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Radio Is a Sound Salvation

The Library of Congress has a long tradition of broadcasting excerpts from its Coolidge Auditorium concert series for the listening pleasure of radio audiences across the country. Concerts of the 1925 Coolidge Auditorium season were broadcast by the Naval Broadcasting Service. In 1930, the five-year-old National Broadcasting Company began trial broadcasts for the Library from its studios in New York. With the 1933 season, Library concerts were aired regularly over the NBC and CBS networks, drawing a national audience for chamber music and beginning a remarkable run of weekly broadcasts that would last more than 60 years. “Concerts from the Library of Congress” aired internationally during the 1990s, with syndication by Radio France, Radio Netherlands, Italy’s RAI Tre and national networks in Australia, New Zealand and Russia. After a 10-year hiatus following the reopening of the Coolidge Auditorium and Jefferson Building in fall of 1997, the “Concerts from the Library of Congress” radio series returned in November 2007.

The Radio Audience, U.S.A., Listens to the News Mahlon Loomis

The Music Division, WETA-FM and CD Syndications are production partners for this new series of 13 one-hour programs. Accompanying the radio broadcasts is a companion Web site offering a glimpse into the Music Division’s treasures—more than 22 million individual items that make up the world’s largest music archives. Original manuscripts and sketches by J. S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Copland, Gershwin and many others, along with letters, photographs and memorabilia, will be accessible. Unique documents and artifacts, such as Paganini’s private pocket diary and a handwritten 1765 account of an eyewitness interview with a 9-year-old Mozart, will also be included as part of the companion presentations, as will audio and video excerpts of the concerts.

From large battery-operated table models to tiny transistors to portable units that can play songs from your iPod, radios have come a long way. But the question of who invented the radio has been one of debate. Although Gugliemo Marconi is generally thought to be the father of the wireless radio, experiments and discoveries by many other scientists and physicists contributed to its development. Alessandro Volta’s 1838 invention of the battery and Andre Ampere’s scientific studies about electricity and magnetism helped Samuel Morse invent the first electric telegraph machine. In 1865, Washington, D.C., dentist Dr. Mahlon Loomis began experimenting with the idea of wireless messaging or what he called “wireless telegraphy.” He was able to make a meter connected to one kite cause another one to move, marking the first known instance of wireless aerial communication. The exhibition “American Treasures of the Library of Congress” showcases some of his items, including pages from his journal and early speculative sketches illustrating the possibility of transoceanic wireless communication.

In 1887, Heinrich Hertz produced the first radio waves. In addition to Marconi, two other 19th-century contemporaries—Nikola Tesla and Nathan Stufflefield—took out patents for wireless radio transmitters. In fact, as recently as 1943, the Supreme Court reviewed Tesla’s unsuccessful 1915 court injunction against Marconi and acknowledged Tesla as the inventor of the radio.

A. The Radio Audience, U.S.A., Listens to the News. 1940. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-57002 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: LOT 3092 [item] [P&P]

B. Mahlon Loomis. Manuscript Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.