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WHA and Wisconsin Accessible Radio helped set the arrangement for what became NPR. This year marks the station’s centennial.

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One of the oldest radio stations in this country celebrates its 100th altogether this year, Wisconsin Accessible Radio on WHAA. WHA AM helped advance the framework for the accessible radio arrangement we’re accustomed with today. So we asked WPR’s Maureen McCollum to acquaint us about her station’s legacy.

MAUREEN MCCOLLUM, BYLINE: By the additional decade of the 20th century, a lot of bodies were experimenting with wireless radio transmissions, admitting best of it was in Morse code. But in aboriginal 1917, University of Wisconsin physics abettor Earle Terry capital to try article abroad – broadcasting audio.

RANDALL DAVIDSON: He’d been alive with the technology and knew what a big accord this was, what its amount was.

MCCOLLUM: Former Wisconsin Accessible Radio host Randall Davidson wrote a book on the history of the station. He says Abettor Terry arrive the who’s who of Madison over, angry on the radio in his active allowance while a aide on campus alone the aggravate on a adaptation of this song.


DAVIDSON: I anticipate the added academics that were with him, alike bodies in his department, didn’t apprehend what an important affair this was to be able address sound.

MCCOLLUM: Alike admitting this was one of the aboriginal over-the-air broadcasts of audio, best bodies didn’t see the use. The few who had radios at the time acclimated them to accept time checks and acclimate forecasts via Morse code.

DAVIDSON: So bodies would tune in to get these time signals to accord their watches and clocks and so forth. And again you could tune bottomward and get the acclimate forecast. And that’s appealing abundant your advertisement alert for the day.

MCCOLLUM: It was mostly farmers who were deciphering these Morse cipher signals from a scattering of stations in the Midwest. Best stations went aphotic during World War I. But what became accepted as WHA connected broadcasting for the aggressive in Wisconsin. In 1921, three years afterwards the war ended…

DAVIDSON: We started accomplishing a approved circadian advertisement over the apex hour of acclimate and acreage markets.

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MCCOLLUM: These audio letters lasted for decades.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It’s 12:30. The College of Agriculture presents the midday acreage program.

MCCOLLUM: Here’s an archetype from 1960.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We wouldn’t be afraid to see robins with earmuffs or a tulip bloom abounding with snow today in Madison or anywhere in Wisconsin, for that matter, on this cold, clammy and ambivalent May Monday.

MCCOLLUM: In the 1920s and ’30s, bartering radio stations beyond the country were arena music, ball and accessible diplomacy programs. But as a noncommercial station, WHA had a specific educational mission and drew on the university’s assets to actualize shows like the “Homemakers’ Program.”


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Today, we accept with us in the flat an ascendancy on one of Wisconsin’s best important articles – cheese.

MCCOLLUM: WHA managers took that mission a footfall added afterwards audition children’s programming on Chicago’s NBC station. They created “Wisconsin’s Academy Of The Air.”


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: That gay little tune, boys and girls, is the one that you’re activity to attending advanced to anniversary week.

MCCOLLUM: Kids sketched with “Let’s Draw.”


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I appetite you to bethink absolute adamantine and draw for me a account of the funniest affair that happened to you aftermost summer.

MCCOLLUM: They got artistic with “Let’s Write.”


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Today is cat day. Well, you ability say today that bodies are our pur-puss (ph). (Laughter) You’ll absolution the pun, won’t you?

MCCOLLUM: Sure. It was cheesy. And sometimes it could be a bit boring. But WHA forth with stations in Ohio and Iowa were advised innovators, says Josh Shepperd. He’s an abettor assistant at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and the administrator of the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force.

JOSH SHEPPERD: They started to accomplish diplomacy transcriptions, they alleged them. Basically, they apprenticed annal of programs. And again they would administer them. So best of the best programming came out of Wisconsin because they absolutely were aggravating to bout bartering aesthetics.

MCCOLLUM: Shepperd says these educational radio programs are precursors to what would become accessible radio. And one of the acceptance singing and cartoon forth with WHA in his tiny country academy in Madison was Bill Siemering.

BILL SIEMERING: Twice a day, the abecedary would about-face on the radio, and we would accept to the “Wisconsin’s Academy Of The Air.” So I abstruse art, music, attributes studies, amusing studies, science all by radio.

MCCOLLUM: This had a huge appulse on Siemering. He eventually went on to assignment at WHA in the 1950s. Afterwards that, he helped appearance the complete of Civic Accessible Radio as its aboriginal diplomacy administrator in the 1970s.

SIEMERING: Really, from the actual beginning, it was the abstraction of application radio for amusing good.

MCCOLLUM: Siemering gives a lot of acclaim to WHA for allowance appearance his aesthetics at NPR. For example, he put women on the air – a aberration on the civic akin but accepted in Wisconsin.

SIEMERING: And, of course, we had a communicative style. It wasn’t necessarily the articulation of ascendancy from New York – the white male. It would allege with abounding choir in abounding dialects to be inclusive.

MCCOLLUM: Another WHA employee, Don Voegeli, alike composed the All Things Advised affair on a synthesizer in his Madison office.


MCCOLLUM: It’s appear a continued way from this.


MCCOLLUM: But maybe not. For NPR News, I’m Maureen McCollum in Madison, Wis.


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NPR transcripts are created on a blitz borderline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced application a proprietary archetype action developed with NPR. This argument may not be in its final anatomy and may be adapted or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The accurate almanac of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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