Empire Builders

[This page consists of vintage newspaper clippings about the Great Northern 
Railway's 1929-1931 anthology series. For context, see Scott Tanner's 
excellent Empire Builders blog.]

[November 28, 1928 Lethbridge (Alberta) Herald]

Forty Million People Will Hear of Scenic Beauties of Waterton National Park By 
Radio Hook-up in States

Party From Chicago Spending Day at Park Gathering Local Color

(From Our Own Correspondent.)

CARDSTON, Nov. 29.—With a view to promoting the general development of radio 
broadcasting in the Northwest by radio hook-up of 39 major stations from coast 
to coast and from Canada to Mexico, a party of prominent eastern radio 
magnates, piloted by Harold N. Sims, executive assistant of the Great Northern 
Railway of St. Paul, reached Cardston last night. 

Today they are at Waterton National Park acquiring local color and additional 
data on the scenic wonders of the southern end of the Canadian Rockies. Forty 
million people, members of the trans-continental radio audience, will benefit 
by this forward step in the broadcasting world, the visiting executives

Prominent Figures 
That the party is made up of men powerful in the American radio world is 
indicated in the personnel: John W. Elwood, general manager of programs of the 
National Broadcasting Corporation of New York; Raymond Knight, production 
manager of the same company; Edward Hale Bierstadt, continuity director; Niles 
Trannel, [sic] western manager; Harold N. Sims, executive assistant of the 
Great Northern, St. Paul, and Joseph H. Finn, first vice-president of the 
McJunkin Advertising Company of Chicago. 

Three Weeks Tour 

The present tour of the party, which will consume three weeks, will include 
stops at various pivotal points in the Northwest and Pacific coast including 
Vancouver, B. C. They left Chicago November 25 and St. Paul, November 26. They 
travelled to Cardston by "Red" bus from Glacier National park spending Tuesday 
night here, registered at the Cahoon hotel. Today the visitors will revel in 
the beauties of Waterton and they could not have chosen a finer occasion for 
the sky is clear and the sun bright to reveal the varied loveliness of this 
new international playground. 

Leaving the park this afternoon the party will motor to the Blood Indian 
reservation where they will be dinner guests of the agent, J. E. Pugh, and 
from the Blood reserve they will return to Glacier for a big Indian pow-wow 
planned for Wednesday night. On Thursday the party will leave Many Glaciers 
for Spokane and the Pacific coast.

The visitors pointed out last night that the Canadian Rockies and the Prince 
of Wales hotel at Waterton, will figure prominently in the programs. They have 
an abundance of literature but are now searching for "atmosphere" so that 
radio listeners will recognize the country at once and be able to visualize it 
vividly, when the programs are heard. 

[November 30, 1928 Helena (MT) Independent]


Glacier Park, Nov. 30.—(Special)—Four officials of the National Broadcasting 
company were initiated into the Blackfoot tribe Wednesday night upon their 
return from a two-day tour of Glacier National park. The ceremonial was 
conducted in the private car in which the radio officials are touring the 
northwest for material for a series of broadcasts, planned for next year. The 
programs will be sponsored by the Great Northern railway. 

The initiation rites were conducted by Chiefs Two Guns White Calf, Heavy 
Breast and Eagle Calf, three of the country's most widely known Indian chiefs. 
John W. Elwood, general manager of programs of the National Broadcasting 
company, was given the name of Chief Red Top, Blackfoot god of hearing; 
Raymond Knight, productions manager, Chief Powerful Man; Edward Hale 
Bierstadt, continuity director, Chief Everybody Hearing, and Miles [sic] 
Trammel, Chicago manager, Chief Talk In the Air. Louis W. Hill, Jr., already a 
member of the Blackfeet tribe, was here to greet his new brothers. 

The party, accompanied by Joseph H. Finn of Chicago, vice president of the 
McJunkin Advertising company, and Harold M. Sims, executive assistant of the 
Great Northern railway, visited Waterton Lakes, Canada, and the Blood Indian 
reservation at Cardston yesterday. Unlike other years, the roads in Glacier 
park and Waterton parks are still open.

[December 4, 1928 Helena (MT) Daily Independent]

National Broadcasters' Party to be in Helena December 10

As a result of a contract entered into by the Great Northern railway with the 
National Broadcasting Corporation of New York City, Helena will have the 
opportunity to assist in the general development of the state by becoming a 
party to the program to advertise the city and the northwest generally over a 
radio hook-up including thirty-nine major broadcasting stations in the largest 
cities extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to Mexico. 

An audience of 40,000,000 Americans will hear the story of the northwest and 
its various cities each week, after the representatives of the National 
Broadcasting company have finished their tour of the country and arranged the 
series of entertainments for the coming year. Agricultural, recreational and 
industrial features will be utilized in this widespread plan of broadcast. 

Distinguished in Profession. 

The party of executives now touring the country will arrive in Helena Monday, 
December 10 at 11:20 o'clock in the forenoon, and will be guests at a luncheon 
to be arranged shortly. They will come from the north en route from the coast 
and Canada, where they have been establishing contacts, to Butte and other 
Montana cities, including Helena, Great Falls and Havre. 

Included in the party are: John W. Elwood, general manager of all National 
Broadcasting company programs; Raymond Knight, production manager, a man of 
wide experience in theatrical work, graduate of three universities and author 
of the best one-act play produced last year; Edward Hale Bierstadt, continuity 
director, author of a number of books and plays, an overseas veteran during 
the World war and connected with various magazines and publications and Niles 
Trammel, western manager of the National Broadcasting company. 

Purpose of the Tour. 

The delegation is seeking information and helpful facts to use in preparing 
the programs which will be presented over the radio. It is probable they will 
be interested in Helena's early day history, its prominence as the state 
capital and the scenic attractions including the historic Gate of the 
Mountains, the camping place of the explorers, Lewis and Clark. 

The date on which the programs will begin will be determined upon the return 
of the party to headquarters. 

The visit of the party is regarded important and the Great Northern program to 
be carried on during the coming year is expected to be of inestimable value to 
the territory served by its lines. The expedition is being conducted with the 
approval of W. P. Kenney, vice-president of the railway company. The Great 
Northern is the first transcontinental line in the United States to undertake 
a coast-to-coast radio broadcasting program. 

[December 11, 1928 Helena (MT) Daily Independent]

National Broadcasters Tour State to Arrange Program for Advertising

Gathering material from pioneers of Lewis and Clark counties and from the 
state historical library, two of the four officials of the National 
Broadcasting company of New York yesterday spent the afternoon at the capitol 
following an automobile trip to several places of interest, including 
Broadwater and the Gates of the Mountains before continuing their tour to 
Butte yesterday afternoon at 5 o'clock. They arrived in Helena from Great 
Falls at 11:20 over the Great Northern. At noon they were guests of the Helena 
Commercial club at the Placer. Afterward they called upon Gov. J. E. Erickson. 

The officials were Raymond Knight, production manager, and Edward Hale 
Bierstadt, continuity director, accompanied by Howard Sims, assistant to 
President Charles Budd of the Great Northern. Two other officials of the 
broadcasting company, John Elwood, general manager of programs, and Miles 
[sic] Trammel, western manager, stopped off at Kalispell to address a public 

The material secured yesterday will be used in preparing a program which will 
be broadcast at intervals the coming year advertising the Northwest. 
Agricultural, recreational and industrial features of the Helena community 
will be utilized. 

Gigantic Radio Hookup

The Great Northern, which was represented at the luncheon by J. F. Pewters, 
assistant general freight and passenger agent, with headquarters in Helena, 
has contracted with the National Broadcasting company to present a series of 
programs, advertising the sections traversed by the line. 

Mr. Knight told the club that the company he represents has four stations 
located at New York, Washington, D. C., Chicago and San Francisco. All told 
there are 39 major broadcasting stations joined in a hookup stretching from 
the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to Mexico. 

How the programs are prepared and how the system of broadcasting is operated 
were explained fully by Mr. Knight. The programs he said had to be 
entertaining and the country and resources are advertised in a way that hold 
the attention of the listener. Mr. Knight is a graduate of several 
universities and after graduating as a law student and practicing several 
years he took up theatrical work. He has been stage manager for a number of 
Broadway productions and is the author of the best one-act play produced in 

Had Wide Experience 

Mr. Bierstadt, who was also a guest at the luncheon, is continuity director of 
the National Broadcasting company and is also author of a number of books and 
plays. Among his well-known books are: Aspects of Americanization, Sounding 
Brass, Lost Trails of the Spanish Main and the Great Betrayal. During the 
World war he was a member of the expeditionary forces in France.

Mr. Sims of the Great Northern said his company was the first of the trans-
continental lines to undertake an advertising campaign through the radio. This 
will supplement the large amount of advertising done in newspapers and 
magazines in the effort to attract settlers to the Northwest.

[December 11, 1928 Havre (MT) Daily Independent - news from the weekly Kiwanis 
Club luncheon]

... Hear About Radio.

George W. Padbury, Jr, chairman of the program committee, introduced Howard 
Sims, executive to the president of the Great Northern who explained the work 
the railroad is doing to advertise the northwest through radio programs to be 
staged by the National Broadcasting company. He said the officials had 
recently returned from the coast, considerably under the weather, but that two 
of them were able to make the Helena date. Two had dropped off at Kalispell 
but would shortly rejoin the party. ...

[December 12, 1928 Helena (MT) Daily Independent]


Raymond Knight producing manager and Edward Bierstadt continuity director of 
the National Broadcasting company, who were guests of the Helena Commercial 
club, Monday, returned from Butte yesterday and went on to Great Falls where 
they will spend a day before proceeding to Havre and other points in the 
state. The radio men were accompanied to Butte by J. F. Pewters, assistant 
general freight and passenger agent and by J. F. Beckett, traveling passenger 
agent of Great Falls. 

Yesterday they learned much about Butte and environs, a good deal about 
Virginia City and Alder gulch, and last evening they were enthusiastic over 
the stories they had heard and feel they have a wealth of material for the 
entertainment programs which are to be put on during the coming year, 
advertising Montana and the northwest. 

The historical points of interest -- the Custer battlefield, the site of the 
battle of the Big Hole, the scene of the struggles of the Crows and the Gros 
Ventres, the trail of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the story of the 
discovery of Alder gulch -- the history of the state, from the time the first 
exploring party of the French sighted the "land of the shining mountains" down 
to the present day, will be sent out each night as part of an appropriate 

Will Create Comment.

Next year, the radio executives said Montana will be the most talked about 
state in the Union. The National Broadcasting corporation has 40 broadcasting 
stations and a hook-up that will reach a maximum of 60,000,000 people nightly 
with a minimum of not less than 25,000,000. 

"Our hook-up," they stated, "will be along the same lines as those used in the 
presidential campaign but we will reach more people." 

The purpose of the program is to attract the people of the United States to 
this state to visit these historic spots. "While stressing the historical," 
Mr. Bierstadt said, "the industrial and scenic side will not he entirely 
overlooked. When the people come to Montana, the scenery, the climate and the 
great undeveloped natural resources are expected to speak for themselves."

[December 12, 1928 (Butte) Montana Standard]


At the Butte Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Silver Bow club yesterday, 
given in honor of the Great Northern and National Broadcasting corporation 
officials, Butte viewed at close range the representatives of the interests 
that are about to undertake the most ambitious advertising program in the 
history of the world in behalf of Montana and the great northwest.

The guests were Harold M. Sims, executive assistant; J. F. Pewters, assistant 
general freight and passenger agent, and J. F. Becket, traveling passenger 
agent of the Great Northern railway, Edward Hale Bierstadt, continuity 
director and Raymond Knight, production manager of the National Broadcasting 
corporation, familiarly known as the "NBC".

The radio men and the Great Northern officials came to Butte to acquaint the 
public with the great plan to broadcast the story of Montana to the world 
during the coming year. During their stay they were guests of the Butte 
Chamber of Commerce whose members took them on a sightseeing trip about the 
city and district and through the mines. The visitors left for Helena 
yesterday afternoon. 

At the luncheon addresses were delivered on the part of the visitor[s] by 
Raymond Knight and Harold N. [sic] Sims. Willard Thompson, president of the 
Chamber of Commerce, acted as chairman of the meeting, and Samuel Parker, 
secretary and manager of the Y. M. C. A. spoke for Butte. 

Harold Sims, in a brief speech sketched the reasons back of the proposed radio 
advertising program which will be sponsored and financed by the Great Northern 
railway. Raymond Knight explained something of the plan of operation proposed, 
and their desire to gather information regarding the various communities in
the state. ...

In the course of his address Mr. Sims said the Great Northern was not actuated 
by altruistic motives. The railways of the country as a result of motor travel 
sustain a passenger loss of millions of dollars daily. The losses are in the 
short hauls. To offset the loss it becomes necessary to promote long distance 
travel. To this end the Great Northern has decided to promote the development 
of the northwest. The railroads of the northwest today are the third largest 
advertising interest in the world and the state of Montana is a beneficiary 
of this. 

Idea for Move. 

The idea of a radio campaign was suggested by the broadcasting carried on 
during the presidential campaign. In undertaking the new method of advertising 
the northwest the railroad is becoming a pioneer in this field. Mr. Sims 
expressed the opinion that community radio advertising will be the next step.
Raymond Knight briefly explained the National Broadcasting methods. There are 
44 key stations and two networks, the red and blue. There are studios in New 
York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco. The networks cover the entire 
country. The corporation employs about 500 people. The corporation telephone 
bill is as much as $170,000 a month. He explained some of the difficulties 
of broadcasting. ...

At the conclusion of the meeting the visitors expressed themselves as 
delighted with their reception in Butte. Following their tour of the state 
they will return to Minneapolis, Mr. Sims said, to check up on their data and 
to arrive at a decision regarding the sort of program to be adopted.

"We don't know if we will broadcast for half an hour or an hour, daily or 
weekly," Mr. Sims said. "All these matters remain to be threshed out. It 
seems definitely settled that the radio program will be a great success. We 
shall reach as many as 60,000,000 people with our program for the development 
of Montana and the great northwest."

[December 13, 1928 Havre (MT) Daily News]

Eastern Visitors Return From Trip to Glacier Park

Four officials of the National Broadcasting company of New York stopped in 
Havre last night on their way home from a trip through the northwest gathering 
information to be used in broadcasts advertising the northwest. 

The Great Northern railroad has contracted with the broadcasting company to 
present a series of programs advertising the sections traversed by the line as 
part of an effort to attract settlers to the northwest.

Agricultural, recreational and industrial opportunities of Montana will be 
featured in the broadcasts over the NBC chain which includes 39 stations 
located all over the United States. 

The officials were Raymond Knight, production manager, Edward Hale Bierstadt, 
continuity director, John Elwood, general manager of programs, and Miles [sic] 
Trammel, western manager. The officials on their trip made excursions in 
Glacier National park, at Butte, Kalispell, Helena, Great Falls, and other 
points in the state.

[January 5, 1929 Christian Science Monitor (CSM)]

Great Northern Railroad Drives 8-Mile Bore Through Solid Rock

Radio, in Nation-Wide Hookup, to Record to World the Rumble of First 
Electrically Hauled Train at Opening, Jan. 12

SEATTLE, Wash.--When on Jan. 12 the first train rolls through the new eight-
mile elctrified tunnel, bored for the Great Northern Railway, through the 
Cascade Mountains, 100 miles east of here, the entire United States will be 
able to follow its progress by radio.

To inaugurate the opening of the longest railroad tunnel in America and the 
fifth longest in the world, which will constitute a most important link in 
transcontinental transportation, officials of the Great Northern Railway 
Company have arranged for a nation-wide radiocast of the event through the 
National Broadcasting Company's network of 37 stations, in which the 
radiocasting center will be shifted back and forth across the United States 
between five points all synchronized with the running schedule of the Oriental 
Limited through the tunnel.

Madame Schumann-Heink, George Olsen's orchestra, Ralph Budd, president of the 
Great Northern, Graham McNamee and prominent persons in Washington, New York 
and at the tunnel portals will contribute to the program as the microphone 
control is shifted twice across the continent to different points in the hook-
up, while the first train speeds through the long burrow. At its emergence on 
the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, Mr. McNamee will give his 
impressions of the trip. ...

[January 6, 1929 New York Times (NYT)]


Dedication of Route Through Cascade Mountains to Be Novel Broadcast on 

The dedication of the new $14,000,000 tunnel through the Cascade Mountains 
east of Seattle on Saturday will be broadcast by WEAF's network beginning at 9 
P. M. Eastern Standard time. The radio engineers will pay their tribute to 
master builders by switching a nation-wide radio audience from New York 
studios to San Francisco and Washington, and to mountain points between -- all 
synchronized with the running time of the Oriental Limited on its maiden trip 
through the eight-mile shaft. The voice of Schumann-Heink on the Pacific 
Coast, George Olsen and his music in New York and world famous figures in 
politics, engineering and industry at Washington, New York and at the tunnel's 
mouth in the Cascades will be governed by the second hand of a stop watch. 
Stop watches, in turn, will be synchronized with electric clocks on the 
Atlantic and Pacific coasts, adjusted to the second with the clocks that 
govern the operation of the Oriental Limited.

By throwing a switch the radio engineers will shift the centre of the network 
to the eastern portal of the Cascade tunnel just as the train approaches. 
There it will come to a momentary halt as Graham McNamee, announcer, presents 
Ralph Budd, president of the Great Northern Railway. Then both will swing 
aboard the starting train, and as its lights disappear other switches will be 
thrown and radio listeners will be transferred back to New York and Washington 
and again to San Francisco before the Oriental Limited emerges from the 
western end of the tunnel.

Another microphone at the western portal will pick up McNamee's description of 
the first trip through what is said to be the longest tunnel in the Western 
world. As the train moves out of the broadcast picture and gathers speed on 
its final dash to the Pacific Coast McNamee will remain behind with Mr. Budd. 
The latter will again take the microphone to introduce a speaker in 
Washington, D.C.

Thirty-seven stations from coast-to-coast will be associated in the NBC System 
for broadcasting this program, with WEAF, New York, as the key station.

The new tunnel bores eight miles through the granite backbone of the Cascade 
Range, about 100 miles east of Seattle. Simultaneous with its opening the 
railway's entire route through the Cascades will be changed from steam to 
electrical operation. The improved route will cut an hour from the schedule of 
Great Northern passenger trains between Spokane and cities on the west coast, 
and will reduce the running time of freight trains by more than three hours. 
The tunnel, lined with concrete from one portal to the other, thoroughly 
ventilated and electrically operated, is said to be the most modern 
achievement of its kind in the world.

Stations associated with WEAF for this event are: WEEI, Boston; WTIC, 
Hartford; WJAR, Providence; WRC, Washington; WGY, Schenectady; WGR, Buffalo; 
WCAE, Pittsburgh; WTAM, Cleveland; WWJ, Detroit; KSD, St. Louis; WHO, Des 
Moines; WOW, Omaha; WDAF, Kansas City; KSTP, St. Paul-Minneapolis; WTMJ, 
Milwaukee; KOA, Denver; WHAS, Louisville; WMC, Memphis; WSB, Atlanta; WBT, 
Charlotte; KVOO, Tulsa; WFAA, Dallas; KPRC, Houston; WOAI, San Antonio; KSL, 
Salt Lake City; WEBC, Duluth-Superior; KPO and KGO, San Francisco; KGW, 
Portland; KFI, Philadelphia; KOMO, Seattle; KHQ, Spokane; KYW, Chicago.

[January 13, 1929 The Helena Independent]


Seattle, Wash., Jan. 12—(AP)— With the ceremony broadcast throughout the 
nation by a radio hookup the Great Northern railway's new eight mile tunnel 
through the Cascade mountains was opened to traffic tonight. The bore, the 
longest in America and the fifth longest in the world, burrowing under the 
mountain from Scenic, Wash. to Berne, Wash., cuts two hours from east and west 
railroad schedules. 

Tonight's ceremony began at 6 o'clock at Berne, the east portal, where special 
trains bearing delegations from both sides of the state met. There, Ralph 
Budd, president of the Great Northern, was introduced by Graham McNamee, radio 
announcer. After a brief program at Berne which included the opening of a gate 
and addresses, the trains consolidated and passed through the tunnel to 
Scenic, the west portal.

At Scenic the special train crashed through a cloth over the exit to the 
tunnel marking the official passage of a locomotive through the concrete lined 

The tunnel, built in the record [time] of three years, cost $14,000,000 and is 
part of a $25,000,000 development project of the Great Northern railway in the 
Cascade mountains.

[January 13, 1929 The Helena Independent]


Thousands of radio fans all over Montana heard President Ralph Budd of the 
Great Northern make an address at the dedication of the new Cascade tunnel 
last evening. As it was broadcast from the leading stations of the west and 
north west practically every set in operation between 7 and 8.30 o'clock last 
evening heard the railroad executive deliver a short but comprehensive 
address. Mr. Budd said in part: 

At the very beginning of this project, a plan of attack complete in all its 
details, was carefully worked out and this plan has been executed with a 
courage and enthusiasm that I have never seen equalled. Through nearly eight 
miles of solid granite men have drilled and blasted and mucked their way in 
three vears' time. The schedule of progress which was made up called for a 
speed that never had been approached in the world for so long a tunnel but the 
men were determined that that schedule should be maintained. Thousands of feet 
under the mountains, working at times in water knee deep with fresh drenchings 
at each round of blasting there was no stopping or even slackening of the 

They changed shifts at the handles of the drills, as the saying goes. A 
thrilling sight it was, members of one crew splashing in and taking hold of 
the machines before the others let them go. A constant battering was kept up 
every minute of every hour of every day and every night for 35 months. Think 
of it! Drilling, blasting, mucking out the broken rock, then over again, eight 
feet gained at each round, five rounds in 24 hours, all by machinery, but 
machinery in the hands of enthusiastic expert workmen. There was no letting up 
until the last foot of tunnel had been excavated and the entire bore lined 
with concrete. 

Another group equally determined was always present at the front. They dodged 
in when they could to do their work without delaying actual escavation, yet 
without them there would have been no aim or direction to the drifting [sic] 
which went on at such feverish pace. They were, of course, the engineers who 
gave the line and grade. Contending with the many handicaps incident to the 
job, they nevertheless made their calculations and did their work so 
accurately that when they had carried the line eight miles over a mountain 
3,500 feet high and back from the portals nearly four miles into the blind 
ends of the tunnel where the last barrier was removed, the two lines were only 
nine inches apart and the levels only three inches different. 

The completed tunnel symbolizes the main idea behind the railroad career of 
James J. Hill, the importance of economy and efficiency in railway operation. 
From the very beginning his policy was to be sure of the country through which 
he was to build then to strive for the lowest possible operating costs for the 
benefit both of the railway and the producers. This idea seems to have been as 
clearly in his mind in the very first days of his railroad venture as it ever 

Before his rails had reached Montana he was telling Marcus Daly in Butte that 
he hoped by giving low rates to enable shippers to largely increase their 
business. He said, "What we want over our low grades is a heavy tonnage and 
the heavier it is the lower we can make the rates." When he talked of building 
railways according to his standards, people laughed at him for thinking a 
transcontinental line could be built without government aid and his proposed 
line was called Hill's Folly. Today, the folly of any other basis for railway 
production is so well recognized that we forget it ever was otherwise.

Thirty-six years ago Hill's folly reached Puget Sound, the golden spike being 
driven a short distance west of here on January 7, [sic] 1893. The Great 
Northern is the only transcontinental railway that has earned and paid 
dividends every year since that date.

In 1914, when Mr. Hill made his last trip over the entire line I was 
privileged to be on the train and to hear him discuss various future plans. 
Among them he mentioned a tunnel such as this and said, "Some of you will live 
to see this mountain line eliminated."

It is therefore with the greatest satisfaction that I am now able on behalf of 
the directors and stockholders of the Great Northern railway to dedicate this 
tunnel to the illustrious founder, the Empire Builder, James J. Hill.

[January 14, 1929 Associated Press article in CSM]

Radio Helps Open Bore in Mountain / Listeners-In Hear Train as It Enters and 
Leaves New Cascade Tunnel

SCENIC, Wash. (AP)--While a nation listened to ceremonies radiocast from both 
the east and the west coasts of the United States, America's longest railroad 
tunnel was dedicated here Saturday night.

The tunnel, bored 7.79 miles through the Cascade Mountains between eastern and 
western Washington by the Great Northern Railroad, was dedicated to the memory 
of James J. Hill, "Empire Builder," and founder of the line, by Ralph Budd, 
president of the road.

President-elect Hoover spoke into the microphone from his home in the City of 
Washington, as did J. W. [sic] Campbell of the Interstate Commerce Commission. 
Gen. W. W. Atterbury, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, spoke from New York.

A microphone was taken aboard the special train as it hesitated at the east 
portal of the tunnel at Berne, where Mr. Budd uttered the words which formally 
dedicated the great bore.

[January 14, 1929 Washington Post] 

The regular Monday night features will be offered in due order from WRC, an 
exception being the Great Northern program at 10:30 o'clock. ...

[January 15, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

... Following the success of their Cascade Tunnel program on Saturday Night 
the Great Northern Railroad offered at 10:30 the first of a series of "Empire 
Builders" programs. An "Old Timer" introduced the story of James Hill, the 
Ontario boy who through the influence of a kindly English Quaker was inspired 
with a vision of the future of the Northwest which resulted in his building of 
this railroad. ...

[January 16, 1929 Variety radio column]

... Networking Feat

Another of those engineering feats of networking the country and spanning 
3,000 miles from coast to coast to pick up an artist came into use as part of 
the Great Northern Railway's hour in connection with the inaugural festivities 
attending the opening of the Cascade Tunnel in the state of Washington. 
President-elect Hoover, General W. W. Atterbury, president of the Pennsylvania 
R.R., and other notables spoke, George Olsen's music was etherized from New 
York and Mme. Schumann-Heink was picked up in San Francisco, while Graham 
McNamee from Scenic, Wash., railroad siding, m. c.'d the entire affair.

