1922 RadiolaOld-Time Radio: The Golden Years

It is fairly easy to find a chronology of the evolution of radio hardware - from its theoretical basis expounded by James Maxwell in 1864, to recent developments in personal cellular telephones, packet radio and wide-spectrum communications. It is a little more difficult to trace the growth, maturation and eventual stagnation of radio programming.

The following table shows the year that many OTR programs started. The date in brackets "[ ]" is the last year the show was heard (exclusive of re-runs). You may click on the appropriate places to hear a short soundbyte of the highlighted show.

This page is, by NO means, a complete list of the radio shows that appeared in any particular year. Additional soundbytes of these shows may be found in the Famous Weekly Shows pages at this site.

YearQuick Summary
1909In 1906, Lee De Forest invented his "Audion" tube - what we now call a "triode". He used it as a detector/amplifier to help make possible the radio transmission of the human voice. In 1909, Mr. DeForest used his equipment to broadcast the voice of Enrico Caruso from the Metropolitan Opera. This soundbyte is supposedly a recording of that 1909 broadcast - "O Sole Mio".
1918Twelve years after Reginald Fessenden first broadcast voices via radio, two years after Alexanderson invented a selective tuner for radio receivers, and a year before the founding of the Radio Corporation of America, Edward Armstrong developed superhetrodyne circuit technology. This invention helped move radio from the world of the experimental physicist to the home.

President Woodrow Wilson used the radio during the latter part of his tenure (1913 - 1921). Here is an excerpt of a Wilson speech on the plight of farmers, recorded on disk in 1912. President Wilson's broadcasts preceeded by more than a decade the more famous "Fireside Chats" that President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast between 1933 and 1945.

WW I ended in 1918. Here is a song that might have been on the radio: Over There (written by George M. Cohan, performed by Billy Murray [courtesy of the Library of Congress web page]).
1920The first commercial radio stations with regularly scheduled broadcasts were heard in 1920. WWJ (Detroit) (then known as "8MK") went on-air in August. KDKA (Pittsburgh) went on-air in November with the results of the 1920 Harding - Cox Presidential election.

[Some sources claim KQW in San Jose, California deserves the title of "First Commercial Station" because of its broadcasting in 1912. Donna Halper reminds us that Montreal's XWA was on the air in late 1919, and there were at least four stations regularly on the air in 1920]

Also See Elizabeth McLeod's Documenting Early Radio for information about 1920 - 1935 radio.
1921The first sports broadcast was the Dempsey-Carpenter fight on July 2, 1921.

The Happiness Boys started a show, which continued (on various stations) until 1940.

First religious broadcast? KDKA aired the Sunday service of Pittsburgh's Calvary Episcopal Church on Jan 2nd.
1922 Donna Halper's research revealed that, in November of 1922, songs from the successful Broadway musical "Shuffle Along" were performed live by the original cast over station WNAC in Boston, one of the earliest examples of an African-American musical on radio (it featured Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, and Lottie Gee, among others).
1924 National political conventions were heard on a nationwide network during the 1924 nomination season. (Calvin Coolidge won the Presidency. Here is an excerpt from one of Calvin Coolidge's speeches, preserved on a 78 RPM campaign handout.)

The A & P Gypsies appeared on WEAF (New York), and moved to NBC Red in 1926. For the next 10 years, this musical show (Harry Horlick and his orchestra) was heard nationally, on NBC Red or NBC Blue.

The National Barn Dance first heard on WLS (Chicago). The show was broadcast between 4/19/24 and 4/30/60 (and only 14 recorded shows remain)
1925A year later, The Grand Ol' Opry appeared, and was heard on various stations until 1941, when it was picked up by NBC. Grand Ol' Opry was heard on NBC on Saturday nights (at about 9:30 or 10:30 PM) through 1956, when it became syndicated, and was heard on various other stations.
1926The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was established by RCA in 1926. "Red" and "Blue" Networks.

Among the shows broadcast that year were several orchestras, Ben Bernie, Will Rogers, Sam and Henry and Father Coughlin. The Betty Crocker Show started on NBC Red.
1927The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was founded.
NBC's Orange (West Coast) network founded.

Many musical shows on the air, including Chicago Civic Opera, National Symphony Orchestra, and the Goodrich Zippers (Banjo Ensamble),

Talk shows included: Auction Bridge, and Cook's Travelogue.

