1920s: TV and Radio

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1920s: TV and Radio

This decade marked the shift in American culture to electronic media for entertainment and news. The first radios were sold in the United States for home use in 1920. By mid-decade, a decent radio could be purchased for about $35, with higher quality models being sold for up to $350. By the end of the decade, more than five million of the battery-powered radios were sold. (Although the first television receivers were sold and the first televised programs began in 1928, television became truly popular in later decades.)

At first, the broadcasting on radio centered around music, especially the classics and opera. The featured orchestras were often named after sponsors. Listeners could hear the likes of the Ipana (toothpaste) Troubadours, the A&P (grocery chain) Gypsies, the Champion (spark plugs) Sparkers, and the Hoover (vacuum cleaners) Sentinels. Speeches and lectures were also broadcast. Local meetings of civic and professional organizations, such as the Commercial Law League and the Foreign Policy Association, were broadcast in full. Although the programming was uninspired, people would gather around their radios just for the pure novelty of listening to sound coming out of a box. By the end of the decade, radios had become a true craze across the country. The popularity of radios during the 1920s provided a mere glimpse into what would become a national obsession with electronic media gadgets in the following decades.