Index of Available Lectures:

• Civil War Heroines
• Golden Age of Radio
• Lady Aviators in History
• The FBI in the Gangster Era
• The Wild West: Fact & Fiction
• The WASP Fliers of WWII
• History of Sound Effects
• The Lindbergh Kidnapping
• Radio's Lady Detectives

• Old Towns…New Names
• Saga of the Pony Express
• From TV to Radio
• Hollywood Comes to D.C.
• Major Inventions…Obscure Inventors
• The History of Games and Toys
• WACS and WAVES and SPARS, oh my!
• Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys
• Radio Quiz Shows of a Bygone Era


CIVIL WAR HEROINES

The medical profession, both North and South, learned a lot in their field hospitals, but not enough to keep down the overwhelming deaths from sickness…far more than cannon, rifles, or bayonets caused. Most of the nurses were male, but many women, paid or volunteer, contributed significantly. Two of them were the first female doctors in the U.S., although Clara Barton, with no medical training, certainly got more acclaim. One of those two doctors became the first (and only) woman recipient of the Medal of Honor. How and why? Dorothea Dix ran the Army nursing corps but wouldn't hire any woman who was young, attractive…or Catholic. (Yes, really.) For the "final exam", a Civil War Nurse Barbie Doll will be passed around and the audience will be invited to identify at least six historical errors about this doll.

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GOLDEN AGE OF RADIO

microphoneWhat was radio like before the networks were formed? How much power did the sponsors have over radio content? Why were soap operas so inexpensive? Who were the most popular comedians on the air? Is it true that radios were prized in rural American, even before they had electricity? Were most kids' adventure shows sponsored by cereal, gum, or breakfast drink? Did advertising agencies or sponsors have the most power? Were these radio programs live or recorded? How did they make all those sound effects? French, a vintage radio historian, will answer all these questions, play excerpts from programs of that bygone era, and demonstrate the use of manual sound effects.

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LADY AVIATORS IN HISTORY

Everyone recalls Amelia Earhart, but what about Harriet Quimby, Louise Thaden, and Bessie Coleman? Quimby crossed the English Channel solo in April 1912 but the sinking of the Titanic buried news of her success. Coleman was the first African-American to earn a pilot's license but died in an air crash in 1926. Thaden was the winner of the Bendix Race in 1936, the first one where both men and women competed. One of the first adventure books of a girl pilot was written by Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum in 1911. Popular juvenile novels of the 30's, including Girl Flyers, Jane Cameron, and Dorothy Dixon, encouraged girls to become pilots. French will discuss all these, plus other lady aviators, including Elinor Smith, the first woman honored on a Wheaties cereal box.

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THE FBI IN THE GANGSTER ERA

gangsterWas the fingerprint division of DOJ originally managed by prisoners at Leavenworth? Did Machine Gun Kelly really nick-name FBI Agents "G-Men"? What happened at the Kansas City Massacre…and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre? Dillinger, Baby-Face Nelson, Bonnie & Clyde, and the Barker gang were famous outlaws in the "Gangster Era"; how were they captured or killed? What were the radio programs about the FBI? To conclude his presentation, French will play excerpts from FBI radio shows of the Forties and Fifties.

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THE WILD WEST: FACT & FICTION

The American West of the 1870's, which saw the great cattle drives, the last of the Indian Wars, and lawlessness confronted by too few peace officers, forged a permanent panorama within our popular culture. Dime novels, wild west shows, pulp magazines, silent movies and talkies all featured "cowboys and Indians" as well as miners, U.S. Cavalry, railroads, and stage coaches. Therefore it was inevitable that radio and televison would also tap into this rich vein of adventure, danger, and courage. French discusses the many versions of the wild west in various entertainment venues, including print, film, radio, and TV.

