War of the worlds

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War of the worlds

Posted in : Stuff we've written on by : wclendining Comments:

Seventy-eight years ago a remarkable media event occurred at a low-budget newcomer to the media arena. The Mercury Theatre on the Air, which had only been on CBS for 17 weeks and didn’t even have a sponsor, broadcast the radio play War of the worlds. This 55-minute play caught the attention of a huge audience and put the Mercury Theatre on the Air in the spotlight as well as the play’s director, Orson Welles.

On this 78th anniversary of the radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ novel War of the worlds, originally published in 1897, the Clendining household will be listening to War of the worlds thisOctober 31st.

Before we start, let’s consider the world as it was in 1938.

In 1938 …

  • 1938
    In 1938

Also in 1938:


  • Chester F. Carlson produces the first xerographic print.
  • Teflon is developed by Roy J. Plunkett at Du Pont.
  • George and Ladislav Biro invent the ballpoint pen.
  • U. Cerletti and L. Bini introduce electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or shock therapy, for the treatment of mental illness.
  • “Yankee Clipper” completes 1st passenger flight over Atlantic
  • Electronic television system patented (V K Zworykin)
  • Discovery of nuclear fission using uranium by Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann
  • Instant coffee invented


  • The Church of England accepts the theory of evolution.
  • The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, denounces Swing music as “a degenerated musical system… turned loose to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people”, warning that it leads down a “primrose path to hell”.


  • Superman 1st appears in DC Comics’ Action Comics Series issue #1
  • Comic strip “Dennis the Menace,” 1st appears
  • Ella Fitzgerald records “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”
  • Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is officially released

And politically:

  • Hitler seizes control of German army & puts Nazis in key posts
  • German troops entered Austria
  • Nazis plan Jewish ghettos for all major cities

(busy year)

Now onto our featured event.

The broadcast

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