We Hold These Truths - December 15, 1941

Now, we present one of the most unique broadcasts of the old time radio era.

"We Hold These Truths" was a one hour dramatic program written by Norman Corwin for the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.  Scheduled to be heard on all four networks on December 15, 1941, events would turn the program into something bigger than a simple commemoration.

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The federal government commissioned the broadcast and preparations were made for the show before Pearl Harbor, of course.  With the nation suddenly at war, the program took on a special meaning - it holds the record for the largest radio audience for a dramatic program.  Some have estimated that 63 million listeners, about half of the US population at the time, turned in to the program.

Heard in the show, broadcast from Hollywood, New York and Washington, DC, are Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, Bob Burns, Walter Huston Marjorie Main, Edward G. Robinson, and Rudy Vallee.  The music was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrman; Leopold Stokowski conducts the national anthem at the end of the program after remarks by President Roosevelt.

This mp3 of the program was transferred from an original Federal Radio Education Committee, US Office of Education, vinyl transcription set, matrix numbers G-3013-P, G-3014-P, G-3015-P, G-3016-P.

I think it's one of Orson Welles most memorable radio performances, by the way - he practically chews up and spits out the microphone during the show.

Listen Now:


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  • Steve Kostelecky

    One of my all-time favorite programs, perhaps the reason I went back to school to gain a better understanding of America in this era and, of course, my study of Welles. I have been looking for a better copy of this program and this sounds gorgeous. Thanks so much, Rand!

    Dec 8, 2009 at 3:15 am
  • sofa

    Thank you for this wonderful program. God Bless the USA.

    Dec 9, 2009 at 4:37 am
  • Doug

    Thank you for making this wonderful program available for us to hear again. These words are so appropriate for Americans to hear today. With the terrorism threat abroad and civil unrest within, we need to return to the principles of our constitution and founding fathers.

    Dec 10, 2009 at 7:05 pm
  • Anne DeLaet

    Is it possible to get a copy of this wonderful program? I would love to have one. Anne DeLaet

    Dec 12, 2009 at 12:43 am
  • Jim

    Ms. DeLaet (and others) can make a CD copy of this program by downloading the MP3 (right click on the “Audio MP3″ box, then “Save Target As…”) then burning the MP3 to a CD-R (using Windows Media Player, iTunes, etc.). If you’re not familiar with this process, ask your PC-savy friends for help.

    Dec 16, 2009 at 10:16 am
  • Richard

    Least we forget. This should be required of all students in all American schools.

    Dec 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm
  • Dick Bulova

    Do you have anything else by Norman Corwyn available for download? I’d particularly like to find “Fifty Years After 14 August”, narrated by Charles Kuralt.

    Dec 30, 2011 at 12:01 am

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