David Shedden

David Shedden is a researcher and the library director at the Poynter Institute. Poynter Online daily feature: Today in Media History http://www.poynter.org/category/media-history/


Today in Media History: Remembering one of the 20th century’s great interviewers and listeners, Studs Terkel

On October 31, 2008, the media reported on the death of author and broadcaster Studs Terkel, one of the great interviewers and listeners of 20th century America.

Here is a story from the Associated Press:

“Louis Terkel arrived here as a child from New York City and in Chicago found not only a new name but a place that perfectly matched — in its energy, its swagger, its charms, its heart — his own personality. They made a perfect and enduring pair.

Author-radio host-actor-activist and Chicago symbol Louis ‘Studs’ Terkel died Friday afternoon in his home on the North Side. At his bedside was a copy of his latest book, ‘P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening,’ scheduled for release this month. He was 96 years old.

‘Studs Terkel was part of a great Chicago literary tradition that stretched from Theodore Dreiser to Richard Wright to Nelson Algren to Mike Royko,’ Mayor Richard M. Daley said Friday. ‘In his many books, Studs captured the eloquence of the common men and women whose hard work and strong values built the America we enjoy today. He was also an excellent interviewer, and his WFMT radio show was an important part of Chicago’s cultural landscape for more than 40 years.’”

– “Studs Terkel dies
Chicago Tribune, October 31, 2008

In 2001 C-SPAN interviewed Studs Terkel for its Book TV channel.

(Click here to watch the 2009 documentary film, “Studs Terkel: Listening To America”)

“Studs Terkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre, and who for decades was the voluble host of a popular radio show in Chicago, died Friday at his home there. He was 96.

….In his oral histories, which he called guerrilla journalism, Mr. Terkel relied on his enthusiastic but gentle interviewing style to elicit, in rich detail, the experiences and thoughts of his fellow citizens. Over the decades, he developed a continuous narrative of great historic moments sounded by an American chorus in the native vernacular.

….Mr. Terkel succeeded as an interviewer in part because he believed most people had something to say worth hearing. ‘The average American has an indigenous intelligence, a native wit,’ he said. ‘It’s only a question of piquing that intelligence.’”

— “Studs Terkel, Listener to Americans, Dies at 96
New York Times, October 31, 2008

The following StoryCorps video is called, “The Human Voice.”

“The great oral historian Studs Terkel was an inspiration to StoryCorps, and he was also an early participant in the project. In this animated short, he speaks out on what has been lost in modern life and where he sees hope for our future.”

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P-War of the Worlds

Today in Media History: Martians attack Earth in Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast

On October 30, 1938, 23-year-old Orson Welles and his radio program, Mercury Theatre on the Air, broadcast “War of the Worlds.” Their fictional radio news bulletins about a Martian invasion panicked many and made Welles famous.

(Click here to watch the entire PBS American Experience documentary about the “War of the Worlds” broadcast.)

“It was the day before Halloween, October 30, 1938. Henry Brylawski was on his way to pick up his girlfriend at her Adams Morgan apartment in Washington, D.C.

As he turned on his car radio, the 25-year-old law student heard some startling news. A huge meteorite had smashed into a New Jersey farm. New York was under attack by Martians.

‘I knew it was a hoax,’ said Brylawski, now 92.

Others were not so sure. When he reached the apartment, Brylawski found his girlfriend’s sister, who was living there, ‘quaking in her boots,’ as he puts it. ‘She thought the news was real,’ he said.

It was not. What radio listeners heard that night was an adaptation, by Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater group, of a science fiction novel written 40 years earlier: The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells.

However, the radio play, narrated by Orson Welles, had been written and performed to sound like a real news broadcast about an invasion from Mars.”

– “‘War of the Worlds’: Behind the 1938 Radio Show Panic
National Geographic News, June 17, 2005

The day after the program reporters interviewed Orson Welles about his radio broadcast.

