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Parks Johnson collection on Vox Pop

 Collection 0049-MMC-LAB

Vox Pop was a radio program of interviews, quizzes, and human-interest features heard from the early 1930s to the late 1940s. (Vox Pop is a shortened form of the Latin phrase "vox populi," which means the "voice of the people.") The program, originally called Sidewalk Interviews, began on local radio in Houston in 1932. KTRH advertising salesmen Parks Johnson and Jerry Belcher went out onto the street with portable microphones and asked people their opinions on a variety of topics. The spontaneity of the show proved popular with listeners.

In 1935, Vox Pop became a national program on the NBC network, broadcasting from different locations around New York City. In 1939, the show was broadcast from the New York World's Fair and was one of the first televised programs. Vox Pop participated extensively in the war effort, traveling up to 1,000 miles per week throughout the United States, visiting military bases, military schools, factories, and showcasing different communities on the home front. The show traveled to 45 states, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, France, and England.

The format of the show changed over the years. From a sidewalk interview program, Vox Pop soon became a straight quiz show. The program later combined quiz questions with interviews featuring movie stars, celebrities, sports figures, politicians, and other people in the news. Eventually, the quiz show structure was dropped entirely, and the program centered around one human interest story with guests lined up in advance.

Parks Johnson was one of the hosts throughout the life of the radio program. Jerry Belcher left the show in 1936 and was replaced by Wally Butterworth, a well-known radio announcer. Butterworth hosted the show with Parks from 1936 until 1942, then was replaced by Warren Hull, an actor and former emcee of radio's Your Hit Parade. This team stayed together until Vox Pop went off the air in 1948.

Vox Pop broadcast a total of 1,014 regular programs and 500 special programs. The show moved from NBC to CBS in late 1939 and jumped networks again in 1947 to ABC. The last program aired on May 19, 1948. There was some discussion as late as 1964 to televise Vox Pop, but nothing was ever produced.

Dates

  • 1932-1966
  • Majority of material found within 1932-1948

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Extent

35 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Vox Pop collection spans the years from 1932 to 1966 although the bulk of the material dates from 1932 to 1948. The collection contains correspondence, scripts, newspaper clippings, magazines, promotional materials, notebooks, scrapbooks, tickets to Vox Pop broadcasts, awards, certificates, photographs, artifacts, and a collection of interview questions.

Parks Johnson kept meticulous notes and his notebooks contain, among other information, the ratings of the show, lists ofVox Pop personnel (including guest emcee's, directors, announcers, and engineers), and the locations of all the broadcasts from 1935 to the last network program of 1948. Researchers will also find Johnson's speeches to civic and other organizations about the program, as well as his lecture notes, some personal materials, and correspondence.

Over 400 broadcasts of Vox Pop were recorded on transcription discs, many of which are in poor condition and are awaiting conservation. Ten discs have been transcribed and are available to researchers. Contact library staff for further information. There are also a few recordings of Radio Newsreel.

Biographical / Historical

Vox Popwas a radio program of interviews, quizzes, and human interest features heard from the early 1930s to the late 1940s. (Vox Pop is a shortened form of the Latin phrase "vox populi," which means the "voice of the people.") The program, originally called Sidewalk Interviews began on local radio in Houston in 1932. KTRH advertising salesmen Parks Johnson and Jerry Belcher went out onto the street with portable microphones and asked people their opinions on a variety of topics. The spontaneity of the show proved to be popular with listeners.

In 1935, Vox Pop became a national program on the NBC network, broadcasting from different locations around New York city. In 1939, the show was broadcast from the New York World's Fair and was one of the first televised programs. Vox Pop participated extensively in the war effort, traveling up to 1,000 miles per week throughout the United States, visiting military bases, military schools, factories, and showcasing different communities on the home front. The show traveled to 45 states, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, France, and England.

The format of the show changed over the years. From a sidewalk interview program, Vox Pop soon became a straight quiz show. The program later combined quiz questions with interviews featuring movie stars, celebrities, sports figures, politicians, and other people in the news. Eventually, the quiz show structure was dropped entirely, and the program centered around one human interest story with guests lined up in advance.

Parks Johnson was one of the hosts throughout the life of the radio program. Jerry Belcher left the show in 1936 and was replaced by Wally Butterworth, a well-known radio announcer. Butterworth hosted the show with Parks from 1936 until 1942, then was replaced by Warren Hull, an actor and former emcee of radio's Your Hit Parade. This team stayed together until Vox Pop went off the air in 1948.

Vox Pop broadcast a total of 1,014 regular programs and 500 special programs. The show moved from NBC to CBS in late 1939 and jumped networks again in 1947 to ABC. The last program aired on May 19, 1948. There was some discussion as late as 1964 to televise Vox Pop, but nothing was ever produced.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in four series:

1
Vox Pop Program Material
2
Parks Johnston Personal Material
3
Transcription Discs
4
Photographs

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains audio materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Vox Pop collection was given to the Library of American Broadcasting in 1995 by William Johnson, son of Parks Johnson. Additional materials were donated in 1996.

Existence and Location of Copies

Some photographs have been digitized and are available in the Libraries digital collections: https://go.umd.edu/vox-pop .

Related Materials

The Libriares hold an oral history with Bill Johnson, son of Parks Johnson which was recorded in 1995 (reference number: au ac orig 712 and 713). Please contact askhornbake@umd.edu for more information.

A GIS mapping projects was created by Library staff to illustrate how vox Popcaptured American culture. Based on information found in the Vox Pop Collection and other contemporary sources, this map pinpoints the location of each network broadcast from 1935 to 1948. Each location contains a pop up with information about the broadcast. Many of the pop ups also contain a photograph taken during the broadcast. To view the project please visit Vox Pop: The Show that Traveled America, 1935-1948.

There are 32 episodes of Vox Pop available on the Internet Archive. These were not posted by the University of Maryland.

Processing Information

Materials were placed into acid-free folders and put into acid-free boxes. In some series, materials were placed in chronological order.

Title
Guide to the Park Johnson collection on Vox Pop
Status
Completed
Author
Karen Fishman. Revised by Ashley S. Behringer and Joanne Archer.
Date
2013-02
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2012-08-21: Tagged with relevant subject headings- Chuck Howell
  • 2020-06-29: Finding aid updated post ArchivesSpace migration by Joanne Archer. Finding aid structure revised. Administrative history revised by James Baxter.
  • 2021-07-23: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212