American Radio Drama 1921-1922

[OTR Digest post by radio historian Bill Jaker, circa 1998]

I'm always cautious about "firsts", but I know that in 1921 a couple of 
agriculture professors from West Virginia University were invited to KDKA to 
deliver a talk on farm extension courses and showed up with a script for a 
playlet entitled "A Rural Line on Education". At first KDKA refused to let 
them ring a telephone bell, asserting that it would defraud the audience into 
thinking that they were hearing a phone call and not a radio program. The 
professors prevailed by reminding KDKA that its patriarch, Frank Conrad, had 
played music on his station 8XK from phonograph records, which a listener 
could mistake for live musicians. Not much happens in the play -- it's just a 
chat on the phone between two farmers with an operator making frequent, 
somewhat comical, interruptions -- but it was specially written for the audio 
medium at a time when the people at "the pioneer broadcasting station of the 
world" had never heard of such a thing. ...

[By radio historian Bill Jaker, date unknown]

Radio broadcasting as we know it today began only seventy miles north of 
Morgantown at Westinghouse station KDKA. WVU faculty members traveled to 
Pittsburgh to appear on the pioneer station in its earliest days, and may have 
been responsible for the first use of sound effects. 

Agricultural education professors H. B. Allen and Paul C. Rouzer were invited 
to appear on the "National Stockman and Farmer Hour" in 1921 to discuss 
vocational education courses. They arrived at KDKA's East Liberty studios with 
a playlet entitled "A Rural Line on Education." This was to be an overheard 
phone call between two farmers, beginning with a bell ringing two longs and 
three shorts. Their chat about agricultural education was interrupted a couple 
of times by others wanting to use the party line, they hung up, and Stockman 
Sam did a final pitch. 

But the KDKA engineers objected to ringing the bell on the grounds that Allen 
and Rouzer were there to make a speech and not fool the public into thinking 
they were overhearing a phone conversation. "Finally they relented," Dr. Allen 
wrote in a 1963 letter to KDKA, "and my buddy and I took turns or worked cheek 
to cheek before the 'knothole' in the little cubical box." ...

[November 12, 1921 Chicago Tribune]


50,000 Hear 'Our Mary' Via Wireless.

Radio-telephony extended the scope of the Chicago Grand Opera company 1,500 
miles north, east, south and west yesterday.

Mary Garden, Edith Mason, and Conductor Giorgio Polacco played to the biggest 
house of their careers--more than 50,000 persons scattered from New York state 
to Kansas and from southern Kentucky to northern Minnesota--via wireless.

And, shortly after the beginning of the test, radio messages returned from the 
four points of the compass to the roof of the Commonwealth Edison company--the 
point of actual wireless transmission from Chicago--reporting "QSA," which 
means to the radio wise, "Signals clear and loud."

How the Trick Was Turned.

The demonstration yesterday was preparatory to a season of grand opera by 
wireless beginning next Monday with the opening of the Chicago opera season.

The test was made under actual opera conditions and consisted of an opening 
address by General Director Mary Garden, an orchestra selection led by Giorgio 
Polacco, and Miss Mason's rendition of an aria from "Madame Butterfly."

High up in the wings above the auditorium stage a small instrument caught the 
music and carried it by wire to the roof of the Commonwealth Edison company, 
where it was dispatched by radio to a widespread audience.

For days the notice of the test had been going out over the wireless to the 
radio operators, and when the announcement, "This is station K. Y. W., 
Chicago," was sent, all were "listening in."

In THE TRIBUNE plant a score or more heard "Our Mary" present the Chicago 
Opera company to the world.

Tap Opera by Radio.

No longer will it be necessary to dress up in evening togs to hear grand opera 
and no longer will grand opera consist of phonographic selections in towns 500 
or 1,000 miles from Chicago.

All that is necessary is to acquire a radio telephone outfit, tune it to the 
required wavelength of 360 meters, and then enjoy grand opera just as it is 
sung and at the moment it is sung in Chicago, for the appliance will hang 
above the Auditorium stage through the season.

[November 13, 1921 Chicago Tribune]

... The season will be initiated tomorrow night with "Samson et Delila," 
Saint-Saëns' biblical opera. It will be sung by Lucien Muratore, Chicago's 
idolized French tenor, and the famous Peruvian contralto, Marguerite Alvarez, 
in the name parts. Other rôles will be presented by Hector Dufranne as the 
high priest, Paul Payan (his American debut), Desiré Defrere, Octave Dua, 
Lodovico Oliviero, and Jerome Uhl. Giorgio Polacco will conduct ...

[November 17, 1921 Chicago Tribune]


Hi Cost of Opera was smashed last night, hundreds of miles were annihilated, 
and the thrilling music of Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" was served by science, 
free of cost.

Radio did the trick--radio-telephony--and wireless fans from Watertown, N. Y., 
to Kansas City, Mo., and from Minneapolis to Covington, Ky., "tuned in."

In the home of Attorney Robert Davis, 3915 Pine Grove avenue, a most 
enthusiastic audience of relatives and neighbors "heard it all, as clear as a 
bell" due to the efforts of the two young sons, Callis, 16, and Robley, 13, 
who constructed the radio receiver.

Every night during the opera season the amplifier over the Auditorium stage 
will deliver the throbs from below to the roof of the Commonwealth Edison 
company's building, where they will be transmuted into radio impulses.

And there is an added feature for the "stay-at-home" opera lovers. In the 
intermissions an announcer from the Auditorium will tell briefly the story of 
the opera, act by act.

