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  FATHER COUGHLIN, HUEY LONG, & UPTON SINCLAIR; VOICES FOR THE DISAFFECTED IN 1930s AMERICA

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FATHER COUGHLIN

Tuning in to Father Coughlin]

Father Coughlin continued his radio broadcasts based upon these sixteen tenants and a healthy dose of Catholicism, and his audience of an estimated 30-million1 by 1934 were all tuned-in for his Sunday messages, which were broadcast over a vast network where the broadcasts were paid for by Coughlin himself through the Shrine's Radio League of the Little Flower:

WJR, Detroit
WCAU, Philadelphia
KYW, Chicago
WGAR, Cleveland
WNAC, Boston
WNBH, New Bedford
WHO, Des Moines
WOR, Newark
WLW, Cincinnati
WOKO, Albany
WHB, Kansas City
WEAN, Providence
WLBZ, Bangor
WOL, Washington

WDRC, Hartford
WMT, Waterloo
KSTP, St Paul
WGR, Buffalo
WJAS, Pittsburgh
WCAO, Baltimore
KMOX, St Louis
WORC, Worcester
WFEA, Manchester
WICC, Bridgeport-New Haven
WFBL, Syracuse
KQV, Pittsburgh
WOC, Davenport

(Carpenter 9)

Selling Social JusticeIn addition, Coughlin published the Social Justice magazine though it more closely resembled a color newspaper in physical appearance) through the Shrine of the Little Flower. Between his messages on the radio waves and in-print through Social Justice, Coughlin received hundreds of thousands of letters where the vast majority were in support of his message, but some were of disgust. However, Coughlin's finger was on the public pulse and his network of radio stations knew it. Not worried if a few critical listeners got in his way, his followers remained steadfast while he continued his populist messages on how the nation's wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few, and how that wealth should be equitably distributed among the people.

 QuickTimeVideo


In our copy of Father Coughlin's 1939 book Money! Questions and Answers the owner glued this typed message to the frontispiece:

Father Coughlin preaches the encyclicals of the Pope. The Pope is Christ on earth.

Deny Father Coughlin and you deny the Pope; deny the Pope and you deny Christ Crucified himself.

What man, what Christian, what person who would call himself Catholic would dare find himself against the MOST HIGH.

William LemkiSo strong was the effect of his messages on his listeners, that his listeners felt empowered and by way of that empowerment, fueled Coughlin to begin a political party, which he named the Union Party. The first Union Party presidential candidate was not the Father himself for he could not run for public office and stay a priest of the Catholic Church, but rather it was William Lemke. Lemke, a strong supporter of the Populist ideas of William Jennings Bryan, ran against FDR (Democrat) and Alf Landon (Republican) in 1936. Unlike Coughlin, however, Lemke was not a dynamic orator, nor was he considered personally attractive at the time, and thus, Lemke lost the race with the vast majority of the votes going to the eloquent orator, FDR.

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1Note on Coughlin's audience figure: Common consensus among printed and web sources is that Coughlin inflated this figure for his own purposes. No records exist of his audience during his early days on radio. The only data available are from Gallup polls of the period April 1938 to December 1939, and this data was analyzed by Donald Warren in his 1996 book, Radio Priest (p. 303). Warren sites Coughlin's audience to be roughly 16 million in April 1938, but it is worth noting that Coughlin's career was in its downswing by that time. Some sources believe that Coughlin's early figure was 10 million, while others site a more modest 3 million.

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