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America's Town Hall Meeting of the Air

Every week, the nation listened as experts debated issues from communism to social security to the type of music America wanted. Modeled after New England Town Hall Meetings, each show opened with a "town crier" clanging a bell and an active audience that would "boo" panelists. Update: additional recording

39 old time radio show recordings
available in the following formats:

2 MP3 CDs
or
29 Audio CDs


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Play a sample episode from December 08, 1938:

"How Should Democracies Deal with Dictatorships"



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About this Old Time Radio Show

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2016 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

America Town Meeting of the Air

Each week from 1935 to 1956, over 1,000 groups met to listen to America's Town Meeting of the Air.  A forerunner of today's live talk shows, American's Town Meeting featured famous newsmakers, writers, poets, scientists, government officials and many more people who discussed current issues and other important topics.

When the federal government first began granting broadcast licenses to commercial radio stations, part of the deal was that the broadcasters would develop programing which would serve the public interest. After all, the airwaves were a public resource, those who would use them for commercial gain should be willing to act in the public interest, at least once in a while.

This mandate would give to the network news and public affairs departments. Eventually, radio (and later TV) journalism would take on more of an entertainment function rather than pure public information, but print journalism had gone through the same evolution.

America Town Meeting of the AirOne interesting experiment in public service broadcasting which was more successful than originally anticipated was America's Town Hall Meeting of the Air. When George V. Denny Jr. and the League for Political Education approached NBC with the show, the network felt it would be an interesting but not very popular piece that would likely run a few months at the most. Whether it was the format, the host, the issues or simply the public's desire to understand what was going on in the world, Town Hall Meeting managed to remain popular and on the air until 1952.

The program took its inspiration from the New England Town Hall meetings which were the primary form of direct democratic government since colonial times. Citizens from the surrounding area would gather in the hall to discuss issues of importance, from zoning issues to whether or not to seek Independence from England. In recent times, the town hall meeting has become more informative than legislative, but the center piece is always that it is a forum to discuss issues.

America's Town Hall Meeting of the Air recalls these traditions by opening with a "town crier" clanging a bell and calling "Town Meeting Tonight!" What followed was what at first appeared to be a panel discussion of important issues of the day, but there was an important difference between this and other panel discussion programs, the audience.

In most panel discussion programs, if there was an audience in the studio, they were just there to watch the proceedings. On Town Hall they were a part of the action. If the audience did not agree with the what was being said, they would boo, hiss and heckle the panelists. There was also a question and answer period in the show, although there were rules. The questions were supposed to be short and there was to be no insults or name calling. That did not keep audiences from employing sarcasm when they felt the need.

Audience participation was encouraged outside the studio as well, with listening and discussion groups across the country. The show proved popular enough that Denny wrote a monthly column in Current History magazine and there were newsletters distributed about the program.

America's Town MeetingMost of the shows originated from New York, but Denny also took the program on the road several times each season, giving audiences in the hinterlands a chance to ask their questions. Topics ranged from whether the US should involve itself in the European war to how American schools could be doing a better job.

Town Hall Meeting was an important piece of the Blue Network's programing, and it survived the transition to ABC. However, interest in the program began to dwindle as television became more popular. Denny was replaced as moderator in 1952, and the show was canceled in 1956.

The show was presented with a live audience from the New York City Town Hall and was sponsored by the League for Political Education. The live audience participated in the debates with the panelists, often contentiously. The panelists themselves often got into shouting matches, sometimes threatening to make it physical.

The purpose of the show was to get people thinking and get them interested in current events. The first show topic was "Which Way America? Communism, Fascism, Socialism or Democracy?" . Other topics discussed included whether the US should enter World War 2, is there truly freedom of the press in the US and many more controversial and informative topics.

See also: University of Chicago Roundtable, CBS World News Today, Democracy in America, Speaking of Liberty and Living in an Atomic Age with philosopher, Sir Bertrand Russel, and I Can Hear it Now (Edward R. Murrow).

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2016 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

These classic recordings are available in the following formats:
  • MP3 CDs are delivered by mail. These archival quality MP3 CDs are playable in your computer and many MP3 player devices.



    39 recordings on 2 MP3 CDs for just $10.00
    total playtime 30 hours, 6 min
    Add MP3 Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


