Mass Media Technologies, the Makings of an Entertainment Industry, and the Rise of Black Culture as Mass Culture
The last decades of the 1800s and the first decades of the 1900s witnessed the formation of a media technology-driven entertainment industry. Mass media technologies were prevalent in the shaping of modern society. Those technologies required cultural tools to function that would appeal to the masses. Those cultural tools were elements of Black culture. Mass media was responsible for Black culture becoming popular culture and a world culture.
The entertainment industry of the 1800s were at saloons, concert halls, dance halls or homes. Minstrel shows and vaudeville acts were major entertainment of the era. Minstrels began in the 1830s primarily among new Irish immigrants of the Five Points area of Lower Manhattan. They integrated the Scottish and Irish jigs and African rhythms and depicted Black figures as
caricatures. These immigrants werea nti-abolitionists. In 1834, they rioted against Blacks who they competed with for jobs and housing.
In 1829, George Washington Dixon, another early minstrel player, also played as “Coal Black Rose.” He is thought to be the first person to perform in blackface in the United States. Thomas D. Rice is known as “the Father of American Minstrels.” He developed the “Jim Crow” character in the 1830s. Also, Rice often played as the character “Coal Black Rose.” Rice and other minstrel and vaudeville players were cross dressers. Minstrel shows became the pretense for their behavior. These shows called hokumwas sexually lewd. They colored their cross-dressing performances by ridiculing Black women characters.
The minstrels were Grotesque dance. The Grotesque dance was oppositeof the “noble dance” of European royal courts. Grotesque dance was buffoonery often with characters who are debased and sometimes physically deformed.
In addition, Joel Sweeney from Virginia was a famous banjo player in minstrel shows. He played in the European tradition of the blackface in 1839 of “TheDying Moor’s Defense of his Flag” and the Moorish dance. The blackface has its English traditions in wars with the Moors. In 1843 and 1844, Sweeney and others played in England, Ireland, and Scotland. Frederick Douglass is said to state of the minstrel performers that they are “filthy scum of white society who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money and pander to the corrupt taste of their fellow citizens” (Kuntz).
In the 1850s, Black dancers and singers joined the minstrel circuit working with white minstrel companies. William Henry Lane called Master Juba performed the Hambone slapping dancing in America and England. Because minstrels were drag shows, it is reported that Juba was forced to play the role of the “wench” in some shows.
Another Black performer who joined whiteminstrel companies before the American Civil War was Thomas (Dilward) Dilverd. He was a three feet tall dwarf and was very successful during his time. He made $200.00 a week in gold for his performances. He was skilled at playing the violin, as well as singing and dancing. Dilverd, was ofAfrican and Native American heritage and was known as “Japanese Tommy.” He toured England, New Zealand, and Australia. He is credited with the invention of the phrase “honky dory” meaning “everything is alright.”
George Washington Dixon was among the earliest performers of “Coon Songs.” Coon songs were denigrated of Black people. They became very popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s and in Vaudeville. During this time about 600 coon songs were published. They had a Ragtime syncopated rhythm. Marcus Garvey created the Red, Green, and Black flag in response to the song “Every Race has a Flag but the Coon.”
Dora Dean and her husband Charles E. Johnson danced as partners in a Cakewalk dance in 1893, They created “The Creole Show” that ran from 1889-1897.
They introduced couples of men and women as partners in the Cakewalk this was the first time that women were used in vaudeville. It ended the minstrels and vaudeville use of cross-dressing shows to imitate Black women and the use of the Black faces began to wane. The original use of all men shows with men crossdressers for women became a grotesque dance show that was very popular during the era.
Musical Theater was another aspect of entertainment before the rise of mass media. Musical theater is a theatrical production in which the story is communicated song, dance, dialogue and technical effects of the show. Musicals have become as important to the entertainment scene in the United States as opera has in Europe. Theaters were opened in New York around 1750. In the late 1800s, musicals beganto evolve American entertainment taste beyond minstrels and vaudeville grotesques and racist low culture performances. The singers and dancers were of higher quality and talent. A complex of theaters began to be opened in Midtown Manhattan creating the Theater District with a few theaters on Broadway and the majority of others in Time Square and cross streets.
