Keeping Up With the Robinsons

In its heyday in the late 1930s, the soapy radio serial The American Family Robinson aired on more than 300 U.S. radio stations. But as listeners followed the travails of Luke Robinson, a small-town newspaper editor, and his eccentric family, they were getting a heavy dose of political propaganda. Created in 1934 by the National Industrial Council—a front for the powerful National Association of Manufacturers—the program interlaced its plot with frequent screeds against New Deal policies and praise for unfettered capitalism. A second set of episodes was made in 1940, chronicling the U.S.’s preparations for World War II.

Few of the original sixteen-inch discs, which were made from an experimental type of acetate that degrades quickly, have survived. Randy Riddle, a technology consultant at Duke, collected fourteen of the rare discs, comprising forty episodes, and donated them (along with other recordings) to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, making it the only library in the country with a set of the discs.



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