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Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language this week. I salute to the American press. By sharing a lot of the writings of our country past and present. We can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in the contemporary world. This week's program is the first of two successive programs which will take that content from the newspapers of our nation. Listen to the land is produced by station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now here is your host and narrator Richard S. Burdick Dear Editor. I am eight years old. I love my little fantasy say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says if you feel the sadness so please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa
Claus. Virginia O'Hanlon 115 West 94 Street New York New York. I should quickly explain that our announcer Jim Keeler introduced me in good faith but I double crossed him by asking my daughter Doreen to start this week's program. Reading a letter written in the month of December 1897 just prior to Christmas to the editor of The New York Sun one of America's great newspapers now deceased daughter your father the editor of The Sun gave Virginia Hanlon's letter to an editorial writer by the name of Frances Peet church who answered it in the form of another Tauriel that has endured through the years perhaps the most famous editorial ever written. I want to read that editorial for you in just a moment. Although it's on the subject of Santa Claus which is certainly seasonal in nature this has a place in this week's program because as Jim Keeler told you this week we're going to listen to
the land in terms of the American press the newspapers of America form a massive significant cornerstone to the structure of American life. No citizen who feels an adult identity with his existence and participation in his local state national or international surroundings can fully realize that identity without reading one or more newspapers. And yet in our eagerness to get the news hot off the press we sometimes lose sight of the fact that many of the words printed on that pop stock deposited on our doorsteps each day can be classed among the finest writing in the country. Let's allow a few of these items to speak for themselves. As for the next 30 minutes we sort of look over the editor's shoulder at writings which we've pulled more or less at random from newspapers and various sections of the country and we will be careful not to take as our guide a weather report that one day appeared in The New Orleans Times-Picayune forecast for Louisiana
fair Saturday and Sunday. Not much change in literature. Now here is the editorial by Francis Church from the New York Sun. He replied to the letter by saying Virginia. You know little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe. Except they see they think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds Virginia whether they be men's or childrens are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect an ant in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the world of truth and knowledge. Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist. And you know that they are bound to give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginian's there would be no child like faith and no poetry no romance to make tolerable this existence we should have no enjoyment except incense and sight the eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus. Well you might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch and all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down what would that prove. Nobody sees Santa Claus but that's no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn. Course not but that's no proof that they are not
there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside. But there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest men nor even the United strength of all the strongest man that ever lived could tear apart only faith fancy poetry love romance can push aside the curtain and view and picture the soprano beauty and glory beyond. Is that all real. Virginia in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Clause. Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now Virginia nay ten times ten thousand years from now he will continue to make
glad the heart of childhood. The New York Sun which published that editorial by Francis peach church began publication in 1833 as a one cent paper and it was a pioneer in American journalism. One of America's model newspapers really a newspaper man's newspaper. It was it was called it's a shame that its voice is no longer heard in the land it was edited by Charles A. Dana one of the most dynamic and revered men of the American newspaper world. It's amazing though that even in a paper of the dignity and conscientiousness of the sun exemplified in that Santa Clause editorial that occasionally even they would slip on an editorial banana peel as illustrated in this next item also taken from an issue of the sun which purports to tell my lady the easy
graceful way to remove her coat. The expert model way to remove your coat is so simple. You are going to wonder why you never thought of it. Now grasp both sides of your coat on a level with your collarbone. Slipped the entire neckline down to about two inches below your shoulder joints. Now slide both hands behind your back when they touch. Use the third and middle finger of your left hand to grasp your left cuff the fore finger and thumb of your left hand to grasp your right cuff withdraw your right arm from its sleeve as you pull both sleeves forward to your left side just above waist level. Now transfer the grip you've got on both sleeves to the right hand as you slide your left arm out of its sleeve until it grips the center of your coat. Why not you're out. All you have to do now is drop the sleeves and hand your coat by the nape to the attendant. I can envision a mad rush of women now making a dash for their closets to get out their coats and
