Radio in the Depression:
A Sampler

The Public Forum

"Documentary" Radio

This category is particularly unstable since it includes efforts to represent contemporary events as well historical people ones. Underlaying this instability is a general confusion about what is, in fact, "really real."

Time Marches On
See programs embedded in the 30s Timeline

The Cavalcade of America
Sponsored by Dupont, this program is perhaps the leading mass producer of American History in the 1930s.

Abraham Lincoln (1940)
A Mercury Theatre drama with Orson Welles as Lincoln. An adaptation of John Drinkwater's 1918 play, Welles vouches for the historical accuracy of the representation; he also pointedly frames the story by noting that another president, President Roosevelt, is scheduled to speak on radio later that evening. By implication at least, Welles invites the reader to see the similarities between two heroic men of the people facing crises with courage, intelligence, and great personal integrity.

Death Valley Days: The Capture of Sam Bass (1938)

Frontier Fighters 1935
  • Robert Lasalle
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Zebulon Pike
  • Cavalcade of America

    Ecce Homo
    An experimental documentary for radiofrom the Columbia Workshop, written and directed by Pare Lorentz in an attempt to provide something like The Plow that Broke the Plains without moving images. As the title suggests, the play presents the voices and stories of the "little people" who have been most affected by the Depression. Long on emphathy and uplift, short on specific solutions.

    Radio Comedy in the Depression

  • Fibber McGee and Molly (1935)

  • Lum & Abner: Friday Night Sociable (1933)

  • Edgar Bergen and Charley McCarthy with Mae West (1937)
  • The Goldbergs (1938)
  • Radio Drama

    Movies on Radio
    Contemporary films adapted for radio

    Theatre on Radio

    The Soaps

    • See See examples on A Day in Radio
    • Our Gal Sunday

      Dr. Christian 1
      Dr. Christian 2
      This weekly, half hour program based on the 1936 film Country Doctor, ran from 1937 to 1954 with audiences in the 30s of 15-20 million listeners a week. The program celebrated the virtues of small town America and its inhabitants. The town itself was a kind of character in the drama, a universal town next to the river, surrounded by farms and bisected by a single thoroughfare, State Street. It had a small section where the "best people" lived but most of the homes were "decent" but not "fancy;" the Doctor's own house doubled as an office with a side entrance for patients. The inhabitants' problems were solved by the ministrations of the good Dr. whose kindliness, generosity, common sense, and occasional guile was so compelling that thousands of listeners each week wrote asking for advice.


    Juvenile Adventure