Although Marconi broadcast the first transatlantic radio signal in 1901, it wasn't until the 1920s that the technology became generally available, and by 1930 millions of Americans owned radio sets and a new era of mass communication had begun.*
[Women listening to radio / Harris & Ewing, photographer, 1928. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.]
[Radio Broadcast, January 1930, 180-181. Source: Internet Archive]
Recognizing radio's growing importance in American life, the Census Bureau added its first question about a consumer product in Column 9 of the 1930 Census.
The (partial) census record below begins with the household of Christine's paternal great grandfather George Hartley's household in San Diego, California.** Christine's paternal grandmother Margaret Fister's parents were not among those who had a radio in their Plano, Illinois, house.
[Year: 1930; Census Place: San Diego, San Diego, California; Roll: 192; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0107; Image: 468.0; FHL microfilm: 2339927. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.
Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.]
Syndicated radio programs like the perennially popular "Amos 'n' Andy" (with white actors), "The Shadow" (first aired on August of 1930) and "The First Nighter Program" (purporting to take the listener to the opening performance of an off-Broadway show) gave Americans something to talk about besides their neighbors.
For a taste of the music our ancestors were listening to in 1930-31, here's a link to 14 songs played by the orchestra during the Philco Radio Hour.
And of course there were the ads, some of which can be found here.***
For more information here are some more links:
Radio in the 1920s
Behind the Dial: Radio in the 1930s
Advertising Age: 1930s Radio Captivates a Nation
The Digital Deli Too
Old Radio World
*The Media Digital Library's Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Collection (1896-1964) is a great place to find vintage magazines like Radio Age, Radio Broadcast and Radio Digest.
**I've chosen to use the Hartleys here because this census record is unusually easy to read, unlike the barely legible one for my radio-owning Slater grandparents in Niwot, Colorado. No one had a radio in my paternal great grandmother's Dallas, Texas, household (which included my grandmother and my father). The Currey family also owned a radio--which may have been in a Monterey style cabinet that I remember from my childhood.
***Sadly no dates are given in these recordings but I think you can guess which ones are from this era.
© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.