Historic Northampton

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1924 Radio Electoin

1924, The Radio Election: Presidential Campaigning in the Coolidge Era

October 1st, 2004-February 5th, 2005

A new exhibit at Historic Northampton marks The 80th anniversary of an election that signaled A new era in American politics

This year we observe the 80th anniversary of an election that signaled a new era in American politics. It has been called "The Radio Election" because it was the first time that national broadcasting became an instrument of political campaigning. But it also marked a fundamental shift in the way that presidential campaigns were financed and managed.Coolidge for President The incumbent, Calvin Coolidge, was burdened with a legacy of party corruption and an unassuming, if not awkward, public presence. But the 1924 election was the beginning of modern politics, as we know it, in America. Gone were the campaigns of torchlight parades. Party bosses had given way to a new elite in American politics: those with expertise in managing public opinion and those who could raise the vast sums required for mass advertising.Keep Coolidge The master strategist behind the Coolidge camp was Bruce Barton, founder of one of Madison Avenue's legendary advertising firms. It was Barton who coined the phrase "Silent Majority" for the Coolidge campaign, two generations before Roger Ailes employed it for Richard Nixon.Davis vs. Bryan Barton was among the first to grasp the significance of the new technology of broadcast radio. He understood its potential for creating the appearance of intimacy. Barton coached Coolidge on speaking personally, not to an audience, but to individual listeners. Franklin D. Roosevelt, of course, perfected this technique with his masterful "fireside chats," but it was Coolidge who first used the medium, his high-pitched twang piercing the static in remote parlors across the country.LaFolette Historic Northampton will open its new exhibit: 1924, The Radio Election: Presidential Politics in the Coolidge Era on Friday October 1st. This multimedia exhibit will feature campaign memorabilia, early radio and broadcasting technology and will examine the political climate of the mid-1920s. The exhibit is based on an article," by Kerry W. Buckley: "A President for the Great Silent Majority, published in The New England Quarterly last December. A more comprehensive version of this essay will appear in Kerry W. Buckley, ed., A Place Called Paradise: Culture and Community in Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654-2004, forthcoming from the University of Massachusetts Press in November.

Coolidge's Lincoln Day address
Click Here to "listen in" to Calvin Coolidge's Lincoln Day address.