[Excerpt from Lawrence Lichty and Malachi Topping (eds): _American 
Broadcasting_ (New York, Hastings House, 1975)]


by Lawrence Lichty

ACCORDING TO THE best available materials in 1944 Donald W. Riley reports that 
WGY, Schenectady formed the first group "for the specific purpose of putting 
on plays." The first radio play on WGY was "The Wolf," by Eugene Walter, 
broadcast on August 3, 1922. All three acts of the play were given without 
cuts. Music was played between the acts just as in the legitimate theater. WGY 
broadcast plays as a regular weekly feature beginning in October [sic] 1922. 

On April 12, 1923, KDKA broadcast the complete performance of "Friend Mary" 
from the stage of a Pittsburgh theater. In the same month, WJZ, Newark, 
broadcast "Merton of the Movies" directly from the stage of the Court Theater 
and also carried the first installment of "The Waddington Cipher," a detective 
story. But Professor Riley notes that KDKA  might have "heralded radio drama 
with its experimental programs prior to the granting of its license" November 
2, 1920.
On November 9, 1922, about a month after the first play had been presented on 
WGY, a program that was a "near drama" was broadcast on WLW. On this program 
the one-act play "A Fan and Two Candlesticks" by Mary MacMillan of Cincinnati, 
was read before the microphone by Miss MacMillan, Fred Smith, and Robert 
Stayman. According to the Crosley Radio Weekly, this reading "got over so 
well" that it was "decided to continue the broadcasting of playlets and one 
act plays." More important, this article noted, "It is believed that the radio 
play has specific requirements such as simplicity and brevity, which must be 
given the most careful consideration." 

The following week, on November 16, 1922, Mary Sullivan Brown was presented on 
WLW "reading from the Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet." Fred Smith had heard 
plays broadcast on WGY, and decided to try them on WLW. On November 24, 1922, 
WLW broadcast its first real dramatic program. The play was "Matinata" by 
Lawrence Langer and was presented by permission of Stewart and Kidd, the 
publishers. According to Crosley Radio Weekly:

We realize the radio play can only be made effective if it is put over in such 
a way that it may be readily visualized by the radio listener. With this end 
in mind, we are, for the present, having some of the parts taken by those of 
the Crosley staff who are accustomed to talking over radio, and who can work 
in effects which would not occur to professional players.

WLW next presented a drama on December 15, 1922--a play entitled "What the 
Public Wants." On December 22, "The Shadowed Star" was presented with a cast 
of five. On January 5, 1923, another one-act play, apparently unnamed, was 
presented and directed by John R. Froome, head of the drama department of 
Cincinnati College of Music.

On February 6, 1923, a play written by Mr. Froome and starring himself and his 
student Emil Lewis was broadcast from WLW. Another original drama written by a 
Cincinnatian, Belle McDiarmid Ritchley, was given in the same month. It is not 
known whether these plays were written especially for the radio and for 
presentation over WLW or whether they were merely adapted for WLW. Either 
might qualify as the first plays written especially for presentation on radio.

On April 3, 1923, "When Love Wakens" (note the W-L-W), an original play 
written especially for WLW by station director Fred Smith, was broadcast.

By October 1923 about one year after its first drama, WLW had presented 
twenty-five different dramatic programs. In addition to presenting a drama 
about every other week, Mr. Smith and other WLW staff members were innovators 
of a specialized dramatic form for radio. In September, 1922, according to Mr. 

we began to think of plays for radio. But we were always of the opinion that 
the most effective production would be the one-act play. So far as we know 
there was no broadcasting station sending out one-act plays at the time. 
During the fall we put on several with good effect.

Since this was pioneer work we made discoveries as we went along. We did 
incidental music to give atmosphere in a place where part of the action took 
place at a dance. It then occurred to us that an artistic hour of 
entertainment would be the production of a foreign play with music of its own 
country surrounding it.

These combined music and drama programs included plays by Benavente, 
Maeterlinck, and Ibsen. Mr. Smith's stay in Europe had developed in him an 
appreciation for European music and drama. In presenting these plays he 
condensed and adapted them for radio, and he added a "descriptionist" (now we 
use the word narrator) to give a synopsis of the play up to "the scene to be 
radioed." This reduced the play to the brevity Mr. Smith felt was needed to 
hold the attention of the radio listener, and reduced the cast to two or three 
actors. The fewer actors the less confusing for the listener to separate the 

The next logical step--as we have seen--was to write plays especially for 
radio presentation; probably "When Love Wakens" was the first of these. Mr. 
Smith added background music and even included vocal and whistling numbers as 
part of the plots. When he started writing or adapting plays for WLW he then 
began to use the dialogue to carry all the action and eventually the 
"descriptionist" was eliminated. Sound effects were added. On one play the 
sound of an elephant walking was needed; Powel Crosley, Jr. made the sound by 
pounding his fists into the table.

To describe the radio dramas, Mr. Smith and Mr. Stayman coined the word 
"radario" (from radio and scenario), even applying for a copyright. But the 
word never caught on. The most frequently used term for radio dramas in the 
early days became "sketches." 

Mr. Smith even tried musical comedy plays. The first of these was "When Madame 
Sings," written by Alvin R. Plough, associate editor of Crosley Radio Weekly. 
This was a story about a great opera star who would not appear before a radio 
microphone because her powder puff had been mislaid and she would not disgrace 
herself with a shiny nose. A second "musical playlet," entitled "When Betsy 
Ross Made Old Glory," was presented June 13, 1923--the night before Flag Day.

On September 26, "The Magic Journey," a specially written play for children 
was broadcast. It was written by T. C. O'Donnel, editor of Writer's Digest, 
who contributed a monthly play for children to Child Life magazine. The cast 
included "the most talented students from the Reulman School of Expression." 