H. V. Kaltenborn, broadcasting news, was first heard on CBS [1955]
1928Sam and Henry became Amos and Andy in 1928 when the show moved to NBC. The Amos and Andy show was on the radio through 1960 - making it the longest-running series in radio history. Here is an excerpt, discussing the 1928 election.

The Guy Lombardo Show [1967] started this year, as did the The Voice of Firestone and Uncle Don [1949]

First Year On Air 
New Shows
Click on the appropriate place to hear a short soundbyte from the show
Last Year

The Goldbergs1950
True Detective Mysteries1959
National Farm and Home Hour1958
The Rudy Vallee Show1955

Believe It or Not1948
Ben Bernie1943
Death Valley Days1945
The First Nighter1949
Grand Hotel1945
Lowell Thomas; news1976
Sherlock Holmes1956
True Romances1930
Andre Kostalenetz Orchestra1946
Crosby Cremo Cigar Show
(Bing Crosby's first radio show)
The Eddie Cantor Show 1953
The Eno Crime Club1936
The Hedda Hopper Show1951
Kate Smith (Various shows)1959
Little Orphan Annie1942
Lum and Abner1954
March of Time1945
Metropolitan Opera
(usually with Milton Cross from 1935 on)
Myrt and Marge1946
Walter Winchell1957
Also See Donna Halper's 1931
Al Jolson1939
Bobby Benson's Adventures
(some breaks and title changes)
Buck Rogers1947
Burns and Allen (1929 on BBC)1950
Chandu the Magician1950
The Adventures of Charlie Chan1948
Easy Aces1945
The Ed Sullivan Show1946
The Fire Chief (The Ed Wynn Show)1945
Fred Allen1949
Jack Benny1955
Just Plain Bill1955
Marx Brothers1939
One Man's Family1959
The Shadow1954
The Shadow of Fu Manchu1939
Vic and Sade1946
The Breakfast Club1968
The Camel Caravan1954
Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy1950
Kraft Music Hall1949
Lets Pretend1954
The Lone Ranger1956
Ma Perkins1956
The Romance of Helen Trent1960

Mutual Broadcasting System founded.
Let's Pretend1954
Lights Out1947
Lux Radio Theater1955
Also See Donna Halper's 1934
Backstage Wife1959
Bob Hope1955
Cavalcade of America1953
Fibber McGee & Molly1956
G-Men (later called Gangbusters)1957
Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour1946
Omar the Wizard of Persia1936
Your Hit Parade1953

