Springfield (Massachusetts) Sunday Union and Republican, February 12, 1928, page 34:
ica's First Announcer
Hailed From Springfield
dcasting With Wires 17 Years Ago Was Exactly as it Is Today by Radio -- Programs Somewhat Similar, Too -- Fifteen Thousand "Listeners" Paid a Nickel a Day
By RICHARD D. ARONS
"HE'S THE DADDY of them all; he first faced the microphone in 1921." So reads a recent claim in behalf of a much-touted radio broadcast announcer. But the gentleman has his genealogy wrong end to. He is the youngest son of a long, long line.
Not to go back too far, one may recall that young Stentor, who covered the Trojan war for the Greeks. History records one striking resemblance to present-day announcers--his voice was loud.
Paul Revere Shouted
Jumping down the centuries may be noted one Paul Revere, who lived some miles east of Springfield, in Massachusetts. In this case, too, there was a strong resemblance to modernity--the press agent was better than the principal--"listen, my children, and you shall hear. . . ."
Graven marble at Lexington tells of one who, from his station there, broadcast the "shot heard round the world." No, we don't find any Scotch names among the daddies of broadcasting. The Scots are closer than that.
Program of Other Days
Getting down to cases, broadcasting and broadcast announcing in this country dates back to 1911. The station was located in Newark, N. J. It was called the New Jersey Telephone Herald. Its advertising announced "News and amusement service in the quiet of your home, in any room or in every room. News by wire. Music by wire. Sermons by wire. Vaudeville by wire. Lectures, speeches, theatrical performances, operas, and happenings of every sort, including the correct time, by telephone.
"And not in squeaking, rasping, nerve-jarring sounds, but in clear and melodious tones; the human voice itself reaching you over the wires."
Within six months after the opening of the station over 15,000 subscribers had signed up. The cost was five cents a day. That covered all expense. No sets to buy, no batteries, no tubes. The five cents provided one headset. Each additional headset cost an extra five cents. Like radio of today, the subscriber was a receiver only. He was not provided with any transmitter. Spare wires of the telephone company were leased by the broadcasting company, but there was no connection otherwise between the companies, nor in the instalations.
The daytime service was, as may be noted from a copy of the daily program, that of a newspaper: "In our editorial department is installed a complete newspaper staff, editors, subeditors, reporters, et al, collecting and receiving by telegraph, telephone and personal investigation the news of the world, which, instead of being printed, is, after careful editing, told over the wires to you by men called "Stentors," speaking into special microphones and heard through special receivers installed wherever you wish in your home. There is a fixed hour during the day no time need be wasted waiting for any desired information."
World Series, Too
An amusement department billed, for evening transmission, every variety of entertainment, from grand opera to the current ragtime orchestra. The world series of 1911 and 1912 were covered, as were one or two bicycle and motorcycle races.
And in this connection it may be interesting to go into the method of selecting announcers. First, only college men would do, and men with stenographic or secretarial experience were preferred. The idea was to secure men who had a broad general knowledge of English, men who could pronounce any word they might encounter without hesitancy.
Many Called, Few Chosen
Four announcers were on duty all day--15 minutes out of each hour before the "mike," and the other 45 minutes on editorial or reporting duty. Over 150 men were interviewed for these four announcers positions and all but 20 eliminated because of failure to meet requirements in vocabulary or tone quality of voice.
Before the service opened to the public, regular operation for one full week was put on--and the 20 announcers soon dwindled to the minimum four. Try reading carefully, pronouncing all syllables and holding the voice within the range one or two tones 15 minutes out of each hour, all day long, day after day, and you will soon understand why most throats cannot carry through. Even after months of practice these announcers frequently, at the end of a day, could have qualified as the "Four Hoarsemen."
No Excitement Permitted
The capital crime was for an announcer to let excitement--or anything else, for that matter--vary the quality of his tone or otherwise distort the transmission. He was the voice, and he took pride in being able to convey excitement, or other emotion, without in the least impairing perfect pronunciation and enunciation of every word.
So well matched were the four that any one could relieve another between syllables of a word without the audience being able to detect the change for perhaps several minutes.
Don't overlook that 5-6 hour--"Stories, Talks for Children." Bedtime stories are not new, either. Howard Garis wrote some of them, and once or twice appeared before the "mike." Personal appearances, too, are somewhat shopworn, it seems. Generally, though, bedtime stories were delegated to the story lady who was just as affected as her radio prototype.
Back to Budapest
Nor was the Newark broadcasting station an experiment, even along its line, for this service had been giving satisfaction for some years prior to 1911 in several European cities, reaching its zenith, perhaps, in Budapest, Hungary, its original home, where it was in almost every home and business place in the city.
The only differences in methods between Telephone Herald and radio was the use of wire transmission instead of radio waves, and devotion of some of the 24 hours to something more educating than jazz.
And advertising was advertising--just as it is in the newspaper. Goods and prices and who offered them.
"Daddy of them all?" Well, your chronicler must object because that would leave him without ancestors or traceable descendents, for back there in 1911 he put on the first 8-8.15 turn before the microphone, inaugurating modern broadcast announcing in America.