Dramatic readings were added to the WLW daytime schedule on September 6, 1923. 
Fred Smith read stories with piano background from the "classics." 

On October 4 came the announcement that Helen Schuster Martin, of the Schuster 
Martin Dramatic School, henceforth would direct all of the radarios. Further, 
she would form a WLW "stock company" of fourteen actors to be called the 
"Crosley Radarians." The staff included Thomie Prewitt Williams, of the 
Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, as musical director. Soon William Stoess, 
later WLW music director, provided music for the dramas. Mr. Stoess developed 
background music and montages and was recognized as one of the first to 
"develop this new art" as early as 1923. By the fall of 1923, the Radarians 
were presenting dramas every week on Thursday evenings at 10:00 p.m.

The nationally distributed magazine, Writer's Digest, and WLW held a contest 
beginning in May 1923, for the three best radarios. The winner received $50, 
second $30, and third $20. All three plays were broadcast on WLW. This was one 
of the earliest national contests--maybe the very first--for dramatic radio 
scripts. Donald Riley reports that WGY held a contest "as early as 1923" but a 
more exact date apparently is not available. E. P. J. Shurick says that WGY 
held a national contest in the spring of 1925. In October 1923 WLW held a 
second contest for the best original radarios. Thus radio drama evolved at WLW 
from fall 1922 to fall 1923, and it was evolving at other stations in the U.S. 
at about the same time.


[February 4, 1922 Bridgeport Telegram]


Local radio operators listened to one of the finest programs yet produced over 
the radiophone last night. The program of entertainment which included some of 
the stars of Broadway musical comedy and vaudeville was broadcast from the 
Newark, N. J. station WDY and the Pittsburgh station KDKA, both of the 
Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing company.

The Newark entertainment started at 7 o'clock: a children's half hour of music 
and fairy stories; 7:[35?], Hawaiian airs and violin solo; 8:00, news of the 
day; and at 8:20 a radio party with nationally known comedians participating; 
9:55, Arlington time signals and 10:01, a government weather report.

G. E. Nothnagle, who conducts a radiophone station at his home 176 Waldemere 
avenue said last night that he was delighted with the program, especially with 
the numbers sung by Eddie Cantor.

The weather conditions are excellent for receiving, he continued, the tone and 
the quality of the messages was fine.

[February 4, 1922 NYT]


"Tangerine" and "The Perfect Fool" to Be Sent Through Air.

Experiments in transmitting entire musical comedies by wireless telephone will 
be conducted soon by the Westinghouse Company through their radio station in 
Newark. "Tangerine" and "The Perfect Fool," both current Broadway musical 
plays, will be the first to be thus sent through the air.

The "Tangerine" company will go to Newark on Sunday, Feb. 12, and Ed Wynn and  
his company will go a week later. In the case of the latter experiment all 
other broadcasting stations will be silent and the Chicago plant will be used, 
if necessary, to relay the waves to the coast. If weather conditions are 
favorable, however, it is hoped to cover the 3,000 miles directly.

[February 12, 1922 Los Angeles Times]



This evening at 8 o'clock the largest audience which ever heard a musical 
comedy in the annals of the theater will hear Carle Carlton's supermusical 
production "Tangerine," now current at the Casino Theater [in] New York, when 
for the first time in the history of the world an entire musical comedy will 
be presented to 1,000,000 persons in America and on the high seas at the same 

This epoch-making event will be made possible through the Westinghouse radio 
broadcasting station at Newark, N. J., and will enable entire families in 
every State in the Union to sit by their firesides and hear Julia Sanderson, 
Frank Crumit, Jenette Methven (the South Sea vamp) and the Tangerine Quartet 
sing "Sweet Lady," "Listen to me," "The Isle of Tangerine," "Love is a 
Business," and the other song hits of the production, and to laugh at the 
comedy quips of Richard Carle, James Gleason, Allen Kearns, Harry Puck and the 
balance of the comedians of the big cast, as though from front-row seats at 
the Casino Theater.

The entire cast of principals and chorus, together with the Casino Theater 
Orchestra under the direction of Max Steiner, will journey to Newark this 
evening and, under the personal direction of Mr. Carlton, give a performance 
in the wireless recording-rooms of the Westinghouse Company. The performance 
will then automatically be open to every radio station within a radius of 5000 

[February 19, 1922 Los Angeles Times]


Whole Theatrical Performance in New York City is to be Made Audible Here.

Have you a radio phone? Then listen in today, for an epoch-making attempt is 
to be made to project, through the aid of music and spoken words, an entire 
theatrical performance in New York City so that it will be audible in Los 
Angeles. It will mark the most convincing performance of the newly perfected 
and well organized broadcasting stations, several of which are located in this 
city. It will mean the broadcasting -- a newly significant use of the word -- 
of talent, musical and oratorical, from city to city, State to State and East 
to West. Soon one may sit at home and hear the nation's best as from a 

Officials of the Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company, who are 
arranging today's est, [sic] are hopeful that under favorable atmospheric 
conditions and with the addition of certain devices which they are installing, 
the entire play will be sent broadcast [sic] to every portion of the United 

During the performance all other broadcasting stations will be silent after 
8:30 p.m., New York time, when the curtain will go up. The play selected for 
the experiment is "The Perfect Fool," presented by Ed Wynn and his company at 
the George M. Cohen [sic] Theater. Mr. Wynn is especially anxious for the 
success of the test, as his father-in-law, Frank Keenan, will be listening in 
at a receiving instrument in Los Angeles. A record of all points at which the 
performance is heard, in excess of 1500 miles from New York City, will be 
compiled. ...