A Trip to Coontown (1898) was the first musical comedy produced and performed by Blacks on Broadway. Although it starred famed opera star Sissieretta Jones, the show was a palatable minstrel style comedy. “Clorindy: The Origin of the Cakewalk”(1898) was the first Broadway musical with an all-Black cast. It featured Ragtime music by William MarionCook and lyrics were written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The play starred Ernest Hogan. The operetta featured the songs “Who Dat Chicken in Dis Crowd” and “Darktown is Out Tonight.” Cook and Dunbar also collaborated on “In Dahomey” (1903) the first full length musical on Broadway.
“Shuffle Along” (1921) by Eubie Blake and Noble Sisle was the first play written by Blacks to be produced on Broadway. The play was based on the book by Black vaudeville team o f A. L. Lyles and Flournoy E. Miller. The plot dignified Black characters. The play featured Jazz music, professional dancers, and popularized the song “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” The production ran for a decade and launched the careers of Josephine Baker, Adelaide Hall, Florence Mills, Fredi Washington, and Paul Robeson.
Duke Ellington played an important role in solidifying Jazz as a truly American artform and enshrining the artform as an international culture. In 1923, Ellington got a stable job at the Hollywood Club in Harlem. Ellington composed music, was a bandleader of an orchestra, and made 8 records. In 1927, Ellington became the regular at the Cotton Club. The Cotton Club was in Harlem; but it catered to an all-white audience. The weekly broadcast show from the Cotton Club gave him and jazz music a national spotlight and contributed to making Jazz an international mass culture. In 1929, Ellington starred as “Duke” in the film “Black and Tan.”
In 1933, his orchestra toured Europe. He appeared in the film “Symphony in Black” which introduced Billie Holiday singing “Rhapsody in Negro Life” in 1935. Ellington’s successful career continued for nearly three decades.
Sound Recording Mass Media Technology and Mass Culture
Sound recording was the first major invention of the modern entertainment industry. This industry includes the selling of recording equipment and instruments (phonographs and the
gramophone (the modern record player) and the distribution and selling of records. On March 25, 1857, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, of France received a patent for the phonautograph which recorded sound. It was not designed for playback. Another Frenchman Charles Cros had the idea of recording on disc records in 1877; however, Cros did not have the means to design, patent, or build his machine. That same year, Thomas Edison announced his conception of a talking machine that would record sound, reproduce it and playback the recording. He received a patent on February 19, 1878, for the phonograph.
Alexander Graham Bell had received prominence after inventing the telephone in 1876 and starting the first commercial telephone exchange in the United States which began in January 1878 in New Haven, Connecticut with 21 subscribers. Bell’s Volta Laboratory in 1879 began to expand on Edison’s patent oft he phonograph and received new patents in 1886. Volta Laboratory improve on the design with a wax disc and a vertical turntable. They called the improvement the graphophone. In 1887, The Volta Graphophone Company and the American GraphophoneCompany merged. On January 15, 1889, the company became Columbia Phonograph Company and later Columbia Records.
Since the capability of copying from a master record did not exist at the time. The recordings were for coined-operated jukeboxes. The recordings had to be made tens of times in a recording studio. In 1890, GeorgeWashington Johnson, a Black vaudeville performer, was among the first recording artists. Even though Washington could whistle all the popular songs of the day, he recorded the minstrel coon song "The Whistling Coon," which he rearranged to be another record called "The Laughing Song” for theN ew York Phonograph Company and the New Jersey Phonograph Company. By 1895, Johnson’s songs were the best-selling records in the country.
Emile Berliner of Germany redesigned the phonograph to have a rotating spiral disc with grooves to be recorded and photoengraved to reproduce multiple copies from a master. He called his invention a gramophone. Thousands of discs could be copied and a stylus with needle added to machine provided for easy playback. The copied disc was called a “gramophone record.” Berliner’s gramophone was patented in 1895. The gramophone becamethe basis function of the record player that was in most American homesuntil the last decades of the twentieth century. This was the inception of home entertainmentinstruments.
