America’s First Presidential Election Radio Broadcasts

Staff covering Pittsburgh radio station 8ZZ’s (KDKA) first broadcast: The US presidential election of 1920. This broadcast also happened to be the very first live media coverage of a US presidential election! (Flickr Commons)

The honors of being the first media broadcaster to cover a US presidential election live have officially gone to Pittsburgh AM radio station 8ZZ – later KDKA – when they aired live coverage of the Harding-Cox presidential race.

Beginning at 8 pm on the evening of November 2, 1920, the legendary radio station was born when it went on the air with live state-by-state election returns that were phoned in via the Pittsburgh Post as they came in. Election returns were interspersed with banjo music. Since radio sets were still something of a novelty during this period, it has been estimated that only 2,000 or so people heard the broadcast.

However, it has emerged over the years that 8ZZ was not the only radio station broadcasting presidential election results that night. Detroit’s 8MK (which later became WWJ AM) also broadcasted results that night as well as a radio station in St. Louis, but it’s unclear which station went on the air first or how many people tuned in for the other two stations.

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