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Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding making a phonographic recording, 1920

Courtesy of Library of Congress

"A government can be no better than the public opinion that sustains it."

--President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The technology allowing the human voice to be recorded on wax cylinders became a valuable political tool in the early 1900s. The 1908 presidential race between Republican William H. Taft and Democrat William Jennings Bryan marked the first time recorded speeches were purposely used to expand the speaker's audience to those not in attendance. By 1920, presidents routinely released speeches and remarks on records, or transcriptions.

Early Edison wax cylinder and recordings
Mass communication was born with the technology enabling the human voice to be recorded on wax cylinders.
Cathedral radio, 1940s
By 1924, 1.25 million American households had a radio, compared to 400,000 the previous year. By the early 1930s the two largest networks, the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System, were quickly becoming national fixtures. Ubiquitous and immediate, radio was now the foremost medium of mass communication, and the radio receiver a primary focus in the American home.
Herbert Hoover delivering radio address
Warren G. Harding was the first president to deliver a speech broadcast by radio. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were also occasionally heard on the radio. However, they were not comfortable with it and did not understand its potential impact. Here, President Hoover delivers the final address of the 1932 campaign from his private railroad car.

Courtesy of Herbert Hoover Library

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