In 1895, George W. Johnson made his first sound recordings for the gramophone. Johnson continued to record for the Edison Records, Columbia, the Victor Talking Machine Company among other smaller recording companies until 1909 or 1910.
Although it was the Jim Crow Era, Johnson was marketed as a Black man. Johnson had made tens of thousands of recordings of his songs. He received twenty cents per recording. The companies sold between 50,000 and 75,000 records between 1890 and 1895. He continued to record until 1909 or 1910. In comparison to Enrico Caruso who had by 1904 received a million dollars in royalty.
The Unique Quartette was the first Barbershop Quartet group. They recorded in December 1890 for the New York Phonograph Company. They recorded “Mama’s Black Baby Boy”for the Edison Company in 1893. The Unique Quartette illustrate that Barbershop Quartets was a transitional genre between spirituals and Blues and Jazz.
Other early sound recordings of Black performers include in 1891 Louis “Bebe” Vasnier who recorded among other productions “Brother Rasmus”for the Louisiana Phonograph Company. The famous vaudeville duo of George Walker and Bert Williams recorded several songs in October 1901 and the Dinwiddie Colored Quarter for the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Fisk University Jubilee Singers popularized the “Negro Spirituals.” These slave songs were sung in sacred ceremonies at church or camp meetings and never sang in the public. The
Fisk Jubilee Singers were able to counteract the minstrel and vaudeville acts' caricatures of Blacks and slave musical culture. They recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1909.
Composer Perry Bradford convinced Okeh Records to record Black performers doing Black compositions and to target Black consumers of music. This became known as “Race Records” marketing. Mamie Robinson Smith on February 14, 1923, recorded Bradford’s composition of “That Thing Called Love” and “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.” On August 20, 1920, Smith recorded Bradford’s “Crazy Blues” and “It’s Right Here for You (If You Don’t Get It T’aint No Fault of Mine.” Okeh sold 75,000 records in the first month and over a million records in the first year. The success of Smith began the classic female blues era of recorded music. Other Blues female singers to be recorded were Lucille Nelson Hegamin, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Ethel Waters,and Hattie McDaniel. Bessie Smith, “The Empress of Blues,” recorded for Columbia Records and became the highest paid Black performer in the 1920s. The women toured constantly and were often booked by the Theater Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.), a Black-owned agency. Due to the 1930s Depression Era and the death of Bessie Smith in 1937, the popularity of Blues shifted to mostly rural men accompanying themselves on a guitar. The early women of Blues added improvisation to Blues and popularizing the 12 bar Blues and many of the features that allowed Blues to be synthesized into Jazz, Swing, and Rhythm and Blues, and Soul music.
Since Ragtime was dance compositions centered on the piano, major Ragtime stars like James P. Johnson made piano roll recordings. The pianist was the center of Stride dance music which bridge Ragtime and Jazz. In 1921, he recorded “Carolina Shout,” “Harlem Strut,” and “Keep off the Grass.” Johnson composed the “The Charleston” music for the “The Charleston” dance of the 1920s. Most of his recordings were on Black Swan Records. New Orleans Pianist Jelly Roll Morton also made piano roll recordings. He recorded for Gennett in 1923 as a piano soloist. Later, he recorded with Jazz musicians from New Orleans such as Kid Ory for the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Most pieces by Black composers were recorded by white performers. In 1917 the Original Dixieland Jass Band billed themselves as “The Creators of Jass[Jazz].” They recorded “Livery Stable Blues”and “Dixieland Jass Bank One- Step” on February 26, 1917. for the Victor Talking Machine Company. They became the first recorded Jazz tunes. But, by the early 1920s, the marketing of Race Records fueled the demand for authentic Black music by Black composers and performers. King Oliver and The Creole Jazz Band in 1923 recorded for Okeh, Gennett, Paramount and Columbia. His band consisted of Louis Armstrong. They demonstrated some of the New Orleans Jazz creative techniques of collective improvisation and muting. He later did recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company. “Dippermouth Blues”is among his most noted recording.