Columbia Workshop1947
The Milton Berle Show1949
Pepper Young's Family1958
The Answer Man1956
The Baby Snooks Show1951
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy1956
Bill Stern's / Colgate Sports Newsreel1956
Grand Central Station1954
The Green Hornet1952
Hilltop House1957
Hobby Lobby1949
Mr Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons1955
The Road of Life1959
Terry and the Pirates1948
Also See Donna Halper's 1937
Challenge of the Yukon (Sergeant Preston of the Canadian Mounted Police)1955
Edward R. Murrow from London
The Guiding Light1956
Information, Please!1951
The Adventures of Superman1951
War of the Worlds
Against The Storm1952
The Aldrich Family1953
Captain Midnight1949
The Dinah Shore Show1955
The Adventures of Ellery Queen1948
The Red Skelton Show1953
The Right To Happiness1960
I Love A Mystery1952
Mr. District Attorney1952
Also See Donna Halper's 1939
Abbott & Costello1949
Bell Telephone Hour1958
Can You Top This?1954
Gene Autry's Melody Ranch1956
Portia Faces Life1951
Truth or Consequences1956
The World Today (CBS News)1946
Author's Playhouse1944
Bulldog Drummond1954
A Date With Judy1950
Duffy's Tavern1952
The Great Gildersleeve1957
Inner Sanctum Mysteries1952
The Life of Riley1951
The Adventures of The Thin Man1950
Also See Donna Halper's 1941
The Adventures of Mr and Mrs North1955
The Cisco Kid1956
The Frank Sinatra Show1958
Hop Harrigan1948
It Pays to be Ignorant1951
Mayor of the Town1949
People are Funny1960
Radio Reader's Digest1948
Red Ryder1949
The Whistler1955
NBC Red & Blue split; ABC formed.
Archie Andrews1953
Judy Canova Show 1953
Casey, Crime Photographer1955
Chick Carter, Boy Detective1945
The Falcon1954
The Mysterious Traveler1952
(Molle) Mystery Theater1954
Adventures of Nero Wolfe1951
Nick Carter, Master Detective1955
Radio Hall of Fame1946
Theater Guild on the Air1953
Also See Donna Halper's 1943
Boston Blackie1950
FBI In Peace and War1958
The Life of Riley1951
The Man Called X1952
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet1954
The Roy Rogers Show1955
Smilin' Ed and His Buster Brown Gang1953
This Is My Best1945
The Adventures of Monsieur Hercule Poirot 
Calling All Detectives1950
The Couple Next Door1960
Harvest of Stars1950
Philo Vance1950
Queen for a Day1957
Request Performance1946
Adventures of Rocky Jordan1951
This Is Your FBI1953
NY Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reads funny papers
Also See Donna Halper's 1945
Academy Award Theater1946
Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts
(Mr Godfrey was on various shows starting in 1933)
The Bickersons1951
Bob & Ray1984
The Clock1948
A Day in the Life of Dennis Day1951
Favorite Story1947
Grand Marquee1947
Hollywood Star Time1947
Murder at Midnight1947
Pat Novak For Hire1949
The Adventures of Sam Spade1951
Sky King1954
The Adventurer's Club1948
The Big Story1955
Family Theater1956
Mr President1953
My Friend Irma 1954
Official Detective1957
Adventures of Philip Marlowe1951
Quiet, Please1949
You Are There1949
You Bet Your Life1956
Blackstone, The Magic Detective1949
Box 131949
The Brighter Day1956
Family Hour of Stars1950
Hallmark Playhouse1953
Life With Luigi1953
Mr. Chameleon1948
Our Miss Brooks1957
The Phil Harris - Alice Fay Show1954
Radio City Playhouse1950
The Railroad Hour1954
Sealtest Variety Theater
AKA "Dorothy Lamour" 35-49, "Front and Center" 1947
Straight Arrow1951
Tell It Again1949
Broadway is my Beat1954
Candy Matson1951
Crime Does Not Pay1951
Father Knows Best1953
Adventures of Frank Race1950
Richard Diamond, Private Detective1953
Screen Director's Playhouse1951
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar1962
Big Jon and Sparkie1958
The Big Show1952
Dimension X1951
Halls of Ivy1952
Hollywood Star Playhouse1953
Hopalong Cassidy1952
Dr. Kildare1952
The Magnificent Montague1951
Space Patrol1955
Tales of the Texas Rangers1952
Hearthstone of the Death Squad1952
Hopalong Cassidy1952
Silver Eagle1955
Sixty-Four Dollar Question1952
Best Plays1953
The Black Museum1952
Bright Star1953
The Chase1953
Frontier Town1953
I Was A Communist for the FBI1954
Kukla, Fran and Ollie1953
My Little Margie1955
Crime Classics1954
The Philco Radio Playhouse1954
Rocky Fortune1954
The Six Shooter1954
National Negro
Network Founded.
Dr. Sixgun1955
NBC's Monitor1974
NBC Radio Theatre1956
X Minus 11958
CBS Radio Workshop1957
Sleep No More1957
Stan Freberg Show1957
Frontier Gentleman1958
Have Gun, Will Travel1960
NBC Radio Theater1960

Many authorities agree that "Old Time Radio" ended on September 30, 1962, with the last episodes of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Designations of other radio "ages" can be seen on our Ages of Radio page.

CBS Radio Mystery Theater1982
Some of the dates may reflect appearances on local rather than network radio.

If you want a more in-depth look at the history of radio, see the various radio history pages at this site that treat each year in more detail. For an enjoyable summary of what happened this month in radio history, see Jim Widner's OTR Timeline at www.otr.com. More information on very early radio recordings and the media on which they were recorded is at Elizabeth McLeod's Documenting Early Radio pages at this site. Elizabeth has also contributed her list of the Top 100 Old Time Radio Moments of the Century.

Return to History and OTR

Radiola image: www.arttoday.com
Show dates:
      Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming; Hickerson, Jay
      A Thirty-Year History of Programs Carried on National Radio Networks in the United States, 1926 - 1956; Summers, Harrison B; Ayer Company Publishers, Salem, NH 03079
Many of the soundbytes on this page were from Satellite Media Production's The History of Radio (with permission).
Art Shifrin, corrections to early broadcast sources and media.