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Odd Wisconsin Archive

The President and the Media


Last night tens of millions of Americans simultaneously watched President Bush deliver his State of the Union address. This morning its full text is up on the Web and thousands of people are blogging about it. Did you ever wonder how presidents got their message out before television and the Web? Radio made possible Franklin Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” that reached Americans all across the continent, and a Wisconsin man was at the controls. In this interview, young Herluf Provenson describes how broadcasting worked when it was new to the White House. Before radio, presidents relied on newspapers to carry their words to the masses. By the mid-19th century there were enough newspapers in small towns, and enough miles of telegraph wire to connect them to Washington, for chief executives to address all Americans at once. When a string of Confederate victories was broken early in the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued this proclamation urging Northerners to devote part of the next Sabbath to thanking God for their good fortune. It is from a scrapbook of clippings digitized in our collection of Local History & Biography Articles.
:: Posted in Curiosities on February 3, 2005
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