Newswise — Radio was coming of age in March, 1925. For the first time ever, the inauguration of a President (Calvin Coolidge) was broadcast live on March 4th. And on March 14th - the first trans-Atlantic broadcast made history.
The New York Times reported on March 15 that "While hundreds of English couples danced to American jazz music last night in the ballroom of the Hotel Savoy in London, thousands of radio enthusiasts in the United States from the eastern seaboard as far west as Milwaukee listened to the same music, brought to their home by the first successful experiment in double radio relaying." RCA's president - David Sarnoff - said, " The people of the United States have received a new gift from radio, the culture and music of London have come to them through the air."
The broadcast is part of the extensive holdings of the Library of American Broadcasting (LAB) at the University of Maryland. Recently, the Library of Congress included that broadcast on its 2007 National Recording Registry, writing that:
"The First Trans-Atlantic Broadcast (March 14, 1925) representing a technological breakthrough, this early orchestral broadcast originated in London, traveled by land line to station 5XX in Chelmsford, crossed the Atlantic where it was picked up by an RCA transmitter in Maine, and relayed to stations WJZ in New York and WRC in Washington, D.C. Although the fidelity is low, the recording is significant as a documentation of a technical achievement and a very rare instance of an extant example of a complete radio broadcast of the 1920s. The entire 37-minute broadcast survives on discs in the collections of the University of Maryland's Library of American Broadcasting."
LAB Curator Chuck Howell says, "Recordings of actual radio broadcasts from the 1920's are extremely rare, and recordings from before the formation of the NBC and CBS networks (in 1926 and 1927 respectively) are even more so. Technology was the main reason, as electrical (as opposed to acoustic) recording was not perfected until 1925. Because of this scarcity, this recording, transcribed on one side of a series of thick discs on March 14th 1925, would be of historical interest no matter what the content. The fact that it is a recording of the first scheduled transatlantic broadcast via shortwave, converted and sent to the listening public on the AM band, makes it truly important. Though the static-laden music from London has little value as entertainment, its significance as an invisible link between Britain and the U.S. was tremendous."
The Library of Congress annually selects 25 recordings that it says are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" to preserve for all time. A copy of the LAB recording, and the 24 others placed on the 2007 registry, will be housed in the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, the Library's state-of-the-art preservation facility in Culpeper, Virginia.
About the Library of American Broadcasting
The Library of American Broadcasting (http://www.lib.umd.edu/LAB/) holds a wide-ranging collection of audio and video recordings, books, pamphlets, periodicals, personal collections, oral histories, photographs, scripts and vertical files devoted exclusively to the history of broadcasting. There are a number of items listed in its holdings for 1925, for example. Founded in 1972 as the Broadcast Pioneers Library, it was housed in the headquarters of the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, D.C., until 1994, when it became part of the University of Maryland Libraries.
About the National Recording Registry/Library of Congress
Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian of Congress, with advice from the Library's National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), annually selects 25 recordings that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" to preserve for all time. Registry recordings must be at least 10 years old. The selections for 2007 bring the total number of recordings in the registry to 250. For more information about the Library of Congress, see www.loc.gov online.