Birth of public radio broadcasting

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1910 New York Times advertisement for the wireless radio

Birth of public radio broadcasting is credited to Lee de Forest.[1] A 1907 Lee De Forest company advertisement said,

First public broadcast[edit]


On January 13, 1910, the first public radio broadcast was an experimental transmission of a live Metropolitan Opera House performance of several famous opera singers.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


The first public radio broadcast consisted of performances of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. Riccardo Martin performed as Turridu, Emmy Destinn as Santuzza, and Enrico Caruso as Canio.[6][7][8] The conductor was Egisto Tango.[9] This wireless radio transmission event of the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso of a concert from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City is regarded as the birth of public radio broadcasting.[1][2][5][10][11][12]

The New York Times reported on January 14, 1910,


Early military receiver


The few radio receivers able to pick up this first-ever "outside broadcast" were those at the De Forest Radio Laboratory, on board ships in New York Harbor, in large hotels on Times Square and at New York city locations where members of the press were stationed at receiving sets.[2][10][11] Public receivers with earphones had been set up in several well-advertised locations throughout New York City. There were members of the press stationed at various receiving sets throughout the city and the general public was invited to listen to the broadcast.[8]

The experiment was considered mostly unsuccessful.[7] The microphones of the day were of poor quality and couldn't pick up most of the singing done on stage.[7] Only off-stage singers singing directly into a microphone could be heard clearly.[7] The New York Times reported the next day that static and interference kept the homeless song waves from finding themselves.[8][14]

Lee De Forest's Radio Telephone Company manufactured and sold the first commercial radios in the demonstration room at the Metropolitan Life Building in New York City for this public event.[10]


The wireless transmitter had 500 watts of power.[7] It is reported that this broadcast was heard 20 km away on a ship at sea.[15] The broadcast was also heard in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[16]

Other broadcasts[edit]

Early music transmission[edit]

  • The very first transmission of music by radio is credited to one Dr. Nussbaumer of the University of Graz in 1904, however it was not to the general public. He yodeled an Austrian folk song into an experimental transmitter which was received in the next room at the university where he worked. He does not show in any standard reference works of science.[8]
  • Lee De Forest did a program of opera phonograph records from the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1908. This was just an experimental stunt to other nearby hobbyists and not considered a public broadcast. The general public had no access to receivers at the time.[17]
  • When testing the radiotelephone for the Navy, Lee de Forest played patriotic phonograph music as the ships entered the harbor.[2]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Chase's, p. 84, Radio Broadcasting: 90th Anniversary. Jan 13, 1910. Radio pioneer and electron tube inventor Lee De Forest arranged the world's first radio broadcast to the public at New York, New York. He succeeded in broadcasting the voice of Enrico Caruso along with other stars of the Metropolitan Opera to several receiving locations in the city where listeners with earphones marveled at wireless music from the air. Though only a few were equipped to listen, it was the first broadcast to reach the public and the beginning of a new era in which wireless radio communication became almost universal.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Lee De Forest history". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  3. ^ "Radio's version of "Who's On First?"". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  4. ^ "Television International magazine article - Lee De Forest - (1873 - 1961)". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Today in History, Jan 13". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  6. ^ a b King, Susan (1996-01-07). "L.A. Times Archives, Jan 7, 1996". Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  8. ^ a b c d Fantel, Hans (1990-01-14). "Sound; Out of De Forest and onto the air came music". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  9. ^ "The New York Tribune, January 13, 1910, p.14, "Amusements" listings". Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  10. ^ a b c "A D V E N T U R E S in C Y B E R S O U N D". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  11. ^ a b On This Date: A Day-by-Day Listing of Holidays, Birthdays, and Historic, by Sandy Whiteley, p. 13. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  12. ^ "People and Discoveries". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  13. ^ Kane, p. 442.
  14. ^ "Wireless Melody Jarred," The New York Times, Friday, January 14, 1910, page 2
  15. ^ "1901-1910: Radio's Big Beginning". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  16. ^ "Taking the Crucial Step for Modern Technology". Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  17. ^ "Who said Lee de Forest was the "Father of Radio"?". Archived from the original on 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2008-06-24.