[February 19, 1922 The Mansfield (OH) News]


NEW YORK, FEB 18.--If you have a radio phone and want to hear one of 
Broadway's musical shows Sunday night just tune your set at 8:30 p. m. Eastern 
time for "W. J. Z." on the 360-meter wave length. Then you will hear the 
overture, opening chorus and dialogues and songs which comprise one of the 
while way hits. Nothing will be missing but the scenery. 

This is the first time in history that an entire theatrical production will be 
broadcasted by wireless. A newspaper and an electrical company are behind the 

[February 1922 NEA wire service story in various papers, with photo of Flo 
Newton; Danville Bee (11); Appleton Post-Crescent (13); Port Arthur News (19)]

New York. - "Woe unto the bald-headed row!" Farewell to the opera glasses and 

For, in time to come, there is a hint that the Broadway girly-girly shows will 
be heard and not seen--will be coming into the office and home via wireless. 

This because of the radiophone. 

The stunt has already been tried--and it succeeded. 

Flo Newton, star of "The Perfect Fool," a Broadway musical outburst, journeyed 
with the whole cast over to a broadcasting station. The performance was 
produced before a silent audience--a shallow horn. 

One of the actors explained the setting as the play progressed. 

Folks on the other end of the radiophone heard the harmonious singsong of 
ensembled chorus girls, and the patter-patter of dancing feet. 

On clear nights this broadcasting station reaches points as far as the Pacific 

[March 15, 1922 Charleston Daily Mail]

(Westinghouse Station, Newark) ...
7.30 p. m. Mozart's musical comedy, the "Impresario" (Kiehbiel's English 
version) will be broadcasted under the personal direction of Willlam Wade 
Hinshaw, president of the Society of American singers of New York. Percy 
Hemus, celebrated American baritone, will be supported by famous all-American 
cast. The entire opera will be produced. The cast of characters is as follows: 
Emanuel Schickaneder, director Vienna opera, house, Percy Hemus, Phillip, his 
nephew, a young baritone, Francis Tyler, Mozart, the composer, Thomas 
McGranahan Madam Hofer, Mozart's sister-in-law, prima donna, Regina Vicarino, 
Mlle. Dorothea Uhlic, singer of Linz, Hazel Huntington, accompanist to 
Schickaneder, Gladys Craven. 

[March 26, 1922 Lincoln State Journal]

Among the Movies. 

Frederick James Smith, New York correspondent of the Los Angeles Times, 
reports a radio scare in the camps of motion picture and theatrical producers. 
The radiophone is becoming too popular for the health of the business. 

Motion-picture and theatrical producers, he says, are viewing with 
considerable alarm the remarkable vogue hereabouts of the radiophone. Everyone 
in and about New York is talking radio. Wireless telephone sets can be 
purchased for as low a price as $15 and every New York apartment has its 
receiving instrument. You see wireless aerials on nearly every apartment 

Large radiophones are set up as demonstration instruments in the biggest 
business buildings. In the lower floor of the New York Times building, for 
instance, is one with a huge amplifier. This floor is crowded every hour of 
the day with listeners. 

The motion-picture and theatrical men think that the radio has done its bit, 
at least towards the present bad business in New York theaters. Everyone is 
sitting home "listening in" on entertainers performing over in Newark or even 
as far away as Pittsburgh. Their songs, recitations, etc, are "broadcasted" at 
specified hours of the day and night, along with hourly news reports. 

The entertainment promoters view the radio as such a menace that a number of 
stage productions have ordered their stars not to talk into the radio. 

Has the radio a chance to supplant the movies as the entertainment of the 
masses? Will the silent drama be succeeded by the talkie? We doubt it, but 
there is no question but that the wireless telephone is hurting theater 
business in the New York district. 

Moreover the radio bids fair to eliminate the phonograph on the farm. Why buy 
expensive records and machines when one radio instrument will bring you the 
world's news and entertainment without added cost? ...

[March 29, 1922 Charleston Daily Mail]

Ed Wynn Tells New Joke to the Ether 

In recognition of the first complete theatrical performance ever broadcasted 
by radiophone, Ed Wynn, he of "The Perfect Fool"-- now playing in New York, 
told the ether a brand new joke last Sunday night at WJZ. 

"I'm going to quit the stage," Wynn informed the radio active waves. "I've hit 
on an invention that will make me a fortune."
"No? What?" whispered the other, incredulously. 

"A non-refillable baby-buggy," snickered Wynn. 

Great merriment from Eastport to San Diego. 

Nothing was omitted from "The Perfect Fool," except the scenery and a ballet 
number. The latter, Wynn explained, was too scantily clad to be sent through 
the air on a winter's night. 

[April 1, 1922 Washington Post]

Play Producers Think Radio Will Not Hurt Theaters

New York, March 28.--What effect will the broadcasting of musical comedy hits 
have upon the musical comedies themselves--if any?

Will the fact that Henrietta can hear the score of "Sally" while washing the 
family dishes and that Henry can listen to Al Jolson singing "Bombo" while 
shaving, keep these two away from the box office, thus injuring the stage 

Most of the big producers of musical comedy agree that there is no possible 
danger of the broadcasted play injuring the regular performance. The only 
doubtful voice comes from Mr. Lee Shubert, who holds a theory that which is by 
no means flattering to radio.

"The radio machine," says Mr. Shubert, "is in no state to do justice to the 
musical comedy. For instance, if a family were to hear Frances White one of 
her songs over the inadequate apparatus now used they might get a wholly 
erroneous idea of her voice and stay away from 'The Hotel Mouse.' After it is 
perfected it can do no harm, but at present it is a very poor advertisement 
for musical comedy."