Many Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper readers lived near the radio drama’s Martian landing spot at Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Here is an excerpt from the Inquirer’s report:

“Terror struck at the hearts of hundreds of thousands of persons in the length and breadth of the United States last night as crisp words of what they believed to be a news broadcast leaped from their radio sets — telling of catastrophe from the skies visited on this country.

Out of the heavens, they learned, objects at first believed to be meteors crashed down near Trenton, killing many.

Then out of the meteors came monsters, spreading destruction with torch and poison gas. It was all just a radio dramatization, but the result, in all actuality, was nationwide hysteria.

….In reality there was no danger. The broadcast was merely a Halloween program in which Orson Welles, actor-director of the Mercury Theater on the Air, related, as though he were one of the few human survivors of the catastrophe, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.”

And here is what you would have heard the evening of October 30, 1938. It took the Martians about 57 minutes to invade Earth.

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P-Internet Begins

Today in Media History: The Internet began with a crash on October 29, 1969

The beginning of the Internet is the story of two large computers, miles apart, sending the message: “LO.” The world has never been the same.

In the late 1960s an experimental network of four computers called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was commissioned by the U.S. government. The computers were located at UCLA, SRI International (then known as Stanford Research Institute), UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. ARPANET evolved into the network of computer networks we know as the Internet.

On October 29, 1969, the first message was sent between two ARPANET computers. They tried to type in “LOGIN,” but the computers crashed after the first two letters.

UCLA’s Leonard Kleinrock, who was part of the team that first connected the ARPANET computers, is interviewed in this KTLA-TV story. (Here is a link to another story about the first ARPANET connection.)

“The breakthrough accomplished that night in 1969 was a decidedly down-to-earth one. The Arpanet was not, in itself, intended as some kind of secret weapon to put the Soviets in their place: it was simply a way to enable researchers to access computers remotely, because computers were still vast and expensive, and the scientists needed a way to share resources.

….One of the most intriguing things about the growth of the internet is this: to a select group of technological thinkers, the surprise wasn’t how quickly it spread across the world, remaking business, culture and politics — but that it took so long to get off the ground. Even when computers were mainly run on punch-cards and paper tape, there were whispers that it was inevitable that they would one day work collectively, in a network, rather than individually.”

— “Forty years of the internet: how the world changed for ever.”
Guardian.co.uk, October 23, 2009
(This article is part of a special section called, “The internet at 40

On January 1, 1983, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) were accepted as the standard protocols for the ARPANET and other computer networks. For some, the acceptance of TCP/IP as a common network communication language is considered the beginning of the Internet. Vint Cert talks about the history of TCP/IP:

“’The 1969 connection was not just a symbolic milestone in the project that led to the Internet, but in the whole idea of connecting computers — and eventually billions of people — to each other,’ said Marc Weber, founding curator of the Museum’s Internet History Program. ‘In the 1960s, as many as a few hundred users could have accounts on a single large computer using terminals, and exchange messages and files between them. But each of those little communities was an island, isolated from others. By reliably connecting different kinds of computers to each other, the ARPANET took a crucial step toward the online world that links nearly a third of the world’s population today.’”

— “The Computer History Museum, SRI International, and BBN Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of First ARPANET Transmission”
Computer History Museum, October 27, 2009

There are many fathers and mothers of the Internet and several have been honored in the Internet Hall of Fame.

Finally, PandoDaily and Explainer Music have helped put the Internet into perspective with their video, “PandoHouse Rock: A History of The Internet and Computing in 71 Seconds.”

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Today in Media History: In 1954, a former journalist named Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for literature

“I love to write. But it has never gotten any easier to do and you can’t expect it to if you keep trying for something better than you can do.”

Ernest Hemingway, 1959

Author and journalist Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for literature on October 28, 1954.

Listen to his acceptance speech:

Ernest Hemingway was a reporter for the Kansas City Star from October 1917 to April 1918.

