Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922-1952

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U of Minnesota Press, 1997 - Social Science - 353 pages
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An overview of radio's impact on American culture in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Shadow. Fibber McGee and Molly. Amos 'n' Andy. When we think back on the golden age of radio, we think of the shows. In Radio Voices, Michele Hilmes looks at the way radio programming influenced and was influenced by the United States of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, tracing the history of the medium from its earliest years through the advent of television.

Hilmes places the development of radio within the context of the turmoils of the 1920s: immigration and urbanization, the rise of mass consumer culture, and the changing boundaries of the public and private spheres. Early practices and structures -- the role of the announcer, the emergence of program forms from vaudeville, minstrel shows, and the concert stage -- are examined.

Central to Radio Voices is a discussion of programs and their relations to popular understandings of race, ethnicity, and gender in the United States of this era. Hilmes explores Amos 'n' Andy and its negotiations of racial tensions and The Rise of the Goldbergs and its concern with ethnic assimilation. She reflects upon the daytime serials -- the first soap operas -- arguing that these much-disparaged programs provided a space in which women could discuss conflicted issues of gender. Hilmes also explores industry practices, considering the role of advertising agencies and their areas of conflict and cooperation with the emerging networks as well as the impact of World War II on the "mission" of radio.

Radio Voices places the first truly national medium of the United States in its social context, providing an entertaining account of the interplay betweenprogramming and popular culture.

 

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Contents

Radiating Culture
1
How Far Can You Hear?
34
The Emergence
75
Kitchen Table Conversations
97
The Disembodied Woman
130
Under Cover of Daytime
151
Radio by Night
183
Fighting to Be Heard
230
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About the author (1997)

Michele Hilmes is associate professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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