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Sep 25 2008

FDR's First Television Broadcast


This is a very rare photograph of President Franklin D. Roosevelt "FDR" giving his address to the American people after the stock market crash...or, at least that's what Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden would have you believe:

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" - Joe Biden

Two problems: (1) the stock market crash was in 1929 when Herbert Hoover was President (FDR became President 4 years later in 1933), and (2) there were no televisions around at the time of the stock market crash. Televisions weren't commercially available until the late 1930s and even by 1942 there were only about 5000 total sets in operation.

Can you imagine if the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin had made this same mistake? We'd never hear the end of it! Oh, how clueless. How out of touch. No sense of history. Makes things up. Tells lies. Not fit for office. Blah, blah, blah. But, since it was a gaffe from the liberal media's Vice-Presidential candidate...under the rug it goes.

[Update: in response to a Kool-Aid drinking commenter]

Remember, the stock market crashed in 1929. From the sometimes useful, if it's not about something political, Wikipedia:

"NBC began regularly scheduled broadcasts in New York on April 30, 1939 with a broadcast of the opening of the 1939 New York World's Fair."

"It is to be noted that DuMont (and others) actually offered the first home sets in 1938 in anticipation of NBC's announced April 1939 start-up."

"The broadcast was transmitted by NBC's New York television station W2XBS Channel 1 (now WNBC-TV channel 4) and was seen by about 1,000 viewers within the station's roughly 40-mile (64 km) coverage area from their Empire State Building transmitter location." [Note that's 1000 viewers in 1939...not 1000 television sets. The number of viewers available for an experimental 1929 broadcast probably could have been counted on two hands.]

"NBC's experimental New York City station was licensed for commercial telecasts beginning on July 1, 1941."


Here is an actual picture of the 1939 broadcast by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the New York World's fair. I have found absolutely no support for the proposition that then Governor Roosevelt spoke about the stock market crash, or anything else, in 1929 on the highly experimental, 48 line resolution, very limited, television that was available at the time for which there weren't but a handful of receivers. If anyone has a citation to the contrary, I'd be very interested. And, even if you do, do you really think that was what Biden was referencing? Or, are you just trying to make some after-the-fact justification?

Posted by Don |


  1. #1
    Mutual Broadcasting said on September 27, 2008 | Reply

    You are wrong. As Governor of New York, FDR did make a Broadcast about the economic situation on NBC in New York. It was a very limited broadcast.

    Biden was right. You naysayers are all wrong.

    Do some real research.

  2. Excellent, I haven't had a true Kool-Aid Drinker comment for a while. Thanks MB for be a perfect example of a liberal who has set aside all logical and rational thought.

    MB thinks Biden was using the example of Governor Roosevelt, in the middle of our nation's worst financial crisis ever, going down to a new-fangled experimental television station to address tens of people...literally in1929 there were probably less than a dozen television sets that could receive the incredibly rough 48 line signal from the two New York stations which only broadcasted a few hours a day, a few days a week.

    If it did happen, which it did not, Gov. Roosevelt's time would have been far better spent doing something about the crisis or communicating on the only real mass communication devise at the time, radio.

    If Gov. Roosevelt did what MB says, it would have been similar to Bush on 9/11 going to MIT to be broadcast on a some new experimental 3D holographic projector to researchers at Stanford, Univ. of Chicago and Cambridge.

    Either it didn't happen or it was a stupid thing for Gov. Roosevelt to waste his time on...either way, it's not something you should quote as an example of ideal behavior...unless you are a Kool-Aid drinker who will believe anything your liberal, hand-holding, come suckle at my tit, put away all personal responsibility, let the government take care of you, candidate says.

    But, MB got me with the "do some research" so I've updated my post with even more information to show the ridiculousness of Biden's statement. I think it is you MB who needs to do more research about FDR and the candidates you foolishly support.

  3. #3
    Isaac Rice said on September 27, 2008 | Reply

    You are only partially correct. Television was not commercially available. However, there was television technology before the stock market crashed in 1929. See the following.

    What was the world's first television broadcast?

    Where would all those couch potatoes be without televised sports and where would the housewives be without their soap operas? Well, we can all thank John Logie Baird for this unique invention.

    In 1926, John Logie Baird transmitted the very first television picture from one room to another. By 1927, he used telephone wires to successfully send a moving image from London to Glasgow and in 1928, he made the first trans-Atlantic television broadcast.

  4. #4
    Don replied to Isaac Rice on September 27, 2008 | Reply

    Isaac, you are correct. But, I stand by my comments. At the time of the stock market crash in 1929, the only televisions were in laboratories and there were no public broadcasts and no commercially available television sets. I think it is reasonably accurate to say that there were no televisions sets, as people commonly think of them, around at the time.

