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Major Bowes and the Original Amateur Hour

This research guide describes the collections associated with radio (1934-1945) and television (1948-1970) broadcasts of the Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour at the Library of Congress.


Major Bowes Amateur Hour (restricted image)
Frank Sinatra (right) was a member of "The Hoboken Four" when the quartet appeared on the "Original Amateur Hour." The late Major Bowes was then emcee of the long-running program. [1935]. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Original Amateur Hour was broadcast on radio from 1934 until 1945 with Major Edward Bowes as emcee and talent scout. It was revived as a television program with Ted Mack as emcee from 1948 until 1970.

The Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour Collection is one of the most heavily used audio collections at the Library of Congress, consisting of approximately 709 taped radio broadcasts held by the Recorded Sound Section of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Additionally, 20 boxes of paper materials are held by the Music Division.

The paper materials consist primarily of over 7000 applications from contestants who appeared on the Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour radio program between 1934 and 1948. A small percentage of the administrative papers dating from the late 1940s and 1950s, are also included, as well as materials relating to the Mexican version of the program, La hora internacional del aficionado. Photographs from the 1940s and 1950s provide a visual record of the show, while correspondence to and from program staff members recount some of the program's business transactions. Scripts, promotional material, and advertising and sponsor documents also are part of the collection.