US & World

KDKA Pittsburgh broadcast presidential election results for the first time 90 years ago

Old radio
Old radio
Ian Hayhurst/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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It wasn't possible in this country to tune in for election news on the radio until 90 years ago Tuesday. A pioneering broadcast helped open the way for the multimedia landscape we inhabit now.

Ubiquitous as it is today – even after the arrival of television, MP3 players and other mass media – it’s hard to believe that radio used to be a novelty. But it was in 1920.

That's when KDKA in Pittsburgh launched its inaugural broadcast as the first-ever commercial radio station. Its very first program was the results of the wide-open presidential election that had pitted Republican Ohio U.S. Senator Warren Harding against Democratic Ohio Governor James Cox.

American voters, weary after the unprecedented Great War, responded to Harding’s call for “a return to normalcy.” Men – and, for the first time, women – elected him by an almost 2-to-1 margin. People with the equipment to receive the broadcast signal were among the first to hear that news – and KDKA continues today as the CBS-owned all-news “voice of Pittsburgh.”