40,000,000 Televisions

The Making of the President 1960

Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960 (1961). Pardon the poor quality of the screen shotted screen shot.

A few comments–

The Andy Griffiths Show. Who, in 1961, would have thought– even with prescient– that The Andy Griffith Show would have lived on into 2020? But it has.

Those numbers are astonishing! It would be interesting to compare the increase in numbers of TVs to increase in numbers of personal computers, …

The crappy old book is extremely interesting if you are interested in the history of political history/journalism. I’ve not read the whole thing, nor the other two he wrote on the next elections, but I have read his memoir. [Sorry 1-handed me doesn’t feel like doing refs this evening.]

White’s description of the circumstances of first debate provides some details that aren’t discussed any more, namely that Nixon had a serious 5 o’clock shadow. (For the lowT folks, that’s when your beard grows throughout the day such that by 5pm you looked like you haven’t shaved.) And he refused to wear make up– just some beard dust that tracked his sweat. Apparently, folks with new TVs did not cotton to streaky faces.

What most most interesting– and I have no dog in this fight, I was 2 at the time– is White’s summary: everything that could have gone wrong on a personal level, went wrong for Nixon in the 1st debate. He wacked his leg that had been injured a few weeks before getting out of the car in Chicago the day before the debate. White says he turned palid. His advisors told him to wear a lighter colored suit, the studio background was light colored. JKF wore a navy suit which shone against that background while Nixon’s pixels were indesirnable. (sp)

More of this chapter below if you are interested.

2 Responses

  1. When I was growing up in rural North Central Arkansas, my Granny & Grandad were the only close relatives who had a TV. My dad and Uncle Laverl (married to my mom’s sister) put an antennae on the roof and they still only got one station, maybe from Jonesboro AR. Sunday nights were a big deal because lots of aunts and uncles and cousins went over to watch “Bonanza”. But I don’t remember anyone watching the Kennedy/Nixon debate. I would have been 7 at the time and think I’d have remembered it.

    1. That’s interesting about the debate. One analysis of I saw recently was of a survey– just after the debate– of 2000 people who watched. The analyis noted how skewed the urban/rural divide was among the respondents. Only 200 rural. The analysis (recent) faulted the pollsters sampling methods. But maybe– like Granny’s family– nobody watched!

      We didn’t live near grandparents but it was the same with them. Know from visiting. Cook. Play. Men shoot the breeze or look at an engine. Eat. Clean up. TV. Lawrence Welk. I can imagine that for people who spent their Sundays like that, a disruption in the routine meant folks found something else to do. Board games. …

      Thanks! I may look into this further. One thing’s for sure. Folks today who want to talk about the narrative like narratives are something new know no history.

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