In 1923, Duke Ellington made eight recordings and over next fewyears he recorded with numerous major and low budget record labels. Most of the time they were released under avariety of names. In October 1927, Ellington and his orchestra recorded with Adelaide Hall. They had a worldwide hit “Creole Love Call.”
Louis Armstrong was the link between New Orleans Jazz and contemporary Jazz of the Depression and post-World War II Era. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five recorded the hit “Potato Head Blues” in 1926. Armstrong’s duet with pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines “Weather Bird”and his solo in “West End Blues” became influential pieces. He featured scat singing on the recording “Heebie Jeebies” in 1926.
Broome Special Phonograph Records was the first recording company to beowned and operated by Blacks. In 1919, George Broome had a mailorder business by sold copies of concert artists out of his home in Medford, Massachusetts. He had worked for Roland Hayes, a tenor who sold copies of his recordings with Columbia Records. Broome sold copies of Columbia’s recording of Booker T. Washington’s 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech. The business closed in 1923.
Black Swan Records, named for opera star Elizabeth Greenfield, known as the Black Swan, was founded by Harry Pace in 1921 in Harlem. It was a Black owned recording companying tapping into the Race Records marketing to a Black audience. The Company was short lived declaring bankruptcyin 1923; but had among its recording artists such talent as Ethel Waters.
Film: Mass Media Technology and Mass Culture
In the 1880s, Edison’s laboratory began working on visual images and moving pictures to accompany the sound recordings of the phonograph. Edison demonstrated the concept of sound-film system that would simultaneously record sound and visual images at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. That year, Thomas Edison introduced the Kinetoscope machine. The Kinetoscope was a coin-operated peep show gadget in which patrons could view about 30
seconds of entertainment. The shows were mostly of vaudeville acts and songs and motion slides. They were filmed at Edison’s Black Maria Studio in New Jersey. By 1895, the Kinetoscope had become a craze and there were viewing parlors around the world. But sales of the shows soon began to decrease.
Meanwhile, other pioneers of motion pictures were focusing on the projection of film. In the similitude of magic lanterns used to illuminate figures on sheets and walls, film was projected on to a screen for a mass audience and cameras for the filming and production of longer versions of moving pictures. The “Eidoloscope” cinematographic machines were invented by Woodward Latham and Eugene Lauste. They gave the first commercial screening of a film projected onto a screen on May 20, 1895, in New York City. Also, Auguste and Louis Lumiere on December 28, 1895, in Paris, France, gave a viewing of a 20-minute film using their“Cinematograph” camera and film and production equipment. The “Cinematograph” was a motion picture camera that could project film onto a screen. It was a commercial success, and they showed several different films over the year. The Lumiere Brothers were interested in selling cameras and other production equipment. This led to an increase in international film production companies especially in Europe and the rapid formation of the motion picture or film industry.
Film exchange rented out to theaters for mass viewing. Accommodations for mass viewing were at storefronts and other exhibition halls and gathering spots. Overtime movie theaters developed. John P. Harris opened on June 19, 1905, the first “nickelodeon” in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. A nickelodeon was named for the nickel cost of admissions and the Greek work “odeon” for a covered theater it was a commercial setting for film viewing designed for the masses of poor and working-class viewers. By 1908, there were 8000 Nickelodeons inthe country. Viewing was also at dime museums which were designed for the entertainment and education of the working-class and immigrant communities generally referred to as the lowbrow culture. These establishment were contrasted with for the highbrow culture of the upper middle class. Later movie palaces were opened to offer comfortable accommodations for the viewing of longer feature films.
As the film industry grew, there was a need to develop more compelling content for mass audiences. Film focused on actualities which were films of live events. The first paid showing of a film was on May 20, 1895, at Madison Square Garden. It was of a boxing match. Films of live events and performances generated tremendous box sales. From the early 1900s, newsreels and featured documentaries at movie theaters were the most popular manner of getting world news and information.