One was more awed by the technical achievement of the hook-up and the niceties 
of electrical engineering that thus span the country, than the program matter. 
After all, a speech is a speech on the radio. That's why, national presidents-
elect and railways presidents or not, it was dance band that was the hit of 
the hour, viewed only from one light, that of audience reaction. Posterity can 
get the dope on the tunnel out of history books.

The Cascade Tunnel hoop-dee-doo ran overtime. This made Rolfe's Lucky Strike 
hour late, and also the ensuing Ponce Sisters with their pleasing harmonics. 
The Ponce girls, whose cute personality is plenty in evidence on an M-G-M 
talking short, should go in more for personal stage appearances. ...


[January 21, 1929 The Pittsburgh Press] 

History in the making, during pioneer days of the great northwest will be re-
enacted for radio listeners in the second broadcast of "The Empire Builders" 

The radio audience may journey by dogsled with James J. Hill across the 
mountain passes that led from St. Paul to Winnipeg. It was on this trip that 
Hill met by chance with Lord Strathcona on the banks of the Red River, and out 
of this meeting grew the Canadian Pacific and Great Northern Railways.

On this trip also, Hill fought with his treacherous half-breed guide caught 
redhanded attempting to steal the provisions of the dogtrain expedition. The 
encounter took place on what is now the campus of the University of North 

Later, in the same program listeners may hear the arrival of the first 
locomotive in Winnipeg in 1877, which opened up the vast territory of the 
Canadian Northwest to Eastern markets.

[January 28, 1929 episode described in January 23 CSM] 

... The third [of a] series of dramatic episodes in the life of James J. Hill, 
pioneer of the great Northwest, will be heard from coast to coast in "The 
Empire Builders" sketch over the NBC on Monday evening, Jan. 28, at 10:30, 
eastern time, or 7:30 Pacific time.

The aggressive courage of Mr. Hill is portrayed on this date by a courtroom 
scene in which the hero personally outlines his progressive policies for 
developing the Northwest. The scene is laid in a courtroom in St. Paul where 
railroad litigation is under way and solemn attorneys consider Mr. Hill's 
interjections distinctly "out of order" in view of the cautious conservatism 
of most railroad cases.

Associated in the NBC System for "The Empire Builders" are WEAF, WEEI, WTIC, 

[January 28, 1929 NYT] "James J. Hill"

[January 28, 1929 Washington Post] 

... History in the making during pioneer days of the great Northwest again 
will be reenacted for radio listeners to the third broadcast of "The Empire 
Builders" at 10:30 o'clock tonight. ...


[February 4, 1929 Hartford Courant]
... The discovery of the Columbia River in the Northwest in 1797 will be 
dramatized by the Empire-Builders over the Travelers station beginning at 
10:30 o'clock tonight. The story of the voyage of the schooner "Columbia" from 
Boston and the success of Captain Gray, American merchantmen, where French and 
Spanish explorers had failed to discover the mythical river known to Indians 
as the Oregon will be told at this time. ...

[February 5, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

... The "Empire Builders'" program last Monday took the usual form of a story, 
interspersed with many good-humored chuckles, by the "old timer," with 
occasional portions of it in dramatized form. The discovery of the Columbia 
River by Capt. Robert Gray of Boston in 1792 was the topic chosen. The first 
dramatized scene disclosed the deck of the little sloop Lady Washington, as it 
left the New England harbor to the tune of lusty chanties.

The next depicted the first shore leave on the Oregon coast after nine months' 
sailing on the way round the Horn. The leave was short and not very sweet 
since it ended in hasty retreat before unfriendly Indians to the accompaniment 
of discharging firearms of various descriptions. The third scene revealed 
Captain Gray and his men amongst the singing maidens of the Orient whither 
they had sailed with a cargo of furs on the Columbia which had accompanied 
them to the west coast under Captain Kendrick.

The "old timer" recounted this vessel's circuit of the world, the first under 
the American flag, and the arrival in Boston in August 1790, after 13 months 
at sea. He then told of the second voyage begun after only one month at home 
and continued until the discovery of the Columbia River two years later.

The voice of the story teller in this program was most effective but the 
dramatized episodes were not convincing as portrayals of open-air scenes since 
the slight reverberation of the studio was very apparent. ...

[February 5, 1930 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S. 

... the Empire Builders' sketch, which was excellent in itself ... would have 
profited greatly had those who presented it had another rehearsal; ...

[February 11, 1929 Washington Post column headlined: Concert Bill From West Is 
Featured / Oregon Orchestra Slated to Play Over Coast-to-Coast Hookup Through 
WRC; "Two Orphans" on WMAL Program.]

The Portland Symphony Orchestra, of Portland, Oreg., will be the first 
organization of its kind to be broadcast in a nation-wide hook-up from the 
Pacific Coast at 10:30 o'clock tonight. This orchestra is offered during "The 
Empire Builders" program, which is broadcast through WRC. Willem Van 
Hoogstraten, well known to the Eastern audience through the stadium concerts 
broadcast by the National Broadcasting Co. last summer will conduct the 
orchestra in its first coast-to-coast concert. The Portland orchestra was 
organized about twenty years ago and is one of the leading symphony units on 
the Pacific Coast.

The program includes Schubert's "Rosamundo Overture," the Strauss composition 
"Artist's Life, and "March of the Sardar" from the "Caucasian Sketches" of 
Ippolitoff Ivanov.

"The Empire Builders" is a new feature on the air, having been heard only 
three weeks or so, and is sponsored by the Great Northern Railway with the 
object of acquainting Southern and Eastern listeners with the Northwest. ...

[February 11, 1929 Oakland (CA) Tribune]

... "The Empire Builders" is a weekly transcontinental program usually 
broadcast from New York through NBS [sic] system stations on Mondays, but will 
originate in Portland, Ore., tonight. 

Featured during the half-hour broadcast next [sic] Monday will be the Portland 
Symphony orchestra under the direction of William Van Hoogtraten. Jennings 
Pierce, chief announcer and assistant program director of the NBC's San 
Francisco studios, will be in Portland to announce the program. ...

[February 12, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

... Another program on Monday night to originate in two far distant points was 
the "Empire Builders" Hour at 10:30 which opened and closed with remarks on 
the founding and growth of Portland, Ore., by the "Old Timer" in New York and 
in the middle offered a fine concert by the Portland Symphony Orchestra under 
Willem Von Hoogstraten in that city. Several numbers were played including the 
fourth movement from Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, Schubert's "Rosamunde" 
Overture and the "March of the Sirdar" from Ippolitoff-Ivanov's "Caucasian 
Sketches." A friendly message from the Mayor of Portland was also read. 

The occasion was of unusual interest since it marked the first time that a 
nationally known orchestra had played in a Pacific coast city for the pleasure 
of listeners from one side of the continent to the other. ...

[February 18, 1929 NYT] "Lewis and Clark"

[February 18, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Clark and Lewis Become Empire Builders.

The expedition of Capt. George Clark and Capt. Merriweather Lewis in the 
administration of President Jefferson will be recreated for listeners in two 
broadcasts of the Empire Builders over a coast-to-coast network of the NBC 
system Feb. 18 and Feb. 25.

Weekly programs in the Empire Builders series are on the air each Monday at 
9:30 p. m., with WRR transmitting for WFAA.

The first program devoted to Clark and Lewis depicts the start of the 
expedition and its arrival on the west xoast three weeks after their ship had 
started back after giving them up for lost. The second program, Feb.25, will 
portray the hazardous journey back from the coast by an overland route.

In the opening chapters of the Clark and Lewis saga, listeners may attend the 
start of the two-year journey and hear them as they plunge into the unknown 
from the jumping-off place at St. Louis. A feature of the first chapter is the 
incident at Great Falls, where a cloudburst swelled the river and swept their 
encampment from the banks like so many flies.

[February 19, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

... The Great Northern Railway's "Empire Builders" series continued this week 
at 10:30, eastern time, with the first of two programs telling the story of 
the Lewis and Clark expedition into the West. The most thrilling incident was 
the cloudburst at Great Falls, in which their encampment was entirely swept 
away. The "old timer" left them, in his description, comfortably established 
in the good graces of the Shoshone Indians with whom they will remain until 
next Monday. They will then travel back by the Overland route.

At the conclusion of the story a long telegram from the Governor of Montana in 
which the progress of that State was clearly set forth was read as an 
interesting commentary upon the rapid development in the country explored by 
Lewis and Clark. ...

[February 24, 1929 Pittsburgh Press radio column]

... NOW THAT the Three-in-One Theater has Washington using Three-in-Oil on his 
oar-locks in crossing the Delaware it remains only for the Great Northern 
Railway to take their Empire Builders out of the covered wagons and put them 
in Pullman cars. ...

[February 25, 1929 Washington Post]

... The hazardous return journey of Clark and Lewis by the overland route from 
San Francisco after missing their steamer there, will be depicted in the next 
chapter of the historic series on "The Empire Builders" to be broadcast from 
WRC at 10:30 o'clock tonight. ...

[March 4, 1929 NYT] "Lewis and Clark"

[March 11, 1929 NYT] "The Northwest"

[March 11, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders Will Tell California History.

Three episodes in the history of California will be the theme of the "Empire 
Builders'" program to be broadcast over the NBC system Monday from 9:30 to 10 
p. m. The events will be dramatized with a background of appropriate music. 
WRR will transmit for WFAA.

The first scene will be laid in San Carlos Mission, Monterey, founded 1770, by 
Gaspar Portola, of the Franciscan Order. It will portray the life of that time 
and the work of these Spanish missionaries among the Indians of California.

The second scene will bring the Americans on the scene. The discovery of gold 
at Sutter's Mill brought the gold rush of '49, and Americans by thousands 
were coming to the new "El Dorado." Carefree indolence of the spanish dons 
gave way to the tempestuous driving force of the Argonauts.

Lastly, will be modern California, with its thriving cities, picturesque 
beaches, forest monarchs and lofty mountains, and with this episode the radio 
audience will hear a short message from one of the State's leading citizens.

The "Old Timers" [sic] will be master of ceremonies of this program sponsored 
by the Great Northern Railway.

[March 18, 1929 NYT] "The Northwest"

[March 23, 1929 Havre Daily News Promoter]

Great Northern Will Broadcast Program Mon.

Special Program on Exploration of Mississippi River Valley by Pierre de la 

Kenneth J. Holmes, local G. N. freight agent, announced this morning that the 
Great Northern will present an "Empire Builders" radio program Monday, March 
25, at 8:30 mountain time. 

The program reviews the exploration of the Missouri river valley by Pierre de 
la Verendrye, in 1783, who was searching for the ever receding short route to 
India. Verendrye was the first white man to tread the soil of the present 
state of North Dakota and Monday night's program will show how the great 
agricultural development of the state during the last two centuries had its 
beginning in diversified crop practice of the Indians.

A second feature of the Great Northern's program will be the Indian songs of 
Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye, a direct descendant of the French explorer. 
She has a mezzo-soprano voice, has studied under Vencenzo Lombardi, a teacher 
of Caruso, and sings to accompaniment of Indian tom toms.

The program will be broadcast from the following stations: WSB, Atlanta; WEEI, 
Boston; WGR, Buffalo; WBT, Charlotte; KYW, Chicago; WTAM, Cleveland; WFAA, 
Dallas-Fort. Worth; WOC, Davenport; KOA, Denver; WWJ, Detroit; WTIC, Hartford; 
KPRC, Houston; WDAF, Kansas City; KFI, Los Angeles; WHAS, Louisville; WMC, 
Memphis; WTMJ, Milwaukee; WEAF, New York; WOW, Omaha; WCSH, Portland; KSD, St. 
Louis; KSTP, St. Paul; KSL, Salt Lake City; KPO, San Francisco; KOMO, Seattle; 
KHQ, Spokane, and WRC, Washington.

[March 25, 1929 NYT] "The Northwest"

[March 25, 1929 Washington Post]

... The exploration of the Missouri River Valley, by Pierre de la Verendrye in 
1738, who was searching for the ever receding short route to India, is the 
theme of the "Empire Builders" tonight. A feature will be Indian songs by 
Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye, a direct descendant of the French explorer. 

[April 1, 1929 episode described in March 27 Helena Daily Independent]

Author of "Tish" in Glacier Park Broadcasts Monday Eve

A dramatized "My Country Tish of Thee" will feature the Empire Builder's 
program next Monday night at 8:30 o'clock.

Mary Roberts Rinehart, the author has given her consent and this humorous 
story of a middle-aged trio of "old maids" will be presented in the form of a 
radio drama.

The three women, imbued with the "See America First" idea, decide to tour 
Glacier National park. Letitia Carberry, or Tish for short, is the principal 
character and as leader of the "M. A. T." (Middle Aged Trio) stages a coup 
resulting in the capture of a bandit gang which had just made a "stick up."

The reason for the apprehension of these villains was Tish's desire to bring 
to public ridicule a group of movie heroes with a holdup and robbery as the 
climax. The three women under the direction of Tish surprise the supposed film 
heroes at night, force them into subjection with the threat of wooden 
revolvers whittled for the occasion and then lead them in captivity to the 
Many-Glacier hotel.

Find Real Bandits.

There they learn that their prisoners are real bandits with a reward on their 
heads and Tish has to take a cocktail to quiet her nerves. The story is 
humorous from beginning to end with the author at her best in describing the 
park tour of the M. A. T.

Monday night's program which is sponsored by the Great Northern railway, will 
be broadcast between 7:30 and 8 o'clock Pacific coast time, 8:30 and 9 
Mountain time, from these stations: 

WSB, Atlanta; WEEI, Boston; WGR, Buffalo; WBT, Charlotte; KYW, Chicago; WTAM, 
Cleveland; WFAA, Dallas-Ft. Worth; WOC, Davenport; KOA, Denver; WWJ, Detroit; 
WTIC, Hartford; KPRC, Houston; WDAF, Kansas City; KFI, Los Angeles; WHAS, 
Louisville; WMC, Memphis; WTMJ, Milwaukee; WEAF, New York; WKY, Oklahoma City; 
WOW, Omaha; WLIT, Philadelphia; WCAE, Pittsburgh; WCSH, Portland, Me.; KGW, 
Portland, Ore.; WJAR, Providence; KSD, St. Louis; KSTP, St. Paul; KSL, Salt 
Lake City; KPO, San Francisco; KGO, San Francisco; WGY, Schenectady; KOMO, 
Seattle; KHQ, Spokane; WEBC, Superior; WRC, Washington; WTAG, Worcester.

[April 1, 1929 episode described in March 27 CSM]

"Tish" Dramatized in 'Empire Builders' Program

A dramatization of one of the famous "Tish" stories by Mary Roberts Rinehart 
will be the next chapter of "The Empire Builders" over the NBC coast-to-coast 
system, Monday evening, April 1, at 10:30, eastern time (which is 7:30 Pacific 

The story tells of the extraordinary adventures of the three sisters in 
Glacier National Park. Elderly as they were, they learned to ride horseback 
and to camp out among the mountains. Their adventures with a lovelorn maiden 
and a party of bandits furnish one of the most amusing episodes in modern 

The Empire Builders include WEAF, WEEL, WTAG, WCSH, WJAR, WTIC, WLIT, WRC, 

[April 1, 1929 Washington Post] 

... A dramatization of one of the "Tish" stories, by Mary Roberts Rinehart, 
who makes her home in Washington, will be broadcast as the chapter of the 
Empire Builders at 10:30. ...

[April 1, 1929 NYT] "Tish"

[April 8, 1929 NYT] "Puget Sound"

[April 8, 1929 Washington Post]

... The dramatic history of Seattle, Wash., will be depicted as the next 
chapter of "The Empire Builders" at 10 o'clock. The city was named for Chief 
Seattle, a Dwarmish chief, who died in 1866 and who was friendly to the 
whites. The first permanent settlement was in 1852. ...

[April 9, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

There are instances of local conflicts in interest in the course of history 
which, in the case of nations steeped in the thought of war, have resulted in 
its outbreak, while in other cases, where the people concerned were altogether 
friendly, they have merely been the cause of better understanding. One of the 
latter was presented on the "Empire Builders" program at 10:30, on Monday, in 
the usual combined narrative and dramatized incident form.

While at the time to the individuals concerned it was a matter of the gravest 
importance, for listeners today its strong flavor of comedy was most notable. 
Doubtless many of the tense moments in history, viewed from a similarly 
disinterested standpoint, would prove just as diverting.

The scene of this particular story was laid in the San Juan Islands, in Puget 
Sound, the exact status of which was left undefined by the treaty of 1846, 
with the result that the Hudson Bay Company and a group of American citizens 
were both firmly established. The first actual effort at agriculture made by 
the Americans was a potato patch which was cultivated in 1859 by a certain Mr. 
Tucker. But unfortunately these new potatoes were an easy prey for a hog which 
was under the control of a Mr. Griffin on behalf of the Hudson Bay Company, 
whose importance Griffin rather felt was centered in his person at that 
particular post.

In the midst of a Fourth of July celebration, in which the Americans raised a 
flag for the first time on the islands -- this flag being made up of portions 
of various intimate garments carefully cut out and sewed together by hand, 
came the news that the pig was again devouring the fruit of Mr. Tucker's 
labors. A controversy ensued in which Griffin implied that the company's pig 
had a better right to anything on the island than had the potato planter. At 
this point Tucker's feelings became too much for him and the unfortunate hog 
was sacrificed on the altar of eventual international understanding.

Tucker offered to pay $5 to compensate for the loss, but Griffin was by now 
thoroughly aroused and quite beyond the reach of a financial sedative. Nothing 
would do but that he should call for a gunboat from Victoria to protect the 
rights of the company. Evidently things were slow in a military way in the 
city and the authorities took the opportunity to send down three ships and 800 
men, while from the American side came 60 men and officers empowered to settle 
the affair in the proper way.

This end was easily brought about by the payment of $100 damages and by a 
definite arrangement for the joint administration of the islands until their 
status could be finally decided. The affair concluded with the playing by the 
military bands of the old tune to which is sung both "God Save the King" and 
"My Country 'Tis of Thee."

[April 15, 1929 Washington Post]

... Capt. George Vancouver, the discoverer of Vancouver Island and of the 
present site of Vancouver, British Columbia, will live again in the broadcast 
of the Empire Builders at 10:30 o'clock. A biographical sketch of the man for 
whom the city in the Northwest was named will be the next chapter in the epic 
series of broadcasts depicting the growth of the Northwest. ...

[April 21, 1929 Hartford Courant]

Famous Indian Fighter on Air.

... Some unexpected revelations about the Indian wars are promised by General 
Hugh Scott, former chief of staff, United States Army, and famous Indian 
fighter, when he personally relates the story of the historic flight and 
capture of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces in the Empire Builders' broadcast 
over WTIC Monday night at 10:30. The story of "the most gallant Indian 
chieftain" will provide the theme of the entire broadcast on this night, with 
General Scott's personal reminiscences as a highlight. Listeners will hear an 
authentic tale of Indian-fighting days from the lips of perhaps the only man 
alive who took part in the particular incidents to be related. ...

[April 22, 1929 NYT - title confirmed by Associated Press] "The Most Gallant 
Indian Chieftain"

[April 28, 1929 Washington Post]

The Post's second annual voting contest for the most popular radio features is 
a good cross-section of what is in the listener's mind and should be 
informative to broadcasters in their efforts to please the listening public. 
On this subject we will now allow Post listeners to speak for themselves. ...

"The Empire Builders should be earlier so that children can hear it, because 
the stories are constructive for school children," says Myron R. Smith, 2121 P 
street northwest. 

"Paul Whiteman hour O. K. if not for that hideous George Gershwin's 'Rhapsody 
in Blue.' It's terrible. George is all right, but the rhapsody is awful;" 
Frederick A. Gilmore, 2301 Cathedral avenue northwest. ...

[April 29, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders to Relate Astorian Voyage.

The settlement and development of Wenatchee Valley in the State of 
Washington form the theme of the Empire Builders' Nation-wide broadcast over 
the NBC system Monday night, April 29, at 8:30 p. m., WRR transmitting for 

The Wenatchee Valley has long been famous for its miles of magnificent apple 
orchards. The program will include a dramatization of the voyage of the 
Astorians on their way to what became later the Port of Astoria at the mouth 
of the Columbia River. 

The dramatic episodes will recount the history of these same Astorians pushing 
inland to settle the Wenatchee Valley, and how, through the instrumentality of 
James J. Hill, prosperity came to this entire area.

[April 30, 1929 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S. 

... The Empire Builders program seemed to us somewhat less interesting than it 
usually is. The sketch was subordinated to descriptive talks, with incidental 
music, and the sketch is by far the most interesting part of this broadcast. 

[April 30, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

The Empire Builders' program through the WEAF chain at 10:30 p. m. on Monday 
was not quite so eventful as usual. Its nucleus was a scene in which James J. 
Hill of the Great Northern Railway consented to come to the rescue of the men 
who were endeavoring to establish the apple industry in the Wenatchee Valley 
in Washington and to provide the lands for necessary irrigation and other 
projects which shortly resulted in complete success.

This scene did not possess the dramatic or widespread historical significance 
which some earlier incidents brought to life in these programs have offered, 
but it was interesting at this time of year when the apple blossom carnivals 
in that and other famous valleys devoted to production of the fruit, are to be 
held shortly.

The major part of the program was devoted to a description of the Wenatchee 
Valley, given partly by the apple blossom queen elected there, and to 
orchestra music of the type usually associated with spring. In the course of 
the dramatized incident a hand organ outside bore further musical testimony to 
the season. ...

[April 30, 1929 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

... The Empire Builders program seemed to us somewhat less interesting than it 
usually is. The sketch was subordinated to descriptive talks, with incidental 
music, and the sketch is by far the most interesting part of this broadcast. 

Part of a May 2, 1929 Great Northern advertisement

[May 6, 1929 NYT] "History of Seattle"

[May 6, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Another Chapter In Seattle's Story.

Dramatic chapters in the history of Seattle, principal city of the State 
of Washington, will be enacted during the coast-to-coast broadcast of "The 
Empire Builders" over the N.B.C. System at 8:30 p. m., WFAA transmitting. 

Besides the high light sketches of the city's history, J. W. Spangler of the 
Seattle Chamber of Commerce, will appear as guest speaker and give a four-
minute description of the city as it is today. ...

[May 13, 1929 Pittsburgh Press]

10:30--Empire Builders

The first Fourth of July celebration in the great Northwest, in 1841, when 
400 Indians joined the whites in honoring Independence Day, will be depicted 
in this broadcast.

The dramatic thumbnail sketches from history on that night describe the 
history of Tacoma, Wash., where the 1841 celebration was held and where Capt. 
Wilkes and the sailors joined the mixed gathering of redmen and whites on 
Independence Day. The same scene amusingly portrays how an ingenious device 
kept one of the settlers' babies from crying--that of having a fierce Indian 
chief sing war songs to the accompaniment of the tom-tom.

Other episodes show a second patriotic celebration in 1868 shortly after the 
Civil War; a Fourth of July celebration in 1906, which portrays an amusing 
pie-eating contest; and still another episode depicting the homecoming of the 
Tacoma troops after the World War.

[May 14, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

The attention of the "Empire Builders" was centered upon Tacoma in the regular 
weekly radiocast through the WEAF transcontinental chain at 10:30 p. m. on 
Monday. There was little narrative for the "Old Timer" to tell. After a few 
brief remarks from this genial gentleman, the first scene began. It offered a 
sound picture of the first Fourth of July celebration in the Northwest, which 
took place on the site of Tacoma in 1841, when 400 Indians joined the white 
settlers in listening to the speeches, and one of them obligingly stopped the 
crying of Diana, a missionary's baby, by executing a war dance before her 
astonished eyes.

Three other episodes were presented, each one showing the growing city in the 
course of holiday festivities. There was the music of Civil War days as it was 
played in 1868, a pie-eating contest in 1906, and finally the marching songs 
of the World War as the troops returned in 1919.

By the few introductory words before each of these scenes a very good mental 
picture of the setting of Tacoma at the foot of the mountain bearing its name, 
was drawn in the thought of listeners. The scenes themselves, however, were 
only mildly interesting compared to some of the earlier and more dramatic 
incidents which have been offered in this period. It would seem that further 
historical material of significance and interest to the general public is 
perhaps becoming a little difficult to find along the route of the Great 
Northern Railway and that programs of a more plainly descriptive nature are 
being introduced. There is plenty of interest in this direction to fill many 
half hours of radiocasting. ...

[May 20, 1929 NYT] "Empire Builders; rescue of Major Martin and return to 
Bellingham, Wash., after plane crash on around-the-world flight."

[May 26, 1929 Washington Post's "second annual voting contest for the most 
popular radio features" -- "total number of ballots cast was 1,184, of which 
the winning feature polled a net total of 630 affirmative votes" -- "The 
Eveready Hour" wins. Coming in at 39 with 299 affirmative votes, 117 negative 
votes is "Empire Builders."]

[May 27, 1929]

[May 28, 1929 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S. 

... An Empire Builders' sketch based on Mount Ranier, which began at rather a 
slow tempo but gained in interest and suspense as it proceeded to its climax 
was one of the highlights of the evening. Some magnificent sound effects were 
employed in the dramatizing of the Indian flood. ...

[May 28, 1929 The Decatur Review - Listening In column item]

... The "Old Pioneer," central figure in the Empire Builders' series, has a 
voice very like that of Collier's "Uncle Henry." We'd guess the same man plays 
both roles. ...

[May 29, 1929  Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S. 

... Discovered: the voice of that inimitable radio personality, Harvey Hayes, 
heard regularly as the Old Pioneer of the Empire Builders Sketch, is Captain 
Wilson in Harbor Lights. It is a distinctive voice, withal, one which changes 
with each role, so that Captain Wilson sounded unlike the Pioneer, but his 
laugh is one that cannot be mistaken! Harbor Lights certainly seems to merit 
the popularity it has achieved during its short life, and it improves with 
every broadcast. It is a relief to pick out a program such as this from the 
welter of jazz which fills the air at that time. ... 