In 1999, the newspaper’s website created a special section in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth. This included old stories, various links, anecdotes, and a story titled, “Of ‘Star Style’ and a reporter named Hemingway.”

“And into the midst of The Star staff, in late 1917, came a youth who, when he could get away with it, wore a red and black checkered hunting shirt to work. Old timers frowned on such dress.

But the young reporter worked outside the office most of the time. His name was Ernest Hemingway.

….Ernest Hemingway came to The Star as a big, round-faced boy of 18 with limitless energy, and a desire to be in the thick of the action whether a shooting scrape or chasing ambulances. Hemingway worked at the paper for seven months. In late April 1918, he and Ted Brumback, another Star reporter, joined an ambulance unit in Italy.”

“After returning from World War I, Ernest Hemingway moved to Toronto and began writing for the Toronto Star. He worked there from 1920 to 1924 and some 70 of his articles have been archived online in an attractive new website, the Hemingway Papers. At first Hemingway was a stringer and later he wrote as a staff writer, under the byline Ernest M. Hemingway.

….He went on to write for the Star about boxing and trout fishing and organized crime in Chicago. By 1922 Hemingway had moved to Paris with his wife and sent dispatches that anticipated the themes of the novels that would make him famous.”

— “Archive of Hemingway’s Newspaper Reporting Reveals Novelist in the Making
Open Culture, May 16, 2012

“During most of the past twelve months, Ernest Hemingway has been reporting the Spanish war for the North American Newspaper Alliance. As we did in our issue of May 5, 1937, we present below selected passages from several of his recent dispatches. They have already been printed in various newspapers affiliated with the Alliance, but such publication has often been incomplete because of lack of space.”

– The Editors, The New Republic, January 12, 1938
“Hemingway Reports Spain”
(Click here for the stories)

Silent color film footage of Hemingway and photojournalist Robert Capa at Mont Saint Michel in France during World War II:

“No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway. He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works.

….In 1944 he returned to Europe to witness key moments in World War II, including the D-day landings. He was 44 at the time and, comparing his photograph on his Certificate of Identity of Noncombatant to the portrait of the young 19-year-old who volunteered in World War I, one notices how distinguished the internationally renowned author had become in those 25 years.

Hemingway accompanied American troops as they stormed to shore on Omaha Beach — though as a civilian correspondent he was not allowed to land himself. Weeks later he returned to Normandy, attaching himself to the 22nd Regiment commanded by Col. Charles ‘Buck’ Lanham as it drove toward Paris (whose liberation he would later witness and write about).”

— “Hemingway on War and Its Aftermath
National Archives, 2006

And finally, here is a short video biography about the author and journalist Ernest Hemingway.

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Today in Media History: Remembering the “CBS Reports” documentary “Harvest of Shame”

On October 27, 1959, the CBS News documentary series, “CBS Reports,” premiered.

Screenshot from "CBS Reports" documentary

Screenshot from “CBS Reports” documentary

The most memorable program from the series may have been the 1960 documentary, “Harvest of Shame.”

“’CBS Reports’ was a documentary program series inaugurated on October 27, 1959, in the aftermath of the quiz show scandals. Executive producer Fred Friendly (Edward R. Murrow’s colleague on the ‘See It Now’ series) once suggested that the program was an attempt by CBS to undo the damage caused by the quiz show scandals and the resulting investigations. Friendly, who was executive producer for the new program later became the president of CBS News.

“’CBS Reports’ continued as a regular series for seven years, producing 146 hour-long investigative documentaries….Some shows caused controversy; many achieved critical acclaim.”

— “Encyclopedia of Television News

Screenshot from "CBS Reports" documentary

Screenshot from “CBS Reports” documentary

Here is a link to excerpts from the “Harvest of Shame” documentary. And this link is for the entire program.