practice that technique. Matter of fact the exercise might be very good for the figure. It's one of the great enduring traits of our American press. But along with its foreboding headlines and accounts of atrocities and gloom which it is obligated to report it also provides many a chuckle sometimes not intentionally. For example here's a clipping from Dr. Morris Fishbein excellent column as published in an issue of the Chicago Sun Times. Mrs. C. S. writes Are there any harmful effects from eating regular laundry starch. I eat a pound box every two weeks. Answer. It is not desirable to eat laundry starch as it does not provide vitamins proteins or essential mineral salts area. The first daily newspaper published in America was the American Daily
Advertiser established in Philadelphia in 1774 by Benjamin Franklin Bash. That was the first daily actually the first newspaper in America was published in 60 90 in Boston Massachusetts. It was called public occurrences. And at first it was suppressed by the colonial government but later resumed publication. Today there are approximately 17 150 daily newspapers in America with an aggregate circulation of 50 million persons. There are 8000 small town weeklies with a distribution of more than 14 million each week. An alley cat named Mehitabel is the only feline known to me to have written a syndicated newspaper column. Several books and two have had a Broadway musical written about her Mehitabel was the
creation of an astute sensitive newspaper man named Donald Robert Perry Marquess and she enlivened his columns in The New York Sun and The Herald Tribune from 1927 to 1935. Don Marquess wrote plays and novels which have died quiet deaths but it will be a long time before the Life goes out of the collaboration of Mehitabel the cat and her friend Archie the cockroach. If by some singular chance you are not acquainted with this remarkable pair you can read about their lives and times in a book published by Doubleday and Illustrated by George Herriman Well we read the lives and times of Archie and Mehitabel we must be impressed by the qualities of imagination intellect and sheer hard work that go into good humorous writing. This is humorous writing with social commentary. Here is a letter from the head of dhal which appeared in The New York Sun on December 20
1919 when Don MarkWest was writing for that paper and when the city hall press seemed to be having a little trouble with the mayor. Well Archie Mehitabel says to me as I cannot work the typewriter would you mind writing an open letter for me in the sundial. Here goes I said. And he dictated as follows. To the city government. I hear you are thinking of employing a lot of cats. Six dollars and a half a year to keep the rats and mice from eating the archives and the tired employees in the city offices. I can understand that when an employee goes to sleep he might be in great danger of being eaten. Why do you want some cats with class to them. And you will not be able to get them for the money. Now I have a large feline acquaintance one or two of them are cats almost as big as a tiger. No reflection on Tammany is intended. I could get you the services of hundreds of cats with a decent wage. But first it would take a little
propaganda to get the right sort of cats interested in the idea. A fund is necessary for the propaganda. I would be willing to administer this fund and get recruits and organize them for a good salary but lay off the $6 and a half of your stuff. Communicate any offer you have to make to ARCI. My publicity agent and general business representative McKidd about the cat per ARCI dictated but not read. P.S. tell the mayor if the price is right I can get a cat for the reporters room at the City Hall. Who would be able to lead a reporter in four or five bites and who would be willing to do so if properly approached. All the mayor would need to do would be to point out which reporter and this cat would do the rest. Or we might agree on a flat rate for all the reporters. We could say 10 reporters a year for $10 dollars a reporter. Just as soon as one reporter has eaten another will of course take its place. They are fearless creatures these reporters always willing to go to their death without stopping to make a will. But for a
thousand dollars a year I will agree to keep the city hall clear of reporters for at least three days a week. But first the propaganda fund Mehitabel purred. Archie. News takes many forms and shapes depending upon the character of the paper in the town which is published as well as the citizens of that town. For example what would appeal to the majority of readers in the New York Times would not have the same attraction naturally to the readers of say the Bircher evening eagle. Local news is always of prime interest to the people of a community and local newspapers are careful to fill their pages with as many items concerning local residents as possible. Here's an eyebrow raiser from Helensburgh
Colorado has carried in the Brocton enterprise times. One of Colorado's oldest citizens and a resident of Walsenburg for almost a century died here yesterday. Mrs. Clear office Quintana was around 104 years old at the time of her death her grandmother said the Fich Weekly Review published an article which contained a paragraph in which it's difficult to argue this is one of those big buildup to a big letdown. Types of writing there no longer exists any such thing as a foreign war. That type of warfare vanished when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Wars will now come to our homes no longer will they be the burdens of civilians of other lands alone guided missiles. New and Improved gases vile bacterial warfare and bombing on our shores will mark wars of the future plans will be destroyed property ruined spirits crushed and bodies maimed.