    Volume 1 - 17 shows - total playtime 15 hours 54 minutes
    MP3 CD
    Volume 1: $5.00
    Add To Cart
    1. ATHMoA 350530 Fascism, Socialism, Communism, Democracy.mp3
    2. ATHMoA 350614 Will Demands Orgnzd Labor Promote Recvry.mp3
    3. ATHMoA 351205 New Deal Promoted Or Retarded Business Recvry.mp3
    4. ATHMoA 351212 Personal Liberty Modern State.mp3
    5. ATHMoA 351219 Should We Plan For Social Security.mp3
    6. ATHMoA 360319 Supreme Court Constitution.mp3
    7. ATHMoA 360402 Will Unionization Promote Industrial Recvry.mp3
    8. ATHMoA 360416 Will Machine Dominate Man.mp3
    9. ATHMoA 361105 Public Opinion Town Meeting Idea.mp3
    10. ATHMoA 361126 What Does Public Want In Music.mp3
    11. ATHMoA 380203 What Does Democracy Mean.mp3
    12. ATHMoA 381201 Is An Economic Plan For World Peace Available.mp3
    13. ATHMoA 381208 How Should Democracies Deal With Dictatorships.mp3
    14. ATHMoA 390112 Do We Have A Free Press.mp3
    15. ATHMoA 390216 Reinhold Niebuhr Progress Tech Moral-Excerpt.mp3
    16. ATHMoA 390302 Are Schools Doing Their Job.mp3
    17. ATHMoA 391019 Real Issues In European War.mp3
    Volume 2 - 22 shows - total playtime 14 hours 11 minutes
    MP3 CD
    Volume 2: $5.00
    Add To Cart
    1. ATHMoA 391116 Should We Ignore Racial Differences.mp3
    2. ATHMoA 391123 American Democracy Mean To Me-Excerpt.mp3
    3. ATHMoA 391207 Can Business Government Work Together Today.mp3
    4. ATHMoA 400118 Does America Need Compulsory Health Insurance.mp3
    5. ATHMoA 400125 Presidents National Defense Pgrm Be Adopted.mp3
    6. ATHMoA 400307 What Should America Do For Joads.mp3
    7. ATHMoA 400411 Diff Btwn Republican Democratic Parties.mp3
    8. ATHMoA 401212 We Preparing To Defend.mp3
    9. ATHMoA 401226 Youths Role In Defense Of Democracy.mp3
    10. ATHMoA 411113 What Kind Of Peace Must We Have Clip.mp3
    11. ATHMoA 460117 What Does Returning Gi Expect At Home Excerpt.mp3
    12. ATHMoA 461024 Communists Organized Labor-Excerpt.mp3
    13. ATHMoA 461031 US Open Its Doors To Displaced Persons.mp3
    14. ATHMoA 470403 Should Communist Party Be Outlawed-Partial.mp3
    15. ATHMoA 470410 Do We Really Elect Our Own President-14min.mp3
    16. ATHMoA 470923 Should We Accept New Fashions For Women.mp3
    17. ATHMoA 471007 Improve Race Religious Relationships.mp3
    18. ATHMoA 480323 Presidents Civil Rights Prgrm Be Adopted.mp3
    19. ATHMoA 480622 Preparing To Grow Old Successfully.mp3
    20. ATHMoA 490607 Lemuel Boulware On Profit Sharing Excerpt.mp3
    21. ATHMoA 491220 Will A $100 Pension Provide Real Security.mp3
    22. ATHMoA 520527 Troublemakers In Our Democracy-Incomp.mp3
  • MP3 downloads are available instantly after purchase!



    39 recordings on 2 MP3 Collection Downloads for just $10.00
    total playtime 30 hours, 6 min
    Add MP3 Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


    Volume 1 - 17 shows - total playtime 15 hours 54 minutes
    Instant Download
    Volume 1: $5.00
    Add To Cart
    1. ATHMoA 350530 Fascism, Socialism, Communism, Democracy.mp3
    2. ATHMoA 350614 Will Demands Orgnzd Labor Promote Recvry.mp3
    3. ATHMoA 351205 New Deal Promoted Or Retarded Business Recvry.mp3
    4. ATHMoA 351212 Personal Liberty Modern State.mp3
    5. ATHMoA 351219 Should We Plan For Social Security.mp3
    6. ATHMoA 360319 Supreme Court Constitution.mp3
    7. ATHMoA 360402 Will Unionization Promote Industrial Recvry.mp3
    8. ATHMoA 360416 Will Machine Dominate Man.mp3
    9. ATHMoA 361105 Public Opinion Town Meeting Idea.mp3
    10. ATHMoA 361126 What Does Public Want In Music.mp3
    11. ATHMoA 380203 What Does Democracy Mean.mp3
    12. ATHMoA 381201 Is An Economic Plan For World Peace Available.mp3
    13. ATHMoA 381208 How Should Democracies Deal With Dictatorships.mp3
    14. ATHMoA 390112 Do We Have A Free Press.mp3
    15. ATHMoA 390216 Reinhold Niebuhr Progress Tech Moral-Excerpt.mp3
    16. ATHMoA 390302 Are Schools Doing Their Job.mp3
    17. ATHMoA 391019 Real Issues In European War.mp3
    Volume 2 - 22 shows - total playtime 14 hours 11 minutes
    Instant Download
    Volume 2: $5.00
    Add To Cart
    1. ATHMoA 391116 Should We Ignore Racial Differences.mp3
    2. ATHMoA 391123 American Democracy Mean To Me-Excerpt.mp3
    3. ATHMoA 391207 Can Business Government Work Together Today.mp3
    4. ATHMoA 400118 Does America Need Compulsory Health Insurance.mp3
    5. ATHMoA 400125 Presidents National Defense Pgrm Be Adopted.mp3
    6. ATHMoA 400307 What Should America Do For Joads.mp3
    7. ATHMoA 400411 Diff Btwn Republican Democratic Parties.mp3
    8. ATHMoA 401212 We Preparing To Defend.mp3
    9. ATHMoA 401226 Youths Role In Defense Of Democracy.mp3
    10. ATHMoA 411113 What Kind Of Peace Must We Have Clip.mp3
    11. ATHMoA 460117 What Does Returning Gi Expect At Home Excerpt.mp3
    12. ATHMoA 461024 Communists Organized Labor-Excerpt.mp3
    13. ATHMoA 461031 US Open Its Doors To Displaced Persons.mp3
    14. ATHMoA 470403 Should Communist Party Be Outlawed-Partial.mp3
    15. ATHMoA 470410 Do We Really Elect Our Own President-14min.mp3
    16. ATHMoA 470923 Should We Accept New Fashions For Women.mp3
    17. ATHMoA 471007 Improve Race Religious Relationships.mp3
    18. ATHMoA 480323 Presidents Civil Rights Prgrm Be Adopted.mp3
    19. ATHMoA 480622 Preparing To Grow Old Successfully.mp3
    20. ATHMoA 490607 Lemuel Boulware On Profit Sharing Excerpt.mp3
    21. ATHMoA 491220 Will A $100 Pension Provide Real Security.mp3
    22. ATHMoA 520527 Troublemakers In Our Democracy-Incomp.mp3
  • Standard Audio CDs are delivered by mail on archival quality media with up to 60 minutes on each CD and play in all CD players



