Boake Carter: ‘Far and Away the Most Daring’

The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency about New Deal critic Boake Carter, who made a name for himself on radio covering the Lindberg kidnapping. To order a copy click here.

Boake Carter’s lasting legacy is probably the expression, during the 1930s that “In time of war the first casualty is truth.” For a time he had the biggest show on radio, as millions listened for his British accent denouncing President Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Carter was born in 1899 in Baku, Russia to British parents who gave him the name for the city of his birth, where the British Consular Service was located in Russia. He grew up in Great Britain and attended Christ College in Cambridge, and began his journalism career in London. But in 1920, after his diplomat father was reassigned to Mexico, Carter came to the United States. He went to work in Philadelphia for press associations.
He made the transition to radio in March 1932 at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia WCAU. It was here where he made a national name for himself.
The kidnapping of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month old son from their home in Hopewell, New Jersey in March 1932 set off the sensational media firestorm for that era. The investigation involved the New Jersey State Police, the New York City Police and the FBI and lasted more than two years before the kidnapper—who left a dozen ransom notes as he kept upping his ransom—was brought to justice. Charles Lindbergh Jr. was never found.
The whole ordeal was a remarkable story. After the kidnapper took $50,000 in ransom money, the FBI was able to track the serial numbers on the ransom money, which led them to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant carpenter. He was arrested outside his Bronx home on September 18, 1934. A retired school principal, who acted as an intermediary between the Lindbergh family and the professed kidnapper, and a taxi cab driver who was pulled into the matter after the kidnapper told him to deliver a ransom note, both identified Hauptmann from their earlier encounter with him.
CBS wanted WCAU to send a mobile unit to cover the trial, and Boake Carter got his chance to provide all of the lurid details, with his accent that became a hit with a national audience. As he became a bigger star, he got his own show, with the Philco Radio Company as his sponsor and he gained a national audience.72 For several more years, Carter would open his broadcasts with an English sounding, “Hello everyone, Philco radio time, Boake Carter speaking.”
To learn more about Boake Carter and other radio legends, click here to get a copy of The Right Frequency.
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