“In the world of journalism, CBS’ Peabody Award-winning documentary ‘Harvest of Shame’ is considered a milestone for its unflinching examination of the plight of migrant farmworkers in the United States. The CBS investigative report was the first time millions of Americans were given a close look at what it means to live in poverty. The producers — Fred Friendly, Edward R. Murrow and David Lowe — made no secret of their goal: They wanted to shock Americans into action. To maximize its impact, CBS aired the documentary — about the people who pick fruits and vegetables — the day after Thanksgiving. Murrow, perhaps the most recognized journalist of the day, delivered their message with a sense of urgency. ‘We present this report on Thanksgiving because, were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials,’ he said in his narration.

….The day after it aired, The New York Times’ review said ‘Harvest of Shame’ was ‘uncompromising in its exposure of filth, despair and grinding poverty that are the lot of the migratory workers.’ Former CBS News anchor and correspondent Dan Rather told NPR, ‘Nobody but nobody had taken an hour to do this kind of expose.’ He describes the tone as ‘somber’ and the style as ‘part expose journalism, part a deep-digging, investigative report.’”

— “In Confronting Poverty, ‘Harvest Of Shame’ Reaped Praise And Criticism
NPR, May 31, 2014

The theme music for “CBS Reports” was Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” adaption of “Simple Gifts.” Although this is not the “CBS Reports” version, here is the 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of music:

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P-Space Photos

Today in Media History: In 1946, the media reported on the first photos from space

There have been news stories about rockets since the earliest newspapers, but reports about the use of former German V-2 rockets after World War II marked the beginning of space news as we know it today.

And what better example of early space news than the October 24, 1946 Universal newsreel story about the first photos from space.

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

“On October 24, 1946, not long after the end of World War II and years before the Sputnik satellite opened the space age, a group of soldiers and scientists in the New Mexico desert saw something new and wonderful — the first pictures of Earth as seen from space.

The grainy, black-and-white photos were taken from an altitude of 65 miles by a 35-millimeter motion picture camera riding on a V-2 missile launched from the White Sands Missile Range. Snapping a new frame every second and a half, the rocket-borne camera climbed straight up, then fell back to Earth minutes later, slamming into the ground at 500 feet per second. The camera itself was smashed, but the film, protected in a steel cassette, was unharmed.

….When the movie frames were stitched together, Clyde Holliday, the engineer who developed the camera, wrote in National Geographic in 1950, the V-2 photos showed for the first time ‘how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship.’”

– “The First Photo From Space
Air & Space Magazine, November 2006

This silent film footage is from a British Pathe newsreel:

“WHITE SANDS, N.M., Oct. 24 (AP) – The Army fired a German V-2 rocket sixty-three miles above the earth today and, although the altitude fell far short of the 104-mile record, an Ordnance Department spokesman termed the results of the test ‘fairly good.’

….Army experts had said they expected today’s rocket to supply information which might cause ‘serious revision’ of existing cosmic ray theories.

Lieut. Alexander Szabo of the proving ground’s public relations office said ‘high hopes of recovery’ of instruments carried in the nose were entertained.”

– “V-2 Rocket Is Fired To 63-Mile Altitude”
Associated Press, October 24, 1946

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

Screenshot from 1946 newsreel

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Today in Media History: Apple’s Steve Jobs introduces the iPod in 2001

The iPod, Apple’s hard disk-based digital audio player, was introduced by Steve Jobs on October 23, 2001.

“‘With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go,’ said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. ‘With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.’”
– An excerpt from the original Apple iPod press release

Screenshot from iPod introduction video, 2001

Screenshot from iPod introduction video, 2001

“Now, with the introduction of the sleek little iPod, a $399 personal digital-music player, Steve has finally built a widget. About the size of a pack of cigarettes, the iPod is more than just a portable sound machine, however. It’s a new kind of gadget that has the potential to change how we think about personal audio-entertainment gizmos, much as Sony’s first pocket-sized transistor radio did in 1958, and the Sony Walkman portable stereo tape player did 20 years later. The progeny of an eight-month crash-development project, the iPod also vividly illustrates how Apple’s engineering and software skills could make it a force to be reckoned with in the consumer electronics business long dominated by leviathans like Sony and Matsushita.”