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WASP FLIERS OF WWII

WASPsIt took much convincing for the War Department to accept women in U.S. airplanes. But finally in July 1943 the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was created within the Army Air Corps. Over 20,000 women pilots volunteered but only 1830 were accepted, of whom just over a thousand earned their wings. They were barred from combat but ferried all types of planes to where they were needed, in addition to towing target planes and instructing new pilots. Unlike their sisters in WACS and WAVES, they never achieved military status and remained civilians with no VA benefits. Upon death, they were denied burial in national cemeteries. Despite this discrimination, they performed superbly until WASP was disbanded in December 1944. A terrible injustice to these courageous volunteers in the sky.

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HISTORY OF SOUND EFFECTS

Sound effects can be traced back to Greek theatre. From these primitive efforts (sounds of rain and thunder) sound effects were greatly increased in Elizabethan theatre. Battle noise, hoof beats, cannon fire, etc. were among the realistic sound effects. Later Vaudeville called upon some of these same effects. "Silent" movies were not always silent…piano or organ music were accompanied by sounds of whatever was on the screen. Radio began when the silents were ousted by "talkies" so the sound effects people then migrated to the new venue of broadcasting. In his presentation, radio historian French will also demonstrate how many of radio's manual sound effects were created.

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THE LINDBERGH KIDNAPPING

After crossing the Atlantic solo in 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the most famous man in the world. He later married Anne Morrow and they lived in a mansion near Hopewell, NJ. In March 1932, their first born son was kidnapped from his bedroom and a $ 50,000 ransom was demanded. After a convoluted negotiation, the ransom was paid, but in May 1932 the decomposed body of the baby was found in a nearby woods. For two years, federal, state and local authorities struggled to identify the killer, although kidnapping was not a federal or state violation at that time. Bruno Hauptmann was finally arrested in September 1934. His 1935 trial in NJ was dubbed "The Trial of the Century." After conviction and all appeals were exhausted, he was executed in 1936. French, a retired FBI Agent, will explain all the details of this historical, complex case and answer any questions you have.

Hauptmann's License Plate
The NY license plate that cracked the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case.
(Current location: NJ State Police Museum)

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RADIO'S LADY DETECTIVES

There were over a hundred male detectives, including Sam Spade, Nick Carter, and Charlie Chan, during the Golden Age of Radio. But there were also over 40 women crime-fighters who got less publicity and had shorter longevity. Some were actually detectives, some were reporters, one was a defense attorney and another was a policewoman. A few were secretaries who helped their boss and some others were wives who were the "brains of the outfit". Most series had unknown but skilled ladies at the microphone, but at least three are well known to you: Arlene Francis, Mercedes McCambridge, and Marlene Dietrich. This lecture will cover several lady crime solvers and you'll hear audio excerpts from their shows.

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OLD TOWNS…NEW NAMES

Three American towns were re-named in connection with radio programs: Truth or Consequences, NM, Pine Ridge, AR, and Gene Autry, OK. Other municipalities changed their names to honor prominent figures, attract tourism, or even obtain a railroad. A few communities, like Sleepy Hollow, NY, changed to a new name and years later reverted back to their original name. French will discuss the why, how, and when of these quirky name changes in the USA and reveal if they accomplished their objectives. A fascinating glimpse into geographic hijinks and nostalgia.

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SAGA OF THE PONY EXPRESS

Pony ExpressThe 1800's equivalent of FedEx, this endeavor reduced the time of mail delivery to 10 days to the West coast when ordinary mail could take at least a month. It was a tremendous investment: 190 manned way stations, about 500 horses, and almost a hundred riders to carry the mail from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento,CA. Starting in April 1960, it ended in October 1861 after only 19 months service, when the intercontinental telegraph line reached California. This pony mail service forced its backers into bankruptcy but it kept California and its gold in the Union as the Civil War broke out. How and why will be explained in this lecture.