Charles Dillingham holds a more optimistic view. "The radio, like the 
phonograph, has only increased the interest in musical comedy and, in fact, 
all musical performances. I regard it as a valuable ally. Anything that brings 
more music into the homes is going to uplift not only the shows themselves but 
the entire morale of the American people."

Florenz Ziegfeld is now searching for new scenic effects at Palm Beach, but 
one of his cohorts in the office quotes him as quite undisturbed by the "radio 
menace." "How can anything that excites interest in a given show keep people 
away from the box office?" he demanded. "Moreover," he added cryptically, "Mr. 
Ziegfeld's shows are not altogether planned as an appeal to the ear. 
Occasionally, you know, you get an eyeful!"

Altogether, it looks as if the good old stage would struggle on for a few 
years longer in spite of its echoes from the air.

[April 21, 1922 Chicago Tribune]

... Performers who will appear at a broadcasting studio without payment are 
becoming harder to find as the novelty wears off. ...

... Ask Restriction of Actors.

The Actors' Equity league is demanding that its members be paid for their 
services--and in Chicago and other cities many vaudeville managers are asking 
their artists to sign contracts which will forbid them from taking part in 
radio programs.

[April 22, 1922 Charleston Daily Mail]

(Westinghouse Station, Newark) ...
8 p. m.[to 9.30 p. m.]--"La Traviata," an opera in three acts, by Giuseppe 
Verdi, will be performed via radio under the personal direction of Charles D. 
Isaacson of the New York Evening Mail. The performance has been rehearsed, 
coached and conducted in radio technique by Maestro S. Avitable, who has 
sponsored and directed many operatic ventures in New York. 

[June 3, 1922 NYT]


Plea for Those Who Balk at "What Public Wants."

To the Editor of the New York Times:

The high wires on the roof of a great-powered radio plant, etched against the 
sky, give a sense of the infinite--the same sense that church spires never 
fail to bring--and that many a church service does not. A sense of the future 
is in these wires, too, a feeling that we are on the threshold of stranger 
things than either philosophy or physics ever dreamed of.

But when--oh, when--will this new super-power be used as the vehicle for other 
things than the commonplace, the trivial? "Ain't It a Shame to Steal on 
Sunday?" upon one radio program last week must, of course, have had wide 
appeal, and I am aware that most radio sets are installed in homes because the 
males of the family want to hear the baseball scores at a minimum expenditure 
of time and strength. But when may some of the rest of us who balk at "what 
the public wants" listen in? Surely we should be allowed our turn. "Bits of 
the World's Best Literature" radioed the other evening sounded like a step in 
the right direction, but many of us would like a longer stride. When will 
Julia Marlowe (or a voice like hers, if such a voice there be, which I very 
much doubt) read us Shakespeare by radio? Thousands would enjoy it and through 
it the millions might be converted to Shakespeare--propaganda of a very safe 
and sane sort. The result might even cast doubt upon Mr. William H. Brady's 
classic of the theatre-ticket broker who said: "Honest, Bill, I can't sell 

What a triumph if we could sell Shakespeare by radio!

Brooklyn, N. Y., June 1, 1922.

[July 1922 - This wire service story appeared in the July 19, 1922 Lima (OH) 
News (under headline: ACTING BY RADIO IS A WEIRD SENSATION) and the July 23, 
1922 Charleston (SC) Daily Mail (under headline: PRESENTING A PLAY OVER THE 

Acting by one person over the radiophone isn't new any longer. But presenting 
a play by the entire company is more recent. 

It's harder than acting the parts on the stage, say those who have tried it. 
That's because they cannot tell whether the play is "going over." There is no 
audible applause, as in the playhouse. There is no visible audience. It is all 
a weird, uncomfortable sensation. 

Yet, once they have tried acting by radio the players like it. For there is no 
perspiring behind hot footlights, no quick changes, no need of makeup. 

Among the first who tried "acting" a whole play by radio were Grace George and 
Herbert Hayes. They sat near a microphone in a San Francisco broadcasting 
station and recited their parts. They could not tell whether they had only one 
person or a million for their audience. But by the letter of appreciation that 
came in later they believe it was nearer the larger figure. 

Encouraged by the enthusiasm shown in the reception of plays by radio, a San 
Francisco newspaper has tried the stunt of broadcasting its serial story. Fred 
V. Williams, newspaper writer, began his latest product in serial form. Cards 
from radio fans throughout the area have proven to the newspaper that this 
form of broadcasting was popular.

[accompanying photo caption:] ACTING BY RADIO. (ABOVE) GRACE GEORGE AND 

[September 2, 1922 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN)]
Will Give Dramatic Productions By Radio

Dramatic productions by radio have become a possibility as a result of 
successful experiments made recently at WGY, the radio broadcasting station of 
the General Electric Co. at Schenectady. N. Y. 

Eugene Walter's play, "The Wolf" was presented through the courtesy of the 
author and the invisible audience found the story of the invisible players so 
interesting that many letters have been received at the G-E station 
proclaiming the success of the play and expressing the hope that others may 

The play was produced by a cast headed by Edward H. Smith, who has been heard 
frequently in readings by the WGY audience. "The Wolf" was presented in three 
episodes and the scenes, period, costumes and the story of "before the play" 
were described briefly preceding the performance. By means of the description 
the attentive listener at his receiving set constructed his own scenery within 
the limits of his experience and imagination. The actor in the radio drama 
must rely upon the voice to convey emotion and action, yet so well was "The 
Wolf" produced that those who listened gained a vivid picture and followed the 
play with thrilling interest to the end. 

To the man who can attend a theatrical production at any time the radio drama 
may lose something, the story may need the eye to give it full force. There 
are thousands in rural districts, many invalids, the blind and inmates of 
institutions to whom all entertainment provided by a broadcasting station is 
the only relief from monotony. To such as these the dramatic performance via 
radio has a special appeal. The actor who is accustomed to get his inspiration 
from the intent and appreciative faces over the footlights can get the 
required inspiration by picturing the thousands of ears attuned to his voice. 
He can not hear applause but the letters of a day or two later, many of them 
pitiful messages from those who have lived in the same room for months and 
years, will more than compensate him for the lack of handclapping. 

WGY expects to offer other dramatic productions during the next few months. In 
presenting "The Wolf" Mr. Smith, who played the part of MacDonald, was 
assisted by the following: 

Frank Finch as Jules Beaubien; Horace Roberts, Baptiste LeGrand; Viola 
Karwowska as Hilda McTavish; Henry Miller as Huntley, and James S. B. 
Mullarkey as Andrew McTavish. 

[September 21, 1922 The Youth's Companion]


For fifteen weeks now The Youth's Companion has been supplying radio broadcast 
programmes to some of the most widely heard radiotelephone stations in the 
country. The programmes, which are announced under the names "The Family 
Circle" and "Under the Evening Lamp," consist of leading articles, stories of 
adventure, humorous stories, anecdotes, poetry and Department Page clippings 
taken from the columns of The Companion and arranged for reading "over the 
air." Have you heard any of them? What do you think of them? What kind of 
stories do you like to hear by radio? Write to the Department Editor, The 
Youth's Companion, Boston, Massachusetts, and tell him your impressions. He 
will be pleased to know what you think about The Companion broadcasts and, if 
you have not already asked for it, to send you free of charge your copy of the 
radiotelephone map and list of stations that has been prpared for subscribers.

The list of Companion broadcasts at the time of going to press is given below. 
New stations are being added all the time, and the entire country will soon be 

Station WGI, Medford Hillside, Massachusetts. Fifteen minutes every Monday and 
Saturday evenings.
Station WBZ, Springfield, Massachusetts. Half an hour every Saturday evening.
Station WJZ, Newark, New Jersey. Half an hour every Saturday evening.
Station KDKA, East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Half an hour every Saturday 
Station KYW, Chicago, Illinois. Half an hour every Saturday evening.
Station WGY, Schenectady, New York. Fifteen minutes twice a week. Announced by 
Station KLZ, Denver, Colorado. Fifteen minutes twice a week. Announced by 
Station WWJ, Detroit, Michigan. Fifteen minutes twice a week. Announced by 

[October 1, 1922 Current Opinion]


RADIO BROADCAST records that the actual broadcasting of a complete opera was 
not undertaken until last March when Mozart's "The Impresario" was presented 
at the WJZ station at Newark, New Jersey. C. E. Le Massena, who was associated 
with the enterprise, says, in describing the event, that when the date had 
been fixed William Wade Hinshaw, manager of the opera company and president of 
the Society of American Singers, assembled his forces and with a dummy 
microphone practised broadcasting in his New York studio.

This opera, having to deal with principals only and a pianist, presented no 
difficulties as to chorus or orchestra; therefore, as soon as the singers 
understood how and when to move, the hard work was done. As a preliminary 
measure, however, Mr. Hinshaw journeyed to Newark several days in advance of 
the performance and delivered a lecture by radio on "Opera Comique," thereby 
preparing his invisible audience for the novelty in store for them. He 
explained the meaning of this kind of entertainment, recited the plot, told 
about the artists who would sing the various rôles, and made a strong plea for 
better music and a deeper appreciation of good music such as Mozart composed. 
He decried jazz and the modern dance music as unhealthy and immoral, and 
asserted that pure, wholesome opera comique would do much to turn the world of 
music back to normalcy.

At Newark, we read, the recording [sic] took place in a small room, about 10 x 
40 feet, on the second floor of the Westinghouse plant. At one end is a grand 
piano. On one side is the electrical apparatus which conveys the message to 
the amplifying station on the roof. On the opposite side is the switch and a 
set of head phones, also a phonograph and an orchestrelle. In the center is 
the portable microphone into which the sound waves are directed.

The company arrives and is shown into the sanctum sanctorum. They take 
their places. The announcer explains that they are subject to certain radio 
traffic regulations, as other broadcasting stations are also operating and it 
would be discourteous to begin until the exact hour announced, when the air 
lines are free. Now the usual running time for "The Impresario" is an hour and 
forty minutes, but in the tabloid version for broadcasting twenty-five minutes 
have been eliminated. Even an hour and a quarter in this musical straitjacket 
is enough to tire any artist. Movement is prohibited, whispering is little 
short of criminal, and even too deep breathing is forbidden. The announcer 
cautions all regarding these details and asks if they are ready. With a final 
admonition of "Sh-h," he closes the switch and then speaks into the 
microphone, while the members of the company stand silently by, with eyes 
dilated, enwrapped in a new experience. "This is the WJZ station at Newark, N. 
J.," he begins, "broadcasting Mozart's opera comique 'The Impresario,' under 
the direction of William Wade Hinshaw. Announcer ACN. I take pleasure in 
introducing Mr. Hinshaw." Mr. Hinshaw silently slides into the position 
promptly vacated by ACN and addresses his audience. Anxiety! Suspense! Yes, 
100 per cent! The nervous strain is intense, and all are glad when he 
concludes and they can do something. In most cases, radio singing and playing 
inspires the artists to do even better than their best. That is why the radio 
concerts are of such uniform excellence.

