The First Televised Presidential Address
There’s no question in anyone’s mind that President Donald Trump is a master of the media and television in particular.
Almost everything the current president says or does ends up in a daily sound bite somewhere. I’ve lived through 13 presidents and have seen more of President Trump in the past 12 months than all the previous presidents combined.
But how and when did all this media frenzy begin? Well you’d have to travel all the way back to April 30, 1939 — 78 years ago.
The First President On TV
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the first presidential appearance on that date at the World’s Fair in New York City.
How big was the president’s TV audience that day? Well there was a couple of TV sets at the site of the world’s fair where the camera was and one at Radio City in Manhattan.
You do the math.
The First Presidential Address
President Harry Truman (1884-1972) made the first televised address to the nation from the White House on this date, — October 5, 1947.
The 33rd president took to the airwaves to ask the American’s to cut back on their use of grain so America could help starving Europeans suffering from the devastation of WWII.
This voluntary effort ask farmers and distillers to reduce grain use and citizens to give up meat on Tuesdays, eggs and poultry on Thursday, and to save a slice of bread each day.
Can you imagine a president today saying, “No McDonald’s on Tuesday.” “No IHOP on Thursday.”
Thankfully the populous didn’t have to volunteer these efforts for long because the Marshall Plan succeeded in helping rebuild and replenish the European countries affected.
While Truman had a larger audience than FDR it still numbered only in the thousands. It would not be until the mid 1950s until TV was a staple in millions of American homes.
The First Presidential Political Ad
Another television first for Harry Truman who had the honor of airing the first TV ad for a presidential candidate that appeared during the 1948 presidential election.
Truman went on to win the 1940 presidential election. His 1949 inauguration address, along with all his subsequent speeches, was carried on TV.
Some Final Thoughts
As the old cigarette commercial used to opine, “You’ve come a long way baby.” I’m probably one of the few people reading that that didn’t have a TV in the home when you were born.
No question TV has become the center of many households — particularly during positive and negative events.
But we really got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly during the most recent presidential campaigns.
Are we better off with political TV or should politics on TV be outlawed completely?
I wonder if Harry Truman had any idea the can of worms he was opening when he ran that first presidential ad.
Stay tuned, lots of political ads on the horizon over the next three years. I bet you can’t wait.