Monday, June 4, 2012

Elliott Roosevelt's Radio Network

Creating "Cowtown"

Joseph B. Googins, manager of the Swift meat packing company, moved to Fort Worth from Chicago shortly after Fort Worth city fathers enticed Swift, in June 1901, to build a rail head plant in the Texas city. Although Amon Carter is sometimes given credit for securing the move which created numerous jobs in the Fort Worth stockyards, newspaper articles in 1901 credited Winfield Scott and L.V. Niles with the making the trip to Chicago proposing the move.

This construction promised to save the Chicago packers money to drive live cattle to Chicago for slaughter. Googins then became a wealthy Fort Worth businessman, one of the seven original directors of the Fort Worth Belt Railroad of the first board in 1903. Other
Swift and Armour owned the land jointly where plants were built.
directors included George B. Robbins, who was also director of the Armour Co., and  O.W. Matthews, manager and secretary of the Fort Worth Stock Yards Company.

Amon Carter was one of the six incorporators of the Star-Telegram in 1909, along with its president and editor, Louis J. Wortham (no obvious relation of Suite 8-F member Gus Wortham). L.J. Wortham had been close to Paul Waples who formed the Texas World's Fair Commission for the St. Louis exposition in 1904 before launching, with Amon G. Carter and others, the afternoon Star, which later merged with The Telegram.

Googins served as a vice president for a time of Stock Yards National Bank at 115 E. Exchange and helped develop the city of North Fort Worth Townsite area now known as the Stockyards neighborhood. It should not be overlooked that Googins had migrated to Texas from Chicago, where he undoubtedly had connections to agencies handling the advertising of meat products, a business detail that would factor into Ruth's later involvement in radio ownership.

Corner of N. Commerce and Exchange in north Fort Worth.  
In the photo at right, the Stockyards offices and the Exchange Club building are in the center, across the street from the Stockyards Bank of which Googins had been an officer before his death in 1922. Eleven years later his daughter, Ruth, met one of the sons of then recently-inaugurated President Franklin Roosevelt, Elliott, who just happened to be in the city on his way to Arizona, as shown in the wedding announcement below:

Elliott Roosevelt to wed Fort Worth girl,

Political Wedding?

In 1939 Ruth purchased a radio station--one made famous in an earlier day by local "Elmer Gantry" type preacher named J. Frank Norris. Radio was the Facebook and Google of those days--giving advertisers a platform from which to spread the capitalistic bilge to influence the public to buy whatever they were selling at the time. Those who financed President Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930's hoped they were buying political power, and they spread their money around to his children in the hope of advancing their own cause, namely deeper pockets for themselves.

Anti-Roosevelt author Emanuel M. Josephson in 1948, looking back on that capital investment in radio, wrote  in The Strange Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt: A History of the Roosevelt-Delano Dynasty, America's Royal Family:
In 1938, with the support of Charles F. Roeser and Sid W. Richardson, Texas oil operators, who invested $500,000, Elliott set up a chain of 23 radio stations in Texas. This provided him, according to the Washington Times-Herald of August 29, 1945, with an income of $76,000 a year, more than his father earned as President of the United States. The enterprise is reported to have lost $100,000 in the first three months. The Transcontinental Broadcasting Company was liquidated in 1941.
Breaking into Radio

The formal announcement about Elliott's new radio network was made in Chicago on Halloween 1939, after Elliott and six investors, mostly from the Missouri area, incorporated in Delaware, hoping to compete with CBS, NBC and the Mutual Network. Elliott's stock ownership was represented on the board by John T. Adams, general manager of the Texas state network, was named chairman of the board of the Transcontinental Broadcasting System.

Elliott had flown to New York at the end of November to reveal that the headquarters of the network would be in the General Electric building at 570
Lexington avenue—51st and Lexington —in New York City and would take up three floors of the building. William A. Porter, a Washington attorney, was given the job of vice president, and H.J. Brennan was the treasurer. Porter had handled Elliott's role in the Federal Communications Commission's monopoly investigation of the radio industry when the President's son, as head of the Texas State Network, testified in February 1939.

