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1927: Diamond Jubilee broadcast links Canadians

The Story

Canadians have never been united as they are on July 1, 1927 -- Canada's Diamond Jubilee. Telegraph and telephone companies and 23 radio stations have forged a nationwide link to broadcast speeches, songs, poems and the peals of the carillon bells live from Ottawa. In this clip, taken from the earliest program in the CBC archives, the chairman of the Diamond Jubilee committee addresses the crowd on Parliament Hill and listeners across the Dominion. "Never before has there been such an attempt at globe-circling broadcasting as that which is being participated in today and tonight," says the chairman, Senator George P. Graham. The bilingual broadcast, hosted by Andy Ryan and Jacques Cartier, consists of three programs in the morning, afternoon and evening of Dominion Day.

Medium: Radio
Program: Canada Diamond Jubilee Broadcast
Broadcast Date: July 1, 1927
Guest: George P. Graham
Host: Andy Ryan, Jacques Cartier
Duration: 2:49

Did You know?

• Between 40,000 and 50,000 people turned up in person to celebrate the jubilee on Parliament Hill.

• A report the following month in Canadian National Railway Magazine said experts could only guess how many people were listening in. "The estimates run into the millions and even imagination is rather staggered by the suggestion that at least five million people were enabled to hear the sounds of the great carillon from the Victory Tower at Ottawa," wrote author C.J. Hanratty.

• Some people gathered in public parks equipped with loudspeakers to hear the program.

• One of the most thrilling things listeners heard was the noontime chiming of the new clock in the Peace Tower of the Parliament building. The clock had not been heard since Parliament burned in 1916.

• A CBC Radio technician climbed up into the Peace Tower to capture the sounds of the bells.

• In addition to many speeches by various dignitaries, a choir of 10,000 children gathered to sing. Actress Margaret Anglin read a patriotic poem written by Bliss Carman, then Canada's best-known poet.

• In the evening there were musical performances by groups including the Hart House String Quartet and folk music by the Bytown Troubadours.

• To make the broadcast a national experience, telephone and telegraph companies were enlisted to provide links where radio coverage could not reach.

• A staff of 85 technicians, in addition to the staffs of the individual radio stations, was on hand to ensure the links worked for the duration of the broadcast.

• The broadcast used an estimated three million dollars' worth of equipment.

• One of the 23 radio stations connected by the link-up was WWJ in Detroit, which picked up the broadcast for American listeners in Michigan and beyond and in Windsor, Ont.

• From station CF in Drummondville, Quebec, the Diamond Jubilee broadcast was also beamed by shortwave to Britain. The BBC picked it up for broadcast to listeners in the British Isles and Europe.

• The broadcast was also heard as far away as Brazil to the south and Alaska to the north.

• Radio technicians praised the transmission's sound quality, deeming it "always such as to be perfectly understood" and "as good transmission as from our own studio."

• Response to the broadcast was rapturous. "Nation-wide broadcast thrills loyal throng of Edmonton citizens," read one headline. Other newspapers called it a "great success" and "a wonderful broadcasting feat."

• Poet Wilson MacDonald even penned an ode to the broadcast, which read in part: "A million hearers, forward-leaning / Were in the thrall of eloquence."

• Prime Minister Mackenzie King was encouraged by the possibilities national radio could offer. In an August 1927 speech at the Canadian National Exhibition, King said: "May we not predict that as a result of this carrying of the living voice throughout the length and breadth of the Dominion, there will be aroused a more general interest in public affairs, and an increased devotion of the individual citizen to the commonweal?"


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