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CBS Radio 1967 (Photo credit: Nesster)

See? No effect whatsoever.

But exactly seventy-five years ago today, using a far less technical device … the radio … folks bought this.

I should probably call this blog post The Life And Untimely Death of the Mercury Theatre on the Air.

Allow me to step back. Back to 1938 … July 11th to be exact … CBS Radio started a nice little radio show called The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Folks listened to the radio back then. A lot.

As Wikipedia says …

The series began July 11, 1938, as a sustaining program on the CBS Radio network, airing Mondays at 9 p.m. ET. On September 11, 1938, the show moved to Sundays at 8 p.m.

So they moved it on 9/11. Not a good date as we all know now. But of course 911 had no meaning back then. And they employed the services of one Orson Welles.

Bet they are glad they did that.

wellesThis man, Orson Welles, who looks like he is about twelve to me in this picture, was really 23 at the time. But then everybody looks like they are twelve to me these days.

At any rate, it seems that this man decided to spice up folks Sunday night.

Sunday night … October 30, 1938, specifically.

Actually, he had been hired to do a 13 week summer series. So if my calendar app here serves me correctly, this was week 17 of a 13 week gig.

This is what happens when you keep something beyond its expiration date.

Everyone knows the story. Orson Welles did a radio show in which he pretended to be a real news anchor.

Again, we all know what happens when people pretend to be presenting news but it is really just entertainment. But I digress.

Since it was a sustaining show on CBS Radio, that meant it ran without commercials. So when Orson started the show as a News Broadcast … and continued for two-thirds of the 62 minute show … folks thought it was real.

No a lot of big H G Wells fans out there, I guess.

Panic ensued.

The Mercury Theatre on the Air lasted exactly five more shows after that. At which point Campbell Soups bought the thing out.

The Mercury Theatre on the Air made its last broadcast December 4, 1938, and The Campbell Playhouse began December 9, 1938.

Oh, and Orson Welles became wildly famous.

I wonder if they need someone to do some radio shows up at the station? I’d be really good at that.

And Public Radio doesn’t do commercials …