At the time this newspaper article appeared, Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States. And just four weeks later he almost made the first radio broadcast by a sitting President. Wilson was aboard the U.S.S. George Washington on July 4, 1919, and it was planned to transmit his Independence Day speech over a shipboard radio transmitter. However, when Wilson gave the speech he was located too far from the microphone to be heard, and the sailors were too intimidated to ask him to move into the proper location. Therefore, it wouldn't be until May, 1922 that a president -- Wilson's successor, Warren G. Harding -- would have a speech broadcast by radio.. San Francisco Chronicle, June 8, 1919, Feature Section:
When the President at the Phone May Talk to All the People
Astonishing Advance of Wireless by Which a Single Voice May Actually Be Heard in Every Corner of the Country, on Mountain Top or Coal Mine at the Same Moment.
By F. A. Collins
WITH the aid of the long-distance wireless telephone a single voice may address the population of the entire nation. A revolution in communication will date from the installation of this marvellous new instrument. In the not distant future the newspapers may announce some day, for instance, that the President of the United States will address the people the following morning at 10 o'clock. At the appointed hour 100,000,000 persons scattered throughout the country may listen to his address without missing a word or even the inflection of the speaker's voice. At a burst of eloquence a great wave of applause will sweep the country, and a joke will raise a laugh from sea to sea.
In some hour of great national peril the entire population can thus be collected and addressed in a few minutes. If the wireless telephone were installed today it would be possible, for example, for President Wilson on his return from France to discuss the league of nations in this way with every citizen. It is prophesied with confidence by telephone engineers that within a few years the President's messages at his inaugural or before Congress will be delivered directly in this way to the entire people.
The wireless telephone promises to make the world safe for democracy as has no other agent. In the early days of the Greek republic, it will be remembered, the populace was in the habit of meeting at noon each day before the tribune to be addressed by the orators and to determine affairs of government. The system insured a pure democracy in which every citizen could take part and be represented. With the growth of population the daily meeting soon became unwieldy, and a form of representative government was evolved. Centuries later the wireless telephone will make it possible to return in a measure to these primitive and ideal conditions. An entire people may be summoned to stand, as it were, in one vast audience and listen to their chief executive.
The importance of this direct means of communicating with the population, no matter in what part of the United States it may be situated, can scarcely be measured. In the early days of the republic, when communication was by stage coach, days were required to carry the President's message from Washington to the principal cities of the country. The system was slow and awkward to a degree, and national development of the railroad and the telegraph worked a revolution by cutting the time between cities to perhaps one-tenth. The marvellous development of the United States in the past 70 years is very largely due to improved means of communication.
The wireless telephone annihilates space. It will work a revolution comparable to that of the railroad and the telegraph. No other country is so well prepared as the United States to take advantage of the new invention. There are today about 175,000 wireless stations scattered far and wide throughout the United States. A great many of these are amateur stations, equipped with receiving devices only. Such apparatus may be adjusted readily to pick up the invisible waves of the telephone messages. So numerous have these amateur wireless stations become in all parts of the country that it became necessary for the government to regulate them by law to keep them from interfering with the sending of government and commercial messages. A receiving station, however, can do no harm.
The cost of installing such a station is trifling. The wires which pick up the vibrations may be strung from the barn to the hay stack of every farm or upon the roof of any city house. The cost of such an outfit need not exceed $5. The cost of keeping up such a plant is trifling. The wireless telephone is, therefore, within the reach of all. The apparatus required for sending out messages, enabling the operator actually to talk through the air, is expensive at present and requires some technical experience to operate. But any one with an outlay of $5 and a little time may be connected up with the great wireless telephone which will soon be extended far and wide over the United States.
The efficiency of the wireless telephone has been clearly shown by its work with airplanes in flight. A small telephone set which works perfectly through a radius of 250 miles has been used repeatedly to signal to flying squadrons. The writer has "listened in" on many conversations between the ground stations and the air pilots. The human voice is transmitted much more dearly by the wireless system than by the copper wires which tend to distort it. Voices are perfectly reproduced and seem to be spoken into one's ear, although the pilots may be miles away and often at great altitudes. To test the telephone an order would be given to the leader of the air squadron to turn his fleet to the right or left and a moment later the great fleets of airships would obey the order.
The transmitter of the wireless telephone may be readily equipped with an amplifier which will enable the voice to be heard by thousands of people. During the aeronautical exhibition in the Madison Square Garden in New York the voice of an airplane pilot, speaking from his machine a mile above the earth and many miles distant, was thus amplified and distinctly heard throughout the hall by 10,000 and more people. An antenna, for example, could be quickly and cheaply raised above the roof of a theatre and the words of the President, for example, thus picked out of the sky and amplified so that an audience of thousands could hear every word. If all the moving picture theatres of the land were thus equipped, what an audience could be addressed nightly throughout the United States.
Every section of the United States will thus be brought within touch of Washington or any other centre. Every theatre of a great city and the factory or office of every business could thus hear the voice. In remote parts of the country, where even the mails reach but once a day or at longer intervals the population assembled at the village school, store or church could listen in at the same instant of time. The wireless telephone may also be connected up with the ordinary telephone system which could thus be used to supplement it. Every telephone in the country could be connected up with Washington at the appointed hour and the President's voice could be heard on mountain tops or in coal mines. There would be few people in the country who could not be brought within sound of it. No invention in all history has so served to knit the world so closely together or seems destined to work such a revolution.