In this exceptionally clear and detailed
photograph, we see three AT&T engineers testing the equipment that will be
used for the NBC radio broadcast of the inauguration of President Herbert
Hoover on March 4, 1929.
This broadcast console was set up in a temporary
location underneath the Capitol steps, just a short distance from the spot
where announcers Milton Cross and Graham McNamee would describe the live event
over a coast-to-coast hookup of NBC stations. The broadcast was even carried
over KGU in Honolulu via a shortwave link.
An Historic Recording
Full redundancy was important in an era when
tube equipment was not always reliable. There were two sets of line amplifiers
available for each of the two network line feeds, requiring two operators to
man the equipment during the broadcast.
The rectangular microphone frame held six carbon
microphones, and was placed immediately in front of the president to pick up
his inaugural address. Two microphones were used for each of three audio feeds
— the two network lines and a newsreel camera. (The Hoover inauguration was the
first to be recorded by a “talkie” newsreel.)
A large bank of storage batteries, located under
the table, powered all the equipment. As was the custom in the early years of
radio, the engineers were expected to wear a suit, jacket and tie.
The 1929 inaugural began Herbert Hoover’s tenure
as the country’s 31st president, just eight months before the stock market
It was appropriate for his inaugural to be
broadcast over the radio: Hoover was a trained engineer (he graduated from Stanford
University) who had been the secretary of commerce from 1920 to 1928. In that
position, he was responsible for the early regulation of radio communications
Hoover paid great attention to the problems of
broadcasting, and organized several national radio conferences designed to
resolve the problems of radio interference. These eventually resulted in the
formation of the Federal Radio Commission in 1927.
Hoover, despite his later unpopularity during
the start of the Great Depression, may have done more for the early development
of radio broadcasting than anyone else in government.
This image is from an original 4x5 glass
negative that is a part of the National Photo Company collection at the Library
Schneider is a lifelong radio history researcher. Write him at email@example.com.
This is one in a
series of photo features from his collection. See past images under
Columns/Roots of Radio at radioworld.com.