Broadcasting Consensus: Radio & Free Enterprise with Taylor Currie

American educators in 1940s classrooms eagerly played corporate propaganda for their students. The source, Dupont’s Cavalcade of America, was a mid-twentieth century radio program designed to promote the values of free enterprise, productivity, & consumerism to the public through the medium of historical drama. Teachers introduced the program to classrooms to supplement lessons in the American past, and its fair historical accuracy made it potentially useful as a teaching tool. However, the program came with a heavy dose of messaging meant to promote a “liberal consensus” of corporate and government unity and competency in the face of social and political challenges.   

In this episode of Stories from the Stacks, Taylor Currie, graduate student at Queen’s University, discusses how she approached her project, how she discovered her source base at Hagley, and how she interprets the material to suit her research agenda. Attempting to trace the long history of what she terms the “project of liberal consensus,” Currie identified corporate sponsored radio programming as a key source. As a prime example of the genre, Cavalcade of America became the focus of her research.

Using Hagley Library collections, including the Cavalcade of America, Better Living Magazine, & advertising tear sheet collections, Currie discovered the production of Cavalcade of America, and its usefulness as an instrument to promote the liberal consensus. The vision forwarded was one of America as a bastion of liberty and innovation, and of corporate and government leaders as steadfastly guarding its values. The program, sponsored by the DuPont company, consisted of dramatized vignettes of historical events and figures, bookend with advertisements for DuPont products crafted to sound like profiles in science and technology destined to uplift humanity.

To support her use of Hagley Library collections, Currie received an Exploratory Research Grant from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society. More information on funding opportunities for research at Hagley can be found here.

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Interview and production by Gregory Hargreaves.

Image: Cavalcade of America advertisement, 1940, AVD_1985259_03_07_01, Cavalcade of America photographs, (Accession 1985.259), Audiovisual Collections & Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, DE 19807.