    More importantly, for purposes of this post, Joe Biden was grossly WRONG unless you think the good Governor ran off to a lab somewhere to broadcast from one room of the lab to another about the stock market crash.

  5. I think that the first commenter is probably still waiting for his dividend check from Nigeria. :P

  6. #6
    Sy Sman said on September 29, 2008 | Reply

    I don't plan on voting for Obama or McCain and when either one of them or their VP's, or aides says something considered stupid, I like to look into it and try to find the real facts. Biden did not actual say the stock market crash of 1929, although everyone assumes that is what he meant. The 1929 crash is considered the 4th worst crash according to the sites I have researched. The first worst crash occurred between March of 1930 through March of 1931. The second worst crash occurred between March of 1937 and March of 1938.

    Hmmm, so there was a stock market crash well into the 1930's, when TV might have been broadcast in some areas on a limited basis. I wasn't around back then to know for sure. And I certainly don't mean to defend idiot Biden. His statements at least caused me to look into the history of stock market crash and find evidence that wasn't far off from the truth according to Biden.

    Just food for thought.

  7. #7
    Don replied to Sy Sman on September 29, 2008 | Reply

    Sy Sman, my point that Biden is an idiot still stands even if you give him the benefit of the doubt you describe. You said:

    "Biden did not actual say the stock market crash of 1929, although everyone assumes that is what he meant."

    Accordingly, by your own words, Biden is incapable of communicating what he means..."everyone assumes" something different. That could be dangerous in the world we live in today.

  8. #8
    LALC said on October 1, 2008 | Reply

    Biden NEVER said 1929 OR president FDR, key word - president

    FDR was governor of NY AND yes, 1929 Wall Street crash was extremely significant. Wall Street happens to be in NYC, NY. Thus a market crash would severely impact the state of NY! Loads of money (personal $) floating around the NY economy. Remember, US population was very concentrated then = wealth in large urban areas, not scattered about like today!

    There also was huge secondary crash in 1932 - the year FDR was elected. There was an 86% drop in the already weak market. That'd be great fodder on the campaign trail (not unlike the current campaign)!!!

    1932 At terramedia in the UK (& online) - there's a timeline, Chronomedia, by David Fisher. He does claim a TV broadcast of the Dem election campaign in NYC (not the convenition in Chicago).

    1924 first radio broadcast from a convention (Republican, Cleveland OH).

    1929: May 11, first regularly scheduled TV broadcasts 3 times/week. Yes, it was experimental, but so was HDTV in the 1980's. I saw my first HDTV at the Ontario Science Center, 1989 or 90.

    Wealthy "folk" most certainly could afford the lastest inventions, not unlike the first HDTV's available for public sale in our recent history!

    Is it possible he's wrong, maybe. BUT not being a media historian, I don't plan to dispute him.

  9. #9
    Don replied to LALC on October 1, 2008 | Reply

    This is so instructional on so many levels. Look at the lengths that liberals will go to justify the actions of their leaders. Sy Sman, above, already admitted the obvious, that everyone knew what Biden was saying and he was not talking about some experimental broadcast to a dozen people while Roosevelt was governor. Biden was clearly wrong as to the date, the president and the medium. But, liberals will find some contorted way to justify what they know is wrong.

    That is precisely how they will allow a President Obama to curtail our freedom of speech, take away our guns, cripple the economy in the name of fairness and steal money from one person to give to another in the name of some non-existent fairytale entitlement. At some level liberals know such things are wrong, but they are so drunk on party Kool-Aid that they will justify such wrongs just as they attempt to justify the ridiculous statement of Joe Biden.

  10. #10
    Dave said on October 3, 2008 | Reply

    Don, you know I'm a bleeding heart, yes? So I'll scotch the notion that all of us are looking to go to any ends to justify what our candidates say: Biden screwed up. Period. Won't remotely make me change my vote, of course, but yes, in this specific case, he was way the hell off.

  11. #11
    Don replied to Dave on October 3, 2008 | Reply

    Dave, I can always count on you as the liberal voice of reason...if that's not a contradiction of terms.

  12. #12
    James said on February 8, 2012 | Reply

    Gee whiz. ALL politicians make gaffes, especially when you are giving dozens of speeches a week on little sleep. I think it only becomes a fair target when an individual makes gaffe after gaffe after gaffe. Who are these people....the multiple gaffe masters? I will let others do the research and present the findings. In this highly partisan atmosphere, if I mentioned a Republican I would be called "a Kool Aid drinking Lib" and if I mentioned a Democrat I would be called a "a Kool-Aid drinking NeoCon".

    I kinda like being an independent, where I watch in amusement as BOTH team's partisans hurl insults at each other, while the rest of us try to get something accomplished.

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