[June 2, 1929 Washington Post - Station WOL's independent popularity poll of 
radio features is won by "Amos 'n' Andy" which receives 488 favorable votes 
out of 557 votes cast. "Empire Builders" gets one vote. "Prophylactic Hour" 
gets two.]

[June 3, 1929 NYT] "The Development and Growth of Alaska"

[June 3, 1929 Washington Post]

The drama in the development and growth of Alaska will be the story of the 
Empire Builders. Actual incidents of '98 will be included. The theme story 
will be that of a middle-aged, sophisticated woman of the Yukon, accused of 
claim jumping when she asserted her right to a portion of a very rich claim 
held jointly by two brothers.

The program opens in a Yukon dance hall, where the claims are being discussed, 
and a half-dead Indian enters and says that the two brothers involved are 
trapped in the snow several miles away. The men are afraid to go to the 
rescue, but the woman leads the rescue party. ...   

[June 9, 1929 Washington Post]

... A ceremonial to dedicate the Great Northern Railway's new "Empire Builder" 
train will be broadcast at 8:30 o'clock from WRC. Features of the program 
include solos by John Charles Thomas, barytone, and Obed Pickard, who will 
sing old-time railroad songs. Louis W. Hill, Jr., grandson of James J. Hill, 
the "Empire Builder," after whom the train was named, will be a speaker, while 
Secretary of Commerce Lamont is scheduled to be heard for the second time the 
same day during this program. ...

[June 9, 1929 NYT]

A ceremonial to dedicate the Great Northern Railway's new Empire Builder 
train, which leaves Union Station, Chicago, for the first time June 10, will 
be broadcast over WEAF's coast-to-coast network tomorrow night, beginning at 
10:30 o'clock. The dedication of this transcontinental flier will be broadcast 
to the nation by Graham McNamee, who will occupy a booth in Union Station 
overlooking the ceremonies. Other features of the program include solos by 
John Charles Thomas, baritone, and Obed Pickard, who will sing old-time 
railroad songs. Several talks are scheduled by Louis W. Hill, Jr., C. W. 
Jenks, T. I. Newman and Secretary of Commerce Robert P. Lamont, who is 
scheduled to speak from Washington, D.C. ...

[Text of June 10, 1929 advertisement in the Washington Post]

Tonight / WRC / 9:30 to 10:30 / Eastern Standard Time / Gala Broadcast 
Signalizing First Flight / of the Great Northern's new transcon- / tinental 
flyer -- the / EMPIRE BUILDER / with / GRAHAM McNAMEE / America's Foremost 
Radio Announcer / COL. ROBERT P. LAMONT / Secretary of Commerce / THE "OLD 
PIONEER" / Famous Radio Character / REINALD WERRENRATH / Celebrated Baritone / 
CHIEF TWO GUNS WHITE CALF / Leader of the famous Blackfeet Indians / PICKARD / 
The Railway Minstrel / The train on its flight will broadcast itself / with 
unusual radio devices. / Band music of incomparable harmony. / News events 
attending a great transportation pageant. / Features never before attempted on 
a / Coast to Coast hook-up of the N.B.C. / [GREAT NORTHERN logo]

[June 10, 1929 Washington Post]

Robert P. Lamont, Secretary of Commerce, will speak over the radio for the 
second time during the day when he makes the principal address during the 
ceremony to dedicate the Great Northern Railway's "Empire Builder" train 
tonight at 9:30 o'clock from WRC.

The train will leave Union Station, Chicago, for its first run during the 
broadcast. Graham McNamee will occupy a specially constructed booth in Union 
Station, from which he will describe the ceremonies. Other features of the 
program include solos by Reinald Werrenrath, American barytone, and Obed 
Pickard, who will sing old-time railroad songs.

Several short talks are scheduled by Louis W. Hill, jr., grandson of James J. 
Hill, the famous "Empire Builder" after whom the train was named; C. W. Jenks, 
operating vice president of the Great Northern Railway; T. I. Newman, 
president of the National Ticket Agents Association, and others.

[June 10, 1929 Havre Daily News Promoter]

Empire Builder Train Takes To Tracks Tonight

New G.N. Limited Will Go Into Service Tonight; Also Will Take to Air Over 

The Empire Builder, the Great Northern's new fast train to the Pacific Coast, 
will take the rails and airs simultaneously tonight, when its departure from 
Chicago will be broadcast over the network of the National Broadcasting 

In rapid succession radio listeners will hear Secretary of Commerce Lamont 
speak from Washington, D. C., hear him ring the gong in the Chicago union 
station, hear the train start, get a verbal description of its departure from 
the observation car of the moving train and a few minutes later listen in with 
Graham McNamee as the train rushes through Chicago suburbs.

The mechanics of broadcasting this program are said to be the most involved 
ever attempted.

The program will come principally from the new union station at Chicago, where 
Graham McNamee will share officiating honors with the Old Pioneer, central 
figure in the Great Northern's weekly historical broadcasts.

Microphones installed in different parts of the big passenger terminal will 
pick up the various features of the program that has been arranged to 
inaugurate the new fast train service. The Empire Builder will clip 5 hours 
off the running time from Chicago to Seattle and Portland and shorten the 
eastbound time by nearly 7 hours.

The old William Crooks, first locomotive west of the Mississippi River, will 
compete in a radio audition with the big locomotive that will take the new 
fast train west. Chief Two-Guns White Calf of the Blackfeet Indians, whose 
likeness appears on the buffalo nickels, will talk in his native tongue. A 
military band will furnish music in the station, while Reinald Werrenrath, 
well known baritone, will be brought into the program from New York. "Dad" 
Pickard, railway song artist, and the Pullman porters' quartette also are on 
the program. The Indians will stage their native songs and dances.

Short addresses are to be made by T. I. Newman, president of the American 
Association of Railroad Ticket Agents; Miss Chicago Commerce, representing the 
Chicago Chamber of Commerce; and C. O. Jenks, Great Northern vice president in 
charge of operation, who will dedicate the new train to the late James J. 
Hill, who is known throughout the Northwest as the "Empire Builder."

Beginning tonight the Great Northern is putting eight new trains, said to 
represent the last word in travel luxury, into the transcontinental service.

Tonight's program will be broadcast from 6:30 to 7:30 o'clock Pacific Coast 
Time; 7:30 to 8:30 Mountain Time; 8:30 to 9:30 Central Standard Time, and 9:30 
to 10:30 Eastern Standard Time (except in cities having daylight savings time, 
when the time will be one hour later) over the following stations:

WSB, Atlanta; WEEI, Boston; WGR, Buffalo; WBT, Charlotte; KYW Chicago; WTAM, 
Cleveland; WFAA, Dallas - Fort Worth; WOC, Davenport; KOA, Denver; WWJ, 
Detroit; WTIC, Hartford; KPRO, Houston; WDAF, Kansas City; KFL. Los Angeles; 
WHAS, Louisville; WMC, Memphis; WTMJ, Milwaukee; WEAF, New York; WKY, Oklahoma 
City; WOW, Omaha; WLIT, Philadelphia; WCAE, Pittsburgh; WCSH, Portland, Me.; 
KGW, Portland, Ore.; WJAR, Providence; KSD, St. Louis; KSTP, St. Paul; KSL, 
Salt Lake City; WOAI, San Antonio; KPO, San Francisco; KGO, San Francisco; 
WGY, Schenectady; KOMO, Seattle; KHQ, Spokane; WEBC, Superior; WRC, 
Washington; WTAG, Worcester.

[June 21, 1929 CSM]



NO TRAIN ever got away to a more auspicious start than the new Empire Builder, 
fast Great Northern Railway train from Chicago to Seattle. Its departure from 
Chicago on its first trip, was heard from coast to coast on a radio hookup, 
and the train was actually in motion before the microphone was taken off the 
observation car.

The scene shifted to a suburb of Chicago and in a booth beside the track, the 
"mike" picked up the sound of the approaching train, the air-whistle sending 
forth its crossing signal of two long and two short blasts so distinctly that 
it sounded as though the locomotive were within the four walls. The rumble of 
the train as it passed was clearly audible and the radio audience, as far as 
sound was concerned, were wholly a part of the inaugural trip of the train.

Prior to its departure, Chief Two Guns White Calf of Glacier Park, whose 
profile graces the reverse side of the coin known as the "buffalo nickel," 
spoke in his native guttural, the chief being a regular publicity 
representative of the Great Northern, having participated in its exhibit at 
the Baltimore & Ohio's Fair of the Iron Horse. The first Great Northern train, 
drawn by the old General William Crooks locomotive, was also on hand, its 
shrill whistle being heard from Union Station, Chicago. ...

[June 14, 1929 The Helena Daily Independent]

Great Northern Official Tells of "Pioneer's" Trip

Helena radio fans last evening who tuned in on KOMO, KGW, and KMQ heard C. O. 
Jenks, vice president in charge of operation, with headquarters in St. Paul, 
tell of the trip of the Empire Builder, the new crack train from Chicago to 
the coast, which arrived in Seattle on time as scheduled.

The talk was broadcast on a radio hookup from the coast.

In part, Mr. Jenks said:

"Some one said it was a simple mistake for me to make this initial trip with 
the "Pioneer" and Miss Chicago on the Empire Builder; that no one would thank 
us if we got in on time and all the world would know if we did not make the 
new schedule, but we are here and here on time in spite of our difficulties in 
pulling away from our almost too ardent friends at Chicago, Twin Cities, 
Fargo, Minot, Williston, Havre, Whitefish, Spokane and Everett. I am glad to 
be here in the Northwest again, to get into Spokane or Portland or Tacoma or 
Seattle always seems to me like getting home. I spent a good many years in 
these cities.

Plays Prominent Part.

"Those of you who know the history of the northwest are familiar with the part 
played by the Great Northern in the development of this territory and 
particularly of Seattle and we of the Great Northern are fully alive to what 
the Great Northern owes to the northwest[;] it was in keeping with this 
feeling of obligation that we decided to give this new faster service to the 
Northwest, inaugurated successfully with the arrival at Spokane last night and 
at the coast cities this morning, of the first Empire Builder, I should say 
the first two Empire Builders, because we had to run the first train in two 

"I do not believe you realize what has been happening on the Great Northern; 
it takes a trip like the one we have just made to bring home the marvelous 
change which has taken place in roadbed and equipment; Do you know that this 
Empire Builder, making the trip from Chicago, used a route 61 miles shorter 
than the Oriental Limited used even a year ago? Ordinarily no one pays much 
attention to the arrival of trains except those directly concerned, the 
passengers and their waiting friends. But nearly every business man in Seattle 
keeps a check on the Great Northern.

Pleased by Record.

"If his eastern mail is on his desk in the morning, 48 hours after it left St. 
Paul, he knows that our fast mail No. 27 came in on time. We think we have 
reason to be proud of No. 27. I hope the fleet of Empire Builders will please 
you and serve many of you. The entire operating department will do its best to 
have the Empire Builders on time performance equal to that of the fast mail 
and the Oriental Limited."

[June 17, 1929 Washington Post radio column headlined Glacier Park Radio Topic 
For Tonight / Vachel Lindsay Will Read Poem in Broadcast on Empire Building 
Over WRC; British Music Scheduled by WMAL.]

Vachel Lindsay, ranked among the greatest modern American poets, is scheduled 
to read one of his own works as part of a special broadcast by the Empire 
Builders, concerning Glacier National Park, to be heard at 9:30 o'clock 
through WRC.

Coming two days after the official opening of the park for the 1929 season, 
the program will contain special features sketching the attractions of the 
Federal preserve, rather than the usual historical drama.

The Old Pioneer, heard weekly in Empire Builders broadcasts, will officiate as  
master of ceremonies in the Chicago studios of the National Broadcasting Co., 
presenting native Indian songs by Blackfeet Indians from Glacier Park, and an 
Indian story told by Chief Two Guns White Calf through his interpreter, Chief 
Heavy Breast. "Dad" Packard, noted mountaineer, will be heard in a selection 
of typical old-time songs. ...

[June 24, 1929 NYT] "Glacier National Park"

[June 24, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Indian Legend.--Another Nation-wide broadcast, based on the legends of the 
Glacier National Park, will be heard in the weekly program by the Empire 
Builders over the NBC system at 8:30 p. m., WFAA broadcasting.
The familiar characters of the Old Pioneer, Jack, Betty and Aunt Ella will act 
out an old legend of the Sioux Indians, who, with the Blackfeet, were the 
fiercest warriors known to this country. 

The story tells of an Indian Princess who had three unusual tests for her 
suitors and of the miraculous way in which one Indian youth accomplished these 

The program is also deisgned to stress the superb natural beauty of Glacier 
National Park, with the "Shining Mountains," so called for the many crystal 
formations which make them sparkle from a distance of many miles.

[June 24, 1929 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

The inside story of the making of Empire Builders programs, which go off the 
air shortly for the summer, is an interesting one because it reveals the 
inspiration behind the human trademark of the program, the inimitable "Old 

Before the program was inaugurated, Raymond Knight, NBC production manager in 
charge of these broadcasts, spent a month in an intensive tour of the 
Northwest. He talked to "old timers," investigated Indian legends, became a 
member of the Blackfeet tribe, was guest of a half dozen others, and in other 
ways, thoroughly broke ground for the series.

In one of the little towns of the Pacific northwest, Knight met the "Old 
Pioneer," a man well past 80 who had twinkling blue eyes and a huge white 
beard. This old man could talk for hours, about "Injuns," prospectors, 
informal lynchings, and wagon caravans.

In Knight's nimble brain, a radio counterpart of the "Old Pioneer" was 
instantly conceived of. The role was entrusted to that veteran radio actor, 
Harvey Hayes. And thus it came about that Hayes, who isn't as old as he 
"sounds," has certainly created one of the most distinctive of air 
personalities. ...

[June 25, 1929 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

... Another splendid dramatization of an Indian legend by the Empire Builders 

[July 1, 1929 NYT] "Glacier National Park and the Waterton Lakes"

[July 1, 1929 Washington Post]

... The last legend of the current series of the "Empire Builders" will be 
heard at 9:30 o'clock.  Another Indian legend of Glacier National Park and the 
Waterton Lakes will ring down the curtain for the summer on these weekly 
dramatizations featuring "The Old Pioneers," [sic] Jack, Betty and Aunt Jane. 

[July 1, 1929 episode described in June 30 Havre Daily News]

G. N. Program Monday Last Until September

The Empire Builder's radio program for July 1 will be the last until September 
30, it was announced today at Great Northern headquarters.

The programs devoted to "selling" the northwest have been presented by the 
Great Northern weekly since the opening of the Cascade tunnel in January. The 
program for July 1 is dedicated to Glacier National park and features an 
Indian legend. The Blackfeet Indians whose reservation is adjacent to the park 
are rich in their lore built around the mountains, lakes and glaciers of the 
Rocky mountains.

The July 1 program will consist of one of these legends which will be told by 
the "Old Pioneer."

The programs will be discontinued after the July 1 program and will be resumed 
again September 30, it was announced.

The program will be broadcast on the "Empire Builder" program for Monday 
night, July 1, 7:30 to 8:00 Mountain Time.

[July 1, 1929 Syracuse (NY) Herald]

The last of the series of nationwide broadcasts in the "Empire Builders" 
series will be heard over a coast-to-coast NBC System, tonight, at 9:30 
o'clock. Another Indian legend of Glacier National Park and the Watertown 
Lakes will be featured. Harvey Hayes, veteran stage and studio character 
actor, has been playing the colorful part of "The Old Pioneer." The dramas 
were produced under the direction of Raymond Knight. The scripts were written 
by Edward Hale Bierstadt. 

[July 1, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--The last of the series of nationwide broadcasts in the 
"Empire Builders" series will be heard over a coast-to-coast NBC System, 
tonight, at 8:30 p. m., WFAA transmitting.

Another Indian legend of Glacier National Park and the Watertown Lakes will 
ring down the curtain for the summer on these weekly dramatizations featuring 
the Old Pioneer, Jack, Betty and Aunt Jane.

Harvey Hayes, veteran stage and studio character actor, has been playing the 
colorful part of the Old Pioneer, it is now revealed. The weekly dramas were 
produced under the direction of Raymond Knight, a prominent member of NBC's 
production staff. The scripts were written by Edward Hale Bierstadt. 

Another series of elaborate broadcasts next fall, under the same sponsorship, 
will be announced at a later date.

[July 11, 1929 Washington Post]

... Famous trials of history, whose outcome swayed the destiny of nations, 
will be reenacted for radio listeners in a series of broadcasts, "Historic 
Trials," over WRC at 8:30 o'clock. The series opens with the trial of 
Socrates, father of western thought and teacher of Plato, who was condemned to 
drink the fatal cup of hemlock for his blasphemy in daring to challenge the 
existence of the pagan gods. 

The new series is the work of Edward Hale Bierstadt, author and editor of 
"Curious Trials and Criminal Cases." He is already known to radio listeners as 
the author of dramatic episodes in the radio series, "The Empire Builders." 
["Empire Builders" ends its run on WEAF-NBC and moves to WJZ-NBC when it 
returns in September.]

[September 25, 1929 Billings (MT) Gazette]


Coast-to-Coast Radio Program Planned Next Monday. 

The northwest is again to be represented on the coast-to-coast radio programs.
J. F. Kelly, the Great Northern's general agent here announced today that a 
series of programs designed to carry the story of the up-and-coming northwest, 
will he broadcast weekly by the Great Northern over the network of the 
National Broadcasting company.
A new type of program has been evolved for the coming series. Modern romances 
with their locales mainly in the northwest are to be featured in especially 
arranged musical settings. 

Several well-known western writers have contributed stories for the new series 
while George Redman, continuity editor of the Chicago studios of the National 
Broadcasting company, spent several weeks the last summer in the west 
gathering local color and background. Edward Hale Bierstadt, author, who wrote 
the historical series for the Great Northern last year, has made several 
contributions to the new series and has been retained as general continuity
editor. Raymond Knight, Broadway theatrical director, who is recognized as one 
of the foremost radio drama producers and who produced the Empire Builder 
programs last year, will stage the new series.
The new type of program, with modern fiction stories, is said to afford many 
opportunities to picture the northwest, as it is today, its climatic 
advantages, scenery, out-of-door life, sports, natural resources and business 

"Supplementing the newspaper and magazine advertising which the northwest 
cities have been carrying in eastern publications, the Great Northern is 
hopeful that the new Empire Builder programs will contribute materially toward 
making the east 'Northwest-conscious'," said Mr. Kelly. 

"Population is what the northwest needs, and population must come hand in hand 
with new industries, new pay rolls, and land settlement. This is what the 
Great Northern hopes to promote with its new programs, while at the same time 
affording radio listeners a half hour of entertainment that is distinctly 
different from the general run of radio programs." 

The Great Northern was the first railway to use national chain broadcasts and 
apparently will continue to be the only railway represented on the national 
chains. Despite the rather exclusive position the Great Northern enjoys on the 
air, the railway has found it advantageous to increase its newspaper 
advertising during the last year, Mr. Kelly said.
The new series of Empire Builder programs will begin Monday evening September 
30, and will occupy the half hour between 8:30 to 9 o'clock Billings time. 

The following coast-to-coast stations will broadcast the northwest programs: 

WJZ, New York; WBZA, Boston; WBZ, Springfield; WHAM, Rochester; KDKA, 
Pittsburgh; WJR, Detroit; WLW, Cincinnati; KYW, Chicago; KWK, St. Louis: WREN, 
Kansas City; KSTP, St. Paul-Minneapolis; WTMJ, Milwaukee; WEBC, Duluth-
Superior; KVOO, Tulsa; WKY, Oklahoma City; WBAP, Dallas-Fort Worth; KPRC, 
Houston; WOAI, San Antonio; KOA Denver; KSL, Salt Lake City; KGO San 
Francisco; KPO, San Francisco; KPI, Los Angeles; KGW, Portland, Ore.; KOMO, 
Seattle, and KHQ, Spokane. 

[September 29, 1929 Oakland Tribune]

Empire Builders' Program Dated 

The Empire Builders who dramatized the discovery, settlement and early history 
of the West in a series of radio programs last year will return to the air in 
a new series dramatizing the modern development of the country west of the 
Mississippi when their first fall broadcast is heard through the N. B. C. 
coast-to-coast network tomorrow night at 7:30 o'clock over KGO and KPO. 

Harvey Hays, who was heard as the "Old Pioneer" last year, will play a leading 
part in the modern drama programs which center around American business men 
whose enterprises are building cities, railroads and factories where the 
Indian and buffalo once roamed at will. 

The series represent an innovation in the writing of continuities for radio 
dramas in that the scripts are the original work of writers who have been sent 
to the West and Northwest to familiarize themselves with the locale of the 
stories and gather background and local color. Several well known writers of 
Western stories have also contributed specially written playlets. 

The first dramalogue tells the story of a young Easterner whose faith in the 
West determined the location of a branch factory of a large, Eastern company. 
A beautiful girl of the Pacific Coast helps change the course of the West's 
development and brings added complications and interest to the playlet. 
Musical selections harmonizing with the scenes will be played. 

[September 30, 1929 Washington Post]

... The Empire Builders, heard here from WRC last year, will return to the air 
in a new series of presentations over WJZ and the blue network at 9:30 o'clock 

[September 30, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

... The first presentation tells the story of a young owner of an Eastern 
industry in love with a girl from the West. To be near her he induces the 
board of directors to erect their new branch factory on the West coast.

[October 7, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--Glamorous Spanish California in the days when Russia was 
grasping for control of the West coast of North America, is recalled in a 
historical romance to be broadcast at 9:30 p. m. Monday over the National 
Broadcasting Company network, as the second of the Empire Builders' series 
being presented by Great Northern Railway Company. WBAP will transmit.

The dramatization, historically authentic, is the Old Pioneer's story of the 
romance of Count Rezanof and Concepcion Arguella. It is located in San 
Francisco when the Russian nobleman came on the joint mission of securing food 
for his starving countrymen in Alaska and determining the feasibility of the 
Russians losing the feeble grip of Spain on the balmy territory of Alta 

Count Rezanof's courtship of the fair daughter of the commandante of the 
Presido of San Francisco and its culmination is one of the most beautiful 
romances of history.

[October 8, 1929 The Helena Daily Independent]

Radio Program Tells of Early Romance in Spanish California

Glamorous Spanish California in the days when Russia was grasping for control 
of the west coast of North America, was recalled in a historical romance 
broadcast last night over the National Broadcasting company network, as the 
second of the Empire Builder's series being presented by Great Northern 

The dramatization, historically authentic, was the old pioneer's story of the 
romance of Count Rezanof and Concepcion Arguella. It was located in San 
Francisco when the Russian nobleman came on the joint mission of securing food 
for his starving countrymen in Alaska and determining the feasability of the 
Russians losing the feeble grip of Spain on the balmy territory of Alta 

[October 13, 1929 Decatur (IL) Herald]


Paul Dumont of the NBC production department is acknowledged to be versatile. 
He happens to be the man who played an entire minstrel show by himself at one 
time -- just to show that he could. But he outdid himself in a recent Empire 
Builders Sketch. He played the part of a chairman of a board of directors and 
then the neigh of a donkey.

[October 14, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--Two testy old men, one a "wheat farmer" and the other a 
"diversified farmer," form the background for a modern romance to be broadcast 
at 9:30 p. m. Monday as one of the Great Northern Empire Builders' series over 
the National Broadcasting Company's network, WBAP transmitting.

Jimmy Swanson and Helga Williamson had fallen in love while students at the 
North Dakota Agricultural College. Graduation was over and they wanted to get 
married, but how could they when Al Williamson and Nels Swanson hadn't spoken 
since they cracked each other with pitchfork handles a dozen years before and 
hadn't spoken since. [sic] But loves find a way, as usual, and that's what 
makes the story.

[October 21, 1929 Washington Post]

... Old Montana and modern Montana merge in a cow-puncher romance to be 
broadcast by the Empire Builders from 10:30 to 11 o'clock from WJZ and WLW. 
This is the fourth of the drama series being put on the air over the National 
Broadcasting Co. chain this fall by the Great Northern Railway. 

The cast includes a bunch of steer-roping cowmen, a two-gun Western sheriff, a 
great herd of stampeded cattle and a girl.

[October 26, 1929 The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune article about an NBC 
series called "The Westinghouse Salute" mentions that:]

... The entire continuity, including the dramatic episodes, will be written by 
Edward Hale Bierstadt, whose Empire Builder sketches have won him recognition 
throughout the broadcasting world. ...

[October 28, 1929 Washington Post]

The program by the Empire Builders, to be heard at 10:30 o'clock from WJZ, 
WBAL and other stations of the blue network of the National Broadcasting Co., 
is dedicated to National Apple Week. The setting is Wenatchee, Wash., where 
trainloads of apples are being shipped daily to meet the requirements of this 
week. Andy Sanella and his recording orchestra supply the incidental music for 
this story.

[October 28, 1929 The Kokomo Tribune]

The famous apple country of the Wenatchee Valley, in Washington, is the scene 
of a love story in which a playwright first capitulates to the delicious apple 
desserts of a beautiful young Washingtonian and then to the girl herself in a 
dramalogue which can be heard when the Empire Builders' program is broadcast 
at 9:30 o'clock.

[October 28, 1929 The Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle]

An English writer, tired of the hubbub of New York City, is inspired to visit 
the land of sunshine which produced the rosy apple he bought at a fruit stand, 
and the decision is the beginning of a romance which forms the basis of the 
Empire Builders' program from WHAM and other stations of the NBC system at 
10:30 o'clock tonight. Andy Sanella and his recording orchestra supply the 
incidental music for this story. 