— “Apple’s 21st-Century Walkman CEO Steve Jobs thinks he has something pretty nifty. And if he’s right, he might even spook Sony and Matsushita”
Fortune Magazine, November 12, 2001

A video of the Steve Jobs iPod introduction:

“Steve Jobs noticed something earlier this year in New York City. ‘I was on Madison,’ says Apple’s CEO, ‘and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen.’ Jonathan Ive, the company’s design guru, had a similar experience in London: ‘On the streets and coming out of the tubes, you’d see people fiddling with it.’ And Victor Katch, a 59-year-old professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, saw it in Ann Arbor. ‘When you walk across campus, the ratio seems as high as 2 out of 3 people,’ he says.

They’re talking about the sudden ubiquity of the iPod, the cigarette-box-size digital music player (and its colorful credit-card-size little sister, the Mini) that’s smacked right into the sweet spot where a consumer product becomes something much, much more: an icon, a pet, a status indicator and an indispensable part of one’s life. To 3 million-plus owners, iPods not only give constant access to their entire collection of songs and CDs, but membership into an implicit society that’s transforming the way music will be consumed in the future.”

— “iPod Nation
Newsweek, July 26, 2004

Here is a 2006 Discovery Channel documentary about the iPod. (This clip is part two. Click here to see the rest of the program.)

The iPod era, which began on October 23, 2001, is coming to a close. Recently Mashable posted a story called, “Requiem for an iPod Classic.”

“Amid all the new products it introduced on Tuesday, Apple also quietly but officially retired the iPod classic.

This was more than a little ironic, considering U2′s appearance alongside Tim Cook with a splashy new Apple video that recalled the iPod silhouettes campaign from the mid-2000s. Indeed, the U2 ad feels like an homage to what is still one of the most successful consumer electronics products ever (which also came in a U2 edition).

Although the end of the iPod classic hardly comes as a surprise — Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff wrote a eulogy for the device back in January — we can’t help but greet the reality that Apple has retired its hard disk-based MP3 player lineup with a twinge of sadness.

Sure, the iPod nano, iPod touch and iPod shuffle still exist. But for many of us, the traditional iPod still holds a special place in our heart. It’s not a stretch to say that without the original iPod, Apple as we know it would not exist.”

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P-1962 JFK Speech

Today in Media History: In 1962 President Kennedy announced the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba

At 7 p.m. on October 22, 1962, in a televised speech to the nation, President John Kennedy announced the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

According to the JFK Library, “for thirteen days in October 1962 the world waited — seemingly on the brink of nuclear war — and hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Screenshot from National Archives film, 1962

Screenshot from National Archives film, 1962

CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis:

The following description of Kennedy’s speech comes from the Paley Center. (UPI has posted examples of its original Cuban Missile Crisis stories.)

“After learning that the Cubans, with the aid of the Soviets, were building bases for medium — and intermittent-range ballistic nuclear missiles that would have the capability of reaching most of the United States, President Kennedy requested television time from all three of the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) for 7:00 pm on Monday, October 22. Kennedy was being advised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to destroy the missile sites through airstrikes and invasion, but opted instead for an alternate plan, supported by Robert Kennedy, initiating a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba….

….That Kennedy chose to deliver this message via television rather than through diplomatic channels was part of a deliberate plan to give the ultimatum ‘maximum force,’ according to media historian Erik Barnouw, writing in Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, his landmark history of the medium. This was particularly important politically because the Bay of Pigs fiasco had left the president vulnerable to charges that he was soft on communism. ‘The televised commitment, relayed throughout the world by satellite, would create a situation from which retreat would appear impossible,’ Barnouw wrote.”

