Monday, July 13, 2020

American Labor Party Radio Broadcasts of 1950

You can be forgiven if you have never heard of the American Labor Party (ALP). It was established in 1936, splitting from the Socialist Party of America (SPA). It's political activity was almost exclusively limited to the state of New York. In 1956, the party was terminated by its New York state committee. So unless you are a New Yorker, and over the age of 65, you'd have to read a lot of history to bump into the ALP.  (Note the SPA only existed from 1899 - 1972)

In 1948, the ALP wasn't going to support Harry Truman. So they backed Progressive Party candidate Henry A. Wallace. Wallace won a whopping 2.4% of the vote, which was more than Teddy Roosevelt, but also obviously a loss for the Progressive Party and the ALP. However, they re-elected Vito Marcantonio in the United States House of Representatives. They also elected Leo Isacson to fill a vacant seat in a Bronx district but lost in the general election that November. Let's take a look at the candidates.

  • W. E. B. DuBois for U.S. Senate 
  • Vito Marcantonio for U.S. Senate  
  • Janet Scott, for U.S. Senate  
  • Dr. Clementina Paolone, for Lieutenant Governor
  • John T. "Jack" McManus, for NY State Governor
  • Frank Scheiner, NY State Attorney General 
  • Paul L. Ross, for NYC Mayor
  • Michael Jiminez, for Comptroller
  • Harriet Wolff, for State Assembly
  • Dorothy Bloom, for State Assembly
  • Frances Smith, for State Assembly
  • Scott K. Gray, Jr.,
  • Nicola Rossi 

The problem might have been the Communists. The Communist Party USA openly endorsed the Progressive Party. By connection, some of the ALP staff were Marxists, and some Progressive Party candidates that the ALP supported were alleged communists. Notably among them was Lee Pressman who was not allegedly a communist. He was exposed in 1948 by HUAC as a paid spy for Soviet intelligence. Lee was a member of the Progressive Party (not the ALP) but the stink was smeared all over the left-wing parties during the red scare. Nonetheless the ALP ran real candidates in 1950, even if things were looking grim. The State of New York even managed to kick Wolff, Gray, Rossi and Bloom off the ballot before election day. More here and here.

By October The candidates were getting on-air to promote their campaigns. You can see that not all the candidates hit the airwaves. Wolff, Gray, Rossi and Bloom were already gone. DuBois appeared the most often, but Ross and Paolone were able to make multi-lingual appeals. Most appearances were on WMCA even though WEVD, was literally founded by the Socialist Party of America. But The Jewish Daily Forward had taken an increasing control over programming moving the station toward the center. According to Nathan Godfried's oft-cited but rarely read text, Legitimizing the Mass Media Structure, the SPA at least had turned to NBC and other channels to make its political message heard. 

There is little to corroborate most of the appearances listed on the schedule. But the DuBois appearances are well-documented, with audio, video and even personal papers known in the DuBois Papers held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst [LINK]. But the below list is not complete. DuBois own papers include a speech by candidate Frances Smith given at WMCA on October 27th.

10-09-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM  Dr. W. E. B DuBois
10-12-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM  John T. "Jack" McManus
10-15-1950 WEVD 3:00 - 3:15 PM  Paul L. Ross (Yiddish)
10-16-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM  Paul L. Ross
10-19-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM Dr. W. E. B DuBois
10-22-1950 WEVD  3:00 - 3:15 PM  Paul L. Ross (Yiddish)
10-22-1950 WOR 9:15 - 9:30 PM DuBois & McManus
10-23-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM McManus & Dr. Paolone
10-25-1950 WMCA 7:30 - 7:45 PM Cong. Vito Marcantonio
10-26-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM Dr. W. E. B DuBois
10-29-1950 WEVD 3:00 - 3:15 PM  Paul L. Ross (Yiddish)
10-29-1950 WHOM 4:00 - 4:15 PM  Dr. Clementina Paolone (Italian)
10-30-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM Paul L. Ross
10-31-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM Dr. Clementina Paolone
11-01-1950 WMCA 8:30 - 8:45 PM Jack McManus
11-02-1950 WMCA 7:30 - 7:45 PM Cong. Vito Marcantonio
11-03-1950 WMCA 9:30 - 9:45 PM Dr. W. E. B DuBois
11-05-1950 WEVD 3:00 - 3:15 PM  Paul L. Ross (Yiddish)
11-05-1950 WHOM 4:00 - 4:15 PM  Dr. Clementina Paolone (Italian)
11-05-1950 WJZ 6:45 - 7:00 PM  McManus & Dr. Paolone
11-06-1950 WMCA 9:15 - 10:00 PM DuBois, McManus, Ross &  Paolone