[November 4, 1929 NYT & others] "San Gabriel Mission"

[November 4, 1929 Dallas Morning News] 

Empire Builders.--An old Spanish legend concerning the bells of San Gabriel 
Mission in Southern California, with the love story of an early pioneer, will 
be dramatized in the Empire Builders program which will be broadcast through 
the NBC coast-to-coast system Monday at 9:30 p. m. WBAP will transmit.

Priests sent from the City of Mexico founded the mission in 1771. They were 
accompanied by an armed guard led by a young man who had left his sweetheart 
behind. In a fight with Indians the commander was injured and rescued by a 
young Indian girl. She took him into the forest and nursed him back to health.

When the soldier's sweetheart learned of his disappearance she mourned him as 
dead. In his memory she cast her jewels into the molten metal from which the 
bells of the mission were being made. To further show her love for him she 
accompanied the bells to their dedication at the mission. There she found the 
young commander, who had returned.

[November 5, 1929 (November 4?) Havre Daily News Promoter (Havre, Montana)] 

Great Northern Radio Programs On Air Weekly

Great Northern radio programs are now on the air regularly each week. Tonight 
the play, "Mission Bells" will be given over a large number of stations, 
setting forth a tale of the early missionary period in California. A musical 
setting has been arranged by Andy Sanella, who appears with his orchestra. Bob 
MacGimsey, whistler extraordinary, [sic] makes a re-appearance in this story. 
The story is based upon the erection of the Mission at San Gabriel, near Los 
Angeles, and tells a story of love. It will be on the air from 8:30 to 9 p.m. 
Mountain time, Nov. 4.

The National Safety Council has started its second universal series, to extend 
over a period of thirteen weeks. The third program is to be given Tuesday 
night, Nov. 5, at 5:15 p. m. mountain time.

Both programs can be heard over KOA and KSL in addition to a large number of 

[November 5, 1929 (November 4?) Washington Post]

... "Mission Bells," a Spanish romance with the early missionary period of 
California for its background, is the story which Empire Builders will tell 
tonight. A musical setting has been arranged by Andy Sanella. This program may 
be heard from WJZ and WLW at 10:30 o'clock tonight. 

[November 9, 1929  The Helena Daily Independent]


Those who have turned the dials of their radios the past week and picked up 
the Empire Builder programs sent over the National Broadcasting company hookup 
have marveled at one man putting on a whistling solo, which includes three 
parts. It sounds as if three persons were whistling at one at the same time. 
McGimsey is being featured as an exclusive Great Northern artist.

Despite the fact that MacGimsey is being lionized wherever he goes, he takes 
the musical gift as a matter of course and still seems more happy that he was 
admitted to the bar in 1923 with first honors than that his "harmony 
whistling" both mystifies and thrills scientists and musicians alike.

He might still be known only as a brilliant young lawyer of Lake Providence, 
La., if he had not stopped at a friends' home one day when Gene Austin, tenor, 
was there. Austin brought MacGimsey north to add his unusual three-part 
whistling to the Blue Heaven record.

Since then the versatile young man has steadily attracted more attention, 
until recently he was booked by the National Broadcasting company as a novelty 
number for an Empire Builders' program. He was in New York at the time making 
a series of solo records for Victor, as well as the obligato to Gene Austin 
and Nat Shilkret records.

In addition to his unusual whistling, MacGimsey plays virtually every known 
kind of instrument by ear and specializes in pipe organ, piano and saxophone -
- which he can also play by ear. He is in his twenties and has an attractive 

[November 11, 1929 (printed, perhaps mistakenly, November 4, 1929 in The
Helena Daily Independent)]


An ammunition train which developes asthma, neuralgia and paralysis just as it 
gets within range of the enemy's guns is the beginning of considerable 
excitement on a certain French railway around which Empire Builders' Armistice 
night story is woven.

As might be expected, the Old Timer, although somewhat over age, just 
naturally talked his way into the service and, of course, bobs up right in the 
middle of things.

In Monday nights' story Andy Sanella and his orchestra are all "over there" 
entertaining doughboys between fighting, as is also Bob MacGimsey, the three-
part harmony whistler.

It's a wartime railway story, dedicated by the Great Northern, to the railway 
outfits which manned French lines during the war. ...

[November 11, 1929 The Kokomo Tribune]

The quick-witted action of a girl telegraph operator and the heroism of the 
guards on the Great Northern fast mail result in the capture of a gang of 
desperate bank bandits in the dramatization which the Empire Builders will 
broadcast at 9:30 o'clock. 

The drama recalls an actual incident which took place in a small Western 
village some years ago. When the telegraph station operator became ill, his 
daughter took his place before the keys. She was at work speeding the messages 
which clicked over the wires when she saw a gang of bandits holding up the 
local bank. 

The fast mail train, Great Northern was due to pass by in a few minutes. She 
flagged the train, told the guards of the hold up and aided the men in the 
capture of the bandits. 

[November 11, 1929 Hartford (CN) Courant]

... Bennett Kilpack, director of the Brooklyn Institute Players at the 
Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and for the past eight summers 
Director of the Little Theater at Ogonquit, Maine ... is a well known radio 
thespian, appearing regularly in such well known NBC productions as Radio 
Guild, Heroes of the World, Biblical Drama, and Empire Builders. In the Radio 
Guild's adaptation of "Cyrano de Bergerac" he played Christian; in the first 
Empire Builders sketches, he was James Hill. ...

[November 13, 1929 The Times Recorder (Zanesville, OH)]

George Redman, continuity editor for the NBC Chicago studios, caused a ripple 
of consternation in the program-building department recently when he appeared 
at work with an arm load of mechanical toys, children's whistles and similar 

Doubts to his sanity were cleared up, however, when he explained that he was 
experimenting with sound effects for the Great Northern Railroad's Empire 
Builders program which often require the noise of a locomotive, the whistle of 
a ship, the sound of falling water, or other noises hard to produce within the 
narrow confines of a radio studio.

Since the beginning of the series it has been discovered that some times some 
simple device such as the mechanical toys mentioned, when amplified by the 
studio loudspeaker, gives exactly the effect desired.

[November 14, 1929 syndicated NEA article as published in the Newark Advocate 
and American Tribune]


Ten Hours Weekly Devoted to Studio Plays by Radio.


Letters from Listeners Indicate Dramatic Presentations Are Popular.

New York, Nov. 14.--(NEA)--Time devoted to broadcast drama by the National 
Broadcasting company has been doubled since last January, according to a 
recent survey, and there will be a steady increase in the hours of dramatic 
entertainment during the coming season, say NBC program executives.

Last January the NBC presented periods of dramatic entertainment totaling less 
than five hours a week. In July of this year time devoted to this type of 
broadcast had increased to six hours and now the average is more than 10 hours 
a week.

The reason for this increased interest in radio drama is found in letters 
received from listeners during the past six months. Radio plays are believed 
to be more popular than ever before in the history of broadcasting and as the 
technique of presenting a dramatic production with only dialogue and sound 
effects is developed, a corresponding increase in interest is expected.

At present the NBC broadcasts 18 regular periods of drama each week through 
its several networks. Besides these regular radio plays or sketches, short 
dramatic sketches occasionally are introduced in the big radio revues.

The 30-minute period is by far the most popular time for a dramatic 
presentation, according to the survey. There are 16 radio drama periods of a 
half hour each, one that runs an hour and one 15-minute playlet.

The hour period, however, is a notable departure in broadcast procedure. It is 
taken up by the Radio Guild, a stock company of well-known Broadway players 
who are presenting a series of the world's best known plays. The guild is 
directed by Vernon Radcliffe, a veteran of the theater, who has had long 
experience in radio production.

The radio stage turns its spotlight on many phases of life. Biblical dramas, 
one of the most popular dramatic presentations ever to go on the air according 
to NBC executives, portray scenes and episodes of the Bible. Historic trials, 
a new series written by Edward Hale Bierstadt, presents a dramatic courtroom 
scene each week.

"The Little Drama Movement" is a burlesque on amateur theatrical groups and 
"Hello, Mars," Raymond Knight's new production, burlesques phases of modern 

"Whispering Tables" has an underworld atmosphere and is full of Bowery 
dialect, while the "Two Troupers," Maceila Shields and Helene Handin, take 
listeners back stage in a comedy sketch.

"Rapid Transit" is based on episodes in metropolitan life and "The Cub 
Reporter" tells of the adventures of a youthful news-gatherer in New York. 
"Forty Fathom Trawlers" describes the adventures of deep-sea fishermen and 
"Harbor Lights," another radio drama with a salty atmosphere, introduces more 
thrilling tales of the sea.

"Soconyland Sketches," another series of radio dramas with a long-run record, 
is continuing with its humorous and historical sketches of New England life. 
European and Asiatic legends are dramatized by the ABA [American Bankers 
Association] Voyagers and "The Eternal Question" is a sentimental piece with 
love interest in abundance.

"Schradertown Band," "The Gossipers" and "At the Country Club" are comedy 

Presentation of radio dramatic sketches has shown a tremendous improvement in 
the last year, according to the program makers. The writers of the radio shows 
have become more proficient in painting scenery and costuming players with 
mere words and the actors themselves have become familiar with the microphone 
and its tricky ways.

More and more material written especially for the air is available and the 
cream of the Broadway actors are entering radio play casts.

[November 18, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--A melodrama of the logging town of Longview, Wash., in which 
a brave young Easterner rescues his sweetheart from certain death beneath the 
branches of a falling sequoia, will be portrayed in the sketch which the 
Empire Builders will present through the NBC coast-to-coast system Monday at 
9:30 p. m., WBAP transmitting.

The scene of the sketch is one of the towns of the Northwest planned by 
experts on a large scale. A picture of the building of a modern town with the 
big lumber mills and the forest as a background is interwoven with romance. 
Novel sound effects reproducing logging operations will feature the broadcast. 

[November 25, 1929 Washington Post]

... An Indian legend telling of the return of the buffalo after a long year of 
famine is dramatized in the program Empire Builders which will broadcast 
through a coast-to-coast WJZ network at 10:30 o'clock. ...

[November 25, 1929 The Capital Times (Madison, WI)]


An Indian legend telling of the return of the buffalo after a long year of 
famine is dramatized in the program which the Empire Builders will broadcast 
tonight at 9:30 from WJZ, WTMJ, WLW, KSTP, WJR, and KDKA. Through the aid of a 
magic stone, a woman of the Blackfeet tribe brings the buffalo to the plain 
below the mountains of Glacier National park. Unable to kill them in any other 
way, the Indians stampede the animals over a steep cliff and thereby provide 
meat for their starving tribesmen. Harvey Hays, as the Old Pioneer, and "Bob" 
McGimsey, noted whistler, are the featured players in this presentation.

[December 2, 1929 The Helena Daily Independent] "Hawaiian Legend"

[December 2, 1929 Washington Post]

... Mauno Loa, the highest volcanic peak in the world, plays a sinister role 
in the Hawaiian legend which will be dramatized during the broadcast of the 
Empire Builders' program at 10:30 o'clock. Harvey Hays, as the Old pioneer, 
and Bob MacGinsey, noted whistler, are featured performers. WJZ, KDKA and WLW 
are the nearest stations in the network broadcasting this feature. ...

[December 2, 1929 The (Madison, WI) Capital Times]


Mauno Loa, the highest volcanic peak in the world, plays a sinister role in 
the Hawaiian legend which will be dramatized during the broadcast of the 
Empire Builders program tonight at 9:30. Harvey Hays, as the old Pioneer, and 
Bob MacGimsey, noted whistler, are featured performers. The dramatization, 
written by Edward Hale Bierstadt, is directed by Raymond Knight.

Stations carrying the program include WJZ, WJR, KDKA, KYW and WTMJ.

[December 4, 1929 The Helena Daily Independent] 


Enroute to his headquarters at St. Paul from a visit over Thanksgiving with 
his family in Portland, Howard [sic] Sims, executive assistant to President 
Charles Budd of the Great Northern, was in Helena yesterday for a few hours. 
While here he visited Leon C. Hurtt, supervisor of the Helena national forest 
with whom he was acquainted some years ago at Grankeville, Idaho, before Hurtt 
became a supervisor and Sims, working as a newspaper reporter at the Oregonian 
at Portland. Mr. Sims later was publicity man for the Great Northern and now 
has charge of the Empire Builder programs sent over the radio by the National 
Broadcasting company.

He stopped in Butte to arrange for a program to be broadcasted the evening of 
January 20 from the New York studio in which Butte and its mining industry 
will be the subject of dramatization. The miles of underground working will be 
described and there will be, in addition, Andy Sanella and his orchestra and 
Bob McGinsey, the three-part harmony whistler. More than 92,000,000 listeners 
take advantage of the nation-wide hookup. Helena and vicinity were made the 
subject of a Great Northern radio program earlier in the season.

[December 9, 1929 NYT] "The Fast Mail"

[December 9, 1929 Washington Post]

... The roar of the fastest locomotives in America, speeding overland mail 
from St. Paul to the West Coast, will echo in loud speakers throughout the 
Nation as background for a swift drama of "The Fast Mail" in the Empire 
Builders' program from WJZ at 10:30 o'clock. ...

[December 9, 1929 Los Angeles Times (LAT)] 

... At 7:30 p.m. the "Empire Builders," through KFI, will present a story of 
how a special delivery letter reunites two lovers who live in Seattle and New 
York, respectively. A feature of the program will be the adaptation of mail-
train noises to radio broadcasting. ...

[December 9, 1929 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--The roar of the fastest locomotives in America, speeding 
overland mail from St. Paul to the West Coast, will echo in loud-speakers 
throughout the Nation Monday night, Dec. 9 as background for a swift drama of 
"The Fast Mail" in the Empire Builders' broadcast over the NBC coast-to-coast 
system at 9:30 p. m.

Through the canyons and mountain passes which once concealed the robber band 
of Jesse James, flashes the train of unlighted mail coaches bound for Seattle 
and the coast to pick up the Oriental mail and rush it back east.

For purposes of radio drama, one tear-stained letter in the westbound mail 
bags contains a desperate appeal to a former lover for immediate rescue from 
an imminent "marriage of convenience." Radio listeners may ride the fast mail
--in imagination only, for no passengers are carried--in its dramatic flight 
through the gorges and tunnels to the eager lover who, of course, gets back 
"just in the nick of time."

[December 16, 1929 LAT] 

... The Empire Builders' program from KFI will present the coming of the white 
man as the theme of a fantasy which forms a portion of a modern western 
romance with Portland, Or., as its locale. Heading the cast will be Harvey 
Hays, as the old pioneer, and Virginia Gardner [sic].

[December 23, 1929 LAT] 

A tense drama brought to a climax on Christmas Eve in the observation car of 
the Empire Builders' program will be broadcast from KFI between 7:30 and 8 pm. 
As the train speeds on its way through a frosted fairyland of Christmas trees 
a voice speaking over the radio in the observation car brings to a conclusion 
the events upon which the plot of the program is built.

[December 23, 1929 Dallas Morning News] 

Empire Builders.--A voice on the air which reaches through a frosty Christmas 
Eve into the cozy observation car of the Empire Builder brings a startling 
turn in the events around which the plot for Empire Builder's [sic] Monday 
program is built. WBAP will transmit at 9:30 p. m.

Gliding swiftly through a sparkling fairyland of Christmas trees, all 
bespangled by Jack Frost's artistic fingers in honor of the Yuletide, the 
Empire Builder itself affords the locale for a tense drama which is happily 
conclude[d] as a voice speaks over the radio.

The Old-Timer and Bob MacGimsey, phenomenal harmony whistler, are on the train 
and contribute to the efforts of the train crew to make it an enjoyable 
Christmas Eve for the passengers. A jovial porter plays Santa Claus and a 
Pullman quartet is organized for some real harmony singing.

[December 27, 1929 CSM column AMONG THE RAILROADS]

... The fact that rail traffic to Glacier Park increased nearly 8 per cent 
[from 13,700 railroad arrivals in 1928 to 14,750 in 1929] ... is interesting 
to note but not difficult to analyze. The Great Northern Railway, serving 
Glacier Park, has been the most consistent rail advertiser among western lines 
in eastern newspapers during the last year, and the result was an increase in 
travel. ...

Radio Advertising

In addition to its newspaper copy, or rather as a supplement to it, Great 
Northern has carried out an extensive radio program during the last year on a 
coast-to-coast network. The "Empire Builders" program, constantly improving in 
character, is broader than a mere bid for travel, however, for its purpose is 
that of educating the East to the magnitude of the Pacific Northwest, its 
resources, its opportunities for homemaking and its abundant store of good 

With this as a background, the radio programs have been in drama form, 
depicting the rich historical scenes attendant on the upbuilding of the North 
Pacific Coast and the inland empire. ...

[December 30, 1929 NYT] "Seattle, the City of Seven Hills"

[December 30, 1929 The Kokomo Tribune]

How Seattle, the City of Seven Hills, reclaimed land beneath Puget Sound to 
provide greater waterfront sites, will be told when the Empire builders' 
program is broadcast at 9:30 o'clock. 

The dramalouge centers around an old hermit who resisted to the last the march 
of modern mechanical program. [sic] Barricaded in his shack on one of 
Seattle's many hills, he remained, while steam shovels, rock drills and giant 
scoops leveled the ground about him. 

Harvey Hays as the Old Pioneer Virginia Gardiner, actress, and Bob McGimsey, 
whistler, are featured in this coast-to-coast presentation written by Edward 
H. Bierstadt. (WLW) 

[December 31, 1929 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

After various excursions into other types of presentations, the Empire 
Builders' radiocast through the WJZ chain on Monday at 10:30 was devoted to a 
dramatization of a comparatively recent incident in the history of Seattle. It 
was this kind of entertainment which made the first series of these programs 
so deservedly popular and it is evident that the sponsors are attempting to 
continue this interest.

There is always more glamour attached to incidents in the dimmer distance -- 
especially in the days of explorers and venturesome settlers -- but this story 
of a hermit on one of the hills of Seattle whose little fortress was being 
menaced by advancing steam shovels was romantic and interesting enough. His 
devotion to a mining partner whose memory had been temporarily obscured lent a 
touch of genuine character to the tale. ...

[January 6, 1930 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--The story of the exploits of Joseph Chapman, the first 
Yankee pioneer to settle in California in 1818 ...

Chapman ingratiated himself with the natives and the hostile Spanish settlers 
when he successfully constructed a grist mill and ship. Romance as well as 
adventure come to this roving spirit when he wooed and wed a Spanish senorita 
named Guadaloupe.

[January 11, 1930 The (Butte) Montana Standard]


Great Northern Publicity Director Announces Program for Feb. 10. 

A tense melodrama with the action revolving around the mines of Butte, with 
the popular character of the "Old-Timer" taking a prominent part in the 
program, will be given national prominence over the National Broadcasting 
company's network on the evening of February 10, W. O. Cooper, publicity 
director for the Great Northern, announced at the New Hotel Finlen last night. 

The program, which will be one of the series of the Empire Builders' programs, 
which have been presented on each Monday evening during the winter, Mr. Cooper 
said he will truly represent Butte, its people and its major industry. Mr. 
Cooper will remain in Butte for several days gathering material for the story 
and will, during his stay, make a personal trip through some of Butte's mines 
to secure local color for his preparation of the drama on his return to St. 

[January 13, 1930 Washington Post]

... The dedication ceremonies of the $14,000,000 Cascade Tunnel, east of 
Seattle, which were broadcast as the first program by the Empire Builders, 
will be recalled in their first anniversary program, to be heard at 10:30 
o'clock tonight from WJZ, WLW, and associated stations. ...

[January 14, 1930 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

The "Empire Builders" radiocast through the WJZ chain at 10:30 on Monday was 
worked out in a novel way. Harking back 12 months to the time of the first 
program, which celebrated the opening of the Cascade Tunnel by the Great 
Northern Railway, it presented a picture of these actual ceremonies -- even 
describing Graham McNamee's activities before the various microphones on and 
off the first passenger train to pass through the tunnel.

The plan worked out quite well. According to custom there was a romantic 
little story upon which to hang the descriptive matter. In this case it dealt 
with a playwright who had been working as an engineer in order to get local 
color. He had fallen in love with the secretary of one of the leaders of the 
work. The high point of the affair was the discomfiture of a New York actress 
who longed for the "big men of the open spaces," but who did not desire to 
welcome them in return in her own city. Not realizing the young engineer's 
identity she informed him that she was to play the lead in his next play and 
was then to become his wife.

As usual, this sketch was presented as a "play within a play." First of all 
the Old Pioneer, whose pleasant tones are always an attractive feature of 
these radiocasts, was conversing with some amusing English tourists as the 
train approached the tunnel. Waxing reminiscent, he told them of the opening 
ceremonies and offered to recount one of the many romances connected with its 
construction. Incidentally, he gave a very complete summary of its interesting 
features -- from the method employed in building it to the type of electric 
engines now used.

A little music was introduced to separate the different elements of the 
program and "Bob" McGinsey did some more of his two-part warbling, which is 
pretty and birdlike enough but has been heard rather frequently of late. Its 
connection with the largest tunnel in North America is a little obscure.

While the arrangers of these radiocasts are in [a] reminiscent mood it is to 
be hoped that they will recall some of the really excellent historical 
programs which they offered so successfully a year ago and perhaps provide 
some more of the same type again.

[January 17, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


A fishing story broadcast in winter will seem a little out of season east of 
the Rockies, but it happens that the gamey steelhead is at his best during 
January and February in the mild streams of the Pacific coast. So Empire 
Builder next Monday night will present a romance that is intermingled with the 
whirl of the reel and line, the ripple of the streams, and the lashing of the 
steelhead at the end of the line.

The story was written especially for Empire Builders by Ben Hur Lampman of 
Portland, poet and nature writer whose works appeared in numerous magazines of 
national circulation.

The cast includes Harvey Hays as the lovable Old Timer, and Miss Virginia 
Gardiner, whose role affords her an opportunity to sing as well as act. 
Incidental music is by Andy Sanella and his recording orchestra, and Bob 
McGimsey, harmony whistler.

Many Stations in Hookup.

The program will be broadcast from 7:30 to 8 o'clock, Pacific coast time; 9:30 
to 10 o'clock, central standard time, and 10:30 to 11 o'clock, eastern 
standard time, over the following stations: WBZA, Boston, KYW, Chicago; WLW, 
Cincinnati; WBAP, Dallas-Fort Worth; KOA, Denver; WJR, Detroit; WEBC, Duluth-
Superior; KPRC, Houston; WREN, Kansas City (Lawrence); KFI, Los Angeles; WTMJ, 
Milwaukee; WJZ, New York; WKY, Oklahoma City; KDKA, Pittsburgh; KGW, Portland, 
Ore.; WHAM, Rochester; KWK, St. Louis; KSL, Salt Lake City; KSTP, St. Paul-
Minneapolis; WOAI, San Antonio; KGO, San Francisco (Oakland); KOMO, Seattle; 
WBZ, Springfield; KVOO, Tulsa. 

[January 19, 1930 San Antonio Express - a version of this article appeared in 
The Great Northern Goat]

Meet the Broadcasters 

Empire Builders Perform Amid Confusion 

It's rehearsal time for the Empire Builders. Musicians, actors, directors and 
a few privileged spectators cluster around the door of studio H on the 
thirteenth floor of the National Broadcasting Company building. 

A program in the studio ends and the big room is emptied and refilled in 60 
seconds. There is much noise, much laughter and chatter and much confusion. 
Then Raymond Knight arrives. Knight is the production man — a title embracing 
the duties of director, stage manager and general supervisor of the whole 

Dapper Andy Sannella is already, there as is Virginia Gardiner, the sex appeal 
of the opus in a crimson evening gown, Bob MacGimsey who whistles in a manner 
most extraordinary, and Harvey Hays, the old pioneer.

Mysterious Machines
The studio is cluttered up with many mysterious looking machines. Harry 
Edison, once a trap drummer but now a very scientific percussionist, invented 
them and they are responsible for the sound effects. Here is a tall carboy of 
compressed air, a tiny truck with eight wheels that run on a circular track, a 
large affair that resembles the framework of a merry-go-round, a huge 
locomotive bell and an assortment of whistles. 

John Young, the announcer, interrupts the rehearsal by pointing at the cock. 
In 30 seconds the program will be on the air. There is silence.

The opening announcement is read. Then one learns what the mysterious machines 
are for. One man lets jets of compressed air out of the carboy. Another 
revolves the little truck on its circular track. Edison himself gently beats 
on the surface of a drum with what appear to be wire brushes. Another musician 
toots a whistle and pulls on the locomotive bell cord.

The combination of sounds apparently is meaningless. But slip into the control 
room where the program is heard through a radio speaker as it will sound in 
thousands of homes throughout the nation. Listen! A locomotive is starting. 
You can hear the rush of steam, the pound of piston rods and the groans of the 
mighty engine. The tempo increases and music is added to the other sounds 
until the imaginary train is flying along the rails and then it fades away in 
the distance. 

Raise That Curtain 

Before the last sound of the departing locomotive has died away the curtain 
goes up on the first scene. Knight nods to his actors and they step up to the 
microphone, scripts in hand. Miss Gardiner, however, might be in front of a 
huge audience for she neglects none of the shrugs or other gestures that seem 
to go with the lines she is saying. 

Hays, too, a man with many years theatrical experience, behind him, cannot 
forget the tradition of the theater he has now deserted. In the role of the 
old pioneer, he slouches about the studios. Even when not before the 
microphone he seems to be in character. 

Paul Dumont, who is quite mild mannered, is the villain in the piece. Dumont, 
who a minute before was telling someone a funny story in a corner away from 
the microphone, glances at his script and sees his lines nearing. 

[The story gradually builds up to its climax. From time to time Harry Edison 
works his queer instruments—the pounding hooves of a herd of wild horses, the 
roar of a forest fire, the swish of wind swept seas or whatever the script 
calls for is reproduced with amazing exactitude.]

