Saturday, April 24, 2010

Radio Nature League News

Ad for Sun Glow from Radio Nature League News, May 1935 (my sketch)
Starting May 1935, Thornton Burgess edited a four-page newsletter that was distributed through druggists nationwide titled "Radio Nature League News." It is similar to the "Mother Nature's News" newsletters that Burgess produced for school-children twenty years earlier. This newsletter was apparently produced until mid-1936 (LaFollette cites an August 1936 issue). Burgess made frequent appeals during (Brewer era) Radio Nature League programs asking listeners to ask their druggists for it (or only patronize druggists who carried it).

The newsletter had a fairly consistent format. It appears that Burgess did all the writing and the layout himself. Here is the content of the June 1935 (#2) issue:
  • Page 1. Top Story. "A Feathered Hero." (A pet bird that alerted its owner that the house was on fire--also dramatized on the Radio Nature League program).
  • Page 1. Story Two. "Duck in the chimney." (A common goldeneye, it turns out).
  • Page 1. Photo. Giant Panama Grasshopper.
  • Page 1. Ad. See sketch above.
  • Page 2. Photo. Toad.
  • Page 2. Story Three. "No depression here: When he needs a new suit he gets one" (i.e., Toad)
  • Page 2. Photo. Nest and eggs of ruffed grouse.
  • Page 2. Story Four. "Giant Grasshoppers"
  • Page 2. Story Five. "A pretty story" (from correspondent).
  • Page 2. Personal Letter from Thornton W. Burgess (on boys and guns).
  • Page 2. Ad for Euphoral (pain reliever)
  • Page 3. Notice asking for readers to send in photos and nature stories ($5 if accepted)
  • Page 3. Photo. This week's prize winner. Robin feeding young.
  • Page 3. Story Six. "Do moles come out in the daytime?" (A Q&A feature)
  • Page 3. Story Seven. "Heroic Mother Love" (from correspondent).
  • Page 3. Photo of a "trusting woodcock."
  • Page 3. Ad for Brewer's Compound Bile Salts
  • Page 4. "What you want to know" (8 questions from correspondents with answers by Burgess).
  • Page 4. Photo. White woodchuck.
  • Page 4. Ad for Brewer's Quality Products: Sun Glow Tablets; Citroton; Bromo-Sal

As you can see, the newsletter functioned as an advertising medium for Brewer products (the specific products advertised would rotate on a monthly basis) but Burgess maintained editorial control. He would use the "personal letter" slot to advocate such things as nature study and conservation, and continued the old Radio Nature League practice of asking listeners/readers to send in samples (in this case to the government agency monitoring Dutch Elm disease). On October 1935 he used his personal letter to explain why he needed a sponsor (to maintain a regular slot on the air and to compensate him personally for his time) and stressed that he had the "utmost faith" in Brewer products. Indeed, he would make occasional note of the "happiness from health" that he and his family experienced through using Sun Glow cod liver oil.

The Brewer sponsorship experience would last just a little more than a year (according to LaFollette he was on a series of 13-week contracts). But Burgess was not completely done with radio.

Next: Good Neighbors Club (1939)

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