Although in the 1920s people imagined a future in which the airwaves were dominated by educational programming,1 radio broadcasting in America in the 1930s was largely dedicated to entertainment, advertising, and politics.2 Despite the overall economic depression, the annual amount spent on radio advertising in 1933 was seven times higher than it had been in 1927, rising in relation to the 9 million more households that owned a radio set in 1933 as compared to 1929.3
Brands and advertising agencies were responsible for much of the radio programming throughout the "Golden Age of Radio." Advertising agencies would often create programs expressly to promote certain products, and agencies like Black-Sample-Hummert were dedicated to radio advertising. Popular radio programs in the 1930s included short "humoristic" programs like Amos and Andy, which could be traced back to racist minstrelsy, children's programming, and soapy drama serials aimed at housewives that often included built-in product placement.4 Radio was also used for politics. Speeches and talks by politicians such as Huey Long and Franklin D. Roosevelt connected them with more people through the radio.5
Trade publications, like Radio (published 1921-1947), were developed for the growing industry of travelling salesmen selling radio sets door to door. Although it was hard to measure the impact at first, radio advertising quickly became an area of serious commercial, consumer and academic research. This page provides a sample of historical sources, books, and articles about radio advertising.
These historical items discuss radio advertising and are primary sources published shortly before or during the Great Depression. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.
These websites include archives of relevant historical material.
These are books published more recently about radio advertising during the 1930s. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
These are articles published more recently (at least decades after the Great Depression) about radio advertising during the 1930s. The following articles are linked to their location on their journal's homepage or other stable URL. At times, a subscription may be required to access the full text of the article. When available, a link is provided to the journal's Library of Congress catalog record and/or subscription where the article can be found.