About Elliott, the November press announcement stated:
Fresh out of Princeton, young Elliott got his first job with the advertising firm of Albert Frank- Guenther Law, Inc. He lasted two years before talk, occasioned by the surpassing eagerness of companies to become his clients, forced him to move on. He tried the aviation business, but the clamor attending several deals made life unbearable. The future seemed no brighter when he went to work for William Randolph Hearst, as vice president of Hearst Radio, Inc., in charge of four stations in Texas and Oklahoma, and president of Hearst- owned KFJZ in Fort Worth.... 
In June, 1937, Elliott's wife, the former Ruth Googins of Fort Worth, contracted in her own name to buy KFJZ. Price of the  100-watt station was $57,000. Three months later, Elliott bought another 100-watter, KABC, in San Antonio, under his own name for $55,000. Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt put their two stations together in the Frontier Broadcasting System, made a go of it. And last: year KFJZ and KABC became the outlets of the Texas state network, Elliott Roosevelt president. Today, TSN has 23 member stations, a base advertising rate of $1,218.37 per hour, and calls itself the fourth largest network in the world.
Since he's been in the radio business, Elliott has made news out of all proportion to the importance of his little station. As a regular commentator on his own network, he got in solid with Texans by becoming one of the state's biggest boosters—second only to Amon Carter. He set himself "right'' politically by becoming a pal of John Nance Garner, which nicely counterbalances his presidential relationship. And he's become a national figure since Emerson Radio began sponsoring his comments on a coast- to- coast hookup on Mutual Broadcasting System. 
The inference could be made that Elliott's real boss, however, was his father, who was already looking ahead to the technological changes taking shape that were to change the face of political campaigning. Elliott was given the task of putting in place an infrastructure from which to launch FDR's final run for the Presidency in 1940:


Selling Soap and Politics?

Blackett-Sample-Hummert (B-S-H), founded in 1923 in Chicago, where Ruth Googins was born, wrote ads for Procter and Gamble, producing daytime radio dramas promoting the company's soap products--thus inspiring the term "soap operas”." According to Time Magazine, "in 1938 B-S-H had placed orders for $9,000,000 worth of air time. This was about one-eighth of all money paid for radio network time and over $3,700,000 more than B-S-H's nearest competitor spent."

Possibly the purchase of the network had been inspired as a result of a column written by Drew Pearson and his then-partner, Robert S. Allen, in 1936, which called B-S-H a "group of high-pressure ad men ... hatching ideas to unsell Roosevelt to the country and sell Landon in his place. Their aim is to get away from the barnstorming campaign speech, the baby-kissing, the torch-light processions, and make the housewife and the workingman anti-Roosevelt conscious." Pearson credited Hill Blackett, the senior member of the firm with developing "a new type of campaign ... at republican national headquarters in Chicago." He then went on to illustrate how the campaign would work:
First move in this campaign is a set of blackboards to be placed in grocery stores, on which will be chalked up three headings: PRICE—TAXES—TOTAL.
Thus the butcher, explaining the high price of meat to the housewife, merely points to the blackboard and shows how much of the total price she pays is allegedly made up of taxes. There is no indication anywhere about the blackboard that it is supplied by the republican national committee, and that is the beauty of the scheme. It automatically drives home the idea that Roosevelt is responsible for high taxes, without being labeled propaganda. This is the general type of campaigning the new idea-men are proposing. It is reported to have democratic strategists somewhat worried.
Note.—One brain child of the idea-man pictures a large Brazilian steer, supposed to represent the Importation of meat under Hull's reciprocity treaty. Fact is, however, that fresh meat from any South American country is flatly embargoed by an act of congress, over which Hull has no control. Canned meat comes not from Brazil, but from Argentina and Uruguay.
Hill Blackett had grown up in Iowa, then managed an advertising company in Oakland before moving to Winnetka, Illinois. He was head of public relations for the Republican National Committee in 1936, and his firm was located in downtown Chicago at 221 N. LaSalle.

No comments: