This Day In Information: Silent Cal on the Radio

John Coolidge listens to news of his son's victory

Today in 1924, Calvin Coolidge delivered the first political speech by a sitting president to be broadcast on the radio. It was carried on five stations, with an estimated five million listeners. As radio braodcasting took off in the early 1920s, Silent Cal (it was said that he could be silent in five languages) used it on many occasions. For example, he also delivered, on December 6, 1923, the first Presidential address to Congress to be broadcast on the radio. And: “On October 11, 1924, President Coolidge used Westinghouse’s short-wave station to make a brief address to thousands of marker H.J. Heinz employees attending sixty-five banquets across the United States and in Britain.

“That November, Westinghouse’s short-wave facility at Forest Hills, N.Y., inaugurated a new era in American electoral politics by broadcasting Calvin Coolidge’s final campaign speech on a record twenty-six stations to listeners across the nation. It then broadcast news of Coolidge’s landslide victory in the 1924 presidential election across the United States and the world. ”

The photo to the right shows President Coolidge’s father listening to news of his son’s landslide victory. Shortly thereafter, John Coolidge died in Vermont. Stefan Lorant writes in The Glorious Burden: The American Presidency: “The President, who had been unable to leave Washington to be at his bedside, was in deep sorrow. With characteristic understatement, he said later: ‘During his last month I had to resort to the poor substitute of a telephone. When I reached home, he was gone. It costs a great deal to be President.'”

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