More lines. The villain is chastened. The hero has his problems solved and the 
curtain goes down. Edison and his assistants jump to their places at the queer 
mechanical apparatus. Then with the shoosh-shoosh-shoosh the Empire Builders 
go off the air, the last sounds the far away clang of the locomotive bell and 
the long wail of a whistle.

[Photo caption:] Harvey Hays, above, the actor who has the part of "The Old 
Pioneer" in the Empire Builders, is shown in one of his few "polite" pictures. 
Usually he has been taken in the costume of his microphone character. The 
Empire Builders (NBC) are heard every Monday night at 9:30 o'clock over WOAI.

[January 20, 1930 Dallas Morning News] 

Empire Builders.--The romance of copper [?] around the ore fields of Butte, 
Mont. ...

[January 20, 1930 NYT] 

... Speaking of unusual talents, the NBC star whistler is one in a million. He 
whistles two and three-part harmony "without mechanical aid." When he warms 
up, he sounds like a flute ensemble. In the Concert Bureau program Sunday 
afternoon he whistled "Gypsy Sweetheart", "A Little Kiss Each Morning" and 
"Song of India". Have a listen. He is featured regularly in the presentation 
of Empire Builders. ...

[January 27, 1930 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

Because of a change in plans for the Arctic Air Patrol's mid-winter maneuvers, 
a dramatization of that event originally scheduled for tonight's Empire 
Builders program has been postponed one week. A story of Hugh Monroe, young 
employee of the Hudson Bay Company and a Blackfoot Indian princess will be 
presented tonight (WBZ and WJZ at 10:30.)

[January 27, 1930 NYT] "A Blackfoot Romance"

[January 27, 1930 various] "Arctic Patrol"

[January 27, 1930 Washington Post]

10:30 p. m. --(WJZ, WBAL) Empire Builders to Report Aircraft Maneuvers.

[January 26, 1930 Pittsburgh Press]


Arctic Patrol Maneuvers to be Dramatized by Empire Builders.

The aircraft maneuvers of the Arctic patrol of the First Pursuit Group of the 
Army Air corp, which takes place over a 1,750-mile "battlefront" reaching from 
Selfridge Field, Mount Clemens, Mich., to Spokane Wash., will be dramatized 
when the Empire Builders' program is broadcast from KDKA tomorrow at 10:30 p. 

Maj. Ralph Royce, commanding the flight, and Sergt. Kenneth Wilson, air corps 
signal expert, will tell the radio audience of the hazards, incidents and 
purpose of the Arctic patrol.

Unusual sound effects will be heard, including the taking off and landing of 
planes fitted with skiis instead of wheels, and short-wave radio signals used 
during the maneuvers.

Experiments on long distance communication between aircraft and ground have 
been conducted by the Arctic Patrol, and the efficiency and endurance of Army 
Air Corps planes have been tested under the most severe conditions of snow, 
ice and sub-zero temperature.

[February 3, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


Of special interest to radio fans of Helena will be the program to be 
broadcast tonight by the Empire Builders, in which will be dramatized a news 
event almost before the newspaper ink has dried. The gruelling midwinter test 
flight of the army squadron of 22 planes over the Northwest affords basis for 
this fictional story, which begins in the city news room of a Montana paper.

Flight Commander Major Royce and Sergeant Kenard D. Wilson play their roles in 
person, while Miss Virginia Gardiner, versatile leading lady of the Empire 
Builders' company takes the role of the girl reporter, the heroine of the 
story. And, as usual the Old Timer, played by Harvey Hays, is among those 

Bob McGimsey, harmony whistler, and Andy Sanella's orchestra furnish the 
incidental music. The program will be broadcast over a string of stations from 
8:30 to 9 o'clock, mountain standard time.

[February 9, 1930 Oakland Tribune]

Radio Drama On Air Monday

What is believed to be the most difficult bit of radio melodrama thus far 
attempted will be heard during the Empire Builders presentation over the NBC 
coast-to-coast system tomorrow, between 7:30 and 8 p. m. on KGO. 

The dramatic climax of the play, which revolves about a copper mine a half-
mile underground at Butte, Montana, comes when a half-mad employee attempts to 
drive an elevator over the top of its frame on the trip up from the depths of 
the mine at a mile-a-minute pace. 

Virginia Gardiner plays the role of the heroine whose quick wit saves the 
situation. Musical effects will be provided by Andy Sannella and his 
orchestra, while sound effects will be contributed by Harry Edison, sound 
effect technician. Harvey Hays will narrate the story. 

W. O. Cooper, a Chicago writer, made a special trip to the Butte mines to 
secure material for this drama. 

With whistling solos by Bob MacGimsey to complete the program, the broadcast 
will be heard through NBC system stations: KGO, Oakland; KHQ, Spokane; KOMO, 
Seattle; KGW, Portland, and KFI, Los Angeles on the Pacific coast. 

[February 10, 1930 (printed, perhaps mistakenly, in January 20 NYT)] "Copper"

[February 10, 1930 Decatur Evening Herald]

... A half mile below the surface of the earth in the vast honeycombed 
recesses of the Copper mines which underlie the city of Butte, Mont., lies the 
scene of the drama which the Empire Builders, featuring Harvey Hays and 
Virginia Gardiner, will broadcast through the NBC system at 9:30 o'clock 

[February 10, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


The city under the richest hill on earth is the locale of a melodrama which 
Empire Builders will broadcast tonight. The Old Timer, played by Harvey Hays, 
takes the listeners a half-mile underground with him, into the copper mines 
underlying Butte.

The rescue that is effected when a crazed employe seizes control of the 
hoisting apparatus on the surface and attempts to run the elevator cage at its 
mile-a-minute pace up over the hundred foot frame at the top of the shaft, is 
said to be the most difficult bit of radio melodrama ever attempted. The 
heroine whose quick wit saves the situation is played by Miss Virginia 

Musical effects are by Andy Sanella and his orchestra. Bob McGimsey, the 
three-part harmony whistler, also will be heard on the same program. ...

[February 16, 1930 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

Made Radio Debut.

William M. Griffith, comedian who has played in several New York musical 
comedies during recent seasons, made his radio debut recently. He played a 
"covered wagon" character part in an Empire Builders' presentation.

[February 17, 1930 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--The capture of a gang of railroad and bank bandits in a 
small Montana town will be dramatized on the Empire Builders' program to be 
broadcast over an NBC network Monday at 9:30 p. m. One scene takes place in 
the cab of a locomotive against a backdrop of realistic sound effects.

[February 17, 1930 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

A profusion of railroad and bank bandits are scheduled to participate in 
tonight's Empire Builders sketch (WBZ and WJZ at 10:30.) The general locale is 
a small Montana town, but one scene takes place in a locomotive cab by virtue 
of realistic sound effects.

[February 17, 1930 Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, WI)]

... A railway melodrama, with the fast mail roaring into the action just in 
time to frustrate a payroll robbery, will give Empire Builders an opportunity 
to broadcast plenty of thrills at 9:30 p.m. over N.B.C stations. ...

[February 17, 1930 LAT]

... At 7:30 tonight the Empire Builders will feature the "Old Pioneer," 
telling about bank and railroad bandits in the Old West. ...

[February 17, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]

Science Probes Harmony Whistling

[photo of seated Bob MacGimsey surrounded by investigators, caption:] "Harmony 
Whistlers" [sic] Taking Text [sic] Before Board

Bob MacGimsey, the unique "harmony whistler" being featured on the Monday 
night Empire Builders programs over the National Broadcasting company's 
network, holds the record of having mystified the entire clinic of New York 
university. The examination was held prior to MacGimsey's being signed by the 
Great Northern railway for exclusive appearances on its radio programs.

The doctor who searched MacGimsey's throat for a concealed canary, the 
psychologist and psychoanalyst who worked on the theory that the cheerful 
whistles might be mentally abnormal -- all of them finally decided that Bob's 
whistling apparatus is simply a freak of nature.

The puzzling part of MacGimsey's performance is that he whistles in harmony, 
striking two and three notes at a time.

Dr. Leo M. Hurd, professor of laryngology at the university stated that 
MacGimsey has no abnormalities in his nose or throat. He said: "I find that he 
makes his extranotes [sic] in whistling in his larynx by moving his vocal 
cords. It is a very interesting case and I have never seen one like it 

Bob explains that he hears the harmony ahead of time but that the control then 
becomes automatic when he is really whistling -- although he can consciously 
make a discord if he does it deliberately.

Mac himself says that he has thought a lot about how this two and three-part 
whistling "works" and he hoped that the scientific analysis would give him a 
clue to the truth. He is afraid to experiment too much with the mechanical 
operation which causes the two and three tones to go in opposite direction at 
the same time because it might result in "spoiling the gift."
[February 23, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent photo caption]


Helena radio fans who have been intrigued by the voice of "Old Timer" as he 
drawls out the romances of the northwest, like other millions of persons who 
hear the stories, have envisioned him as a loveable old veteran of the plains, 
with grizzled beard, slouch hat and flowing hair. As a matter of fact, Harvey 
Hays has none of these except the whiskers in his voice, and they, of course 
don't show in the photograph. The young lady to whom the "Old Timer" each week 
relates more romance about the country between the Missouri valley and the 
Pacific Northwest than most historians know, is Miss Virginia Gardiner, who 
rose to radio stardom quickly by her work in the Empire Builders sketches. 
Miss Gardiner sings as well as acts.

[February 24, 1930 Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent]

"Thriller Films, Inc." a comedy drama written especially for Empire Builders 
will be presented over WTMJ and the NBC system at 9:30 o'clock. With Glacier 
National Park as the "location" or [of?] a melodrama of [the] Swiss Alps, a 
breath-taking adventure is planned to thrill the movie fans of the air. ...

[February 24, 1930 LAT & others]

... At 7:30 p.m. the Empire Builders will use Glacier National Park for a 
melodrama of the Alps, telling of the adventures of a tenth-rate screen 
producer attempting to stage a drama in the wide-open spaces. ...

[February 24, 1930 Boston Globe]

On a Movie Lot

The Empire Builders will tell of the adventures of a 10th-rate movie producer, 
attempting to stage a drama of the wide-open spaces, when their program goes 
on the air over WBZA at 10:30 o'clock tonight.

The scenes are to be shot amid the beauties of the Glacier National Park. 
Harvey Hays has been "roped" into the production as an extra, while Virginia 
Gardiner, as a temperamental movie star, almost ruins the film by refusing to 
jump over a 50-foot cliff 15 minutes before her contract expires.
[March 1, 1930 Poughkeepsie (NY) Eagle-News]

Singer Holds Radio Monopoly

Central Press Staff Writer 

New York, Feb. 28.—We are very safe in telling you that you are now being 
presented to the young lady who has the greatest number of dramatic roles on 
the air today. Figures prove the statement. Want to bet? 

With the Empire Builders Monday night, Westinghouse Salute, Tuesday night, 
KUKU Hour, Wednesday, Mystery House, Friday—and plenty of others.
It was fortunate that we caught Virginia Gardiner at rehearsal. She was 
accompanied by a small, gray-garbed gentleman by the name of Porges. He had 
restless eyes, a snippy nose and an insatiable curiosity for poking around in 
corners and making himself a nuisance. 

But, Virginia's mamma had painters at the apartment and Porges couldn't be 
left running around loose. If he had, he would have been poking his nobby 
little nose in the paint can and if anything happened to that darn dog the 
dramatics would not all be on the air. Virginia adores her Porges. He is, 
perhaps, we should reveal, before going farther, a genuine canine Cairn 

That rehearsal was a revelation. For the tall, gracious, dramatic and queenly 
looking Miss Gardiner played nine roles. Like putting a new record on the 
phonograph every other second.
She was, in turn, a little child, a dramatic actress by the name of Estelle 
Carrymore, Countess Claire De Vere, a newsboy, a tough girl, a reader of radio 
notes in a mincing, affected voice, and two customers sitting at a soda 
counter in a drug store. 

Virginia had a "perfectly ghastly time" trying to make up her mind what to do. 
She paints, dances, emotes, writes poetry, short stories, essays, and radio 
sketches. She was on the concert stage when she deserted for the air. Since 
then she has been acting altogether, but just now is about to go on a program
proving her musical ability. 

Born in Philadelphia. Her parents moved to Toledo, O., when she was a small 
child. In a little pink dress with a huge bow perked on her brown hair she 
made her first public stage appearance. 

Wins Scholarship 

After studying later for two years at the Curtis Institute of Music in 
Philadelphia, Madame Sembrich of the Metropolitan gave her a two-year 
scholarship and she studied under her supervision. This led to the concert 

Virginia is a type you should not miss, it is too bad you can't see her when 
she goes dramatic before the "mike." She is nearly five feet seven; a large, 
stunning, show girl type, conscious of her dramatic ability every minute, and 
as emotional in her regular conversation as she is while acting. Her hands 
move constantly—flying about through the air and over her face—and she 
wrinkles her nose amusingly and shows a dozen strong, perfect teeth when she

Not married. Lives with mamma, papa, brother and Porges. 

[March 3, 1930 Marion (OH) Star]


William Crooks, the first steam engine seen in St. Paul, which arrived on a 
barge towed by a Mississippi steam boat and made its first run from St. Paul 
to St. Anthony, a distance of about 10 miles, will be dramatized when the 
Empire Builders' program is heard over the WJZ network at 10:30 o'clock Sunday 
night. ...

[March 3, 1930 LAT]

... At 7:30 p.m. the first steam engine, "William Crooks," to be seen in St. 
Paul, which made its first run from St. Paul to St. Anthony, will be 
dramatized when the Empire Builders program goes on the air over NBC. ...

[March 3, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


Steamboat days on the Mississippi will be recalled by the Empire Builders' 
program tonight, broadcast over the coast-to-coast network of the National 
Broadcasting company.

The story is written around Third street in St. Paul and unfolds the romantic 
history of this riverfront thoroughfare from which the ox carts departed for 
the Red River valley, Canada, and Hudson's Bay, and from which the first steam 
train west of the Mississippi made its initial 11-mile trip to St. Anthony, 
now Minneapolis.

The cast includes Harvey Hays as the old timer, and Virginia Gardiner. The 
musical features include Andy Sanella's orchestra, Bob MacGimsey, harmony 
whistler, negro ensembles, and incidental music typical of the period. ...

[March 8, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


Pittsburgh radio fans have voted the weekly Empire Builders' programs, with 
their dramatic western stories among the dozen most popular features on the 
radio networks, the Helena office of the Great Northern is advised.

In a popularity poll of network programs and artists conducted by the 
Pittsburgh, Pa., Sun-Telegraph, Empire Builders, which is sponsored by the 
Great Northern railway, had 60 per cent as many votes as Amos and Andy, which 
headed the list.

Aside from such individual stars as Amos and Andy, Jessica Dragonette, and 
Rudy Vallee, there were only seven programs receiving more votes than Empire 

The poll revealed a widespread interest in the so-called dialogue programs, 
several of which received more votes than the best known musical programs.

[March 9, 1930 Hartford Courant photo]


[March 10, 1930 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--A millionaire's yacht lost in a storm at sea, with his son 
washed overboard, is the situation of the Empire Builders' sketch to be heard 
over a National Broadcasting network Monday at 9:30 p. m.

The child is rescued by a Japanese freighter and reared in the Orient while 
his parents believe him lost. When they find him again after twenty years, he 
is in love with a Japanese girl.

[March 17, 1930]

[March 24, 1930 Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle] 

Empire Builders present a romance of married life in the dramatisation of "The 
Doctor's Verdict," in their broadcast over WHAM and other NBC stations at 
10:30 o'clock tonight.
The cast included Harvey Hays as the Old Timer, and Virginia Gardiner. The 
musical featuree include Andy Sannella's orchestra, and Bob McGimsey, harmony 

[March 24, 1930 NYT] "America's National Parks"

[March 24, 1930 Boston Globe]

National Parks Director

Horace M. Albright, director of the National Parks Service, is scheduled as 
guest speaker in tonight's Empire Builders' program through WBZA at 10:30 
o'clock. The speaker is expected to devote his talk generally to America's 
national parks and specifically to a report on what visitors may expect to 
find in Glacier National Park.

A charming romance of married life, "The Doctor's Verdict," will be the drama 
portrayed by Harvey Hays and Virginia Gardiner.

[March 25, 1930 CSM column The Listener Speaks]

With spring officially arrived and summer plans beginning to occupy thought, 
the Empire Builders' program at 10:30 on Monday through the WJZ chain should 
have stimulated many pleasant anticipations for most listeners. Devoted to 
advertising Glacier National Park as a holiday resort, the radiocast was full 
of clever little touches which conjured up pictures of all the delights of 
lakes, forests, mountains, and the stars. 

A rather clever little story was used to hang these pieces of description 
upon. An eastern businessman desired to refresh his wife with an outdoor 
vacation, but was unable to interest her in the subject. He then intimated 
that he himself would be much benefited by just such a holiday, with the 
result that she was immediately eager to make the trip on his account. This 
being a Great Northern Railway program they naturally chose Glacier National 
Park as their objective.

As the regular whistler of these programs concluded Rudolf Friml's "Rackety 
Coo" the scene changed to the luxurious "Empire Builder" train on which the 
couple made the acquaintance of the "Old Timer" who is the central figure of 
all the Empire Builder presentations. In the course of their conversation all 
the special features of the train as well as of the passing scenery, were 
casually but effectively mentioned.

Then, after a little string music, listeners were transported to the grounds 
of a park hotel from within which the cheerful sounds of a dance proceeded, 
while outside guests strolled past remarking upon the cool beauty of the 
night. Moving inside the hostelry they next heard a short talk by Horace M. 
Albright, director of the National Parks Service. Mr. Albright began by 
enlarging upon the well-known slogan "See America First" and proceeded with 
the recommendation that the first part of America which should be seen by 
lovers of mountain scenery is the one in which he was speaking. Elaborating 
upon his theme, he then enumerated sufficient attractive features of the park, 
from fish to motor roads, to make anyone long to pack at once and set out for 
Chicago to catch the Empire Builder for the Northwest.

At the end of his talk the husband and wife who had been the first characters 
in the sketch spoke enthusiastically of the vacation they had enjoyed. Then in 
conclusion John S. Young, the announcer, did a little direct advertising of 
the train which had already been so well described. Incidentally he added that 
this express, which reduced the running time to the Pacific Northwest by five 
hours when the eight-mile tunnel opened last year, is about to cut another 75 
minutes from its schedule, and will leave an hour and a quarter later than it 
has done hitherto.

This kind of program is filled with obvious advertising throughout, but the 
subject of the publicity is sufficiently interesting to most people to make it 
well worth hearing in any case.

[March 31 episode in the March 29, 1930 Winnipeg Free Press]

A modern romance of the west will be broadcast by the Empire Builders Monday 
night, over the network of the National Broadcasting company at 9.30 to 10. 
The locale is Spokane and the cast includes Harvey Hays, as the oldtimer, and 
Virginia Gardiner. The programme will be broadcast through WLW, Cincinnati; 
WBAP, Dallas-Fort Worth; KOA, Denver; WJR, Detroit; WEBC, Duluth-Superior; 
KFI, Los Angeles; WTMJ, Milwaukee; WJZ, New York; KDKA, Pittsburghh; WHAM, 
Rochester; KWK, St. Louis; KSTP, St. Paul - Minneapolis; KHQ, Spokane; KVOO, 

[March 31, 1930 Boston Globe]

A modern romance of the West, in which an incorrigible "wisecracker" succeeds 
in spite of himself in winning the girl and is, in turn, won by the West, will 
be broadcast by the Empire Builders ... 

[circa April 1930 The Great Northern Goat]

The Story Behind Empire Builders

IT is Thursday afternoon and in Studio "H" a group of actors are busily 
interpreting their lines--the voice of the Old Pioneer sounds throughout the 
room, Virginia Gardiner gestures before the "mike" and Harry Edison hops 
nimbly from one queer instrument to another. To many this is the beginning of 
an Empire Builder program but in reality many days of hard work have been 
necessary to bring the program to the rehearsal stage. 

Long before the first program appeared on the air the general theme and ideals 
of the series as a whole were decided upon. Then came the problem of selecting 
the various locales for the individual programs, and as the Empire Builder 
series is intended primarily to place before world the attractions and 
advantages of the Northwest, considerable care had to be exercised in choosing 
these locales.

Each program had to portray some one of the Northwest's outstanding scenic 
attractions or industrial activities and at the same time it had to be of such 
nature that an interesting radio program could be written around it. Examples 
of this were the selection of the razing of Denny Hill for the Seattle program 
and an apple story for Wenatchee. But let us take an individual program and 
follow it through its many phases.

When St. Paul was chosen as the locale for the program of March 3rd, the many 
phases of its industrial activities, its scenic setting and its interesting 
history were checked over before the new Kellogg Peace Mall was finally 
selected as the immediate locale of the program. This street, being at the 
same time the oldest and youngest thoroughfare in the Northwest, gave an 
opportunity to bring out both the modern developments and the early history of 
this city. Then the scenario, or continuity as it is called in radio parlance, 
was roughed out. Here, into the modern and historical details of the Kellogg 
Mall a modern plot was woven and a principal part allotted to the Old Pioneer.

In this particular program the plot was built around the competition for an 
appropriate design or plan for the new mall and the Old Pioneer proved of 
invaluable assistance to the the young architecht who was the hero of the 

Upon completion of the rough draft it was sent to Mr. Bierstadt who wrote the 
continuity. It was then returned to St. Paul to be whipped into final form.

In the New York studios the music and sound effects, by which the changes of 
scene are made apparent to the listener, were developed and the musical 
background for the whole program was outlined. There, too, the time necessary 
to produce the program was carefully checked, for on the air the thirty-minute 
period is inexorable, no program can run under or over the time allotted to 

With these changes and additions the program was again thoroughly checked over 
for accuracy in detail both in its modern and historical phases even to the 
music and sound effects that mark the transition from one scene to another. 
With the final OK the program was ready for casting and rehearsal. The wide 
variety, both in locale and style of play, and the demand for authenticity in 
every detail in the Empire Builder programs has made it impossible for one 
person to prepare all of the continuities, in fact, no one program has been 
the work of a single writer.

Some of the writers outside of the Great Northern organization, who have 
prepared continuities for Empire Builders programs, are introduced on these 
pages. Most of these have spent many years in the territories which were the 
locales of the programs they wrote, while the others made special trips into 
the Northwest to acquire the necessary local atmosphere.

Ben Hur Lampman, a recognized nature story author and editorial writer for the 
Portland Oregonian, was the author of the "Coming of the White Man," a tale of 
Portland [December 16, 1929] and "Steelhead Fishing," an Oregon nature story.

W. O. Cooper, a member of the staff of the McJunkin Advertising Company, who 
handle the Great Northern's national advertising, prepared Thriller Films 
Glacier Park story [February 24, 1930], the Armistice Day story [November 11, 
1929] and the St. Patrick's Day program [presumably March 17, 1930].

Ruby Bailey Harlowe, a nationally known author of Seattle, Washington, wrote 
the program that marked the first anniversary of the Cascade Tunnel. [January 
13, 1930]

Walter Dickson, a fiction writer and author of numerous sketches for KOMO in 
Seattle, compiled the Denny Hill program and the Oriental romance which was 
broadcast March 10.

George Redmond, continuity editor of the Chicago studios of NBC, is the author 
of several of the programs, among them being "Rising Wolf," a story of Glacier 
Park and the Wenatchee apple program.

HS Bokhof, a member of the McJunkin staff, is the author of a musical 
comedy—burlesque—historical program, featuring the first run of the Wm Crooks 
[March 3, 1930] and Minnesota's lakes, which will be broadcast May 5.

Alice Elinor, on the staff of the Hearst papers on the Pacific Coast, wrote 
the Empire Builder travel story which will be broadcast April 25.

[April 7, 1930]

[April 8, 1930 NYT]

Edward W. Morgan, Actor, Dies. 

Edward W. Morgan, actor and radio entertainer, who was known as Ted W. Gibson, 
died on Saturday at his home, 2,016 Mansfield Place, Brooklyn. Funeral 
services will be held at 8 o'clock tonight in the funeral parlors at 187 South 
Oxford Street, Brooklyn. He was born in Brooklyn forty-two years ago and had 
appeared in "Turn to the Right" and in a second company of "Abie's Irish 
Rose." He also appeared in several light opera performances over the radio and 
took part in the Empire Builders program. He was a member of the Lambs, the 
Actors' Equity Association and Syracuse Lodge of Elks. He is survived by his 
mother, Mrs. Mary H. Morgan, and a sister, Miss Kate Morgan.

[April 14, 1930 NYT] 

Sketch; Speaker, G. Y. Stuart, Head of U.S. Forest Service.

[April 14, 1930 Hartford Courant column Through The Microphone by Julia S.

C. Y. Stuart, head of the United States Forestry Service, will speak during 
the Empire Builders program over WBZ and WJZ tonight at 10:30.

[April 14, 1930 Binghamton (NY) Press]

EVEN THE RADIO broadcasting studio is not immune from train wrecks. Here's the 
latest from the NBC studios in New York, and the joke is on Floyd Gibbons, 
radio reporter, and war correspondent. 

It seems there was a tremendous clatter when the prohibition poller and 
headline hunter bumped into a train as he entered his office adjoining one of 
the studios recently. The train consisted of a huge set of kettle and snare 
drums and a tank of compressed air, and had been placed in the office prior to 
its use in a broadcast of Empire Builders.

Said Gibbons to those who rushed to investigate after the smoke had cleared 
away: "This is the first time I ever knew of a newspaper office being used as 
a train shed."

[April 21, 1930]

[April 28, 1930 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders.--This network feature, on WFAA at 8:30 p. m., will offer 
Harvey Hays and Virginia Gardiner in a sketch concerned with an unexpected 
fortune coming to a girl impoverished by her father's death.

