[Robert M. Hutchins, Floyd Reeves, and John McCloy, in Mitchell Tower, November 26, 1944]
“0n February 4, 1931, three University of Chicago professors sat around an already antiquated microphone in Mitchell Tower for an unrehearsed discussion of a new government report on prohibition. It was one of the earliest informal, “round table” discussions of a public issue ever heard on radio. To broadcast the program, Chicago station WMAQ had to waive its standing rule against ad-libbing on the air.
“That first experiment led to the long-running University of Chicago Round Table radio program. In the mid-1930s, WMAQ’s parent network, NBC, picked up the program for broadcast nationally on Sunday afternoons. Much of the program’s success was due to William Benton, co-founder of the Benton and Bowles advertising agency, a trustee and vice-president of the University, who saw early the power mass media could have in presenting the University to the public.”
– From the online catalog, The University and the City: A Centennial View of the University of Chicago
Seen here are behind-the-scenes production photos of the Round Table featuring Robert Maynard Hutchins, President of the University and a driving force in educational reform.
Transcripts of these radio programs were published as pamphlets and can be checked out from the library or read in Special Collections.
The round table itself – actually triangular in shape and covered in green felt – sits in the Special Collections reading room!