On this day in 1947, President Harry Truman (1884-1972) makes the first ever televised presidential address from the White House, asking Americans to cut back on their use of grain in order to help starving Europeans. At the time of Truman's food-conservation speech, Europe was still recovering from World War II and suffering from famine. Truman, the 33rd Commander in Chief, worried that if the U.S. did not provide food aid, his administration's Marshall Plan for European economic recovery would fall apart.
He asked farmers and distillers to reduce grain use and requested that the public voluntarily forgo meat on Tuesdays, eggs and poultry on Thursdays and save a slice of bread each day. The food programme was short-lived, as ultimately the Marshall Plan succeeded in helping to spur economic revitalisation and growth in Europe. In 1947, television was still in its infancy and the number of TV sets in U.S. homes only numbered in the thousands (by the early 1950s, millions of Americans owned TVs); most people listened to the radio for news and entertainment.
However, although the majority of Americans missed Truman's TV debut, his speech signalled the start of a powerful and complex relationship between the White House and a medium that would have an enormous impact on the American presidency, from how candidates campaigned for the office to how presidents communicated with their constituents. Each of Truman's subsequent White House speeches, including his 1949 inauguration address, was televised. In 1948, Truman was the first presidential candidate to broadcast a paid political ad. Truman pioneered the White House telecast, but it was actually President Franklin Roosevelt who was the first president to appear on TV – from the World's Fair in New York City on 30 April 1939. FDR's speech had an extremely limited TV audience though, airing only on receivers at the fairgrounds and at Radio City in Manhattan.
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On October 5, 1919, a young Italian car mechanic and engineer named Enzo Ferrari takes part in his first car race, a hill climb in Parma, Italy. He finished fourth. Ferrari was a good driver, but not a great one: In all, he won just 13 of the 47 races he entered. Many people say that this is because he cared too much for the sports cars he drove: He could never bring himself to ruin an engine i... Read more >
On this day in 1930, a British dirigible crashes in Beauvais, France, killing 49 people. The blimp, which was Great Britain’s biggest, had first been launched about a year earlier. In the 1920s, the major European nations competed with each other to build larger and larger blimps in order to gain control over the fledgling air-travel industry. As the decade came to an end, the R-101 was Great... Read more >
The Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign to end Chinese domination of Tibet. In 1950, China invaded Tibet and forced anti-religious legislation on the highly religious Tibetan people, who practice a unique form of Buddhism. Nine years later, Tibetans launched a major rebellion, which Chinese forces crushed. The Dalai Lama fled and ... Read more >