These things would result in a declining securities market. The Bainbridge Island Washington review published this social note which comes under the non sequitur having a broken leg resulted from the fall which Mrs. R B Ross had in Winslow last week X-rays showed Mrs. Ross's home but her leg broken just below the knee is in a cast. Well we can find laughter in the daily press and we can find tears particularly in the spell of a craftsman journalist one of the most moving editorials ever written printed and reprinted many times and countless anthologies. And for that reason this program could not be complete without it. Is the editorial written by William Allen White famed editor of the Emporia Gazette Emporia Kansas. Upon the death of his daughter Mary a high school student originally published in May 17
1921. This editorial by William Allen White captured his great grief as a bereaved parent but without self-pity without even sentiment and its lack the most superficial form quite captured in words that have endured through the years the gay sunlit spirit of his active fun loving daughter and by implying rather than stating the tragedy of her shocking death. It's made all the more moving. Here's an example of truly beautiful writing from the Daily Press. The Associated Press reports carrying the news of Mary White's death declared that it came as a result of a fall from a horse. How she would have hooted at that she never fell from a horse in her life. Horses have fallen on her. And with her I'm always trying to hold it in my lap she used to say but she was proud of a few things and one was that she could ride anything that had four legs and hair. Her death
resulted not from a fall but from a blow on the head which fractured her skull and the blow came from the limb of an overhanging tree on the parking. The last hour of her life was typical of its happiness. She came home from a day's work at school. Topped off by a hard grind with a copy on the high school annual and felt that a ride would refresher. She climbed into her khakis chattering to her mother about the work she was doing and hurried to get her horse and be out on the dirt roads for the country air and the radiant green fields of spring. As she rode through the town on an easy gallop she kept waving at passers by. She knew everyone in town for a decade the little figure with a long pigtail and the red hair ribbon has been familiar on the streets of Emporia and she got in the way of speaking to those who nodded at her. She passed the Kurs walking the horse in front of the normal library and waved at them past another friend a few hundred feet further on and waved at her. The horse was walking and as she turned into North merchant street she took off her cowboy
hat and the horse swung into a lope. She passed the triplets and waved her cowboy hat at them still moving gaily north on merchant street. I guess that carrier passed a high school boyfriend and she waved at him with her bridle hand. The horse veered quickly plunged into the parking where the low hanging limb faced her and while she still looked back waving the blow came. But she did not fall from the horse. She slipped off dazed a bit staggered and fell in a faint. She never quite regained consciousness. But she did not fall from the horse. Neither was she riding fast. A year or so ago she used to go like the wind but that habit was broken and she used the horse to get into the open to get fresh hard exercise and to work off a certain surplus energy that welled up in her and needed a physical outlet. The need had been in her heart for years. It was back of the impulse that kept the little brown clad figure on the streets and country roads of this community
and built into a strong muscular body. What had been a frail and sickly frame during the first years of her life. But the writing gave her more than a body at least a gay and hearty soul. She was the happiest thing in the world and she was happy because she was enlarging her horizon. She came to know all sorts and conditions of men. Charley O'Bryan the traffic cop was one of her best friends w l Holts the Latin teacher was another Tom O'Connor farmer politician and Rev. J H.J. Rice preacher and police judge and Frank beach music master were her special friends and all the girls black and white above the track and below the track and pedophile and Springtown were among her acquaintances and she brought home riotous stories of her of her adventures. Loved to rollick persiflage was their natural expression at home. Her humor was a continual bubble of joy. She seemed to think in the hyperbole and metaphor she
was mischievous without malice as full of faults as an old shoe. No angel was Mary White but an easy girl to live with. She never nursed a grouch five minutes in her life within the last two years she began to be moved by an ambition to draw. She began as most children do by scribbling in her school books. Funny Pictures. She bought cartoon magazines and took a course rather casually naturally for she was after all a child and with no strong purposes. And this year she tasted the first fruits of success by having her pictures accepted by the high school annual. But the thrill of delight she got when Mr. ecord the normal annual ask her to do the cartooning for that book this spring was too beautiful for words. She fell to her work with all her enthusiastic heart. Her drawings were accepted and her pride always repressed by a lively sense of the ridiculousness of the figure she was cutting was a really gorgeous thing to see.