By the early 1910s the motion pictures-film industry went through a transformation. The industry became more centralized with the studio system and the starsystem. To avoid Edison’s move to monopolize the industry by charging higher fees, and film distribution. The studio system was initiated when the industry became dominated by several large movie companies. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was found on April 30, 1912, as a merger of several
companies and nickelodeon owners. The star system was originated when Universal broke with Edison’s policy of not listing the actors in the film and began to present the names of the actors in the film. This attracted more well-known actors to Universal. The monopolies ended smaller film companies. Also, most film companies moved to Southern California.
Duringthis era, film was becoming an artform. The innovation in production equipment
and film techniques such as “closeups,” “slow motion,” “wipes and other transitions,” “lighting,” and “narrative building.” “The Great Train Robbery” (1903)launched the popularity of the film industry. The film was trailblazing. It was the first Western movie and set the precedent for the western film genre. It was unique in that it presented simultaneous action on screen.
The Role of Blacks in the Film Industry
Earlier films by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s had positive depictions of Black characters. Edison released “The Colored Troops Disembarking” and “The Ninth Negro Cavalry Watering Horses.” But soon after the minstrel and vaudeville depictions of Blacks in film reared its ugly head.
William “Bill” Foster was a pioneer in Blackfilm production. Foster worked as a sportswriter for the Chicago Defender. He wrote under the pen name of Juli Jones. He was the press agent for the vaudeville act of George Walker and Bert Williams, and he was the booking agent for the Pekin Theater in Chicago.
There were several other Black production companies started in Chicago. Some to show positive images of Blacks, while other were dedicated to some of the most racist images ever shown.
“The Clansman” Film
“The Clansman” was a big-budgeted film. It idealized life in the antebellum South. It had a favorable regard for Abraham Lincoln. Yet, it presented on an epic scale the portrayal of Blacks as sexually deviant and providing inept political leadership during the Reconstruction Era. Most of the actors who were portraying Blacks were white actors in Black face. This was very much the film version of the minstrel show.
The film had mass popularity and was a commercial success. It was designed to have mass appeal and influence public opinion. It had a musical score for an orchestra and a 13-page souvenir booklet. The film was released during the WoodrowWilson administration. Wilson, who was born in Virginia, was the first Southerner to become president of the United
States since the 1848 election of Zachary Taylor and as a child Wilson was a citizen of the Confederate States of America. The film justified legalized national segregation and the agenda of Democratic racial policies of the Wilson Administration.
Moreover, the “Lost Cause”was a device that romanticized the Clansman as a chivalrous Christian knights protecting the dignity of white womanhood and defenders of the Southern
lifestyle. The film was a tool of mass media in the mass acculturation process. It indoctrinated homesteaders and working-class immigrants that the “LostCause” principle represented true American values and morals. Itinfluenced the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan as a national fraternal order and not just a Southern institution.
Response to “TheClansman.”
“Birth of a Race” (1918) was a Bill Foster film in response to “The Clansman” or “The Birth of a Nation.” The film had financial backing from Julius Rosenwald and financial backers of the late Booker T. Washington. The film was meant to show the achievement of Black people. The film began with the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, the birth of Moses in Egypt, and Nubian warriors. Foster was inability to focus on the project lead to its commercial failure. The film was directed by Nobel Johnson.
Nobel Johnson and George Perry Johnson started The Lincoln Motion Picture Company of Omaha, Nebraska. In 1916 “The Realization of a Negro’sAmbition.” They film focused on the Black middle class and not slapstick comedy. In 1916 they released “The Trooper of Company K.” The next year they relocated to Los Angeles in 1917. They released three other films including “The Law of Nature,” “A Man’s Duty,” (1919), and “By Right of Birth” (1921). The company closed in 1923 because of distribution problems. Like other Black films, they were shown in schools, churches, and“Colored Only” Theaters.
