The Year Was 1922

Dog with radio headphones, 1922, from LOC Photograph Collection at AncestryThe year was 1922 and the world had entered the radio era. While the first radio broadcast was in 1906, it had taken a while to go mainstream. In the early 1900s, radio was for the most part in the hands of curious amateurs. However, with the arrival of WWI, the government shut down amateur radio and operations were largely restricted to military activity. Following the war though, the industry blossomed and in 1922 President Warren G. Harding became the first U.S. president to deliver a message via the new medium. Across the pond in England, six radio manufacturers received a license to form the first radio station in the UK–the British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC as most people know it.

In Ireland, 1922 marked the beginning of the Irish Civil War. Trouble had long been brewing over the issues of Home Rule, and the division between Protestants and Catholics. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, which established the Irish Free State, pro- and anti-treaty forces erupted in violence in June 1922 and the bloody war would last into May of 1923.

A more positive war was being fought against diabetes when Leonard Thompson became the first person to receive an insulin injection. Prior to this advance, the only method of controlling the disease was through diet, and that usually only worked for about a year.

In Russia, hunger was the enemy. A famine that had begun in the summer of 1921 in the Volga region had reached tragic proportions over the winter. In March, the Washington Post reported the following:

Tangled heaps of frozen corpses, some attacked by starved dogs, sickness, dirt, and cold in the Volga valley are described to Secretary Hoover in a nightmare picture of the famine districts of soviet Russia drawn by Dr. Thomas H. Dickinson, of the American relief administration, in a special report on conditions there…

“Losses from famine in soviet Russia,’ he said, ‘come under the heads of emigration, disease, and death. Emigration from the villages now rises to about 30 per cent. Houses are deserted, not a dog, cat, or pig left, with snow breaking through the roofs and windows. Smoke comes from the chimneys of not more than half the houses. Traveling on the roads, one comes across pathetic caravans, father, mother, grandparents and samovar. When camel or horse falls sick they leave him to die on the open plain. Sick persons sit on top of the sledges and are taken to town to die.

“On sidings everywhere, from Poland to the Urals, are freight cars crowded with refugees. The government has not the locomotives to carry them, so they are waiting.

“Disease is general. Swollen bellies of children are so common as to no longer excite remark…

“Diseases are well distributed between summer and winter. Last summer, cholera; this winter, typhus. Russia lost 6,000,000 dead of typhus in 1919. One city of 200,000 lost 45,000. This year will be as bad.”

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4 thoughts on “The Year Was 1922

  1. Love the photo! My father had one of the first radios.

    I was born Dec 4, 1923. My Dad always told me that he got one of his buddies to come to our apartment, telling him he had a new loudspeaker. The friend was disgusted to find out the loudspeaker was a new baby. Though the tale might be apocryphal, Dad was always a joker, so I think it’s probably true.

    Jean Chapman Snow

  2. My mother tells about “mass communication” before they had radio. She was born in 1912 and remembers that every Saturday morning about 9 around Gage, OK the telephone would ring for everyone on the switchboard. The operator would then read over the phone what the bargain sales were at each merchant, the price for eggs and milk, and the local news of interest. This was probably around 1917 to maybe 1925. Later the family had a radio for the same kind of news.

  3. These are so great! I print them all and use them for reference when I’m writing my family histories. They certainly help us to “put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes!”

  4. I always credit when I use one of “the year was” entries. They’re great, thank you.

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