Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Radio Nature League (1925 June-August)

Note: The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center lacks scripts for meetings held on June 3, July 1, and August 19, 1925. There were no meetings on July 29, August 12 and August 26. The Boston Daily Globe lists the program as "Radio Nature Story by Thornton W. Burgess" at 7:32 (after the baseball scores).

According to Marcel LaFollette's Science on the Air (2008), two things happened during the summer of 1925 that would change the Radio Nature League dramatically. First, the Literary Digest (with circulation over a million), ran a story about the League in its June 6 issue. This would give it national exposure and credibility. Second, Burgess became friends with Austin Clark of the U.S. National Museum (the Smithsonian Institute), who had his own science-related radio program. The Smithsonian connection provided Burgess with a place to send mysterious natural objects for identification.

In June and July new concerns emerge:
  • June 10 he rails against automobile drivers who vandalize and litter the countryside.
  • He also expresses distress in hearing reports of boys who have been shooting at song birds. (They are not cruel but unthinking).
  • June 17, he delivers an impassioned plea for the welfare of trees. [He also announces that a lumber concern (better conservationists than the general public) had just donated $100 to his program.]
  • He also reports approvingly of a Springfield firm that will no longer use roadside billboards for advertising (he proposes an honor roll of such firms).
  • June 24, in response to a correspondent, he expresses disapproval of the wearing of fur.
  • July 8, he reads the copy from a Connecticut Valley Lumber Co. (his unnamed donor?) poster about forest fire prevention, blaming careless smokers in particular.
  • July 22, finally, an issue emerges that may sound unimportant but would actually consume hours and hours of Radio Nature League time in the years ahead. Do snakes take their young into their mouths for the purpose of protection? (More on that in a future post!)
Clark and Burgess would work with members of the Boston Society of Natural History to put together a "clearing house" of speakers on natural history, to be shared on each others' radio programs. Clark, himself, would be the very first Radio Nature League guest speaker, on butterflies, August 5. LaFollette (2008) also marks the summer of 1925 as the first time Burgess would use the program for the purposes of science, asking his listeners to report on any instances of white herons they observed. This appeal was apparently made on August 19.

Next: Radio Nature League (1925 September to December).

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