The WHA Radio Broadcasts collection includes digitized selections from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives's holdings of over 7,000 transcription discs that capture early broadcasts from Wisconsin Public Radio.
Wisconsin Public Radio first broadcast in 1917 with the assigned call letters 9XM, making it one of the oldest continuously broadcasting radio stations in the United States. After a few years of experimental transmission and broadcasts, 9XM was relicensed as WHA in 1922. Early broadcasts from the station included educational content for farmers as well as home economics. The Farm Program evolved throughout the 1920s, and in 1929 the station began airing a separate Homemaker's Program, aimed at Wisconsin women, particularly those in rural areas.
The digitized selection comprises samples of The Farm Program and The Homemaker's Program, as well as the 4-H Club of the Air show and Wisconsin Yarns, a program that dramatized Wisconsin folklore presented by Wisconsin College of the Air. As described in the show, "The yarns of Wisconsin are the things the people of this state have lived by. Some are funny, some not so funny but the telling of them is always entertaining. Robert E. Gard, a specialist in folklore, brings us transcribed stories of Wisconsin in dramatized form each week at this time so that we may feel a more intimate kinship for those who've lived the yarns we tell about."
Each of these broadcasts offers new perspectives on mid-century rural lives - their concerns, economy, and narratives. The content is set against backdrops of the interwar, World War II, and postwar periods. The unique programming of the Farm Program and 4-H Program provides important new scholarship opportunities for those working in agricultural history and food studies in the United States, while the Homemaker's Program is a rare lens into the daily lives of rural women.
For more information on the early history of WHA Radio, visit 9XM Talking: The Early History of WHA Radio by Randall Davidson, WPR's Tradition Of Innovation, and Radio Pioneers in Madison, an exhibit of the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research.