Powel Crosley Jr. from Cincinnati, Ohio pictured with the wireless, crystal radio set that he perfected and manufactured, 1938. The stuffed toy dog on his lap was a company mascot known as the 'Crosley Pup'.
In the 1920s, the new medium of radio reached millions of Americans for the first time. Some radio programs provided entertainment, while others presented current news. Advertisers used radio to introduce audiences to their products. Some people realized the educational opportunities that radio offered as well.
Radio dramatically changed the lives of Ohioans. Farmers could learn the current prices for their products, which helped them to know when to sell. Before radio, farmers had to rely on usually outdated information from newspapers, or they simply took their products to market and had to accept whatever prices the purchasers offered. Radio also helped to end the more isolated lifestyle of people living in rural areas. The safety of shipping on Lake Erie was improved since boats now could receive updated weather reports. Radio also provided listeners with news reports and often connected Ohio to events around the world as they were happening. Church attendance also declined with the arrival of radio. Many people chose to stay home on Sundays and listen to sermons broadcast on the radio rather than to walk or drive to church. As radio became more popular in the 1920s and 1930s, many companies sponsored radio programs to entertain listeners and to advertise their products. Proctor & Gamble was famous for its Ivory soap. Because of Proctor & Gamble's sponsorship, some radio programs became known as "soap operas."
Ohioans were leaders in using radio for educational purposes. Benjamin Darrow founded the Ohio School of the Air in 1929. In Radio: The Assistant Teacher (1932), Darrow described the purpose of educational radio in this way: "The central and dominant aim of education by radio is to bring the world to the classroom, to make universally available the services of the finest teachers, the inspiration of the greatest leaders ? and unfolding events which through the radio may come as a vibrant and challenging textbook of the air."
The Ohio School of the Air offered a number of subjects to both primary and secondary school students. A course of study in art appreciation was taught by Henry Turner Bailey of the Cleveland Art Museum. The radio school offered special discussions on topics of interest to high school students, such as "Motion Pictures and the High School Student," "The High School Student Looks at His Parents," and "The High School Student and Radio." It also aired a series titled "Men Who Made America." The school introduced students to literature through readings of dramatic stories.
The National Committee on Education by Radio (NCER), also known as the Payne Fund, originally financed the Ohio School of the Air. Two radio stations broadcast the programs each day: The Ohio State University's station WEAO (now WOSU), founded in 1909, and WLW in Cincinnati. The school gained the support of the Ohio Department of Education, and the Ohio General Assembly agreed to provide additional funding for the programs after several months. The Ohio School of the Air reached more than 100,000 students in twenty-two states in its first year and created interest in radio education at the national level. It also became a part of a larger debate about public support for independent broadcasting and educational radio programming.
In 1937, the state legislature ended funding for the Ohio School of the Air. Without government support for its efforts, the Ohio School of the Air came to an end.
Ohio and the rest of America was never quite the same after the arrival of radio. Radio offered new social and educational opportunities to people of all ages. It also gave advertisers new ways to reach people and helped give rise to a consumer culture in America. Television would challenge and change radio in the years after World War II, but with new technologies and new programming radio remains a vital part of American life.