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Gaslight: September in Media History - The LAMP

Gaslight: September in Media History

By September 3, 2009 News No Comments

 

Early Swanson TV dinner ad

Early Swanson TV dinner ad

September 10, 1953:

Swanson sells TV dinners. Why is this a big deal for media? For one thing, TV dinners mostly came into being because of, well…TV. By this time, television had become a mainstay for Americans, who were constant viewers of new shows like “I Love Lucy” and “The Bob Hope Show.” It makes sense that people would want a way to come home from work, relax, catch their favorite TV shows and eat dinner at the same time–with no cooking or cleaning to get in the way. The timing was also perfect because Swanson found itself with 520,000 pounds of turkey, and lacked the warehouse space to store it. Packing it up, freezing it and shipping it out was the solution, and dinner has never been quite the same since. Now, eating in front of the TV is cited as one reason why it can be the most harmful passive activity.

Fala and FDR

Fala and FDR

September 23, 1944 and 1952:

On this date in 1944, Franklin Roosevelt delivered his “Fala speech” as a response to Republican attacks being made against him at the time. A rumor had been going around that Roosevelt’s beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala, had been left behind when FDR was visiting the Aleutian Islands, and that the distraught president had sent a destroyer to retrieve the dog at great cost to taxpayers. While campaigning for the 1944 election, Roosevelt invoked the story during a speech made at a campaign fundraising dinner, saying, “These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala…I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.” This speech was later known as the “Fala speech,” and humanized Roosevelt while making Republican attackers appear desperate and strained.

Nixon and Checkers

Nixon and Checkers

Exactly eight years later in 1952, inspired by the Fala speech, Richard Nixon (who was then a US Senator and the Republican nominee for Vice President) delivered his famous “Checkers speech.” Nixon had been accused of misusing money from a fund which had been set up to reimburse the candidate for his campaign expenses, and answered the accusations with a radio and television address defending himself. He mentioned that there was one gift he would not give back, and that was the black and white cocker spaniel sent by an admirer in Texas, which his daughter named Checkers. After the address, Nixon received an outpouring of support from the public, and he remained on the ticket despite the scandal. The Checkers speech was one of the first times television was used by a politician to appeal directly to voters on an emotional level, endowing him with an image as a man of the people.

And who knows? Perhaps on the 65th anniversary of the Fala speech, we’ll get an update on Bo Obama.