Historically Yours: Radio comes to Missouri farmers

Elizabeth Davis
Special to Boonville Daily News

The marriage between the Missouri Board of Agriculture’s Marketing Bureau, which was created in 1919, and that new-fangled medium called radio took place in March 1922 when a radio transmitter was installed on the roof floor of the Missouri Capitol. It was only the seventh transmitter of its kind in the United States.

Radio station WOS, which stood for “Watch Our State," was meant to “promote effectual and economic methods of marketing farm products.”

On Dec. 1, 1922, Arthur T. Nelson became the first State Marketing Commissioner and it didn’t take him long to realize WOS could do more than broadcast market information to farmers.

Soon professors from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture in Columbia were giving agricultural lectures and the Missouri State Penitentiary Band and Orchestra was providing music.

Market information came from the US Department of Agriculture and was broadcast the first fifteen minutes of every hour from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. At the time, radios were rare.

There might only be one or two in the whole community so people would gather wherever a radio happened to be such as banks, county offices, and drugstores. Those with radios were instructed by the Bureau to record the news on forms they provided and then distribute the information by word-of-mouth and through the local press.

Radios did not remain scarce for long. By 1927, there were more than 70,000 radios on Missouri farms. Religious services had began broadcasting on Sunday evenings.

Musical concerts were available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights from 8-9:30 p.m. Most Mondays, the music was provided by inmates from the penitentiary band and orchestra.

It seemed that radio was here to stay.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.davis@gmail.com.