Friday, January 07, 2011

WIP and the Liberty Bell

Generally speaking, people are not permitted to ring the Liberty Bell. But it was not always that way.  In the late 1800s it travels to expositions and was frequently rung, often further damaging the relic. In February 1915, the bell was tapped gently with wooden mallets to produce sounds which were transmitted to the fair as the signal to open  the 1915 San Francisco Fair, a transmission which also inaugurated transcontinental telephone service.  The bell returned to Philadelphia by train.  Since then, actual touching of the bell has been diminishing. But to preserve the bell this had to stop, the bell had to go to the people without physically moving. Later events were held in Philadelphia, and broadcast live by radio. By that conduit it continues to be struck on special occasions. FYI: it's an E-flat
 In 1926, the sesquicentennial of American Independence, the wife of Philadelphia’s Mayor Kendrick tapped out 1-9-2-6 in Morse code using a rubber mallet. It was carried live on the radio. About a third of Americans had access to radio in those years and it was estimated that several million tuned in. It was also rung on New Year's Eve in 1924, 1925, and 1926, each was broadcast live on the radio.

At President Franklin Roosevelt’s urging, the bell was tapped for his radio broadcasts to pump up patriotism. The tapping went out over the radio waves throughout the war: tapping “V” for Victory in October 1942 to mark the 31st anniversary of the Chinese Republic; for “I am an American Day” on May 16, 1943; for July Fourth in the same year; for the opening of two new war bond drives in September 1943 and January 1944. The recording of the 1926 sesquicentennial was re-broadcast on June 6, 1944, to signal D-Day, the WWII the invasion of Europe. Former Philadelphia Mayor Bernard Samuel tapped the bell once, gently at the start of the broadcast. No recorded text of the event that I've found mentions any radio station by name, but the one image (above) clearly shows the 610 WIP-AM nameplate on the microphone stand. It is my assumption that all these early broadcasts were carried on WIP.
WIP-AM was the first commercial radio station in Philadelphia. They were started by Gimbels Department store and began broadcasting in 1922. It makes them one of the few stations that were available locally for these events all the way back to the first noted radio broadcasts of these events starting in 1924. As an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting System in the 1940s, they were able to feed the programs out to the rest of the network

To open a 1950 Savings Bonds Independence Drive Drive then Secretary of the Treasury, John W. Snyder, tapped the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia near the close of an hour-long nation-wide radio show featuring an address by President Truman and a number of celebrities. By then radio coverage of any Liberty Bell event was guaranteed along with TV news coverage. But that was probably the last event they covered directly. In the 1960s WIP began adding more soft rock to their day shifts until by the early 1970s they were an AC station with hourly news casts. Over the 1980s they made room on their schedule for syndicated talk programs. the end came in 1986 with a flip to Sports-Talk in 1986 thus severing their connection to news programming and local coverage of the Liberty Bell.