Broadcasting America

The Rise of Mass Media and Communications

Explore the history of twentieth century broadcasting in America through the business decisions and innovations that led media corporations to transform radio from a one-to-one communication tool to a means of broadcasting information and ideas to the masses.

The papers of early pioneer, David Sarnoff, and the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), chart the rise of mass media and the impact of broadcasting innovations such as television, advertising and consumer culture, from the dawn of a new era of mass broadcasting, and beyond.

Wider industry pamphlets provide insight into the needs and behaviour of a new mass audience, as well as tracking efforts to establish and regulate codes of conduct amid debates over censorship and ethics.

  • Speeches of RCA chairman David Sarnoff, many of which are forward-looking about the future of the broadcasting and communications industry. Including notes on smart watches, mass communications, and satellite technology
  • Advertising collections that demonstrate the development of different marketing techniques, as well as offering insight into the evolving relationship between consumer and manufacturer
  • Material covering radio and television achievements including the broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier boxing match – the first live public mass radio broadcast
  • A complete run of RCA internal periodical, Broadcast News. With articles covering technical developments, alongside information on performers, stations and employees associated with the company
  • Pamphlets from Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland, covering market research into audience reception and demographics as well as discussions of ethics around depiction of violence and sex, and industry regulations

Key data

Period covered


Source archives

  • Hagley Museum and Library
  • Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland
  • Broadcasting and media history
  • Consumer products and marketing
  • Global current affairs
  • Society and culture
  • Technology and innovation
  • Annual reports
  • Correspondence
  • Internal and external publications
  • Personal papers
  • Photgraphs
  • Press releases and clippings
  • Speeches and statements
  • Noah Arceneaux, San Diego State University
  • Gabriele Balbi, USI Universita della Svizzera italiana
  • Alexander Magoun, IEEE History Center
  • Allison Perlman, University of California, Irvine
  • Josh Shepperd, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Business and Economics
  • Music, Sound and Dance
  • North American Studies
  • Technology
  • Visual Culture