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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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.
Novelist and screenwriter James M. Cain promotes his idea for an American Authors Authority that would treat literature as "property." Though it never caught on at the time, Cain's plan offers insight on present-day debates about copyrights.
Harp music plays as announcer Sy Freed quotes Voltaire, “Poetry is the music of the soul and above all of great and inspired souls.” So begins this episode of The Poet Speaks from 1949, featuring poets A.M. Sullivan and Shaemas O’Sheel.
Poet, playwright, and novelist William Packard moderates this 1968 broadcast: Is there a New York poet?
In two excerpts from speeches given in 1946 and 1947 by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, one can see the tightrope he walked in the years immediately following World War II as the Cold War loomed.
Jack Kerouac famously suggested the Beat Generation is "a swinging group…of new American men intent on joy." Scholars and writers join Kerouac in this 1959 discussion at the Brandeis University Club of New York for a rollicking, witty debate.
In the early hours of February 24, 1949, on the Greek island of Rhodes, Dr. Ralph J. Bunche emerged from the Egyptian-Israeli talks to announce the signing of a General Armistice Agreement.
Better known for his punditry, here mayoral candidate William F. Buckley Jr. complains about delivering stump speeches "without boring the voter, which is bad enough, but without boring yourself, which is worse."
On this 1957 broadcast of The New York Herald-Tribune Books and Authors Luncheon, the German-American scientist and science writer discusses satellite technology and the recent launch of Sputnik.
Musical prodigy and composer Marc Blitzstein, the featured guest on this 1941 installment from WNYC's American Music Festival, increasingly identifies with radical left-wing political movements in the hardscrabble years leading into the Depression.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt interviews her friend Mary McLeod Bethune in a 1949 radio broadcast in support of 'interracial understanding.'
In this 1964 talk, Louis Auchincloss, author of the new book The Rector of Justin, describes the great themes facing writers and offers generous advice to those of his profession.
This Overseas Press Club conference is a reminder of the unfortunately routine institutionalized gender oppression in American industry. Featuring deft pilots in the Angel Derby, an all-female air race from New York to the Bahamas, this panel's male moderator and reporters dole out condescension and hostility, but "the girls" hold steady despite the dismissive questioning.
As eloquent in her speech as she is in her song, the contralto Marian Anderson addresses the issues of prejudice and segregation head-on in this 1957 Books and Authors Luncheon appearance.
In this recording from April 26, 1967, Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Joseph Stalin, fields a variety of questions from the New York press after leaving her homeland. "I feel like Valentina Tereshkova at her first flight into space," she confesses, referring to the first female cosmonaut.
Steve Allen's short story collection Fourteen for Tonight is the ostensible reason for his appearance at this 1956 Books and Authors Luncheon, where the "Tonight Show" host treated assembled guests more as a television audience, relying on his stand-up comedy technique and a few book-oriented jokes. Television itself, still a novelty, provided much of the material.