? And where?"
The conclusion to Seems Radio Is Here to Stay
Al Arkus started at WNYC by producing, directing and reading newscasts. He also directed and announced for Edward Tatnall Canby, David Randolph and Oscar Brand. Children’s programming became one of his favorite genres: he wrote, produced and narrated The Music Maestro, a weekly educational music program, and appeared regularly on The Children’s Story Fair, a show with a cast of 'kids' wandering on a magic midway to adventures in an opera house, a record room, a side show, a concert hall and similar locations. Al also wrote, directed and produced Here's Heidy, a children's program with storyteller Heidy Mayer that moved to WOR in 1949.
On January 3, 1934, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia swore into office Seymour N. Siegel as WNYC's Assistant Program Director. Immediately after Siegel affirmed his commitment to the people of the City of New York, the mayor promptly ordered him to "go across the street and close down the joint." The "joint" was WNYC. One of La Guardia's campaign promises was to close the station and just a few days earlier he had released his cost-cutting program of ten major reforms. Number nine on the list was "abolition of the municipal broadcasting station, WNYC." But after carefully surveying the situation Siegel determined there wasn't anything a little good management and TLC couldn't fix. A panel of experts was convened, a thorough study was done and recommendations were made and implemented. Because of Sy Siegel, WNYC became a political asset for the mayor and a ground-breaking public broadcaster.
Long before language mavens Patricia T. O'Conner or Richard Lederer ever matched puns with Leonard Lopate, WNYC had Frank Horace Vizetelly (1864-1938). Known in his day as the "Dean of Lexicographers," Vizetelly was a major force behind the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary. The etymologist, however, was not limited to the discussion of words and their origins: on WNYC he covered a wide range of topics. Among his talks were "The Ant and Its Ways," "The Story of the Sneeze," and "The Story of the Garter." Before WNYC he was on WOR, and after WNYC he moved to WJZ and WABC.
Between 1924 and 1925, world traveler, inventor, geologist, archeologist, metalurgical chemist and researcher James Churchward delivered more than two dozen lectures over WNYC. A former colonel in the British Army, Churchward gave talks based on decades of research that focused on what he called, 'the motherland of man,' the lost continent of Mu.
On December 30, 1924, The New York Times radio listings* for WNYC included a remote broadcast from the Newspaper Club of New York. It was a children's Christmas party for the sons and daughters of newspaper men. The entertainment line-up included Marilyn Miller, the Duncan Sisters, The Singer Midgets, George Haas and his singing canaries, Betty Bronson, Toto, Bob Miller, Gedney and Magee, Winifred Toomey, Rachel Mastrota, Richard B. Gilbert, Sam Wooding's Orchestra and Teddy, the baby elephant. Who were they? Let's find out.
Keeping Fit was a regular series of health and exercise talks by Joe Ruddy on WNYC in 1926.
Thornton Fisher (1888-1975) began his broadcasting career in 1923 at AT&T's WEAF in New York as one of radio's earliest sports commentators. He switched to WNYC the following year, not long after the municipal station began broadcasting. The Evening Leader of Corning, New York praised Fisher's Tuesday and Thursday evening program, Sports Analysis, and said, "he is one of the keenest sports writers and cartoonists in the world of journalism. His love for all sports, coupled with his sparkling wit and understanding of every phase of every game, have created an immortal place for him as chronicler of the progress of sports."
On December 9, 1926, the Locust Sisters sang popular tunes in our studio. The Locust Sisters were a singing quartet with a fifth sister, Mathilda, on the piano. Known as the "miracle makers of harmony," they were featured as missionaries in the 1927 Vincent Youmans Broadway musical Hit the Deck. Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Brook Atkinson wrote, "the thin harmonies of the four Locust Sisters, admirably introduced, are artless and delightful." They also appeared in a five-minute movie short in 1928, the first of their two appearances for MGM Metro Movietone Revue. The sisters also briefly recorded for Columbia Records. Watch and listen to them in their 1930 MGM short at: LOCUST SISTERS.
Contrary to prevailing belief, the Jewish Daily Forward's first radio program was not on WEVD (a leader in Jewish and Yiddish radio programming in the 1930s and 40s), but on WNYC! The Yiddish newspaper marked the May 21, 1926 broadcast nine days later by printing the photos on the left with the following caption:
"The First Forward Radio Concert --Isa Kremer, the world famous balladiste, who was the featured soloist of the Forward radio hour May 21, from WNYC. (Left) The famous Stringwood Ensemble, which rendered a program of classical music."*
Theodor Adorno was a key figure in the German refugee-led Institute for Social Research when it resettled at Columbia University before the U.S. entry into World War II. At Columbia he was also associated with the Office of Radio Research and headed up the Music Division of what became known as the Princeton Radio Project (1937-1941), studying the effects of mass media on society. Beginning in late April, 1940 he presented a new series of music programs on WNYC. The announcer introduced them this way:
QSL postcards were used to confirm reports that a station had been heard. QSL is a "Q" code from amateur and radiotelegraph jargon that means "I confirm contact with you."
A transcript from our September, 11, 2001 airchecks.
Following the landfall of Hurricane Irene this past weekend, flood waters overtook the WNYC AM transmitter site in Kearny, NJ, causing the station to stop over-the-air broadcasting. WNYC has owned several other transmitters in its history -- indeed, the AM tower used to be in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in the location that will soon become WNYC Transmitter Park. This AM transmitter was dedicated in a ceremony on October 31, 1937.
In this 1965 Overseas Press Club Luncheon, Hallie Burnett, novelist and publisher, describes her experience in Berlin in August, 1961. On assignment for Reader’s Digest, Burnett was charged with reporting on the conditions of the East German refugees, who were “coming over at that time at about 2,000 a night.” Amidst a quiet week, she describes the night of August 13 when the foundations for the Berlin wall were laid. She describes standing among Berliners at the Brandenburg Gate, who were so shocked they had not yet found their voices to protest.