No successful artist ever drank a deeper draught of satisfaction than she took from the little fame her work was getting among her schoolfellows in her glory. She almost forgot her horse but never her car for she used the car as a jitney bus. It was her social life she never had a party and all her nearly 17 years wouldn't have one but she never drove a block in the car in her life that she didn't begin to fill the car with pickups. Everybody rode with Mary White old and young rich and poor men and women. She liked nothing better than to fill the car full of long legged high school boys and an occasional girl and parade the town. She never had a date nor went to a dance except once with her brother Bill and the boy proposition didn't interest her yet. But young people great spring breaking varnished cracking Fender bending doors sagging carloads of kids gave her great
pleasure her zzzzz were keen but the most fun she ever had in her life was acting as chairman of the committee that got up the big turkey dinner for the poor folks at the county home. Scores of pies gallons of slaw jam cakes preserves oranges and a wilderness of Turkey were loaded in the car and taken to the county home and being of a practical turn of mind. She risked her own Christmas dinner by staying to see that the poor folks actually got it all. Not that she was a cynic she just didn't like to tempt folks. She never wanted help for herself. Clothes meant little to her. It was a fight to get a new rig on her. But eventually a harder fight to get it off. She never wore a jewel and had no ring but her high school class ring and never asked for anything but a wristwatch. She refused to have her hair up. She was already seventeen. Mother she protested you don't know how much I get by with my braided pigtails that I could not with my
hair up and every other passion of her life was her passion not to grow up to be a child. The tomboy in her which was big seemed to loathe to be put away forever in skirts. She was Peter Pan who refused to go up. Her funeral yesterday at the Congregational Church was as she would have wished it. No singing no flowers save the big bunch of red roses from her brother Bill's Harvard classman. Heavens how proud that would have made her and the red roses from the gods that force and vases at her head and feet. A short prayer. Paul's beautiful essay on love from the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Some remarks about her Democratic spirit by her friend John H.J. Rice
pastor and police judge which she would have deprecated if she could a prayer sent down for her by her friend Carl now and opening the service. The slow poignant movement from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata which she loved and closing the service cutting from the joyously melancholy first movement of Tchaikovsky's patho Teac Symphony which she liked to hear in certain moods on the phonograph. Then the Lord's Prayer by her friends in the high school. That was all for her pallbearers only her friends were chosen. Her Latin teacher W-well hopes her high school principal rice brown her doctor Frank fun Canon her friend W. Finney her pal at the Gazette office Walter Hughes and her brother Bill. It would have made her smile to know that her friend Charlie O'Bryan the traffic cop had been
transferred from six than commercial to the corner near the church to direct her friends who came to bid her goodbye. A rift in the clouds and a grey day through a shaft of sunlight upon her coffin as her nervous energetic little body sank to its last sleep. But the soul of her the glowing gorgeous fervent soul of her surely was flaming an eager joy upon some other dawn. This has been part one of a two part salute to the American press. If you enjoyed it you may also find reward in part two which will come to you over this same station next week at this time. With a special emphasis on the unique
character and flavor of our nation's country press. I look forward to being with you at that time. As once more we listen to the land. Until then. As is Dick Burdick saying. So. Long. We. Listen to the land was produced and recorded at station w h y y Philadelphia. Under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasting. This is James Keylor inviting you to be with us next week for part two of our salute to the American press featuring as host and narrator Richard Burdick on listen to the land. This is the N.A. Eby Radio Network. The
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Listen to the land
Salute to American press, part one
Producing Organization
WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, pays tribute to the American press.
Series Description
America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Schmidt, Karl
Writer: Church, Francis Pharcellus, 1839-1906
Writer: Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976
Writer: Marquis, Don, 1878-1937
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:20
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Chicago: “Listen to the land; Salute to American press, part one,” 1960-01-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2024,
MLA: “Listen to the land; Salute to American press, part one.” 1960-01-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Listen to the land; Salute to American press, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from