Oscar Micheaux was a novelist and the most successful Black filmmaker during the early decades of film. After working several jobs, Micheaux used his savings to become a pioneer homesteader in South Dakota in the early 1910s. There he began to write novels about his homesteading experience. In 1913, he published The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer. In 1918, The Lincoln Motion Picture Company was interested in producing his book The Homesteader as a film. The negotiations fell through. He started the Micheaux Film and Book Companyin Sioux City, Iowa. He sold stock int he company to support his work. Micheaux used his first book The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer as the basis on his first film “The Homesteader” that was released in 1919. It was released in Chicago and was a commercial success. “Within Our Gates” (1920) his second film was also an acclaim success, as well. It dealt with issues of rape and lynching. The film was controversial because of intra-racial stereotypes of color and images related to light skinned Blacks depicted in more positive scenes and dark-skinned Blacks depicted in negative images. Micheaux was a prolific filmmaker making more than 40 films through the late 1940s.
Spencer Williams became one of the best-known Black person in the entertainment industry.
He was mentored by Bert Williams and then served in World War I. In 1923, he went to Hollywood and got steadywork. He got a job writing dialogue for comedy for an all-Black cast. “The Melancholy Dame” released in 1929. The first talkie movie for a Black cast. It starred Evelyn Jarvis Preer, known as “the First Lady of the Screen” among the Black community for her appearance in many of Oscar Micheaux’s film. Preer was a jazz singer and backup singer for Duke Ellington.
He played in several Western movies such as Harlem on the Prairie (1937 ), The Bronze Buckaroo, (1939) and Harlem Rides TheRange (1939). In 1931, Williams’ the Lincoln Talking Pictures Company and the Sack and Company traveled the South showing his films.
Williams’ most successful film was The Blood of Jesus (1941) areligious fantasy about the struggle for a dying woman’s soul. Williams was a prolific writer, actor,producer, and director. He owned his ownfilmmaking company. He is best known forplaying the character Andy in television version of Amos and Andybetween 1951 and 1953.
Radio: Mass Media Technology and Mass Culture
Several scientific discoveries and technical inventions converged to result in the creation of
Radio. Radio technology resulted from wireless telegraphy to broadcasting. Wireless telegraphy or radio telegraphy is the sending of messages by means of radio waves with pulses of dots and dashes of Morse code rather than telegraph wires or cables with Morse code. Radio telegraphy is the sending of telegrams, and it was the first means of communication using radio waves. Later, messages information and other content would transmit over radiowaves using amplitude modulation (AM) using radiotelephony (radio by telephone) or audio transmission.
Technologies for the development of wireless telephone were demonstrated in Paris in 1881. In 1890, The Compagnie du Theatrophone was a wireless telephone distribution system available in regions of Europe that allowed subscribers to listen to opera, concerts, and theater performances over the telephone lines. The company had coin-operated tekephones in hotels,cafes, clubs, and other locations. Home telephone subscribers also had access to the theatrophone. The service was discontinued in 1932.
In 1864, James Maxwell proposed theories of electromagnetism and Radio waves existing in space. Heinrich Hertz proved between 1886 and 1888 that radio waves could be transmitted through the air. Other physicists noted the possibility that radio waves could be a means of
communication and achieve wireless telegraphy.
By the late 1890s, radiotechnologies were being invented to provide the modern broadcasting system. Broadcasting refer to the transmission of sound (audio) waves to radio receivers a tradio stations to a public audience. By1895, Guglielmo Marconi had developed a commercially successful radio transmission system. Reginald Fessendenand Lee de Forest contributed to the invention of Amplitude Modulation (AM). This allowed the broadcasting of more than one radio station by sending signals using narrow strip bandwidth of the radio spectrum. An antennae intercepts radiowaves transmitting at various frequencies and carrying information through the air. The radio receiver or simply the radio was developed as an electronic device to receive radio waves and conver tthe information carried by the radio wave to a usable form. The radio processes the electronic signals and separates all the information that it picks up from the antennae into radio
frequencies. Finally, the information carried over the radio wave demodulates the content and vacuum tubes amplifies the sound so that the information can be heard over the radio. Later transitors were developed to filter signals and amplify the sound.
