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Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921
Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921The first major demonstration of the AT&T electric public address system was a great success. Celebrations were held simultaneously in New York City and Washington D. C. and San Francisco, linked by telephone wires and the new amplifiers, microphones, and loudspeakers developed by Bell Labs. The equipment had been first tested in public auditoriums during 1916 at Madison Square Garden in New York and at the Velodrome in Newark. It proved to be superior to the Magnavox system developed by Peter Jensen that was used for Woodrow Wilson's speech in San Diego. The AT&T system was used at the 1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium. On March 4, 1921, a crowd of 125,000 heard the inauguration address of President Harding spoken into one of the new condenser microphones and amplified over loudspeakers at the Capitol in Washington D. C.
|Harding honors unknown soldier grave in Arlington, from Literary Digest, 1921/11/26|
"Upon every side of the immense amphitheatre the people massed. There they stood for many hours and followed the proceedings through the telephone amplifier which recorded the speeches and songs and prayers. While the scene within was impressive to the last detail because of its simplicity and the character of its actors, that without was equally so. When the President concluded his speech with the Lord's Prayer the crowds, head bared, repeated it. They sang 'Nearer My God to Thee' and the mighty voice was lifted to the far distant hills.
"The thousands at the tomb of the Unknown dead stood silent for two minutes at noon. This was the most impressive moment of the day. The crowds encircling the amphitheatre and overflowing the hills stood at attention. They bowed their heads in prayer. Not a single noise broke this silence, whil one looked about and saw many a woman in black weeping. Then a minute later 'America' was sung and the hills echoed with the words." (New York Times, 12 Nov. 1921, p. 4)
|Ten loudspeakers called "projectors" hang from center of ceiling in Madison Square Garden, eight were 7 ft. long , the two white speakers were 10 ft. long, with 5 music-master horns suspended vertically below, photo from AT&T Archives|
In New York, 50,000 veterans from every division that fought in World War I marched in a great parade down Fifth Avenue. All traffic and business stopped at
|Control room at San Francisco, with speaker hanging from ceiling on right, photo from AT&T Archives|
"In the open air the President's voice swept over the crowd in Madison Square. The Voice seemed to come from the chest of a giant. Words which were strongly accented crossed the square to Broadway in one direction and to Twenty-third Street on the other. George Whitefield, the eighteenth century evangelist, who is said to have been the possessor of the most powerful voice in history, was considered a marvel to have made himself heard at half the distance. The music yesterday carried to the Flatiron Building." (New York Times, 12 Nov. 1921, p. 1)
"The President's voice carried by wire from Washington was heard more clearly that that of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and Martin Littleton, whose voices were amplified as they spoke from the platform in the Garden.
|taps played at unknown soldier grave in Arlington, from Literary Digest, 1921/11/26|
"The first words from Arlington Cemetery were those of a representative of the telephone who described the setting in Arlington Cemetery overlooking the Potomac with Washington in the distance and gave some of the details of the scene. The Audience broke into applause for the instrument after the first sentence had proved its astonishing reproducing qualities. Because of the solemnity of the subject, there was no further applause during the services until the close of the speech of the President, which was applauded nearly as heartily as if the Chief Magistrate had been there in person to hear it." (New York Times, 12 Nov. 1921, p. 7)
|Harding's World Court speech, from Literary Digest, 1923/07/14|
Harding would continue to promote the use of public address systems, allowing amplifiers to be used at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial May 30, 1922. He was the first president to have a radio installed in the White House Oval Office on Feb. 8, 1922. On his train trip to the West Coast in 1923, he had amplifiers and speakers installed on the back of the train for his speeches. His address in St. Louis June 22, 1923, was linked by telephone lines to radio stations in distant cities and an estimated record audience of one million people heard Harding argue for American membership in the World Court. His speech planned in San Francisco July 31, 1923, was to be connected coast-to-coast by telephone wire and radio, with hotels and public halls all over the country installing speakers so people outside in the streets could hear the broadcast. But Harding fell ill in the Northwest and died August 2 without making the speech.
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Return to Recording Technology History Notes | this page revised Jan. 3, 2001