The March of Time radio newsreel, created by radio executive Fred Smith along with Time magazine circulation director Roy Larsen, debuted on March 6, 1931 on CBS Radio with Time Inc. as the main sponsor. The series dramatized the news and reenacted events from its inception through 1942 when it became a regular news program using direct reports from Time correspondents. It led to the creation of The March of Time newsreel series. The radio news program continued until 1945.

Sound effects specialists on “March of Time” program. Circa 1931. Culver Pictures, Inc. Accessed from Wikimedia Commons.

The syndicated column “News of the Weird” began in 1988, but, based on the synopses of The March of Time radio episodes, American news organizations have been reporting on the oddities of life for much longer than that. Sprinkled among the more serious, and sometimes very grim, news stories, The March of Time radio broadcasts also included lighter, stranger, fare . . .

October 13, 1933Duluth, Minnesota – Dr. Thomas Hall Shasted predicts man will become being with one eye.”

Index, “The March of Time”, October 1933-April 1934, [page] 2. Time Inc. Annex Files, MS 3009.RG 39. New-York Historical Society.

March 8, 1935Daytona Beach, Fla. Clem Sohn flying under own wings. First man to fly with own wings . . . will stay up longer next time when more warmly clad!”
October 16, 1935New York City. Traffic violator James Nelson has pocket picked in courtroom, cannot pay fine. His driver’s license taken too. Judge assigns special pickpocket detective for permanent courtroom duty.”
February 4, 1936Tampa, Florida. Nudist Maurice Allard unable to get a pilot for his ship, sails anyway for Virgin Islands with members of Vana Vana Nudist Society, goes aground on sand bar ten miles from Tampa. Sec’y Ickes doubts if Virgin Islands Governor Cramer will welcome nudists even though he did write a preface to a book on nudists.”
March 30, 1936London. In House of Commons W. Thorne, Labor party member, suggests that Anthony Eden get Hitler to marry, thinks he might quiet down, regain his balance, remove threats of European war.”
March 31, 1936Alfred, New York. Alfred University’s bee-fancier and scientist Dr. Lloyd R. Watson announces experiment to produce ‘hairy bee with a long tongue,’ will be more efficient in production of honey.”
June 1, 1936Cleveland, Ohio. Frank J. Loughney & Cliff Wilson attempt to give their 28 foot python a bath, are [caught] in its coils in 45 minute fight, finally freed by friends who came to their assistance. Loughney insists python is ‘really not bad at all’ — just a delicate creature!”
July 1, 1936Alcatraz Island Prison, California. Book ‘How to Swim in Ten Easy Lessons’ banned as unsuitable reading for convicts at Alcatraz Prison.”
July 10, 1936Minneapolis, Minnesota. Police alarm broadcast that a woman is screaming, ‘sounds like murder’ — officers find that she is just horribly hot, thought a good scream might help!”
January 21, 1937Washington, D. C. President Roosevelt is inaugurated. Received invitation to his own inauguration, gleefully sent his regrets to Admiral Grayson.”

[March of Time, Radio Index, October 1936 to April 1939, page 15]. Time Inc. Annex Files, MS 3009.RG 39. New-York Historical Society.

April 29, 1937Scotland. Legend of the fabulous Loch Ness Monster is revived again this spring for tourist trade. This week the director of the Bronx Zoo offers $25,000 to anyone who will produce the Monster and bring him to New York, alive and well, weighting eight tons and forty feet in length. Sir David Hunter Blair, 83-year-old Abbot of Benedictine Monastery announces that if anyone catches Nessie, he’ll be a Scot!”
August 5, 1937Des Moines, Iowa. Baby about to be born to Mr.& [sic] Mrs. Charley Tharp in trailer. Law of Iowa states woman not allowed to have baby in a trailer. Dr. Leininger, with assistants, accordingly converts trailer into residence by removing wheels, then issues birth certificate.”
December 9, 1937New York City. Mrs. John K. Roosa moves into a new apartment on East 74th Street and has telephone installed — Phone number is Rhinelander 4-7428, onetime Manhattan number of President Roosevelt. Receives numerous calls from people (James Roosevelt, etc.) wanting to speak to Roosevelt. Finally has phone disconnected.”
February 3, 1938New York. City Editor of the New York Journal-American, in the midst of a series of exposes [sic] on New York State’s Lunacy Commission, assigns reporter Allen Bernard to get completely lowdown on what goes on in Rockland County Hospital for Insane. Bernard has himself admitted under pretense of insanity, as Allen Carlin. When he tries to get out, after telling the doctors he’s a reporter, they humor him and keep him for another ten days. Psychiatrist-in-chief of Hospital says ‘He may be a reporter, but I still say he’s crazy.'”

[Click this image to access audio files from the episode of February 3, 1938.]

April 28, 1938Brooklyn, New York. Amos, the seal, escapes from Prospect Park Zoo four successive times. Irate keeper Patrick Murphy, who thought he knew something about seals, can’t understand it. Amos found waiting for streetcar; also wanders into Toll Gate Bar & Grill on Flatbush Avenue. Amos featured in N.Y.Department [sic] Store ads this week.”

The Time Inc. Archives microfilmed The March of Time radio and film continuities and scripts in 1981 according to an introduction note from the Time Inc. Archives included on the first reel. Time Inc. archivist Bill Hooper stated, “[I]n almost every case, [any microfilm] are the last surviving records (the hard copies tossed after microfilming).” As these may be the only copies in existence, the New-York Historical Society digitized the microfilm in 2019.

The digitization of microfilm from the Time Inc. Archive is made possible through the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

Odessa, Peggy, Virginia, and William Bjorkman listening to the radio. PR119, Herman A. Blumenthal photograph collection. New York Historical Society.

Bibliography:

  • Elson, Robert T., and Duncan Norton-Taylor. 1973. The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1941-1960. New York: Atheneum.
  • Hooper, Bill. Email to Henry Raine and Holly Deakyne, 27 June 2018.
  • Lorek, L. A. “Getting Wired on the Web for the Weird.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), October 8, 2000. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2000-10-08-0101050290-story.html.
  • “The March of Time.” Radio Hall of Fame. Accessed April 16, 2020. http://www.radiohalloffame.com/march-of-time.
  • Prendergast, Curtis, and Geoffrey Colvin. 1986. The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Changing Enterprise, 1960-1980. New York: Atheneum.

This post is by Holly Deakyne, Supervisory Archivist, Time Inc.

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