President Kennedy’s October 22, 1962 address to the nation:

Four decades after the event, NPR aired the story, “The Cuban Missile Crisis, 40 Years Later.”

“The world’s closest brush with nuclear war came 40 years ago this month, when the Kennedy administration learned the Soviet Union was preparing to put nuclear missiles in Cuba. For 13 days, the world braced for a holocaust. NPR’s Tom Gjelten continues his series of reports from Havana on a unique conference to discuss the lessons learned in the crisis.”

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P-1962 World's Fair

Today in Media History: Back to the future at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

October 21, 1962 was the last day to visit the Seattle World’s Fair. In case you missed it, here is a quick look back.

This TV commercial invites us to the fair with the line, “Welcome to the future and all the wonders of the 21st Century.”

The Seattle Times published a special souvenir edition for the World’s Fair in 1962. Fifty years later the newspaper pulled out an old copy and described the fair once again.

“Yes, Seattle was one swaggering city of Space Age superlatives when it put on the 1962 World’s Fair.

The excitement and hype had been building for years when The Seattle Times on April 8, 1962, published a 152-page, six-section souvenir edition dedicated to the World’s Fair. The sections were packed with stories brimming with civic optimism and statements of superiority.

And why not?

This remote outpost in a rainy corner of the country was booming. Seattle was home to Boeing, and the sky was the limit. So build that Space Needle with the rotating restaurant and the flaming top and let the world revolve around it.

And it did for six glorious months.

….It wasn’t all geeky scientific stuff. Seattle came across as a place to have fun and enjoy the natural beauty of the Northwest. Where you can buy a new home with ‘tomorrow’s pleasures and convenience.’

And all you visitors from out of town, you will ‘enjoy pleasant weather…Seattle is seldom hot. The summer sun feels good in Seattle.’

Soaring above everything at the World’s Fair and on the cover of the ‘Space Age Frontiers’ section was the Space Needle with elevators that moved with ‘rocketlike speed’ and a 40-foot ‘crown of flame’ natural-gas torch at the top.”

Seattle Times Image, 1962

Seattle Times Image, 1962

Here is a preview of the 2012 KCTS 9 documentary, “When Seattle Invented the Future: The 1962 World’s Fair.”

“The fair was fun for all and fair for everybody, but all good things must come to an end. On October 21, 1962, 124,479 visitors arrived at the fairgrounds, 13,000 of whom had tickets for the closing ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. President John F. Kennedy was supposed to be there, but aides had called his regrets two days earlier, saying that he had a heavy cold. In actuality, as would be revealed, he was deep into the beginnings of the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

— “Century 21 — The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

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Today in Media History: In 1967 Walter Cronkite imagined the future of online news and communications

In addition to anchoring the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite also hosted a documentary series called “The 20th Century” that was succeeded by another program titled, “The 21st Century.” The original show premiered on October 20, 1957.

Here is one of the most interesting segments from these two programs. It aired in 1967. Cronkite imagined the future of online news and the ability to work at home on a “computerized communications console.”

The program, “The 20th Century,” is described in the following excerpt from the Archive of American Television. “The 21st Century” began in 1967, which is when the segment on computerized communications was broadcast.

“From the one-hour premiere episode ‘Churchill, Man of the Century’ (20 October 1957) to its last episode The 20th Century unit produced 112 half-hour historical compilation films and 107 half-hour ‘originally photographed documentaries’ or contemporary documentaries. Narrated by Walter Cronkite, the series achieved critical praise, a substantial audience, and a dedicated sponsor, The Prudential Insurance Company of America, primarily with its historical compilation films. The compilation documentaries combined actuality footage from disparate archival sources — national and international, public and private — with testimony from eyewitnesses, to represent history.”

This is an example of how the “The 20th Century” program usually ended. According to the closing credits, the music was performed by the CBS Orchestra.

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