Streams

WNYC: 87 Years and the Romance of Radio

History Notes: Volume 2, Issue 23

Friday, July 08, 2011 - 09:00 AM

WNYC's Waiting Room (Green Room) a day before the station began broadcasting, July 7, 1924. (Photo by Eugene de Salignac, NYC Municipal Archives Collection)

When WNYC began broadcasting 87 years ago, radio was still very much a toddler exploring the new terrain and occasionally falling down and getting bruised. There was also a certain mystique and mystery.

After all, there were disembodied voices coming from great distances through the heavens to a box in your living room, and without wires! It's no wonder that some people thought that the new medium might be a good way to communicate with the dead. Popular songs in the 1920s like I Wish There Was a Wireless to Heaven and Mr. Radio Man drew on that child-like belief.

Though there were no radio seances at WNYC's first home in the Municipal Building, there was a sense of the exotic that came into play with the new station's reception room as pictured here a day before our first broadcast. The decor, including rattan furniture, filtered lights, a bedouin-striped canopy, arches, columns and a fountain were supplied courtesy of Wanamaker's Department Store. Visiting reporters were intrigued.

  • Radio Broadcast magazine: "Away up in the tower, so far up that a man in the street below could not see the light, is WNYC. If a visitor be lucky and runs the gauntlet of elevator men, guards and other functionaries, he arrives at the studio in time for a pleasant illusion. Stepping through the door of WNYC's own home means going from the marble and glass of an office building into a tented palace that seems to have been created for romance. There is a colorful awning suspended below the ceiling and brilliant cane furniture to match, with a fountain in the center where spraying streams converge over the changing hues of an electric globe." [1]
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "In the studio, which is located on the 25th floor of the Municipal Building, no detail has been overlooked to make it not only artistically attractive, but also efficient from the standpoint of the work which it will be called on to perform. ... The reception room is patterned after a Spanish garden with columns, arches, stone benches and a striped canopy effect from the ceiling. A fountain has been erected upon which play colored lights. A niche forms a pleasing part of the decorative scheme..."[2]
  •  The New York Times: "The corridors of the twenty-fifth-floor [of the Municipal Building] were converted into a fairyland with long festoons of electric lights, which led the guests through a Spanish pergola into the reception room. Under a colored awning this lounge opened upon a large illuminated fountain, while songbirds in cages occupied convenient niches."[3]

                                               Whatever happened to those songbirds?

[1] James C. Young, writing in "Radio-Voice of the City," Radio Broadcast, Vol. 6, No.3,  January, 1925, pg. 444.

[2] "Municipal Radio Station Will Be Given First Test Wednesday at Midnight," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 15, 1924.

[3] "City's Radio Plant Opened by Mayor," The New York Times, July 9, 1924, pg. 7.

 

Answers to the 1948 WNYC announcer exam posted in last week's History Notes can be found by going to: EXAM KEY

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 Broadcast on WNYC Today in:

1924: At 8:56 p.m., announcer Thomas (Tommy) H. Cowan signs WNYC-AM on the air for the first time. This is followed by Marian Fein singing the Star Spangled Banner, accompanied by the Police Department Band. The inaugural ceremonies include representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths, each giving their blessings to this broadcast endeavor. Performing are: Vincent Lopez and his orchestra; the Police Quartette, the Six Brown Brothers (a saxophone sextet); and singer Estelle Carey. In attendance: Mayor John F. Hylan, and other civic leaders, including the Queens and Staten Island Borough Presidents, businessman Rodman Wanamaker and former Commissioner Grover Whalen, the person largely responsible for putting WNYC on the air.

In his broadcast remarks, Mayor Hylan speaks of the effect of copyright on the broadcasting of music and mercenary use of radio with commercial advertising. His Honor also suggests the possibility of listeners being taxed to pay for programming. Hylan adds: "To insure uninterrupted programs of recreational entertainment for all the people is one of the compelling reasons for the installation of the Municipal Radio Broadcasting Station. ... The improvement of the people in every walk of life, through the educative power of radio, may also be considered one of its paramount purposes. ... Programs sufficiently diversified to meet all tastes with musical concerts, both vocal and instrumental, featured at all times, should make 'tuning-in' on the Municipal Radio pleasant as well as profitable..."  

Tags:

More in:

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Sponsored

About NYPR Archives & Preservation

Mission Statement: The New York Public Radio Archives supports the mission and goals of WNYC and WQXR by honoring the broadcast heritage of the radio stations and preserving their organizational and programming legacy for future generations of public radio listeners. The Archives will collect, organize, document, showcase and make available for production all original work generated by and produced in association with WNYC and WQXR Radio.

The NYPR Archives serves the stations staff and producers by providing them with digital copies of our broadcast material spanning WNYC and WQXR's respective 90 and 77 year histories.  We also catalog, preserve and digitize, provide reference services, store, and acquire WNYC and WQXR broadcast material (originals and copies) missing from the collection. This repatriation effort has been aided by dozens of former WNYC and WQXR staff as well as a number of key institutions. Additionally, our collecting over the last ten years goes beyond sound and includes photos, publicity materials, program guides, microphones, coffee mugs, buttons and other ephemera. We've left no stone unturned in our pursuit of these artifacts. The History Notes is a showcase for many of these non-broadcast items in our collection. 

In fact, if you’ve got that vintage WNYC or WQXR knick-knack, gee-gaw, or maybe a photo of someone in front of our mic, an old program guide or vintage piece of remote equipment and would like to donate it to us, or provide a copy of the item to us, write to Andy Lanset at alanset@nypublicradio.org.   

The Archives and Preservation series was created to bring together the leading NYPR Archives related, created, or sourced content material at WNYC.org.

Feeds

Supported by