Saturday, April 3, 2010

Radio Nature League (1926 January- March)

Note: Thornton Burgess was absent on January 13--WBZ announcer, A.E. Bach, handled the host duties. According to the January 20 script, that program was temporarily extended to 45 minutes. The scripts of talks by William L. Finley and Henry B. Bigelow are included in the Thornton W. Burgess Collection at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

January to March 1926
In January, the Radio Nature League celebrated its one year anniversary with an annual report. Membership stood at 20,000 and counting. It had become a "real organization," recognized by students and leaders in Nature Study. It was cosmopolitan, democratic, and importantly--not just for children. Although this is not in the script it was also reportedly one of the most popular features on WBZ, showing that scientific subjects could have wide-spread appeal. (See this extended syndicated news story about the Radio Nature League and its scientific work.)

Here is the list (paraphrased) of League accomplishments in Year One.
  1. Encouraged bird feeding and construction of bird houses
  2. Conservation of wildflowers
  3. Wayside beauty (removal of tent caterpillars)
  4. Posting of farms as nature sanctuaries
  5. Ruffed grouse project
  6. White weasel specimen project
Burgess also begins to advocate grassroots versions of the organization. Why not have local chapters of silver and red star clubs?

A heavy schedule of guest speakers continued:
  • January 6. Francis Harper, curator of mammals at the Boston Museum of Natural History, on bears.
  • January 20. James Lee Peters of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, on "Bird life in Northern Patagonia."
  • January 27. William L. Finley, State Game Commissioner of Oregon, on "Lower Klamath Lake."
  • February 3. Reginald A. Daly, geologist at Harvard University, on Earthquakes (there had been a recent earthquake in New England).
  • March 3. Charles W. Johnson of the Boston Museum of Natural History, on "Where insects pass the winter." (Johnson had originally been scheduled for February 17 but had to cancel).
  • March 17. William H. Weston, Jr. of Harvard on "Seaweeds and some of their uses."
  • March 31. Henry B. Bigelow, oceanographer of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, on "The Life of an Eel."
William L. Finley's talk was not part of the Boston Society of Natural History series. Rather, Finley, a friend of Burgess's and a member of the League, had come to the program to deliver an impassioned plea for the preservation of a particularly important natural habitat in the Pacific Northwest--Lower Klamath Lake. The Lake had been drained for dubious agricultural purposes ("greed," according to TWB); Finley wanted the water returned. Burgess tells the League membership to send letters that he can collect and send as a petition to the Secretary of the Interior. He would continue to solicit letters for weeks to come. Finley's campaign was ultimately partially successful, creating the Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge in 1927. [Note: much of Finley's talk as well as Burgess's own plea against environmental degradation can be found in the February 28, 1926 Burgess Radio Nature League column--Google's News Archive has it but it is mis-dated, positioned sideways, and there is no direct link. Try going to Feb 27 first, then page 46]

Burgess announced the first crusade against tent caterpillar nests on March 10. Envisioned as a aid to roadside beauty, he urged individual boys and girls, scout troops, and schools to remove the nests, count the egg masses destroyed (supervised by a responsible adult) and send in their count by March 21. The prizes for the groups with the highest count would win William T. Hornaday's Natural History set; individual winners would receive National Geographic books of birds and animals. This would become an annual Radio Nature League event, with substantial cash prizes.

Next: 1926 (April to June)

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