Radio Comes to Vermont

Radio in a home in Bradford, Vermont, 1939 (Library of Congress)

Originally published in the Times Argus/Rutland Herald Weekend Magazine, March 19, 2022 for the “Remember When” column with the title, “Can You Hear Me Now?”

In April 1930, the U.S. Census enumerators knocking on Vermonters’ doors asked a question unlike any asked before (or since): “Do you own a radio?”

The census ultimately found that, in 1930, 40-50% of Vermont households did, indeed, own a radio. This ranked the state among the highest radio-owning states, lagging behind only a handful of other northern states (plus California), which boasted up to 63% ownership.

(Many southern states, on the other hand, trailed far behind with only 5-10% of their population owning a “wireless.”)

The first successful public American radio broadcast aired from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1910, but restrictions placed on radios during World War I temporarily thwarted this new form of communication. But when the war ended, soldiers who had served as radio operators returned stateside, bringing with them their new technological skills.

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