Radio broadcasting of music and talk started about 1905 through 1906 and commercially
about 1920 through 1923. Between 1919and 1920, the first regular broadcasting of entertainment began. This included news, sporting events, and music. The first college radio station began broadcasting at Union College Electrical Laboratory in Schenectady, New York on October 14, 1921 by a Black student Wendell King who received a personal license with the call letters 2ADD. King was with the Radio Club. The station broadcasted the first sporting event, regular, Thursday concerts, and later Sunday sermons by the C.A. Richmond, president of the college. The programs had been heard 1,200 miles away. The radio station became WRUC in 1947.
The first commericial radio station to maintain its original place of operation was KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. KDKA received its commercial license in October 1920 along with several other stations in the country. These stations broadcasted the presidential elections in November 1920. In 1921, KDKA began to broadcast daily. Radio stations began to cooperate to carry the simultaneous transmission of content or share content. AT&T used its telephone lines to carry content and combine it radio stations into a radio network. It began to sell advertisements and get sponsors to cover the cost of content and broadcasting. In July 1926, AT&T suddenly sold all its radio stations and operations to the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). RCA formed the stations into the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Radio Network onNovember 15, 1926. By the end of 1926,N BC split into NBC Red and NBC Blue. In 1945, NBC Blue would become the American Broadcasting Company Radio Network (ABC) and NBC Red would go back to being called the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Radio Network. In addition, two other networks were formed. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) began on September 18, 1927. The MutualBroadcasting System began on September 29, 1934.
There was a tremendous desire among the public for radio receivers. Consumer adoption of the radio increased rapidly. over the decades. RCA research found that in 1925 that 19% of American households had radios. The number of American households with radios were 40% in 1930 and within a decade 83% of American household had at least one radio in 1940.
The radio industry was fueled by the exponential growth in sales of radios. This led to an increasing need for a variety of content. The variety of content and programming led to The Golden Age of Radio. The Golden Age of Radio was between the 1920s and the 1950s. This was the period when commercial radio broadcasting to public audiences was the major mass medium for home entertainment and before television became the primary home programming entertainment medium. Programming for radio had to evolve from the grotesque and sexual lewd shows of the minstrels and vaudeville and become more suitable for family entertainment eventhough racial stereotypes persisted. Programming was of a a diverse nature targeting men, women, children and the family as a whole. These programs included live sports programs of football and boxing, soap operas, and children shows. Also, family-oriented programs of news, comedy, radio plays, and game shows.
The radio brought live music programming into the homes of the masses of Americans. This created mass culture or popular culture for American music. The music that was promoted the type of music Jazz and the Ragtime style swing and dance that was played in dance halls, clubs, juke houses, and theaters and brought them into American homes. Radio did big band remotes and syndicated them throughout the country and overseas. There were weekly remotes from the Cotton Club which increase the noteriety of Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Also,Count Basie Orchestra was broadcasted.
At the time, there was no radio programming targeting a Black audience. On November 3, 1929, Chicago Radio Station WSBC featured “TheAll- Negro Hour” weekly variety show with an-all Black performers and hosted by Jack L. Cooper, a former vaudeville actor. Cooper was the first Black disc jockey. The program ended in 1935. Cooper went on to host another WSBC show in 1938 “Search for Missing Persons”which aimed to reunited migrants from the South with friends and family.
A white-owned station in Memphis,Tennessee WDIA hired an all Black on air announcing staff in 1949. That same year WERD launched the first Black-owned radio station in Atlanta, Georgia. Other stations began broadcasting Black-oriented news and music.
Mass Media and the Beginnings of Popular Culture after WorldWar II
Mass media technologies evolved to include vinyl disc records, FM radio, and color
motion pictures. By 1955, a majority ofAmerican households had at least one television set. Television soon became the primary mass medium for home entertainment. Popular culture of Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, Dico dance, SoulMusic, and Hip Hop contimued to be centered on Black musical roots of Creole, Spirituals, Ragtime, Blues, Jazz and Cakewalk,and Juba Hambone dance movements,