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Archives on the Air 286: Radio Pioneer – Thomas H. Cowan papers

Tommy Cowan started his career as a radio announcer in New Jersey in 1921 and then moved on to New York City. He spent nearly 40 years in the broadcast industry at radio station WNYC.

Cowan pioneered live studio guest performances and was the first to broadcast a baseball game. He was also instrumental in having opera broadcast on the radio for the first time.

When Cowan retired in 1961 he had covered more of New York City’s special events than any radio broadcaster anywhere. Early WNYC programs included speeches by the mayor, police updates and the occasional Street Cleaning Band performance.

By the 1930s, the radio station had its own 35-piece orchestra. Music was an important part of the daily programming.

Learn more about the early days of radio in New York City in the Thomas H. Cowan papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.