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The Day Radio Gave Thanks

A Moment in Radio History from Thanksgiving, 1927

By

Calvin Coolidge, U.S. President

Calvin Coolidge, U.S. President

Photo: Public Domain
On November 23, 1927 a man of note walked into his study The nearby wall clock was showing 10 minutes past 8 p.m. Carefully, he sat down at his desk and pulled the chair slightly in. In front of him, a little to the left was a sheet of paper with some prepared remarks. Directly in front of him was a microphone.

"Sir," an aide inquired, "Your address is five minutes away. Are you all set? Can I get you a glass of water?"

"No, thank you," the man replied.

He picked up the sheet of paper with handwritten remarks and studied them one last time, his eyes scanning each line, his lips slightly pursed as he pronounced each word in his mind.

As the gentleman of note placed the paper back down on his desk, he exhaled one last time and closed his eyes to collect his thoughts.

The solitude of his study absorbed each remaining tick issued by the wall clock as it marched ahead to the appointed time.

"Sir, my hand signals will indicated the seconds until broadcast," said the aide. "Are you ready?"

The speaker nodded.

And with that, the aide held up two hands and began dropping fingers in succession to indicate the countdown to zero.

At 8:15 Eastern Standard Time, Calvin Coolidge, the President of the United States of America, began delivering the presidential Thanksgiving message for the first time over radio.

He spoke on a radio hook-up of "...more than a score of stations..." as reported by the Associated Press and published by newspapers across the country such as the Youngstown Vindicator. (A score is 20.)

Coolidge spoke from his study in the White House and it was the first time a President was "...able to reach millions of people in a personal appeal to observe Thanksgiving Day," reported the Vindicator.

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