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FROM TV TO RADIO

There were over 100 radio programs that eventually became television shows, sometimes with the same cast. However only about ten TV programs were the basis for a later radio program. Popular TV shows like Have Gun, Will Travel, My Little Margie, and Hopalong Cassidy were among those who began on the small screen and later were heard over network radio, with different scripts. French explains the how and why of this unusual transition in the world of entertainment. He will play excerpts from some of these converted radio shows so you can "hear" the programs you originally "saw" on TV.

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HOLLYWOOD COMES TO D.C.

movie cameraWant to know how the stars behave off-camera? Jack French, as an actor and extra, has been in many D.C. productions so he's observed the attitudes, quirks, and kindnesses of the super-stars. Can Bruce Willis or Tommy Lee Jones overrule a director? How do Meg Ryan and Rosie O'Donnell treat their cast members? Are Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise really nice guys? How does Julia Louis-Dreyfus avoid high heels? Would a major star like Mary McDonnell accept a role in a low budget film? What happens when an actor (Ben Affleck) directs and stars in a film like Argo? French will give his observations on these stars and many more.

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MAJOR INVENTIONS…OBSCURE INVENTORS

Edison, Bell, and Marconi are just as famous as their inventions. But history has forgotten many other people whose creative prowess resulted in important inventions. In this lecture you'll learn the identities of five men and five women whose inventions made life safer, better, or more interesting for all of us, but whose identities apparently have been eliminated from the history books. Who invented the common wooden match, vehicle windshield wipers, ocean life rafts, and Kevlar, the basis of the bullet proof vest? This lecture will cover all of the "how, when and why" of these and six other significant inventions.

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THE HISTORY OF GAMES AND TOYS

teddy bearWe know North Pole elves did not actually make, nor did they invent, all those wondrous gifts Santa left under the tree for youngsters. Virtually every game and toy had a different inventor. Some of these took years to create, while others resulted from a quick accidental discovery. All these board games, dolls, and assorted toys eventually got their own patent, even though some were derived from a years-prior version by a different inventor. In this presentation, French will tell you everything you'd want to know about the origin of: Lionel Trains, Raggedy Ann, Teddy Bear, Erector Sets, Clue, View-Master, Flexible Flyer, Barbie Dolls, Monopoly, GI Joe…those famous toys and games of the past 100 years.

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WACS and WAVES and SPARS, oh my!

The White House and all the military services did not want any women to join the fray, but eventually the "manpower" shortage forced a change in policy. Very reluctantly, the four services allowed women in their ranks; first the Army in May 1942, then the Navy in July, the SPARS that November and the Marines acquiesced in February 1943. At first only white women were brought in, but later women of color were accepted. Despite the fact that all these 400,000 lady volunteers were loyal, dedicated, and industrious, they were ridiculed and discriminated against by most men in the military. Learn how they triumphed and helped win the war.

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NANCY DREW & THE HARDY BOYS

magnifing glassThe Hardy Boys arrived in 1927 and Nancy in 1930. Both are still going strong today. One little-known company, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, produced both of these popular series, in addition to many other children's books. This tiny firm in NJ, with less than 10 full-time employees, and a cadre of ghost writers who never came to the office, churned out dozens of full length books every month for over forty years. A woman solely ran this firm for over three decades. Who were her ghosts writers? What were they paid? Why was Nancy Drew so popular…then and now? French will bring along copies of these vintage books for the audience to examine.

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RADIO QUIZ SHOWS OF A BYGONE ERA

Pony ExpressFrom 1935 to 1955, American listeners loved the various quiz programs they heard on the radio. These quiz programs offered excitement, prizes, knowledge, and even humor for all members of the family. Most shows were done in front of a live audience which increased the laughter and enjoyment. Many of these quiz programs were on the air for several years and their ratings remain high, including Information Please, Twenty Questions, The Quiz Kids, and Quick as a Flash. French will discuss a representative variety of different quiz shows and play audio excerpts from them. Test your memory recall and knowledge against those of the contestants of long ago.

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