In the New York City Municipal Archives WNYC Sound Collection, we hear the voices of presidents, dignitaries, world leaders, artistic revolutionaries, musical geniuses, luminaries of the literati, and cultural icons. The sounds of a city and a nation are captured through nearly a century of transformations, tribulations, and triumphs. WNYC microphones were present when Admiral Byrd returned from his historic flight over the North Pole in 1926 and when Colonel Charles Lindbergh returned from his solo flight to Paris the following year. Perhaps best known are New York City Mayor F. H. La Guardia's weekly Talk to the People broadcasts over WNYC throughout World War II.
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WNYC's American Music Festival features Richard Dyer-Bennet in his all-too-brief heyday, before betrayal and political accusations would derail his career, in this 1945 studio appearance.
"Three Generations From the Court of Domestic Relations" is the title of this 1954 performance by the monologist Ruth Draper. The setting is the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf Astoria, where Draper, the afternoon's entertainment, takes the stage.
"We are heading up to one of the greatest crises, I think, in modern history." This prediction about oil and the Middle East was made in 1951 by none other than Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas at a Books and Authors Luncheon.
Tommy Dorsey's 1945 teaming up with Leopold Stokowski drives the young audience into a frenzy even before the first note is played. Stokowski comes across as a bit schoolmasterish, admonishing the audience to be quiet or "the concert ends now."
The former prime minister and future president of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, is welcomed to New York by various dignitaries during this 1948 visit. Grover Whalen, the city's official greeter, introduces "the boy from Manhattan island" who now returns as a recognized world leader.
Carmine G. DeSapio rose through the ranks of Tammany Hall, the New York City Democratic machine, starting out as an errand boy and becoming "boss" in 1949. The upcoming presidential contest is very much on DeSapio's mind during this 1955 edition of Campus Press Conference.
In 1946, there was a 29% increase in the cases of venereal diseases in New York City. Interestingly, there was a correlative rise in flushed exclamations of catching VD from toilet seats, park benches, and bus seats.
Speaking first in this 1955 debate, the Democratic boss Carmine G. DeSapio bristles at the question, "Is Tammany Hall fundamentally corrupt?" He dismisses such "sinister implications," claiming they refer to long-ago scandals.
Overcoming a life of hardship, Samuel Davis Jr. became a major performer in Las Vegas and a member of the legendary Rat Pack. In a quiet, moving tone, Davis, author of the just-published Yes I Can, speaks at a Books and Authors Luncheon in 1965.
Celebrating the appearance of his first published novel, Pomp and Circumstance (1961), Noël Coward coolly rebuts those critics calling him "antiquated, snobbish, and belonging to an earlier, more complacent age."
The investigation continues! The evils of horror comics are explicated by two contrasting witnesses, Dr. Fredric Wertham, a reserved psychiatrist, and William Gaines, the chief purveyor of such lurid publications as The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, and Tales From the Crypt.
This is "not a subcommittee of blue-nosed censors," the chairman Robert Hendrickson claims, in his introductory remarks at these famous Congressional hearings on the link between comic books and juvenile delinquency, broadcast over WNYC on April 21, 1954.
During his freshman year at Antioch College, Rod Serling worked as an unpaid intern at WNYC. Although his newsroom and script-writing duties kept him mostly off the air, Serling's unmistakable voice can be heard in the station's public service series Toward Return to Society, produced in cooperation with the New York City Department of Correction.
Fifty-five years ago this week, Van Cliburn was feted in New York City for his gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. Our sister station WNYC covered the young Texan's triumphant return.
"Around the close of this century." That is when distinguished author, scientist, and visionary Arthur C. Clarke, in this 1954 appearance at a Books and Authors Luncheon, predicts man will break free of Earth and fly to the moon.
Alongside his meteoric rise as a publisher, Bennett Cerf pursued his natural talent for writing humor.