Mr. Hinshaw proceeds to introduce the several artists by name, requesting them 
to speak and tell who they are and what characters they impersonate. This 
done, the signal is given to the pianist to proceed, and the opera is on.

As each character appears, the singer steps forward, delivers his lines or 
sings, as the case may be, then retires to make way for the next, who takes up 
the thread immediately. When two or more are engaged in dialog or ensemble 
musical numbers, the heads come together so that everything may be recorded 
[sic] and no one be more prominent than another. At the end of the hour and a 
quarter, the company is ready to draw a long breath and a handkerchief and 
relax. It is fun, but, we are assured, it is hard work too.

Having no chorus or orchestra to handle, "The Impresario" was an admirable 
composition with which to initiate the broadcasting of opera. Mr. Hinshaw 
received numerous letters from many sections of the country, some from far 
distant points, expressing the pleasure and satisfaction of the hearers. It is 
declared to be an unqualified success.

[October 8, 1922 The Galveston (TX) Daily News]


Special to The News.

Dallas, Tx., Oct. 7.--For the first time in the history of radio telephony in 
the South, a dramatic production will be presented by radio Monday night. The 
play will be broadcasted by the radio plant of The Dallas News and The Dallas 
Journal, with the participants enacting the scenes as they are enacted on the 

The production is one which members of the Dallas Rotary Club presented at the 
weekly luncheon last Wednesday, and which was received with much enthusiasm by 
those who saw it. The skit is in two acts. The title is "The Altruists." 

[October 9, 1922 The Galveston (TX) Daily News]

8:00 to 8:30 p. m.--First time in history of radio, a dramatic presentation of 
"The Altruists," a two-act skit given by the Dallas Rotary Club. The play was 
written and will be directed by Leon Whittier of Dallas. The cast of 
characters will include W. J. Lawther, John A. Rogers, Marshall R. Diggs, John 
J. Foley, Miss Christina Funkhouser and Mike H. Thomas Jr. The prologue for 
the radio play will he delivered by Ed G. Cole. Before and after the skit Mr. 
and Mrs. James Bennett sing. 

[November 21, 1922 Fayetteville Democrat]


... From KQV, 10 P. M., musical program by Ruby McCurdy, contralto, Earl C. 
McCurdy, accompanist; presentation of the one-act play "Tatters" by Mrs. B. B. 
Davis. ...

[November 22, 1922 Hartford Courant]


A novelty in radio broadcasting is promised to those who will tune into [the] 
320 meter wave length this afternoon, starting at 5:30 o'clock and running for 
one hour, when WJZ at Newark, N. J., will send out direct from the Morosco 
Theater, New York City, on special wire, the dress rehearsal of the new Oliver 
Morosco musical comedy, "The Little Kangaroo," starring James T. Powers.

The program will officially be called "Back Stage at the Dress Rehearsal" with 
Ned Weyburn. The entire company of seventy-five and the augmented orchestra of 
twenty-five will be put through a strenuous hour for the radio fans.

"The Little Kangaroo" will appear at Parsons' Theater November 28 and 29.

[November 26, 1922 NYT radio column]


It has been estimated that several million persons have enjoyed the Chicago 
operas, broadcast by radio. A large audience in and around New York listened 
to the music of "Aïda," played in Chicago and broadcast on the 400-meter wave 
length of station KYW. The voice of Rosa Raisa was heard as clearly in New 
York as in the Middle West. Since the opening of Chicago's opera season the 
radio audience here has heard "Carmen," with Mary Garden singing the leading 
part, "La Bohème" and "Parsifal." Two operas will be broadcast each week from 
8 P. M. to 11 P. M., central standard time, and after the football season the 
Saturday afternoon operas also will be broadcast. ...

Some scheduled drama (and other) broadcasts of 1922

WJZ 8pm "Tangerine" Broadway musical comedy

WJZ 8:30pm "The Perfect Fool" Broadway musical comedy with Ed Wynn (and Flo 

WJZ 7:30pm Mozart's musical comedy, the "Impresario" (Kiehbiel's English 
version) will be broadcasted under the personal direction of William Wade 
Hinshaw, president of the Society of American singers of New York. Percy 
Hemus, celebrated American baritone, will be supported by famous all-American 
cast. The entire opera will be produced. 

WJZ 8:15pm The opera "Martha," in English, by Flotow, will be rendered in its 
entirety by the Bijou Opera Ensemble of New York and well known throughout the 
East. The story of the opera will be given by J. Falk, director, who also will 
describe each one of the four acts between the acts.

WGY Prologue to the Play, "A Man of the People," Dixon, reading, Miss 
Elizabeth Jane Stahr.

WJZ 6:30-7:30pm C. E. Massena's operetta "Pandora" will be broadcasted under 
the direction of the composer, who will give an exposition of the plot and 

WJZ 7-8:15pm Music Temple of America presents "The Man From Paris," comic 
opera in one act. Book by J. W. Castle and M. I. MacDonald, from original 
version by Jas. A. Russell, music by Emma R. Steiner. Under the direction of 
Fred N. Tracey, director.

WJZ Georgie Jessel of "The Troubles of 1922" will broadcast, with the 
assistance of twelve artists, the comedy songs and monologues of three acts 
from this play.