By the 1950s, the ALP had lost much of its support to the rival Liberal Party of New York, in part because of accusations of communist influence in the ALP.  In the end, most of the Republican ticket was elected. Only the incumbent U.S. Senator, Herbert H. Lehman [D], managed to retain his seat. DuBois only won 3.93% of the vote for the U.S. Senate, losing out to incumbent Herbert H. Lehman [D], and trailing well behind Joe R. Hanley [R].

The New York stations they appeared on are an interesting mix: WMCA, WEVD, WHOM, WJZ and WOR. There are easily dozen large New York City AM stations which were on air in 1950. My guess is that they focused their budget on Manhattan.

There were also Television broadcastsbut all of them were on WPIX. WPIX-TV only signed on in 1948 as Channel 11(VHF.)  From 1948 to 1965, WPIX produced Three Star News, a 6:30pm newscast that ran for half an hour. So the speeches would have aired shortly afterward.

10-08-1950 WPIX 7:15 - 8:00 PM Dr. W. E. B DuBois
10-15-1950 WPIX 7:15 - 8:00 PM Dr. Clementina Paolone
10-22-1950 WPIX 7:15 - 8:00 PM Paul L. Ross

The sheet also had a section for their Upstate radio schedule. (below) Not all of these statison even exist anymore. WXKW operated on 850 kHz from 1948–1953 signing off after litigation around some engineering issues. Sounded the same year was 1150 WRUN in Utica. They changed calls to WUTI after a sale in 2008. 590 WROW was founded in 1947, still on air today they switched from Mututal to ABC in 1950. WEVT there is a typo, that has to be 1280 WVET, which also which also launched in 1947. They kept those calls until 1961, currently they are WHKT. 950 WARC also was founded that year, they changed calls to WBBF in 1953. 1260 WNDR predates them by one year, starting in 1946 just like 1450 WKAL in Utica. 620 WAGE started in 1941, and flipped the calls to WHEN after a sale in 1954.

10-22-1950 WROW Albany 9:15 - 9:30 PM  DuBois & McManus
10-22-1950 WEBR  Buffalo 9:15 - 9:30 PM  DuBois & McManus
10-22-1950 WEVT Rochester 9:15 - 9:30 PM  DuBois & McManus
10-22-1950 WNDR Syracuse 9:15 - 9:30 PM  DuBois & McManus
10-22-1950 WKAL Utica-Rome 9:15 - 9:30 PM  DuBois & McManus
11-05-1950 WXKW Albany 6:45 - 7:00 PM Paolone & McManus
11-05-1950 WKBW Buffalo 6:45 - 7:00 PM Paolone & McManus
11-05-1950 WARC Rochester 6:45 - 7:00 PM Paolone & McManus
11-05-1950 WAGE Syracuse 6:45 - 7:00 PM Paolone & McManus
11-05-1950 WRUN Utica-Rome 6:45 - 7:00 PM Paolone & McManus

It appears that 970 WEBR was the most established station on the upstate list, having signed on in 1924. Those calls moved to 1440 in 2012, and the 970 stick became WDCZ. They even predate 1380 WKBW which was founded in 1926, they had been on 1520 kHz for decades even by this broadcast in the fall of 1950. So here we see old stations, new stations... just what appears to be a budget-driven slice of the radio dial. Charitably one could argue that by design, a random looking selection might represent a random selection of the electorate. So I consulted the Mighty Fybush, and even he agreed it appeared to be "stations where you could buy a block of time inexpensively."

After the 1950 drubbing, the ALP regrouped and in 1952, they endorsed Progressive Party candidate Vincent Hallinan for President and Corliss Lamont for US Senate. Thaty went nowhere. In the 1954 election, the ALP failed to garner 50,000 votes for any of its candidates and it lost its place on the New York ballot. They ceased to exist shortly thereafter. Maybe they should have got time on 1010 WINS?

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