[May 5, 1930 LAT]

... At 6:30 tonight The Empire Builders bring to listeners the full color of 
the historical pageant staged at Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. The pageant 
will be the high spot of a drama to be presented. ...

[May 5, 1930 San Antonio Express]

Empire Builders Present Historical Pageant

A historical pageant, staged by the summer visitors at Lake Winnetonka, 
Minnesota, forms the background of the Empire Builders sketch to be broadcast 
over WOAI Monday at 8:30 p. m. 

The "Old Pioneer" gets all tangled up in the activities, but his dexterity in 
extricating himself from embarrassing situations will provide the humor of the 
broadcast. Harvey Hays and Virginia Gardener have the leading roles in the 

[May 5, 1930 The Decatur Review - Listening In column excerpt]

... One of NBC's sound doctors, Clem Walter, is the great grandson of the 
founder of the London Times, Henry Stowe.

Incidentally, a great many of radio's "prop" noises are discovered by 
accident. Last week, a carpenter was called in, saw and all, to play the part 
of a sawmill in the Empire Builders program.

One of the chain's noise experts was toying with a pocket comb the other day. 
Running his fingers along the teeth, he produced a sound not unlike that of 
the tree-toad. Immediately, the comb was placed in the property room, and a 
new card for the file was typed out, "Useful for rural effects." 

[May 8, 1930 Washington Post "Dial Flashes" column by Robert D. Heinl]

Estimates as to what radio entertainment costs to stage have been frequently 
guessed at, but here, we believe, are the first definite figures:

The twelve most expensive programs on the air, according to the National 
Broadcasting Co., that is to say the average weekly expenditure for talent, 
exclusive of station and wire charges, are the following:

*American Home Banquet and Puccini Opera Programs ... $9,050
Will Rogers and orchestra ... 6,000
Coca Cola program ... 4,000
Sunshine (Rudy Vallee) Hour ... 4,000
True Story Hour ... 3,300
General Electric Hour (Damrosch) ... 2,800
Sieberling Singers ... 2,700
Chase and Sanborn ... 2,500
Eveready Hour ... 2,500
Majestic Hour ...  2,500
Empire Builders ... 2,000
Armour program ... 1,320

*Recently discontinued

It will be noted that "Amos 'n' Andy," generally credited with receiving 
$100,000 a year and being the highest paid radio stars, are not included in 
the above group. ...

[May 12, 1930]

[May 19, 1930]

[May 25, 1930 San Antonio Light - The Loudspeaker column by Louis Reid]

Harvey Hays, the Old Pioneer of the Empire Builders, though born in Indiana, 
was educated in the English settlement of Musoorie in Northern Indiana, [sic] 
where he was taken as a child by his sister, the wife of a missionary. On the 
air he gives the impression of a philosophical lumberjack brought out of the 
Northwest especially for radio. As a matter of fact, he once played 
Shakespeare with James K. Hackett. 

[May 26, 1930]

[May 26, 1930 Washington Post]

... They say Bob MacGimsey, whose whistling is a feature on radio programs, 
had to stand on the corner in New York in the rain for ten minutes because he 
couldn't make a tax[i] driver hear his whistle. ...
[May 30, 1930 CSM]

Whistling, 2-3-4 Part? Yessir?

PLENTY of people whistle. Few -- even among professionals -- whistle on key. 
It is a rare "bird" indeed who can whistle in two parts. Robert MacGimsey 
whistles in two parts, frequently in three, and once in a while in four. The 
Great Northern program listners have written to him, "We don't believe it. 
Can't be done. More than one man is whistling. Or else you do it with 

But "Bob Mack" -- a better nickname would be "Bob White" -- whistles in one, 
two, three or four parts all by himself. ...

... [MacGimsey] made a series of outstanding records -- first with [tenor 
Gene] Austin and then as solos with orchestra, the latter including "La 
Paloma" and "O Sole Mio," particularly popular in other countries. In 1929 the 
whistler made 10 standard number records for Victor.

In a recording room, Billy Jones and Ernie Hare, formerly the Happiness Boys 
and now the Interwoven Pair, were much impressed with "Bob White's" whistling. 
Jones told the National Broadcasting Company about it and the whistler was 
given an audition. There he met Raymond Knight, concocter of the Cuckoo Hour, 
and in 1929 Knight arranged for him to whistle for Edward Hale Bierstadt, 
continuity author for the Great Northern program. When "Bob White" had 
finished his whistling for the Great Northern's first rehearsal, he left the 
studio, but was caught by Knight at the elevator, "Come on back. Some Great 
Northern officials in the control room heard you and they want to sign you up 
exclusively for their hour."

Future Plans.

And that's how the harmony whistler got into radio. He's in to stay, for a 
while at least. ... Next fall he will bring the microphone a program of his 
own, commercially sponsored ...

[May 21, 1930 Schenectady (NY) Gazette - Graham McNamee Speaking column]

... Harvey Hays, the "Old Pioneer," has taken to carrying a watch that dates 
back to frontier days. He bought it at a pawnshop, and he always has it with 
him when he appears in that character. He has a miniature pistol which he 
wears on his watch chain when he is the villain in "Mystery House," and I 
suppose if he ever takes a Chinese part he'll show up in a mandarin's cap. ...

[May 29, 1930 Schenectady Gazette - Graham McNamee Speaking column]

... Harry [Edison] is probably the best known drummer in broadcasting. He 
can't be beaten, and he plays in about a dozen of the air's ace musical 
programs, classical and popular. He is also one of the pioneers among the 
sound effects men, and before that became a specialized profession in itself, 
he did practically all of the difficult sound effects required for various 
programs. He has reproduced almost every known sound, and the train noises in 
"Empire Builders," the most elaborate and carefully arranged effects on the 
air, are his. ...

[June 2, 1930]

[June 3, 1930 Reno (NV) Evening Gazette]


INDIANAPOLIS, June 3 --(AP)-- A traction crossing tragedy near here yesterday 
in which two men were killed frustrated plans for a reunion of two brothers 
who had not seen each other for thirty years. J. H. Hayes of Brownsville, Tex. 
was leaving a tourist camp in company with Charles Kunch, also of Brownsville, 
when their automobile was struck by an interurban car. Both were killed. 

Hayes was en route to New York to see his brother, Harvey Hayes, who is widely 
known on radio programs as Uncle Henry and the Old Pioneer. The brothers last 
saw each other when Harvey returned from Australia three decades ago.  

[June 8, 1930 Boston Globe]


Harry Edison of the National Broadcasting Company forces added an 
unintentional touch of realism to the sound effects for a recent Empire 
Builders program. The script called for a waterfall and Edison attached a hose 
and spray to a faucet. At rehearsals the water splashed merrily in a tub. 
Niagara itself never sounded more like a waterfall.

Then came the broadcast. Either the water pressure was greater, or the time 
was not estimated accurately, since the tub was filled before the program was 
half completed. Before the cue came to stop the flow of water the studio was 
inundated. The next time the script calls for a waterfall Edison says he will 
add rubber boots to the equipment.

[June 9, 1930]

[June 11, 1930 Variety]

Pete Dixon Doubles In Ether

Pete Dixon of the NBC publicity staff has turned ether-actor, besides author, 
in addition to his exploitation job. Dixon is the new villain in the "Empire 
Builders" program.

[June 16, 1930]

[June 18, 1930 Boston Globe]

Harvey Hays, actor heard in many NBC programs, including the weekly Empire 
Builders, concentrates deeply when rehearsing. Recently, during rehearsal, 
some one handed him a large envelope. Throwing the contents, a magazine, into 
a convenient waste basket, the actor calmly pocketed the envelope and 
continued reading.
[June 19, 1930 Helena (MT) Independent]


[photo caption:] Picture shows Harry Edison (no relation of Tom) staging 
imitation windstorms and train wrecks.

To the long list of new professions brought into being by this complex modern 
life you now may add the one which carries the noisy title of "Sound Effects 

To become a member of this fraternity you must be able to reproduce to the 
satisfaction of that tempermental little instrument known as the "mike," the 
sound of trains, eggs frying, waterfalls, windstorms, stampedes and down the 
line, ad infinitum. 

Perhaps no program on the air gives one of these engineers so much to think 
about as the Empire Builder scripts give Harry Edison who is charged with the 
responsibility of producing realistic effects for these programs.
In the scene above, with the aid of a drum and an ingenious arrangement of 
straps attached to an electric fan, Mr. Edison is bringing an airplane from 
the distance to the landing field.

[June 23, 1930 Decatur (IL) Daily Review]

... Monday night's Empire Builders' broadcast will be the last of the series. 

[July 18, 1930 Schenectady Gazette - Graham McNamee Speaking column]

... Harvey Hays, the Professor Montegle of "Mystery House" ... is also the Old 
Pioneer of Empire Builders. And at his bachelor quarters he spends a great 
deal of time writing to his wife and little daughter in another city. ...

In an Empire Builders program [actor Porter Hall] played the meanest Indian 
chief who ever lifted a scalp, but a week or so later he horned in on the very 
same series of programs as a very sentimental juvenile. ...

[August 1930 Radio Digest]

... Andy Sanella, musical director of the Empire Builders, steel guitar and 
sax soloist, is another aviator. Andy flies his own plane and thus has been 
spending his minutes off. Bob MacGimsey, three-part whistler of the same 
program, went back to Lake Providence, La., this summer to help supervise the 
picking of the cotton crop on a large plantation of which he is part owner. 
But Empire Builder Harvey Hayes, the "Old Pioneer," is spending the warm 
months in a Broadway production, and has little chance for recreation or rest.

[August 8, 1930 The Decatur Review - Listening In column excerpt]

Radio sketches which ring true to their native settings are the ones which are 
winning and holding the radio audience of today.

Aside from pure story interest in plot and situation, listeners are flocking 
to certain radio dialogue features because they have authentic local color. 
People have enough curiosity about them to want to know how different 
characters react naturally in their own locality.

This has been realized by those behind the scenes and authors and continuity 
writers who give their subjects a definite background are becoming 
increasingly popular. Scripts are consequently beginning to show intimate 
familiarity with their setting as to dialect, and racial and local 

Among radio stars with whom local color has played a part in their success are 
Amos 'n' Andy, for the two comedians certainly know their characters and 
dialect. All Harlem agrees on that point -- that they have almost perfectly 
reproduced their manner and speech.

The popular "down east" serials, "Sunday at Seth Parker's" and "Uncle Abe and 
David" are written by Phillips H. Lord, a native of Maine.

Mrs. Gertrude Berg, author of "The Rise of the Goldbergs," gets her material 
from long observation of the "clock and suit" folks of Manhattan, and she 
knows the speech, habits, traditions, sorrows and joys of the New York Jew.

"Harbor Lights" sketches are written from material gathered by Burr Cook from 
long chats with residents of an old sailor's home. East of Cairo, the serial 
melodrama of the far east, is produced by Raymond Scudder from memories of his 
own adventures in the orient.

Authors who write the winter series of Empire Builders sketches spend the 
summer months collecting material and atmosphere from the history of the great 

Then radio's latest regional story is that of "Moonshine and Honeysuckle" 
written by Lulu Vollmer a native of the North Carolina mountains which has the 
hill country for its setting. ...

[September 16, 1930 Billings (MT) Gazette]


Starting Monday night, September 29, a new Empire Builders' series of western 
romances, historical sketches, and railway stories will be again on the air, 
according to information received by D. C. Bates, general agent of the Great 
Northern railway, which sponsors the half hour radio dramas. The radio 
sketches will again be centered about the "Old Timer," whose name is Harvey 
Hays, and who has been featured in the Empire Builders program from the first. 
The transfer of the Empire Builders productions from New York to Chicago will 
result in the loss of Miss Virginia Gardiner from the productions. 

Additions to the cast include Miss Bernadine Flynn, who has had important 
parts in such Broadway successes as "Joseph" and "Strictly Dishonorable" and 
Don Ameche, who played with Fiske O'Hara in "Jerry for Short" and with Texas 
Guinan in vaudeville in New York. Ameche will play the juvenile lead as the 
he-man hero of the wide open spaces while Miss Flynn will play the role of the 
[September 23, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]

Harvey Hays, known to radio listeners as the "Old Timer" of Empire Builders, 
can take his own medicine and like it.

Reared on Broadway, Mr. Hays in the role of the "Old Timer" has been called 
upon to expound the doctrine to which Horace Greeley first gave voice in his 
famous words, "Go west, young man, go west!"

The facts are that the "Old Timer" in real life is a comparatively young man, 
and thus, qualifies under Mr. Greeley's prescription. Mr. Hays is known in 
theatrical circles as "the young man with whiskers in his voice."

Takes Own Advice

For a year or more now Mr. Hays has been restless under the urge inspired by 
his own counsel, so when it was decided to move the new series of Empire 
Builders programs from New York to Chicago, or, as it were, "out where the 
west begins", Mr. Hays was approached on the proposition of moving to Chicago.

"Well, scatter my chipmonks", he ejaculated, "when do we start?"

So the "Old Timer" is now in Chicago rehearsing the first of the new series of 
Empire Builders playlets which return to the National Broadcasting company's 
coast-to-coast network Monday night, September 29.

The new series of programs will come to radio listeners from the largest and 
most modern broadcasting studios in the world, on the top floor of the largest 
building in the world, the new Merchandise Mart of Marshall Field and company.
[September 28, 1930 The Lincoln Star photo caption]
Virginia Gardiner, who plays leading roles in a number of NBC radio dramas, 
was made an Indian princess on her recent visit to Glacier national park where 
she spent a three weeks' vacation. Miss Gardiner was dubbed Princess Great 
Star woman by Chief Short Man Blackfeet with whom she is shown above. The 
chief presented her with a real Sioux scalp as part of the ceremony. Much of 
the material which Miss Gardiner gathered on her trip will be used in several 
of the new "Empire Builders" series which she will write. This popular radio 
feature will return to the air on WJZ's network Monday night.

[September 29, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


How through sound alone, a radio listener can be made to picture in his mind a 
terrific storm, an onrushing train, a leering villain, a forest or river 
scene, are suggested in a pamphlet which has been issued for contestants in 
the KSTP-Empire Builders radio story contest.

This contest, a bulletin to the Helena office says, is for the purpose of 
securing stories of the northwest to be broadcast by Empire Builders over the 
coast-to-coast network this winter. Three prizes aggregating $500 have been 
offered for stories.

Writing for radio is a new art and writers of long experience are said to have 
little advantage over amateurs. The contest closes Nov. 1. 

[September 28, 1930 San Antonio Express]

Dramatic Story Of Hill Railroad Builder, on Air 

The thrilling story of how James J. Hill, famous pioneer developer of the 
Pacific Northwest, was mistaken for the chief of a band of cattle rustlers, 
will furnish the drama for the first of the new 1930-31 series of Empire 
Builders programs, sponsored, by the Great Northern Railway, when they make 
their debut from the new Chicago studios of the National Broadcasting Company 
Monday, Sept. 29. 9:30 to 10 p. m. 

Presented by a cast of veteran actors, including Harvey Hays in his famous 
radio role of the beloved "Old Pioneer," the swift moving drama will take a 
page from the history of the West and the development of the new branch of the 
Great Northern from Klamath Falls, Ore., south into California.

In addition to Harvey Hays, who has become so well-known as "The Old Pioneer" 
that his real name is usually forgotten, "Empire Builders" welcomes a new 
galaxy of stars to its ranks for the coming series. Chief among these will be 
Miss Bernardine Flynn and Don Ameche, two youthful performers of wide radio 
and stage experience, who will carry the feminine and, masculine leads 
respectively. Miss Flynn will be remembered for her stage successes in "The 
Swan," as Fernalde in "Seven Year Love," with George Jessel in "Joseph" and in 
"Strictly Dishonorable." Mr. Ameche played with Fiske O'Hara in "Jerry for 
Short" and in a number of leading stock companies of New York and Chicago. 

Miss Flynn and Mr. Ameche have played together before, for they both got their 
start in dramatics at the University of Wisconsin, of which both are alumni 
and often played together there during their student days before separating to 
follow their respective careers on the professional stage.    

[September 29, 1930 LAT]

... KECA -- The Empire Builders are back -- an NBC at 7:30 -- first class. ...

[September 29, 1930 Dallas Morning News]

Empire Builders returns to the coast-to-coast network of the National 
Broadcasting Company Monday with a playlet, "The Phantom Trail," a romance of 
the old West, in which cattle rustlers, courageous homesteaders, James J. Hill 
and the coming of the railway all play a part. The locale of the story is 
central Oregon.

Harvey Hays will again be heard as the Old-Timer, while other featured members 
of the cast will be Bernadine Flynn and Don Ameche, who come from the stage to 
Empire BUilders.

Empire Builders will be on the air with a radio playlet every Monday at 9:30 
p. m., WBAP transmitting.

[September 29, 1930 The Decatur Review]

The Empire Builders returned to the air Monday night, through KYW at 9:30. 
This time the series of history dramas will be broadcast from the Chicago NBC 
studios. Harvey Hays, the "Old Timer" is the only member of the old cast to be 
heard this year.

[Excerpts from May 1972 interview with actor Don Ameche]

... A sustaining program was the first coast-to-coast show that I ever had. 
That was in, I would guess, August of 1930. And then I started coast-to-coast 
on a program called "Empire Builders" for Great Northern Railroad and I did 
that for a year ... that started in September of 1930. ... They were bringing 
"Empire Builders" from New York to Chicago because Great Northern's main 
offices were in St. Paul and they thought New York was too far away so they 
switched the origination to Chicago. And they had auditions -- oh, I don't 
know how many people they auditioned - and I won the audition and went on it.

... All the sound effects were manual and you had to have a man with an 
imagination that would be able to create these things. And they did them with 
every strange kind of device that you could think of. "Empire Builders" were a 
stickler for the sound of the train so they went to this extent: they had a 
track built, a circular track that I would guess would have been about five 
feet in diameter, and the cracks in the rails were exactly as they were on the 
regular [large-scale] tracks that [full-sized] trains ran on. And then they 
had little weighted cars that they would put on these things that were 
controlled electrically to go at the [proper] speed so that the clicks would 
[sound] exactly the same as they were for a passenger train and exactly the 
same as they were for a freight train. And on the roof outside where they had 
a microphone that they could open up, they had all the whistles. They had the 
"ding-dongs" of the crossings that you'd go through. They would fade it in and 
fade it out as [the train] would go. The whistle would do the same thing. They 
had a microphone way at the top of a funnel-shaped affair for these clicks 
with the microphone facing down to pick these up. ...

[October 6, 1930 The Helena Daily Independent]


When the Empire Builders of the Great Northern Railway company returned to the 
air September 23, listeners who have followed this program for the past two 
seasons were given the opportunity to hear a new star, Miss Bernadine Flynn.

Miss Flynn made her debut on the National Broadcasting company network as 
leading lady in the Empire Builders playlets, that have become so popular with 
air audiences.

The prospect of television caused Miss Flynn to desert a promising stage 
career for radio. Television, which radio people believe is just around the 
corner, will open a field of even greater possibilities in the drama than the 
stage or screen, Miss Flynn believes, and she proposes to be ready for it.

While attending the University of Wisconsin. Miss Flynn for four years 
attracted widespread attention in leading roles with the Wisconsin Players, 
one of the country's outstanding "little theaters."

Offer Spanish Play

"Carmelita," an original story by Elsie Baxter, will be presented by Empire 
Builders tonight over the coast-to-coast chain of the National Broadcasting 

The heroine is a young lady of Spanish-Indian descent, and while living in a 
modern age, Carmelita in fancy at least lives in the colorful and romantic 
days of her ancestors -- just as "Nero," a wild horse of Arabian descent, 
continues even in these modern times to lead his loyal band of outlaw horses 
over the plains of central Oregon.

Throughout the story there is a delightful contrast of the old and the new. 
The story is resplendent in sheer beauty, and is full of action and suspense.

Empire Builders will be on the air with a playlet every Monday evening.

[October 13, 1930 advertisement in The Helena Daily Independent]

... The Old Timer prides himself on keeping abreast of the times, but a cow 
hand who plays the saxophone is too much. "Fire him," advises the Old Timer.

Instead, Doris marries him... and with the Old Timer as the best man. In the 
meantime a lot happens to make "Cavalier Purple" an exceptional radio play. 

[October 13, 1930 LAT]

... A hero? Cowboy who plays a saxophone, Empire Builders with the "Old 
Timer," KECA at 7:30 p.m. Heroine marries cowboy with saxophone. ...

[?? Great Northern Goat]

"The Cavalier Purple" is an original story written for Empire Builders by Dan 
Markell, a Portland newspaper man. 

[October 20, 1930 Binghamton (NY) Press]

How a scrub quarterback saves the day for dear old Minnesota and wins "the 
only girl" will be dramatized during the Empire Builders' broadcast from the 
NBC Chicago studios at 10:30 o'clock tonight. 

The moral to fathers, whose sons appear undecided about their life-work, will 
be pointed out as this story is heard over the following NBC network: WJZ, New 
York; WBZ, Springfield; WBZA, Boston; WHAM. Rochester; KDKA, Pittsburgh; WJR, 
Detroit; WLW. Cincinnati; KYW, Chicago. 

[October-December 1930 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Cake of Ice Adds Realism 

To what end will the radio world go to secure realism in its production? A 
miniature glacier, in the form of a 50-pound cake of ice, was used in an 
"Empire Builder" program over an NBC network recently to give the effect of 
climbing one of these icy mountains. But a 50-pound block of ice was used in 
each of the rehearsals, making in all 250 pounds of ice used to give a touch 
of realism to a scene requiring less than two minutes before the microphone. 
[October 26, 1930 Syracuse Herald]

Radio Studios Hide Tragic Stories of Once Great Stage Stars Who Perform 
Nightly for Unseen Audience

... Then there is Harvey Hays. Broadway has scores of his kind. A fine actor 
who never could get the right show.

Hays had a veritable genius for picking the wrong show. If he were to have 
reached in a haystack made of successful manuscripts, he would, by some evil 
intuition, manage to pick the wrong one. Unless you know your Broadway this 
may sound slightly incomprehensible. Yet some of the best stars in the bright 
light belt have all but expired from a series of bad plays. Some strange jinx 
seems to hang over them. ...

So it was with Hays. He just had the hard luck to be cast in plays that wound 
up in Cain's warehouse. And this shadow trailed him season after season. And 
while it's all very well to be a good actor, it's also essential to have a 
play that pays salaries at the end of the week.

That's one reason you'll find him acting radio parts today. He's possessor of 
one of the finest speaking voices to be heard on the air. You may remember him 
from "The Bells," or any one of a dozen other radio presentations -- that of 
the "old pioneer" in the western dramas put on by the Empire Builders, for 
instance. ...


[October 26, 1930 Decatur Review]

One of the busiest entertainers on the air is Andy Sannella, shown above, who 
can handle almost any musical apparatus ever invented. He is featured in many 
NBC programs, the newest being his weekly Sunday night broadcast at 9:15 from 

[October 27, 1930 Decatur Evening Herald]

The Wenatchee apple country is the locale of the Empire Builders' 
dramatization over WJR, WLW, KYW and KWK.

[November 3, 1930 The Daily Gleaner (Kingston)]

A western cowboy who is not quite all he seems, and an enterprising mystery 
man from Chicago, will hold the spotlight in a romantic comedy of Glacier 
National Park to be presented in the Empire Builders broadcast to-night at 

WLW and W3XAL are included in the network.

[November 5, 1930 Variety - Excerpt of article about NBC's struggle to 
transfer sustaining and commercial programs from its overcrowded New York City
studios to Chicago's newly built Merchandise Mart.]

... of the two commercials transferred from New York to Chicago, Empire 
Builders and Pure Oil, only one ether artist has been sent to Chicago with 
them. He is Harvey Hays, associated for quite some time with the Empire 

NBC controls no stations in Chicago, but is affiliated with six that use its 
programs. They are WIBO, WGN, KYW, WEFL, WENR and KFKX, all independently 
operated. ...

[November 8, 1930 Exhibitors Herald World - "Before the Mike" column by Bobby Mellin]

What's in a name? Bill Barth, star of the Keystone Chronicle team of "Buck and 
Alice," has had reason lately to believe that sometimes there's more in a name 
than either Shakspeare or Juliet realized. Last year, before Bill had made his 
reputation in the Keystone Chronicle programs, his friend George Redman, 
continuity writer for the NBC, was engaged in writing a script for "Empire 
Builders," which, at that time, was being produced from the New York studios 
of the NBC. In casting about for a name for one of his characters Redman 
decided to use Barth's name as the name of the character in question. Now that 
the series has been brought to Chicago, needless to say, there was no one in 
Chicago who could play the part of "Bill Barth" better than Bill himself.

[November 8, 1930 Lincoln Star]

Empire Builders; "The First Armistice Day" ...

[November 10, 1930 Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer]

... A story of the first Armistice Day in France by one who was there when it 
happened will be dramatized in the Empire Builders episode at 9:30 P. M. over 
KWK. ...

[November 10, 1930 episode listed in November 8 CSM] 

... What happened in France the day the Armistice was signed. ...

[November 10, 1930 The Capital Times (Madison, WI)]


A story of the first Armistice Day in France, by one who was there when it 
happened, will be dramatized in the Empire Builders episode to be heard from 
the NBC Chicago Studios tonight at 9:30. The author, W. O. Cooper, was with 
the A. E. F. and F. G. Ibbett, sound technician in charge of producing the 
wartime noises, was with the British Air forces on the Western Front at the 
close of the war. Many complications follow when the Old Timer, played by 
Harvey Hays, is mistaken for a German spy, and the end of the drama is packed 
with surprises and thrills.

[November 23, 1930 San Antonio Express]


Probably the most complete sound effects equipment ever used in broadcasting, 
including battle effects in which two machine guns, a score of rifles, and 
several other actual instruments of warfare were used, were heard in the 
Armistice eve program of the Great Northern Railway's "Empire Builders" 
series, presented from the Chicago Studios of the NBC. 