    39 recordings on 29 Audio CDs
    total playtime 28 hours, 55 min

    Disc A001

    1. ATHMoA 350530 Fascism, Socialism, Communism, Democracy

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A002

    1. ATHMoA 350614 Will Demands Orgnzd Labor Promote Recvry

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A003

    1. ATHMoA 351205 New Deal Promoted Or Retarded Business Recvry

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A004

    1. ATHMoA 351212 Personal Liberty Modern State

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A005

    1. ATHMoA 351219 Should We Plan For Social Security

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A006

    1. ATHMoA 360319 Supreme Court Constitution

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A007

    1. ATHMoA 360402 Will Unionization Promote Industrial Recvry

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A008

    1. ATHMoA 360416 Will Machine Dominate Man

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A009

    1. ATHMoA 361105 Public Opinion Town Meeting Idea

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A010

    1. ATHMoA 361126 What Does Public Want In Music

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A011

    1. ATHMoA 380203 What Does Democracy Mean

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A012

    1. ATHMoA 381201 Is An Economic Plan For World Peace Available

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A013

    1. ATHMoA 381208 How Should Democracies Deal With Dictatorships

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A014

    1. ATHMoA 390216 Reinhold Niebuhr Progress Tech Moral-Excerpt
    2. ATHMoA 390302 Are Schools Doing Their Job

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A015

    1. ATHMoA 391019 Real Issues In European War

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A016

    1. ATHMoA 391116 Should We Ignore Racial Differences
    2. ATHMoA 391123 American Democracy Mean To Me-Excerpt

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A017

    1. ATHMoA 391207 Can Business Government Work Together Today

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A018

    1. ATHMoA 400118 Does America Need Compulsory Health Insurance

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A019

    1. ATHMoA 400125 Presidents National Defense Pgrm Be Adopted

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A020

    1. ATHMoA 400307 What Should America Do For Joads

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A021

    1. ATHMoA 400411 Diff Btwn Republican Democratic Parties

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A022

    1. ATHMoA 401212 We Preparing To Defend

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A023

    1. ATHMoA 401226 Youths Role In Defense Of Democracy
    2. ATHMoA 411113 What Kind Of Peace Must We Have Clip
    3. ATHMoA 460117 What Does Returning Gi Expect At Home Excerpt

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A024

    1. ATHMoA 461024 Communists Organized Labor-Excerpt
    2. ATHMoA 461031 US Open Its Doors To Displaced Persons

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A025

    1. ATHMoA 470403 Should Communist Party Be Outlawed-Partial
    2. ATHMoA 470410 Do We Really Elect Our Own President-14min

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A026

    1. ATHMoA 470923 Should We Accept New Fashions For Women

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A027

    1. ATHMoA 471007 Improve Race Religious Relationships

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A028

    1. ATHMoA 480323 Presidents Civil Rights Prgrm Be Adopted

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Disc A029

    1. ATHMoA 480622 Preparing To Grow Old Successfully
    2. ATHMoA 490607 Lemuel Boulware On Profit Sharing Excerpt
    3. ATHMoA 491220 Will A $100 Pension Provide Real Security
    4. ATHMoA 520527 Troublemakers In Our Democracy-Incomp

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00