Donald Miller: NYC in the 1920s

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John F
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Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Donald Miller: NYC in the 1920s

Post by John F » Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:36 pm

Last week I happened on a C-SPAN program featuring Donald Miller, author of "Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America." That, in a nutshell, is the thesis of his book (and his C-SPAN talk), but there's much more than that to this 650-page, wide-ranging narrative. Beginning with New York's politics and government - sensational enough, this was Jimmy Walker and Tammany Hall time - it goes on to tell about crime and prohibition, the building of the Manhattan skyline and, at the same time, its first sewage plant, radio and sports and Broadway, and not least, music. Miller's style is inviting and vivid, and he's also done an amazing amount of research. I haven't finished reading it yet, nowhere near, but I certainly will.

In a project I'm working on now, I needed to know something about the early history of American radio broadcasting. First NBC and then CBS created the country's first radio networks in the late 1920s, each reflecting the personality of its founding genius, David Sarnoff and William Paley. Sarnoff loved classical music and opera, so he loaded up NBC's schedule with highbrow music including the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as studio programs like the Bell Telephone Hour and The Voice of Firestone. Paley was all about programming with mass appeal for which he could sell advertising time, so the only classical music on CBS was in time slots he couldn't sell to advertisers, such as the New York Philharmonic concerts on Sunday afternoon.

Published this year, "Supreme City" isn't yet available in paperback. The hard cover edition sells for $40, but if your local library doesn't have it, you can get the Kindle ebook edition for $20.
John Francis

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