Kennedy vs. Nixon - The First Televised Presidential Debate
By 1960, television was fast becoming the primary means by which to reach people. That year, Senator John F. Kennedy introduced a powerful new factor into American political campaigning when he challenged Vice President Richard M. Nixon to debate the issues in a series of joint television appearances. Knowing that he was the front-runner, Nixon’s advisers cautioned him against accepting the challenge, but Nixon, confident of his debating skills did accept. The political confrontations that followed were the most historic since the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858.
Approximately 70 million Americans- at the time the largest political audience in U.S. history- watched on the night of September 26 as the candidates for the Presidency faced each other on television for the first time.
Image: First televised Presidential debate with candidates Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, broadcasted from the WBBM television studio in Chicago, Illinois. 9/26/60.
-from the JFK Library
The 1952 Republican National Convention was held at the Chicago Amphitheater from July 7-11. It was the first political convention broadcast live by television with special studio facilities provided for all the major networks.
In addition to being the first live telecast, the GOP convention was the debut event for a new device still used by politicians today, the “TelePrompTer. “ Former president, Herbert Hoover, was the first person to use this device at the RNC on July 8, 1952.
-from the Hoover Library
The Development of TV Spots
Television became an important part of campaign fundraising for the 1952 presidential election.
These storyboards are from an Eisenhower campaign strategy book that illustrates how money-raising goals were achieved through “TV Spots.”
Creative Women Behind Ike’s 1952 Campaign
During the 1952 campaign, Jacqueline Cochran, businesswoman and aviatrix, persuaded employees at Walt Disney Studios to produce an animated cartoon in support of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s candidacy.
Staff at Disney worked off the clock to produce the short animated commercial, “We’ll Take Ike.” The lyrics for this song were written by Gil George, who was actually Hazel George. She was first hired as a nurse at Disney Studios. After her knack for writing was discovered she wrote song lyrics for The Mickey Mouse Club and a number of Disney animated feature films.
In the pictured telegram, Jacqueline Cochran wrote, “I personally believe the proposed short could be the greatest piece of propaganda in the whole campaign…” 9/30/52
Also pictured, a letter from Bill Anderson at Disney that accompanied an autographed animation cel setup and copy of the song, “We’ll Take Ike” for the newly elected President Eisenhower. 11/19/52.
-from the Eisenhower Library
"Each viewer will see the General just as if he were talking to him."
For the first time in 1952, television became an important part of campaign strategy for the Presidential election. These notes describe the direction and goals for an upcoming TV appearance in Kansas City by Dwight D. Eisenhower. 9/19/52.
The Motion Picture Preservation Lab has been hard at work preserving hundreds of outtakes from President Truman’s 26 part television documentary - Decision: The Conflicts of Harry S. Truman, broadcast November 1964. We’re nearly done! Follow us over the next few Fridays to see what we encountered, and what we’ve accomplished!
The reels pictured here are suffering from extreme levels of vinegar syndrome, as indicated by the yellow strips in the can.
Watching lift-off from the White House
President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and others watch the lift-off of the first American in space, Astronaut Alan Shepard. The television is in the Office of the President’s Secretary in White House. 5/5/61
-from the JFK Library