Special equipment for the sound effects of this production alone cost almost a 
thousand dollars. In order to set the proper battle effects for the war-time 
story to be dramatized, two machine guns were mounted on the roof of the 
building outside the NBC studios, and fired volley upon volley of blank 
cartridges in order to feed the actual noise of the firing into the 
microphones. A squad of rifle and pistol men were present and rockets and 
flares of the type used during the war were discharged at intervals from the 
flat top of the Merchandise Mart. 

An all-male cast of 53 actors took part in the production, in addition to 
Josef Koestner's orchestra of 14 pieces. Other special equipment installed at 
great expense for this and other Empire Builders broadcasts, include two 
gigantic engine bells of the type actually in use on the Great Northern 
railway engines, a specially constructed apparatus 15 feet in height for the 
production of the noises of explosions and other loud noises, a regulation 
engine whistle, and many other innovations in the production of sound effects 
for radio broadcasting. 

The story, which was written by a member of an A. E. F. combat organization 
stationed on the Western Front at the conclusion of the war, had for its 
climax the first Armistice Day in France. Harvey Hays, as "The Old Timer," and 
Don Ameche, youthful juvenile lead, shared dramatic honors in the production. 

[A copy of this episode exists, one of the earliest surviving recordings of a 
network drama program. Scott Tanner reports that the correct title is 
"Armistice Day Reunion."]

[November 9, 1930 Hartford Courant]

Radio Skit Writers Have Difficult Task Announcer Asserts

... Station KSTP, St. Paul in conjunction with the Great Northern railway has 
been conducting a contest, just [ended?], for scripts suitable for the Empire 
Builders series, offering to buy usable non-prize scripts ... [T]he Great 
Northern announces its readiness to consider scripts directly. The price named 
for those embodying good entertainment and requiring little revisions runs up
to $250. ...

[November 17, 1930]

[November 18, 1930 The Decatur Review - Listening In column item]

... Say what you will of the dramas of the Empire Builders, you'll have to 
admit that this program has the best imitation of a train heard on the air and 
that's something. ...

[November 24, 1930 LAT]

... Sally, an orphan, and Alex, a ventriloquist's dummy -- Thanksgiving story 
-- Empire Builders -- a chain -- KECA, 7:30 tonight -- a playlet. ...

[November 24, 1930 San Antonio Express]


A modern Thanksgiving Day drama, filled with mystery and thrills, will be 
presented by the Empire Builders during their broadcast from WOAI tonight at 
9:30 o'clock. 

The story tells of exciting events on the Empire Builder Express, centering 
around a precious jewel in the possession of one of the passengers.

[November 25, 1930 Pittsburgh Press - "Microphone Musings" column by S. H. 

... Tired of Sherlock [Holmes], we moved up to Harvey Hayes and got our 
money's worth, in another episode by the Empire Builders. We nominate Hayes 
for the ablest radio presentations of the year.

Here's one of the human touches of last night's episode: "Don't put that 
turkey in the baggage car, porter, he doesn't like baggage cars." "Well, 
mister, Ah'll bet he won't like dinin' cahrs no better."

[November 30, 1930 San Antonio Express]


Delving into the romantic story of California's past, a tale of adventure and 
exploration full of action, romance and breathless suspense will be told in 
the "Empire Builders" radio drama for Monday evening, Dec. 1, when the program 
goes on the air from the Chicago studios of the National Broadcasting Company 
between the hours of 9:30 and 10 o'clock Central Standard Time, and broadcast 
locally by WOAI. 

The drama will tell of the surveying and laying out of the route followed 
today by the California extension of the Great Northern Railway. The love 
story of a beautiful Spanish senorita and a Westerner provides the main theme 
of the story, the dramatic interest of which is heightened by a succession of 
obstacles overcome only by hard fighting and heroic action. 

The Empire Builders triumvirate of Harvey Hays as the "Old Timer," Bernardine 
Flynn as the Spanish senorita, and Don Ameche as the dashing young hero, will 
be featured again in the leading roles, supported by a large cast of actors. 
Elaborate sound effects have been planned to give the radio presentation an 
atmosphere of unusual realism.

[December 1, 1930 LAT]

... The love story of a beautiful Spanish senorita (every senorita was 
beautiful in those days) -- and a westerner -- dramatic interest -- heroic 
action -- empire builders. KECA -- 7:30 tonight -- drenched in Latin fire. ...

[December 8, 1930 The News-Palladium]


"The Marriage Tree," the first prize story in the contest conducted by the 
Great Northern railway from station KGW, Portland, Ore., will be presented as 
one of the feature broadcasts of the year in the Empire Builders series of 
radio dramas this evening, when the presentation is broadcast from the Chicago 
studios of the NBC over KYW between the hours of 9:30 and 10 o'clock.

The story is a romance of the Hudson Bay company, and includes as characters 
many figures of historical significance in the opening up and development of 
the Pacific northwest. The scene is laid at Fort Vancouver, Washington, which 
at the time of the story was one of the foremost outposts of civilization, and 
now is a barracks for a detachment of the United States Army. 

A thrilling love story, in which Harvey Hays as "The Old Timer," Bernadine 
Flynn, and Don Ameche take leading parts, will be unfolded during the 
broadcast. A large cast of veteran actors, unusual sound effects, and the 
music of Josef Koestner's orchestra will be additional features of the 

[December 15, 1930 The Daily (Oshkosh, WI) Northwestern]

... "A Montana Christmas," a radio play written by Virginia Gardiner, radio 
actress, at 10:30 on WJZ and hookup. ...

[December 15, 1930 LAT]

... KECA at 7:30 p.m. Empire Builders with the old-timer. "A Montana 
Christmas," how a colorful western character gave his life to bring Christmas 
cheer to children in a remote Montana schoolhouse. Veteran actors. Koestner's 
orchestra. ...

[December 15, 1930 Dallas Morning News]

"A Montana Christmas," written by Virginia Gardiner, radio's stellar actress, 
will be presented ... Miss Gardiner will enact a leading role. ...

[December 15, 1930 episode listed in December 13 CSM] 

... Story written by Virginia Gardiner who played leads in the "Empire 
Builders" series last year. ...

[December 15, 1930 Boston Globe]


Lucille Husting, who has been heard in the leading feminine role in several of 
the recent "Empire Builders" playlets, comes to radio from the dramatic stage. 
She was one of the first actresses to desert the stage for radio. She has 
appeared in dramatic roles in some of the leading network programs of both 
chains--"True Story Hour," "Collier's" and "Empire Builders."

Miss Husting brings to "Empire Builders" not only a rich heritage of creative 
ability, but an interesting personality that is strikingly appropriate for a 
program which portrays the color and romance of the early West. Among her 
great-grandparents were Solemn Juneau, the French trader, who founded 
Milwaukee, and a daughter of La Farrenee, the chief of the Menominee Indians.

[December 16, 1930 Syracuse Herald]

Broadcasting Proper Sound Effects Demands Ingenuity

Getting "Atmosphere" Task of Studio Property Men During Program

CHICAGO, Feb. 14.--The science of radio has brought with it a new science in 
the art of broadcasting--the science of sound effects. 

It is the art of producing sounds in the studio in such a way that they will 
appear real when heard through the radio receiver. 

An example of the complexity and difficulty of this science is the sound 
effects job connected with the "Empire Builders" program, which goes on the 
air each Monday night from the NBC Chicago studios. 

This program depends for "atmosphere" upon the continual rumbling of a 
railroad train over its tracks, the clanging of a locomotive bell, the 
occasional crossing whistle and other sounds that accompany the movement of a 
train. The task has become a tremendous and complicated undertaking, for in 
addition to these sound effects, many more have to be added during the half 
hour program for sounds needed on special occasions. 

It has been the job of F. G. Ibbett, [a] Londoner, and formerly of the British 
Broadcasting Company, to create these effects, and he's still experimenting 
with all sorts of contraptions to perfect them. How he has tackled the job so 
far is a diverting study of sound mechanics as applied to the requirements and 
limitations of broadcasting. 
"Our hardest task," says Ibbett, "has been that of reproducing a train in the 
studio. At first we considered making records of the sounds made by a train in 
the depot and outside, but records are not tolerated in NBC productions. 

"Next we considered having a train on the tracks below this building and 
getting its sounds through a microphone nearby. But the cost of this stunt 
would he too high, and various operations would be hard to control.

"We had to fall back on substitutes, mechanical reproductions of the real 
thing. First came the engine puff. We tried it with a drum and a wire brush. 
But the drum was too drummy. So we took the skin off a drum and stretched it 
over the broad end of a funnel-shaped galvanized iron soundbox. 

"In order that this wouldn't sound too tinny, we put a 'dead' funnel, made of 
an acoustic deadening material like papier-mache, on the end and there we had 
the engine puff. We had to experiment with all sorts of brushes with which to 
operate this puff until we have finally gotten the wires of a proper weight 
and thickness.

"Next was the problem of escaping steam. The ideal way would be to use a two-
cylinder compressed air motor, similar almost to the steam cylinders on a 
locomotive. But that, too, would be costly and troublesome to operate. So we 
have instead a tank of compressed air, which one of my men operates as the 
need arises. This is used also for air brakes. 

"The matter of track noises was another problem. At first we tried a pair of 
roller skates on a drum to imitate the rail clicks as a train moves along. But 
this was crude and unsatisfactory. 

"We finally had to make an actual track and railroad coach in miniature. The 
track is made of solid steel rails and was built to scale.

"The car that runs on this track, to imitate the train, is really a weight on 
springs, with an additional lead weight that can be detached when an inside 
effect is desired, that is an effect of listening to the train's movement from 
the inside of a car. 

"For the bell and whistle, we got the real bell and whistle from a locomotive 
and put them on the roof outside the studio. The whistle is operated by 
compressed air furnished through a pipe from the building.

"A separate microphone is placed just inside the building at a window which 
has been opened about an inch. This microphone has a shutter on it and is set 
inside, a sound-proof box. When we want to fade out the bell and whistle we 
close the shutter on the mike.

"Since one-half of the sound effects apparatus is outside the studio, the only 
way we can keep track of the complete sound effects of the program is by means 
of headphones connecting both outside and inside effects. 

"For other sound effects, like the clinking of chinaware in the diner, we have 
had to come as close to the real thing as possible. In the case of chinaware, 
for instance, ordinary cheap dishes wouldn't do. We've had to get good china 
to get the proper sound. 

"Operation of these effects, making them sound like a train in the station, or 
receding in the distance, like two trains passing each other, or like one 
being heard only as a coach door is opened and then closed, has also been 
worked out scientifically. Every step, even the puffing, has been, timed with 
the rest of the program. 

"When the man at the bell says 'All Aboard'," explains Ibbett, "he rings the 
bell, there are two sharp toots on the whistle, the bell goes on ringing, the 
puffing begins in the studio, and another operator starts the track machine 

"All these sounds have to be coordinated in one, two, three, four order, with 
the accent on the first of each four counts, in order to make it all 
realistic. As the puffs are speeded up, the bell and whistle are faded out 
gradually by closing the shutter on the microphone outside. Then the puffs 
begin to fade out to represent a train leaving and losing itself in the 

"Occasionally the effect of a coach door being opened is shown by a louder 
clicking of the rails, when the shutter between the track machine and its 
microphone is opened. Or when two trains pass, a pair of skates is drawn over 
a drum near the microphone outside. 

"The highway crossing warning is also heard at intervals when the script calls 
for it, through the half opened shutter of the outside microphone. And so is 
the crossing bell, an actual crossing bell that is drawn past the microphone 
to sound just as it would be heard as one passed it on a train." 

Besides these railway effects, Ibbett has to produce all sorts of sounds that 
are required for any particular program--such as those of horses' hoofs on 
hard pavement and on soft ground, of grating ice as climbers go up a glacier, 
and so on.


[December 22, 1930 Binghamton (NY) Press]

"Attar of Roses," the second prize story in the Great Northern Railway 
contest, will be dramatized as the Empire Builders' sketch to be broadcast 
from the NBC Chicago studios at 10:30 o'clock tonight. 

The story concerns a crippled child who wins the affection of a crusty old 
bachelor in an emotional climax. 

This Empire Builders' sketch will be heard over an NBC-WJZ network. 

[December 22, 1930 Dallas Morning News] 

Empire Builders. "Attar of Roses," the second prize story in the Great 
Northern Railway contest recently conducted from Station KGW, Portland, will 
be dramatized for the Empire Builders ...

[photo headline and caption] Toy Car Is Radio's Crack Train

W. O. Cooper of the National Broadcasting Company is pointing to the toy 
electric train which reproduces the sounds of a crack limited in the popular 
NBC program known as Empire Builders, heard on Monday nights (see broadcasts 
of the day). The noise of moving car over the tiny rails is amplified in a 
megaphone and roars through the loud-speakers after it is treated to the magic 
of electrical and ethereal transmission. Mr. Cooper is demonstrating the 
device to Betty Reynolds who plays child parts in the dramatic sequences on 
these programs.

[December 22, 1930 episode listed in December 20 CSM] 

... The Empire Builders' second prize winning holiday story on the Scrooge 
theme. ...

[Some papers list this episode, probably inaccurately, as "Altar of Roses" or 
"The Altar of Roses." A recording exists of this episode which concerns a 
hospitalized businessman befriending an orphaned girl.]

[December 29, 1930]

[A copy of this episode exists. Scott Tanner reports that the correct title is 
"New Year's Story."]

[January-March 1931 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Realism in Radio Drama 

Radio is beginning to rival the movies in the expense to which it will 
go to provide realism in drama. In one of the recent presentations of the 
"Empire Builders" series heard every Monday evening from the Chicago NBC 
studios at 9:30 central standard time, a complete automobile was demolished in 
order to provide a realistic accident. The automobile was on the roof of the 
Merchandise Hart outside the studios, where a special microphone was installed 
to pick up the sound of the accident.

[January-March 1931 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Pearson Good Producer 

Ted Pearson, star announcer of the Chicago NBC studios, whose voice is heard 
during the Maytag orchestra, "Empire Builders," Armour hour, and many other 
exceptional NBC broadcasts, is known only as a very gifted and pleasant-voiced 
announcer to his host of radio admirers. But in professional radio circles Ted 
is just as highly esteemed as one of the smartest production men in the 
business, as well as one of the best announcers. Ted produces, among others, 
Studebaker Champions.

[January-March 1931 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Sound of Two Trains at Once
One of the most difficult sound effects known to radio, that of producing the 
sound of two trains at once, was successfully achieved recently in the Great 
Northern Railway "Empire Builders" drama. The script was written with the 
scene on the "Empire Builder," and as a touch of realism, the sound effects 
produced the impression of two trains passing each other. The effect was 
successfully produced by the Chicago NBC sound effects crew, under direction 
of the chief sound technician, F. G. Ibbett.

[January-March 1931 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Marlin Hurt in New Role 

Marlin Hurt, popularly known as "Dick" of the male trio of "Tom, Dick and 
Harry, heard in many of the most outstanding broadcasts from the Chicago 
studios, blossomed out in a new role in a recent broadcast of the Great 
Northern Railway's series of radio dramas, known as "Empire Builders." In one 
of the recent plays in the series, Hurt took a heavy character part as a 
colored porter on the train, in addition to his work with one of radio's most 
popular male trios. 

[January-March 1931 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Telegraph Messages by Radio
A radio program within a radio program, only part of which was understood by 
the listening public, was broadcast from the Chicago NBC studios in a recent 
episode of the Great Northern railroad's "Empire Builders" series of radio 
dramas. The "inside program," whose existence few listeners suspected, came as 
a result of the situation of the story, which told of the experiences of a 
young railroad telegrapher. During many of the scenes the clicking of the 
telegraph keys was plainly heard. 

[January 5, 1931 The Star (Marion, OH) photo caption]


Out of the background of her college days at the University of Arizona, Miss 
Delaplaine fashioned a story which won second prize in a radio story contest 
sponsored by the Empire Builders, an NBC feature, heard every Monday at 10:30 
p. m.

[January 5, 1931 Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA)]

Girl Wins Prize In Radio Contest 

Chicago (AP).--Out of the background of her college days at the University of 
Arizona, Martha Delaplaine, young advertising writer of Oak Park, Chicago 
suburb, fashioned a story to win second prize in a radio story contest, 
sponsored by the Empire Builders, a weekly WJZ feature. First prize went to a 

Miss Delaplaine called it "The Romance of Old Fort Union," giving it the 
locale of early fur trading days along the Missouri river.

[January 5, 1931 Benton Harbor (MI) News-Palladium]


A romantic story of old California will be dramatized over KYW tonight. "La 
Mariposa," is the title of the Empire Builders' play at 9:30. It depicts the 
escapades of a romantic Mexican bandit whose life formed a picturesque chapter 
of early California history. Leading parts in the drama will be enacted by Don 
Amache, [sic] Bernadine Flynn and Lucille Husting. 

[January 5, 1931 Portland (OR) Oregonian]

Empire Builders on Tonight.

A couple of western young folks, aided and abetted by [t]he "Old Timer" and a 
lost baby, cure a sour old plant owner of the "depression blues" in the radio 
playlet to be presented by The Empire Builders over KGW tonight. The comedy 
drama is from the pen of Dan Markell, Portland newspaper man, and pokes much 
fun and some darts of truth at the present "psychological depression." Lucille 
Husting will have a leading role and Harvey Hays, the "Old Timer," has 
generous lines in this vehicle.

[A copy of this episode exists and uses the "abandoned baby" storyline. Scott 
Tanner reports that the correct title is "Prosperity Baby" and that a version 
of this script appears to have been rebroadcast as "The Million Dollar Baby" 
or "The Billion Dollar Baby" on May 18 of this year.]

[January 12, 1931 episode listed in January 10 CSM]

... Second anniversary of opening of Cascade Tunnel through the backbone of 
the continent. ...

[January 12, 1931 Dallas Morning News]

A dramatic production celebrating the second anniversary of the opening of the 
Cascade Tunnel through eight miles of solid rock in the heart of the Rocky 
Mountains. ...

[A recording exists of this episode. The scheduled anniversary program, 
however, is pre-empted by a melodrama about a railroad telegrapher who falls 
into a coma.]

[January 19, 1931 Decatur Herald]

Thrills and surprises encountered by a movie company on "location" will be 
depicted in the Empire Builders' program at 9:30.

[January 19, 1931 episode listed in January 17 CSM]

... On location with a movie company. ...

[January 20, 1931 Decatur Review]

... The story used in the Empire Builders' program [last night] was a trifle 
less interesting than some of the previous ones but packed a wallop of western 
action. . .

[A recording exists of this episode. Scott Tanner reports that the correct 
title is "Thriller Films, Inc." and that the author is W. O. Cooper.

[January 26, 1931 episode listed in January 24 CSM]

... Montana story. ...

[January 26, 1931 LAT]

... Empire Builders will present the prize-winning story of Emilia Clapham of 
Berkeley -- KECA at 7:30 tonight -- "La Mariposa" -- an incident in the life 
of Joaquin Murrieta, notorious early day California bandit. ...

[A recording exists of this episode. Scott Tanner reports that the correct 
title is "La Mariposa."]

[February 2, 1931] 

[February 2, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune]

A dramatic sketch will be presented at 9:30 o'clock over WTMJ and NBC 
stations. About twenty hours of rehearsing are required for each of these 
playlets presented Monday nights. ...

[A recording exists of this episode. Scott Tanner reports that the correct 
title is "James J. Hill" and that a version of this script originally aired on 
January 14, 1929.]

[February 9, 1931 CSM] "Black Hawk"

[February 9, 1931 LAT]

... An Indian classic replete with suspense, drama and surprise -- that's the 
way NBC's Empire Builders are billed tonight. KECA at 7:30. Woven about the 
famous Chieftain Black Hawk and Abraham Lincoln the youth. ...

[February 9, 1931 Binghamton (NY) Press]

The story of Black Hawk, famous leader of the Sacs and Foxes in the last great 
Indian wars of the Mississippi Valley, will be presented during the Empire 
Builders drama, to be broadcAst from the NBC Chicago Studios, at 10:30 o'clock 

The radio drama is adapted from a play by Edward Stadt, head of the drama 
department of the University of Minnesota. 

Harvey Hays, as the "Old Timer," will lead the cast in the Empire Builders 
drama, to be heard over an NBC-WJZ network. 

[February 9, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune]

... The story of Black hawk, famous leader of the Sacs and Foxes in the last 
great Indian wars of the Mississippi valley, will be presented over WTMJ and 
NBC stations at 9:30 p. m. Edward Stadt, head of the drama department at the 
University of Minnesota, is the author of the play from which the radio drama 
is adapted. ...

[February 9, 1931 Boston Globe]

... The central figure in this unusual story is the famous chieftain, Black 
Hawk, while on the fringe of the narrative is a youth--Abraham Lincoln.

[February 14, 1931 CSM - Speaking From New York radio column]

[In Chicago, the columnist visited] the largest studio of the NBC lot in the 
Merchandise Mart. In one corner was a mechanical contraption that seemed to 
have stepped directly out of the laboratory of Professor Butts of the 
Collier's Hour. On cumbersome legs stood what appeared to be the gigantic tub 
of an electric clothes-washing machine, from whose top triangular and ell-
shaped boxes projected upward several feet more. The whole complicated mess 
was painted a flamboyant green, and from its side projected what looked like a 
volume control knob. It was. For inside the tubby [section?] of this strange 
apparition, we were told, was a fair-sized electric train, whose noisy 
circling of the tub inwards could be played down, and up, and all around this 
broad land during the Great Northern program. The simulation of an engine and 
train running full speed is a remarkably lifelike feature of that program. But 
think of the tons of materials and the hours of designing necessary to compose 
that contraption! ...

[February 16, 1931 (printed, perhaps mistakenly, in the January 26 Wisconsin 
Rapids Daily Tribune)]

A dramatic story built around the legends of one of the "Ghost Towns" of 
Montana will be heard over WTMJ and the NBC network at 9:30 o'clock. 
Incidental music will be provided by Joseph Koestner and his orchestra.

[February 16, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune]

... At 9:30 o'clock the old timer will recall all the tragic romance of a 
dance hall girl and an outlaw when he tells the story of one of Montana's 
famous "Ghost Towns." ...

[February 16, 1931 LAT]

... Another dance-hall girl -- a dramatization of a tragic romance -- in one 
of Montana's famous "ghost" towns. N.B.C.'s Empire Builders -- KECA at 7:30 
tonight. One of the West's wildest outlaws, too. ...

[February 16, 1931 episode listed in February 14 CSM]

... Glacier Park story. ...

[A recording exists of this episode. Scott Tanner reports that the correct 
title is "Glacier Park Dance Hall."] 

[February 23, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune]

... Three colorful incidents in the life of James J. Hill, pioneer American 
railroad magnate, will be revealed at 9:30 o'clock over WTMJ and NBC stations. 
This playlet is the first of a new series of stories of Jim Hill, the original 
"Empire Builder," portraying angles of his character that are not commonly 
known. ...

[March 2, 1931 LAT]

... "A peanut telegraph line" -- "a pay roll robbery" -- "Bohemian Girl" opera 
company -- "Nine Spot" is the title -- Empire Builders' N.B.C. dramatization 
-- KECA at 7:30 p.m. ...

[March 2, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent] 


A "peanut" telegraph line, a payroll robbery and a "Bohemian Girl" opera 
company are all involved in a thrilling story of northern Idaho which the Old 
Timer relates to the cowboy guides at Glacier park, on the Empire Builders 
radio program this evening starting at 8:30, mountain standard time.

The title role, "Nine Spot," singing lumber-jack, is taken by Don Ameche, 
popular juvenile lead of Empire Builders. The star of the "Bohemian Girl" 
company is played by Lucille Husting. The Old Timer, who tells the story, also 
has an active part in the drama. Incidental music was arranged by Josef 
Koestner, conductor of the Great Northern orchestra.

The story was the prize-winning manuscript in a radio story contest conducted 
for Great Northern railway employees last summer. It was written by Mark 
Haywood of St. Paul.

[March 9, 1931 LAT]

... the National Broadcasting Company (KECA at 7:30) carries you back into the 
olden days of the Northwest -- their Empire Builders fashioning Indian wars, 
old-fashioned romances and the deeds of byegone days in "Indian Names." The 
locale is Hangman's Creek, near Spokane, Wash. The romance of an Indian maiden 
and a white guide. ...

[March 9, 1931 The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, WI)]

How Hangman's Creek, Wash., got its name will be told in a stirring drama of 
the early west to be presented over WTMJ and the NBC stations tonight at 9:30 
o'clock. The story revolves around the romance of an Indian maiden 
and a white guide, and has a historical background in the defeat of Colonel 
Steptoe's regiment by the Indians at Steptoe Butte. ...

[March 9, 1931 Binghamton (NY) Press]

"Indian Names," a symposium of tales responsible for the naming of several 
important western cities, will be the Empire Builders radio drama presentation 
during the broadcast from NBC's Chicago studios, at 10:30 o'clock tonight. 

Stories of Indian wars, old-fashioned romances and heroic deeds of bygone days 
are included.

Empire Builders will be broadcast over an NBC-WJZ network.

[March 16, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent]


A railroad melodrama appropriate to St. Patrick's day will be put on the air 
by Empire Builders tonight. With some of the scenes laid in the railroad 
yards, the sound effects crew will have a busy night of it. Incidentally, all 
of the trains and many of the other sounds heard on Empire Builders are 
produced by ingenious mechanical devices designed by the Great Northern 
railway's representative in charge of these programs.

Monday evening's half hour will be packed with thrills, action, suspense and 
last, but not least, the fighting spirit of the Irish. Harvey Hays as the "Old 
Timer," Bernadine Flynn (both Irish themselves), Lucille Husting and Don 
Ameche will be featured in a strong cast of veteran actors. The musical 
setting was written by Joseph Koestner, conductor of the Great Northern 
orchestra. The story was written by W. O. Cooper. 

