Radio in the Roaring 1920’s


Silent Movies didn’t start talking until 1927 when Warner Bros. released “The Jazz Singer.”  The film ran 89 minutes and grossed almost four million in the U.S. and another three million worldwide.



Radio, on the other hand, had been going strong for years.  By 1923, some three million Americans owned radios, although most of them were crystal sets with earphones.  Programming was mostly: baseball, news, music, and advertising.

Crystal Setscrysradio3



Pretty Girl

Sugar Foot

Five Foot Two

Henpecked Blues

[If you don’t have time to listen now, Bookmark this page on your Browser, and revisit sometime when you have fifteen minutes and a cup of coffee.]


Tube Radio Radio


In 1922, President Harding became the first President to be heard on radio.  It was not a political message but a dedication to the composer of the “Star Spangled Banner” Francis Scot Key.  The first political message came three years later from President Coolidge.


In 1927 radios started appearing in cars



The Marconi Transmitting Station, Marin County California

Marconi Bolinas Transmit Site 1913

In 1914, the stations in Bolinas (transmitting) and Marshall (receiving) could receive messages from New Jersey and retransmit them to Hawaii.

The novel Midnight Run 1932 fictitiously uses this facility in its bootlegging activities.


And last but not least, 



Al Capone’s 1928 Cadillac was equipped with a police band receiver.


Al Capones car

John Dillinger’s Last Movie

Johnnie was a lucky guy.  Two beautiful girls accompanied him to “Manhattan Melodrama” starring Clark Gable.


The price of admission was twenty-four cents but he threw down a dollar and had enough leftover for three sodas and a bag of popcorn.  Money was nothing to him.  In 1934, a doctor earned just over $3,000 a year, a department store model $900, and an airline pilot $8,000.  Congressmen made $8,663.  When he could find work, Johnnie received close to $2,000 a day after splitting with his co-workers.  It was dangerous work, but he loved it.

Johnnie’s  favorite girl, Billie, wasn’t available that night


so he took Polly

Polly Hamilton

and Ana.

Ana Cumpana

The movie started and the new hit song “Blue Moon” played.  Both girls snuggled down in their seats.  Polly rested her head on his shoulder and he gave her a kiss.  Ana put her hand on his knee.  Outside, it was a hot summer night but the theater advertised “refrigeration” and inside it was pleasant.

Ninety-three minutes later the movie ended and the house lights came up.  The movies goers leisurely made their way out of the theater into the warm night air.  The sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians window shopping or just taking a stroll.  Johnnie and his two ladies bumped shoulders as they left.  It was a romantic movie.  As they walked, three men fell in behind them.  The men were uncomfortably close within arms’ reach.  At the end of the block, two more men moved toward the trio.

Johnnie and the women turned toward the alley where four additional men waited.  Johnnie was shot in the back and fell face down.  He was shot three more times in the head.  Two were gutter wounds creasing his cheek, and one bullet went into the back of his skull and exited below his eye.  Overall, twenty-two men, mostly in pairs, had staked out the street in front of the theater and participated in the murder.  They were never prosecuted.

Footnote:  The Coroner’s Autopsy Report for Johnnie (aka John Dillinger) went missing for over fifty years.


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