WGY 7:45pm "The Wolf" by Eugene Walter (WGY Players)

WGY 7:45pm "The Garden of Allah" by Mary Anderson (Robert Hichens) (WGY 

WGY 7:45pm "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford" by George M. Cohan (WGY Players)

WGY 7:45pm "The Man From Home" by Harry Leon Wilson (Booth Tarkington) (WGY 

WGY 7:45pm "H. M. S. Pinafore" by Gilbert & Sullivan (WGY Players)

WGY 7:45pm "Paid in Full" by Eugene Walter (WGY Players)

WFAA 8-8:30pm "The Altruists" (two act play) by Leon Whittier of Dallas, given 
by Dallas Rotary Club.

WJZ 9:30-10:30pm "The Merchant of Venice," a dramatic reading, by Mona Morgan.

WGY 7:45pm "Way Down East" by Lottie Blair Parker (WGY Players)

WGY 7:45pm "Are You a Mason?" (WGY Players)

WEAF 4:30-4:45pm and 5-5:15pm Entertainment from Shakespeare, with recitations 
and facts, by Kizzie B. Masters.

WJZ 9:30-9:55pm "Interpretation of Shakespeare by Miss Mona Morgan, who is 
considered one of the foremost interpreters of Shakespearian dramas. She has 
been responsible for interesting many school children in these classics."
WJZ 10:01pm Continuation of the program by Mona Morgan.

WOR 2:30-3pm Synopsis of Shakespearian play -- "Much Ado About Nothing."

WGY 7:45pm "A Fool There Was" by Porter Emerson Brown (WGY Players)

WOR 3:40-4pm "Witchcraft," with renditions of the witch scenes from "Macbeth," 
by James G. McLaughlin.

WGY 7:45pm "The Mikado" by Gilbert & Sullivan (WGY Players)

WGY 7:45pm "Officer 666" by Augustin MacHugh (WGY Players) 

WJZ 9:30pm "Julius Caesar," by Mona Morgan, interpreter of Shakespeare's 

WGY 7:45pm "The Sign of the Four" (WGY Players) with Edward H. Smith as 
Sherlock Holmes and F. H. Oliver as Dr. Watson.

WLW "A Fan and Two Candlesticks," one-act play by Mary MacMillan; read by 
MacMillan, Fred Smith and Robert Stayman

WEAF 8-10pm Verdi's "Aida." The cast includes Carmella Ponselle, soprano; Anne 
Roselle, soprano; Leon Rothier, basso; Dimitry Dobkin, tenor. The artists will 
be supported by the Metropolitan Opera Company Orchestra of 100 pieces, led by 
Giuseppe Bamboshek.

KDKA 9pm First act of "Aida" under direction of John Lawrence Rodriques.

WJZ 9:30-9:55pm "As You Like It," by Mona Morgan.
WJZ 10:01pm Continuation of the program by Mona Morgan.

WGY 7:45pm "H. M. S. Pinafore" [rebroadcast by popular demand] (WGY Players)

WOR 8:30pm "Cavelleria Rusticana," by the Puccini Grand Opera Company.

WLW Mary Sullivan Brown "reading from the Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet."

WGY 7:45pm "Seven Keys to Baldpate" by George M. Cohan (Earl Derr Biggers) 
(WGY Players)

WJZ 9:30pm "Romeo and Juliet," by Mona Morgan, Shakespearean interpreter.

WOR 6:30pm Scene from "The Bat"

KQV 10pm One-act play "Tatters" by Mrs. B. B. Davis

WJZ 5:30-6:30pm "The Little Kangaroo" Broadway musical comedy rehearsal direct 
from the Morosco Theatre

WGY 7:45pm "Madame X" by Alexandre Bisson (WGY credits J. W. McConaughy) (WGY 

WJZ 10:01pm "Scenes from Henry V.," by Mona Morgan.

WLW "Matinata," a one-act comedy by Lawrence Langner, "presented by permission 
of Stewart and Kidd, the publishers." (Presumably, this was adapted from the 
author's multi-act play.)

WJZ 9:30-9:55pm "Hamlet," by Mona Morgan.
WJZ 10:01pm Continuation of the program by Mona Morgan.

WEAF 4:30-5:30pm Reading of Washington Irving's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," by 
Edward E. Doyle, with musical accompaniment by Alfred H. Wertheim, violinist, 
and A. V. Liufro, pianist.

WJZ 7:30-8:15pm "Romeo and Juliet," by Mona Morgan.

WGY 7:45pm "Miss Lulu Bett" by Zona Gale (WGY Players)

WJZ 9:30-9:55pm Shakespearean program. ["A mixed Shakespearean program by Mona 
Morgan, well known interpreter of Shakespearean plays."]
WJZ 10:05pm Continuation of Shakespearean program.

WGY 7:45pm "Smilin' Through" by Allen Langdon Martin (WGY Players) 

WOR 2:45pm Reading of the three best stories of the WOR short story contest.
WHAS 4-5pm Dialogues from the first two acts of the Louisville Players' Club 
annual play, "Diplomacy" by Victorien Sardou

WGY 7:45pm "The Wrong Mr. Wright" by George Broadhurst (WGY Players)

WLW "What the Public Wants," by Arnold Bennett. (Possibly an abridgment of "a 
play in four acts" by Bennett.)

WGY 7:45pm "The Sign of the Cross" by Wilson Barrett (WGY Players)

WLW "The Shadowed Star," one-act play by Mary MacMillan (with a cast of five).

WEAF 7:15-7:45pm Reading, Dickens' "A Christmas Carol "with musical 
accompaniment, by Charles Mills; Grace McDermott, violinist; Mary Burgum, 

WGY 7:45pm "Nothing But the Truth" by James Montgomery (WGY Players)

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