Empire Builders is broadcast every Monday evening at 10:30 o'clock (E.S.T.); 
9:30 (C.S.T.); 8:30 (mountain time); and 7:30 (P.T.), over many stations.

[March 16, 1931 LAT]

... A railroad melodrama appropriate to St. Patrick's Day -- The Empire 
Builders -- (KECA at 7:30) -- some of the scenes laid in railroad yards -- 
sound effects, too. Thrills, action, suspense and last, but not least, the 
fighting spirit of the Irish -- "On again, off again," Finnegan -- may be the 
theme. ...

[March 16, 1931 Binghamton (NY) Press]

A tense drama of railroad thrills and action, featuring an Irishman who 
distinguished himself as the hero of a crisis, will be broadcast by the Empire 
Builders from the NBC Chicago Studios at 10:30 o'clock tonight. 

Josef Koestner and his orchestra will provide background and interlade music 
for the play, which will "be given by a veteran cast of actors. 

The Empire Builders will broadcast orer an NBC-WJZ network. 

[March 16, 1931 episode listed in March 14 CSM]

... Irish story. ...

[March 23, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent] 


Montana's famous cowboy artist, Charles M. Russell is the principal character 
in the story which the Old Timer relates on Empire Builders tonight.

Through Russell's paintings the life of the old West will live forever, but it 
is the old, lovable Charlie himself, close friend of Will Rogers, that the Old 
Timer tells about. Probably three-fourths of the homes in the United States 
today have one or more reproductions of Charlie Russell's Western pictures, 
and those who admire him only as a painter will love him as a man when they 
"listen in" on the confab between him and the Old Timer, a few years back, out 
in Mr. Russell's studio cabin, at Lake McDonald, in Glacier National Park.

A musical background has been arranged by Josef Koestner, director of the 
Great Northern orchestra, featuring Mark Williams, singing cowboy, who will be 
introduced to the national networks for the first time on the Great Northern 
program. The story is by Edward Hale Bierstadt.

[March 23, 1931 CSM] "A Cowboy Story"; Mark Williams, singing cowboy

[March 23, 1931 episode listed in March 21 CSM]

... Meeting of "Old Timer" and Charles M. Russell, well-known cowboy artist at 
Glacier Park. Mark Williams, singing cowboy, heard for first time. ...

[March 28, 1931 Decatur Daily Review]

Five fly swatters mounted on the end of long sticks and rotated by an electric 
motor make a very satisfactory wind for a radio broadcast. Wintry blasts for 
the Empire Builders program are produced in this manner. 

[March 30, 1931 CSM] "Life of James J. Hill"

[March 30, 1931 LAT]

... KECA at 7:30, the second of a new series about James J. Hill, the Empire 
Builder of the Northwest ...

[March 30, 1931 Binghamton (NY) Press]

The life of James J. Hill, railroad magnate, will be dramatized in the Empire 
Builders program, broadcast from the Chicago NBC studios over an NBC-WJZ 
network at 10:30 o'clock tonight. Don Ameche takes the part of Hill as a youth 
and William Rath takes his part in later life. Harvey Hays, as "The Old 
Timer," describes the background and Josef Koestner directs the incidental

[April 1931 Oregon Exchanges -- a journal subtitled, "For the Newspaper Folk 
of the State of Oregon" -- School of Journalism, University of Oregon]

Radio Plays Are Hobby — Dan Markell, city editor of the Portland Telegram, has 
an avocation in the plays he writes for the Empire Builders' radio hour of the 
Great Northern railway. The plays are broadcast over the NBC hookup, and have 
received much favorable comment. Among his public, Dan numbers his parents, 
who live in Idaho, and who keep the radio turned on almost constantly in order 
not to miss their son's efforts.

[April 6, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent] 


"Shoes of Eloquence," replete with the atmosphere of San Francisco's 
Chinatown, is the story which the Old Timer tells on the Empire Builders' 
dramatic half-hour tonight.

Incidentally, the Old Timer's tale help[s] Ann Temple, an Eastern society girl 
with seafaring ancestors, to decide between Henry Van Dyke, wealthy 
aristocrat, and Joe Cortez, a poor but go-getting native son of California.

The cast, besides Harvey Hays as the Old Timer, will include Miss Lucille 
Husting as Ann Temple and Don Ameche as Joe Cortez. The musical setting which 
will include a Chinese orchestra was arranged by Josef Koestner, musical 
director of the Empire Builders' productions. Joseph Bethen of San Francisco 
is the author.

Empire Builders is broadcast every Monday evening at 10:30 o'clock (E.S.T.), 
9:30 (C.S.T.), 8:30 (M.T.), and 7:30 (P.T.)

[April 6, 1931 LAT]

... "Shoes of Eloquence," a drama replete with the atmosphere of San 
Francisco's Chinatown, Empire Builders, KECA at 7:30. The Old-Timer tells the 
tale. ...

[April 8, 1931 Decatur Herald - STATIC column item]

... John Kuhn, Sioux Indian chief, who plays tuba with Harry Kogen's 
orchestra, has found a dramatic role which he fits perfectly. Kuhn, who was 
born on an Indian reservation and lived many years in the West, leads the band 
of Indians heard frequently on the Empire Builders program of the old days of 
the West. ...

[April 10, 1931 Decatur Herald]

... Given the choice in a recent program Don Ameche, leading man in the Empire 
Builders dramas, took the villain's role rather than the hero's. Don finds it 
far more interesting to speak the broken Spanish or Italian than the romantic 
speeches of the lover. ...

[April-June 1931 The (Fort Covington, NY) Sun]

Sound Effects Arouse Firemen 

Firemen at a firehouse adjacent to the Merchandise Mart atop which the NBC 
Chicago studios are located, were given cause for a great deal of excitement 
when they heard whistles, bells and sirens sounding as though other companies 
were going to a fire, but could discern no signs of a fire on their ticker. 
The men later learned they had heard the sound effects used during the Empire 
Builder program being operated on the roof of the studios of the National 
Broadcasting company.

[April 13, 1931 Decatur Herald]

Reproducing the shrill screech of a locomotive whistle of 1840, recently 
presented something of a problem to the crew handling the sound effects for 
the Empire Builders program from the Chicago NBC studios until it was 
discovered that plugging four of the five slits in the head of the whistle 
regularly used in the broadcasts, produced the desired tone. It was discovered 
also that the peculiar ring of a locomotive bell of the same era could be 
reproduced by hitting a standard Empire Builder bell with a hammer instead of 
the clapper.

[April 13, 1931 CSM] "Mushy of Hell's Gate Mine"

[April 13, 1931 episode listed in April 11 CSM] 

... California mining camp story in Empire Builder period. ...

[April 13, 1931 Dallas Morning News]

... "Muchy of Hell's Gate Mine," a melodrama with its locale in a California 
mining camp ...

[April 13, 1931 Binghamton (NY) Press]

"Mushy of Hell's Gate Mine," a drama with its locale in a California mining 
camp, will be presented by the Empire Builders from the Chicago NBC studio 
over a WJZ network tonight at 10:30 o'clock. 

The hero of the story, played by youthful Donald McLean, is a motherless boy 
who clears his father's name and has his longing for a mother finally 

[April 15, 1931 Decatur Review - Listening In column item]

... Bernadine Flynn, personable star of Empire Builders popularity, has 
transferred her charm and talents to the Rin-Tin-Tin thriller "drammers" heard 
each Thursday night at 7:15 o'clock from WLW and KYW. ...

[April 20, 1931 CSM] "Scenes of Montana Campfires"

[April 20, 1931 episode listed in April 18 CSM] 

... Montana roundup story. ...

[April 20, 1931 LAT]

... For plays -- why not a cowboy-comedy-drama -- concerning the soft side of 
the happy-go-lucky riders of the plains in the early days of Montana -- The 
Empire Builders -- KECA at 7:30 p.m. An all-star cast headed by Harvey Hays, 
the Old Timer -- ...

[April 20, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent] 


A cowboy comedy-drama will be presented by Empire Builders on its NBC period 
Monday night. Although the story concerns Jack Brown, who was a stagedriver in 
the Montana's early days often "shot it out" with bandits, the playlet 
concerns itself principally with the "soft" side of the happy-go-lucky riders 
of the range.

What a trio of range riders started to do to a homesteader who had settled 
down at their watering place, and what they did, were quite different things.

The story was written by Virginia Gardiner, who obtained the facts from Jack 
Brown himself, now a veteran guide at Glacier national park.

An all-star cast headed by Harvey Hays as the "Old Timer" includes Lucille 
Husting, Don Ameche and Mark Williams, the singing cowboy. Incidental music 
was arranged by Josef Koestner, conductor of the Great Northern orchestra.

Empire Builders is broadcast every Monday evening at 10:30 o'clock (E.S.T.), 
9:30 (C.S.T.), 8:30 (M.T.), and 7:30 (P.T.).

[April 27, 1931 CSM] "Canadian Rebellion"

[April 27, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune]

Louis Reil's rebellion against the Canadian government and the part played in 
it by James J. Hill at the behest of his Canadian friends, is the basis of the 
drama to be presented tonight at 8:30 o'clock over WTMJ and NBC stations. It 
is a chapter of stirring adventure rather than of finance and railroad 
construction -- a mid-winter trek from St. Paul to Winnipeg with a treacherous 
Indian guide, commissioned by the half-breed revolutionists to see that Hill 
should perish.

[May 4, 1931 CSM] "Legend of the Wild Rose"

[May 4, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune]

... An original poetry drama, entitled "Legend of the Wild Rose," and built 
around a story which explains, according to the Indians of the Northwest, how 
roses came by their thorns, has been written by George Redman, head of the 
continuity department of the NBC Chicago studios for radio presentation at 
8:30 p. m. over WTMJ and NBC stations. ...

[May 10, 1931 The Decatur Daily Review]

Chief Fisher Tours The NBC Headquarters In Chicago

Meets "Empire Builders" Cast and Announcers -- Dazzled by Elaborate Show.


Probably the most outstanding thing about the National Broadcasting company, 
Chicago, one which rises even above the luxurious furnishings and decorative 
effects and the perfect precision of operation, is the spirit of goodwill and 
welcome tendered visitors.

The Review's Chief Fisher took a flying trip through NBC last Monday and came 
away with a decidedly good taste of friendliness, beauty and no little bit of 

After being announced to Jim Cook, assistant director of the National 
Broadcasting company, the Chief had a royal welcome which included a lot of 
nice bouquets for Decatur. In fact we caught man reading a copy of The Review 
in one of the offices.


Al Williamson, press relations director, buzzed into the office for a little 
talk with us on news release and program service. Then we were off on our 
tour. The first view was studio "D" which was abuzz with rehearsal of this 
week's Empire Builders program. In single file, the stars appeared on the 
horizon and shook our hand. First came Harvey Hays, famous "Old Timer" of the 
Empire Builders sketches, whose age doesn't merit his radio name.

Then came Lucille Husting, Bernadine Flynn, Betty White and Don Ameche of the 
Empire Builders cast. (And, girls, Don Ameche is a perfect type for his hero 
parts, handsome, suave, polite, polished and really Spanish).

In studio "B" Harry Kogen's orchestra was broadcasting the Chicago Serenade 
program. Musicians wore neat grey smocks trimmed in green, harmonizing with 
the silver and green of the elaborate studio decorations.

20,000 LETTERS.

On down the corridor to studio "A", NBC's main studio, and here heard 
something which has never been printed before. Our tour conductor, Jim Cook, 
pointed to the hand-done decorative border around the studio walls. He 
explained that the design, originated by the famous artist, Chatfield, had 
been applied to the walls upside down! It had been intended to appear as a 
valance but was reversed by mistake.

In the audience mail department, we met a singular personable young woman, Dot 
O'Brien, who was bubbling over with enthusiasm and sparkle. She explained that 
nearly 20,000 letters had been received from listeners in the last week.


In one office we found Wallace Butterworth, announcer; Fred Ibbett and Bruce 
Kammen, production men, and Elena Demarco, audition manager and a charming 
person. She wanted to give the Chief an audition and when we explained that it 
was impossible because of a tight time schedule, she promised to hear our 
voice during our next visit to the studios.

File after file of heavily loaded steel cabinets house thousands of copies of 
music in the music library. Everything from the most common song to the finest 
operatic arrangements are carefully catalogued and kept on hand for a moment's 


In retracing steps back toward studio "D" where the Empire Builders cast was 
still busy, we bumped into Tom Corwine, sound effects man who is a whole 
menagerie of sounds rolled into one. Besides being a clever imitator, Tom 
Corwine is a fine fellow. He opened his bag of tricks and imitated the sound 
of water gurgling from a jug, a train whistle, cackling hen, etc. From a 
studio came a call "Let's have the snake, Tom," so Tom proceeded to rattle and 
hiss while his assistant blew into a carnival whistle.

Back in Jim Cook's office, after hurried glimpses into the many offices and 
departments of NBC, we had a telephone interview with Edward East of East and 
Dumke, "Sisters of the Skillet." His rollicking laugh and clever voice came 
over the wire in a cherry [sic] way.

"Have you and your 'Sister' been able to get back to your normal weight since 
your New York trip?" we asked.

"Ha ha," he gurgled. "Yep, we're back in shape. You see we put on so much 
weight that we had to do a lot of rolling around in the gym to get back to our 
quarter-ton that we're so proud of."


"How do you like working on a commercial program?" (from us)

"We like it fine," said East, "but are disappointed that we are on only two 
days a week. We prefer daily broadcasts for they keep us going, on our toes, 
you know. However we think the time will be expanded by next week so the 
broadcast will be on nearly a daily basis. In June we are starting a nightly 
program and are looking forward to it with interest."

"Decatur is a good old town," he continued. "We have played there. In fact, 
it's my old home town!"

"Really?" we almost shouted in his ear.

"Aw, now," was the comeback, "I was only kidding. Don't take me seriously."

And that is just the way he, with his partner, Ralph East, meet the public via 
radio. They hate being taken seriously!

[May 11, 1931 CSM] "Missing"

[May 11, 1931 LAT] 

... For plays? KECA's Empire Builders with a mystery play--"Missing"-- ...

[May 17, 1931 The Lincoln Star]


Sound effects engineers for the "Empire Builder" program recently solved the 
problem of bringing the sound of fire engines dashing to an alarm to the radio 
audience by enlisting the services of a Lincoln park [Chicago] policeman who 
rode his automobile around the roof of the Merchandise Mart where the Chicago 
NBC studios are located. Microphones picked up the sounds of the roaring 
cutout, siren and bells.

[May 18, 1931 CSM] "On Time Hank"

[May 18, 1931 episode listed in May 16 CSM]

... A ride in the cab of a locomotive in the "Empire Builders" period. ... 

[May 18, 1931 Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune] 

"On Time Hank," a railway melodrama and one of the most successful radio 
presentations of last season, will be presented at 8:30 o'clock over WTMJ and 
NBC stations. 

[Scott Tanner reports that, contrary to the newspapers, "On Time Hank" 
actually aired May 25 and that "Million Dollar Baby" aired May 18, according 
to NBC program logs.]

[May 25, 1931 CSM] "The Billion Dollar Baby"

[May 25, 1931 Berkeley (CA) Daily Gazette] "Million Dollar Baby"

[May 25, 1931 Oakland (CA) Tribune] "The Million Dollar Baby"

[Scott Tanner reports that, contrary to the newspapers, "On Time Hank" 
actually aired May 25 and that "Million Dollar Baby" aired May 18, according 
to NBC program logs.]
[On the afternoon of May 27, 1931, five miles south of Fargo, North Dakota, 
the real-life, twelve-car Empire Builder train, while heading to Chicago, was 
hit by a tornado, instantly blown off the tracks and wrecked. Only four more 
episodes of the series would air.]

[May 28, 1931 Washington Post] 

... During a recent broadcast of the Empire Builders program from the NBC 
studios in Chicago, part of the presentation required thunder for a 
background. The production men on the roof were vigorously shaking a great 
sheet of tin, to get the desired effect, when nature lent a helping hand. A 
terrific thunder shower had appeared from nowhere, laughing at man's efforts. 

[May 31, 1931 New Orleans Times-Picayune]

"Empire Builders" whistles added their quota to the din which saluted the 
start of the Chicago Jubilee Week parade. The "passenger" and "freight" 
whistles used in the weekly broadcasts and located on the roof of the 
Merchandise Mart just outside the windows of the NBC Chicago studios were tied 
down for five minutes.

[May 31, 1931 The Milwaukee Journal]

Ingenious Stunts Enhance Reality of Radio Scenes

Unusual Sound Effects Constitute Important Advancement in Dramatic Broadcast

Many and unusual have been the sound effects that broadcasters have devised to 
in their efforts to convey to listeners realistic backgrounds for their 
programs. Their success, in the last year or so, has been marked, but still 
they wrack their brains and tax the ingenuity of the sound effects engineers 
for even more realistic and convincing results.

Foremost perhaps in this effort to approach reality as closely as possible, 
and a pioneer in the art, is gray-haired, bespectacled Harold M. Sims, who 
sits in the sound proof control booth and, with script in hand and stopwatch 
before him, guides every movement and action in the Empire Builders program 
that goes over the air each Monday night over WTMJ and the N.B.C. stations.

Sims has been playing with sound effects for his dramatic sketches of earlier 
days so long that he has exhausted all simple means of producing them, and has 
begun digging up quite unusual stunts to the amazement of other broadcasters, 
the amusement of his fan listeners and his own satisfaction.

One idea of his was so unusual that other program directors and engineers 
believed it could not be done. But he did it and he has established it as 
another important advancement in the art and technique of dramatic 

Does Three Scenes at Once

This idea was broadcasting of two or three scenes at the same time as is done 
by means of the flash back in the movies. In one of the Monday night plays, 
there was such concurrent action in a telegraph station, a locomotive cab and 
a bank, and all three scenes went over so well that Sims received a large 
number of complimentary letters from fans.

The telegraph station could be definitely recognized by the click of telegraph 
instruments. The locomotive had its own distinctive sound effects. And at the 
same time the dialogue in the bank, which was being held up, clearly  
differentiated this scene from the others. 

At another time Sims discovered that a "show" he had planned would run six 
minutes over the allotted hour. The only scenes he could sacrifice were those 
laid in a railway depot, full of action, suspense and melodrama.

He didn't want to lose this effect. So he had Harvey Hays, the "Old Timer," 
relate the action, thus boiling down the time to within the required limit, 
but he retained the sound effects as a background for the Old Timer's 
narration. He even used voices, a girl's sobbing and other similar sounds in 
the background.

Depends on Action

The effect was thrilling. It gave Sims another stunt on which he expects to 
rely later.

Sims can be credited with many other innovations of the same sort.

One of Sims' cleverest performances occurred recently when he decided to let 
his listeners in on a small part of his rehearsal of sound effects, which 
occurs just before the actual program goes on the air. He was prompted to do 
this by the many letters he got asking him how the various effects heard in 
the program were put on the air. 

The result was so realistic that even the staff engineers and control men, who 
listened in on the programs and were not informed of the stunt, were fooled.

In fact, about a half a dozen of the stations taking the weekly dramatic 
program actually cut the rehearsal scene off the air in the belief that this 
was not meant for the listeners. They returned to the air as soon as what they 
thought was the actual beginning of the program came on.

In order to produce a fire scene Sims borrowed a motorcycle officer from the 
Chicago police department and had him ride up and down the expensive roof of 
the building where the studios are located, blowing his siren to imitate the 
approach of a fire apparatus. Steam forced through a pipe into a tub of water 
created the illusion of shooting water, while the crackle and roar of the 
flames were produced by other means in the studio.

Fiction in Real Life

Not so long ago Sims produced the drama of a relief squad going to the rescue 
of a dying person, using a railway "speed car" - which is the modernized 
electrified hand car - to rush the rescuers over the mountains when a train 
was not available.

It was one of his most dramatic sketches, all pure fiction except for the name 
of M. C. La Bertew, superintendant of the railway division over the Rockies, 
where the incident was supposed to have taken place.

Three weeks later this piece of fiction was duplicated in reality when a 
Montana teacher heard his wife, at home several hundred miles west, needed a 
blood transfusion to save her life.

And the man who gave the order permitting the use of the speed car over the 
railway lines was M. C. La Bertew, the same superintendant of the radio drama!

[June 1, 1931 CSM] "The Belled Bridge" [title confirmed by other papers]

[June 1, 1931 episode listed in May 29 CSM] "La Rosa del Oro"

[June 7, 1931 The Decatur Daily Review (Decatur, IL)] 

Vallee Wins Review Poll

Tibbett Selected As Best Singer.


With nearly 100 votes cast in The Review poll for radio favorites of people of 
Decatur and surrounding territory, the outstanding fact brought out by the 
vote is that the line drawn between the most popular radio programs is very 
thin. ...

... True Story Hour was chosen by the majority of voters as the outstanding 
drama presentation of radio. Moonshine and Honeysuckle came second with Empire 
Builders and Arabesque tied for third place. ...

[June 8, 1931 Dallas Morning News]

At 8:30 p. m.--"Room 20," a mystery comedy-drama with its locale in Helena, 
Mont., the Monte Carlo of the gold rush days, will be presented during the 
half-hour broadcast from the NBC Chicago studios. (WFAA)

[June 8, 1931 episode listed in June 7 Oakland Tribune] 

Mystery Story to Be Old Timer's Tale

"Room 29," [sic] a mystery comedy-drama with a famous old hotel near Helena as 
its locale, will be enacted during the half-hour broadcast from the NBC 
Chicago studios tomorrow night beginning at 6:30. The play will be heard on

At Helena, the Monte Carlo of the gold rush days, Benny Plot, an amateur 
detective, and his bride Margie clear the name of an uncle who was involved in 
a tragedy in "Room 20" in the 'nineties. They succeed only after a harrowing 

Principal roles will be played by Harvey Hays, the Old Timer, Don Ameche as 
Benny Plot and Lucille Husting as Margie.

Stations releasing this dramatic presentation include KGO.

[June 8, 1931 CSM] "The Broadwater Hotel"

[June 8, 1931 episode listed in June 6 CSM] 

... Montana story in "Empire Builder" period. ...

[June 14, 1931 Dallas Morning News] 

Harvey Hays, Old-Timer of Empire Builders' fame and director of The Play's the 
Thing" heard each week from the NBC Chicago studios, is spending a week in New 
York. Mr. Hays is in the Eastern metropolis to look over plays suitable for 
presentation on his Saturday afternoon program.

[June 15, 1931 CSM] "The Silk Special"

[June 15, 1931 episode listed in June 13 CSM] 

... How a transcontinental railroad handles valuable shipments of raw silk 
from the Orient. ...

[June 15, 1931 Dallas Morning News] 

A story of the rails, "The Silk Special," will be related by the Old-Timer for 
the Empire Builders' dramatization from the NBC Chicago studios. Packed with 
action, thrills, roaring trains and romance, the melodrama will reach a 
breath-taking climax when gangsters attempt to hold up a train believed to be 
carrying a secret gold shipment, by stalling their automobile on the track. 

[June 22, 1931 CSM] "Seal of the Great Spirit"

[June 22, 1931 The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, NE)] 

8:30--Empire Builders; "Seal of the Great Spirit," dramatic sketch with Harvey 
Hays, Lucille Husting, Don Ameche, John Daly and William Rath; Josef Koestner, 
director (NBC-WJZ) -- WFAA, KOA, KYW. ...


... "The Old Timer" tells his last radio story tonight. Bids final adieu to 
radioland. "The Seal of the Great Spirit" is the title. ...

[June 22, 1931 LAT radio column item -- it's the sixth paragraph even 
though the column is headlined: RADIO FAVORITE IN ADIEU TODAY / "Old-Timer" 
Will Make Last Appearance Tonight]

... N.B.C.'s Empire Builders -- KECA at 6:30 p.m., presents for the last time 
a character beloved by many radio fans, the Old-Timer, who will make his last 
appearance with his stirring tales of the Great Northwest. ... 

[June 28, 1931 The Helena Daily Independent] 


Glacier Park, June 27.--(AP)--The old timer is getting ready to enact his 

Harvey Hayes, of the Deep Voice, who characterizes the "old timer" in the 
Great Northern's weekly broadcasts, is getting his "citified" muscles in shape 
for a strenuous campaign of horseback riding.

The 40 persons who will start with him on July 1 for a tour of the park by 
saddleback, launch and trail have been chosen for their hardihood and Hayes, 
on his arrival, headed for the 20,000 acre Bar-X ranch of the Park Saddle 
Horse company, in Swiftcurrent valley, where George Noffsinger, president, 
showed him where the 800 park horses are wintered. For several days he will 
ride in the vicinity of Many Glacier hotel.

[December 8, 1946 excerpt from advertisement of Wheeler and Healy advertising 
agency in Washington Post]

... W. O. ("Army Hour") COOPER / Here is another definitely "top flight" 
member of the personnel of WHEELER & HEALY. His national reputation as an 
advertising agency copywriter; radio script writer and producer; motion 
picture script writer and editor and familiarity with television is 

Mr. Cooper originated the famous Great Northern Railroad program, featuring 
"The Old Timer;" "Lights Out," and the "Army Hour;" writing, directing and 
participating in all of them at different times. Mr. Cooper is now available 
to the clients of WHEELER & HEALY as a regular staff member in the capacity of 
Director of Radio, Motion Picture and Television. ...

[November 13, 1949 Chicago Tribune] 


A 300 pound bronze locomotive bell, relic of the neanderthal era of radio 
sound effects, was presented to the Science museum by NBC recently. The bell, 
rescued from the network's dead storage room here, was used to produce 
authentic sound effects on a railroad program in 1929-31.

The bell was presented to Maj. Lenox Lohr, museum director, by I. E. 
Showerman, NBC vice president in charge of the central division, and officials 
of the Great Northern railroad at a special ceremony at the Railroad fair.
Last update 13 October 2014