Aimee and the Media
AIMEE AND THE MEDIA

Aimee had an intimate relationship with the 1920s press, both as a victim and a manipulator of the new media.

According to Edith Blumhofer, Aimee made the front page of America's newspapers at least three times a week throughout the 1920s—whatever she did seemed newsworthy. The runway between her house and the Angelus Temple was nicknamed "Newspaper Alley" because it was so haunted by reporters (Thomas 1970).

As Lately Thomas writes, "Few people have ever been so consistently or extensively publicized over so long a time." Julia N. Budlong furthers this idea: "The attitude of the press toward Mrs. McPherson is as interesting a case study in journalism as is the lady herself in revivalism. It seems that the great Moloch, the Public, demands just so much in the way of human sacrifice to appease its appetite for scandal. The newspapers are the priests who serve the altar… Mrs. McPherson is excellent copy. A headline story about 'Aimee' in Los Angeles can be counted on to triple circulation within an hour."

Aimee looks at her own headlines on the front page of the newspaper. (Photo From Storming Heaven)
Aimee's kidnapping story offered the perfect media extravaganza for a decade obsessed with sensationalism and scandal: the story included "abduction, torture, and a thrilling escape." (Thomas 1970) It equaled—if not surpassed—the other scandalous stories of the 1920s, as Bruce Blivin wrote in a 1926 New Republic article:

"In most districts in the United States, she has far outdistanced even Queen Marie, Peaches Browning, and that Old Faithful word-geyser, the Hall-Mills case. This, as every editor knows, is as it should be. Of the unfailing heart-string pluckers, the Peaches Browning case has money and sex; Queen Marie, sex and snobbery; the Halls-Mills case, sex, crime, and mystery; but Aimee's Affair has sex, money, mystery, crime and the invaluable unique aspect, which these others can only envy: religion."

Ironically, Aimee often appreciated media coverage, which helped further her own message; after the "kidnapping," many people read and heard her name in newspapers and on the radio that never had heard of her before.

In 1925, Aimee acquires her own radio station, KFSG (K Four Square Gospel). (Photo From Storming Heaven)
But Aimee wasn't only a subject of the media—she was also a manipulator of the new techniques of radio and printing. She was the first woman to hold a radio broadcast license and the first woman in history to preach a sermon over the "wireless telephone." In addition, she created her own moving picture company, Angelus Productions, Inc. to produce a film based on her life. It was to be titled "Clay in the Potter's Hand," with Aimee as the star and the scenarist who did the script for the movie "The Jazz Singer" to write the scenario. The movie ended up falling through.

She worked on her book and score for a year and a half. Give me My Own God, and a scored opera, The Rich Man and Lazarus. In February 1937, she incorporated the Four Square Gospel Press, Ltd. to publish newspapers, magazines, books and maps.

In addition, Aimee's audiences were willing and ready to experiment with the new media, like radio, that Aimee popularized. As Bruce Blivin writes in a 1926 New Republic article:

"It is an audience which combines mental mediaevalism with an astonishing up-to-dateness in the physical realm…It utilizes the breath-taking new marvels of the radio in order to hear ancient doctrines expounded by persons whose minds are closed to everything this side of Dec. 31, 1858, and it sees nothing incongruous in joining (over the radio) in a moment of silent prayer-silent, that is, except for the hum of the B-battery eliminator. It even listens in, once a week, at a radio baptism service, at which the microphone hears the water splashing as four—or forty—converts take their total immersion."

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This page was constructed in 1999 by Anna Robertson, an undergraduate American Studies student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. To contact Anna, please send e-mail to asr4c@virginia.edu or check out her home page.