March 4, 1939 – 150th Anniversary Of Congress – Past Daily Reference Room
In what would become one of the most widely covered events in broadcast history up to 1939, the gala events surrounding the 150th birthday of the U.S. Congress carried on for the better part of the entire day, with gavel-to-gavel coverage from the floor of Congress broadcast live for the first time ever. In addition, the proceedings and celebrations were also broadcast via Shortwave around the world
It was a feat of modern technology – it was also a cause for celebration because it meant that Democracy was doing something right for the past 150 years. Something that, almost 80 years later we scratch our heads and wonder about.
On hand, aside from dignitaries and luminaries, were the members themselves. In this broadcast, addresses by Senate Minority leader Charles McNary (R-Oregon) and House Minority Leader Joseph W. Martin (R-Mass.) were given at the end of the day as a sort of capper to the activities and celebrations.
It was a reminder that, after 150 years and countless struggles including a Civil War, Congress was still together and still functioning. And even in the years since, with additional struggles, crises and a lack of confidence almost unparalleled in history, the Congress of the United States has continued to function – although it would be safe to say that, in no other time has our democracy come under such withering fire and condemnation – and whether it will withstand even the current state of affairs remains to be seen, there continues to be a glimmer of hope that Democracy will still stand.
As a continued reminder of just how fragile and complex our political system is and how politics has become no casual plaything of the uninformed and heedless, here is part of that celebration with two addresses by ranking minority members of Congress, as it was delivered on March 4, 1939.