The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit radio - HISTORY
Year
1933

The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit radio

With the stirring notes of the William Tell Overture and a shout of “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!” The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit’s WXYZ radio station.

The creation of station-owner George Trendle and writer Fran Striker, the “masked rider of the plains” became one of the most popular and enduring western heroes of the 20th century. Joined by his trusty steed, Silver, and loyal Indian scout, Tonto, the Lone Ranger sallied forth to do battle with evil western outlaws and Indians, generally arriving on the scene just in time to save an innocent golden-haired child or sun-bonneted farm wife.

Neither Trendle nor Striker had any connections to or experience with the cowboys, Indians, and pioneers of the real West, but that mattered little to them. The men simply wanted to create an American version of the masked swashbuckler made popular by the silent movie actor Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro, arming their hero with a revolver rather than a sword. Historical authenticity was far less important to the men than fidelity to the strict code of conduct they established for their character. The Lone Ranger never smoked, swore, or drank alcohol; he used grammatically correct speech free of slang; and, most important, he never shot to kill. More offensive to modern historical and ethnic sensibilities was the Indian scout Tonto, who spoke in a comical Indian patois totally unrelated to any authentic Indian dialect, uttering ludicrous phrases like “You betchum!”

Historical accuracy notwithstanding, the radio program was an instant hit. Children liked the steady stream of action and parents approved of the good moral example offered by the upstanding masked man. Soon picked up for nationwide broadcast over the Mutual Radio Network, over 20 million Americans were tuning into The Lone Ranger three times a week by 1939. In an early example of the power of marketing tie-ins, the producers also licensed the manufacture of a vast array of related products, including Lone Ranger guns, costumes, books, and a popular comic strip.

The Lone Ranger made a seemingly effortless transition from radio to motion pictures and television. The televised version of The Lone Ranger, staring Clayton Moore as the masked man, became ABC’s first big hit in the early 1950s. Remaining on the air until 1957, the program helped define the golden age of the TV Western and inspired dozens of imitators like The Range Rider, The Roy Rogers Show, and The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. Although the Lone Ranger disappeared from American television and movie screens by the 1960s, he lived on in a popular series of comic books well into the 1970s.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

King Charles I executed for treason

In London, King Charles I is beheaded for treason on January 30, 1649.Charles ascended to the English throne in 1625 following the death of his father, King James I. In the first year of his reign, Charles offended his Protestant subjects by marrying Henrietta Maria, a Catholic ...read more

Burma supply route cleared

A vital supply route linking India to China through Burma is finally cleared for Allied military transports on this day in 1945. The first convoy of 133 trucks under British General Mountbatten left Ledo several weeks earlier, but could not enter China until the Americans were ...read more

Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators are shot dead by British Army paratroopers in an event that becomes known as “Bloody Sunday.” The protesters, all Northern Catholics, were marching in protest of the British policy of internment of suspected ...read more

Japan’s Mazda founded

On this day in 1920, Jujiro Matsuda (1875-1952) forms Toyo Cork Kogyo, a business that makes cork, in Hiroshima, Japan; just over a decade later the company produces its first automobile and eventually changes its name to Mazda. Today, Mazda is known for its affordable, ...read more

Gandhi assassinated

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, is assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic.Born the son of an Indian official in 1869, Gandhi’s Vaishnava mother was deeply religious and early on exposed her son to Jainism, ...read more

Tet Offensive begins

At dawn on the first day of the Tet holiday truce, Viet Cong forces–supported by large numbers of North Vietnamese troops–launch the largest and best coordinated offensive of the war, drivingg into the center of South Vietnam’s seven largest cities and attacking 30 provincial ...read more

Operation Dewey Canyon II begins

Operation Dewey Canyon II begins as the initial phase of Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos that would commence on February 8. The purpose of the South Vietnamese operation was to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, advance to Tchepone in Laos, and destroy the North ...read more

Dan Jansen skates world-record 500 meters

On this day in 1994, the American speed skater Dan Jansen sets a new world record of 35.76 at the World Sprint Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.Born in 1965 in Wisconsin, Jansen had been the youngest skater to compete at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, where he ...read more

FDR is born

On this day in 1882, future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is born. Roosevelt grew up the only child in an upper middle-class family in Hyde Park, New York. He graduated from Harvard in 1904 and later received a degree from Columbia Law School. In 1905, Roosevelt married ...read more

Sidney Bechet’s first record

On this day in 1923, jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet cuts his first record, featuring “Wild Cat Blues” and “Kansas City Blues.”Bechet was born in New Orleans in 1897. Like his four brothers, Bechet began playing music at an early age. Having learned clarinet at age six, he was playing ...read more

Michael Dorris is born

On this day, Native American novelist Michael Dorris is born in Louisville, Kentucky.Dorris met his wife, Louise Erdrich, at a poetry reading at Dartmouth, where he had founded a Native American studies program. Dorris had already adopted three Native American children in the ...read more

Gene Hackman born

Gene Hackman, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and acclaimed actors for four decades, is born on this day in 1930, in San Bernardino, California.At the age of 16, Hackman left home to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps for a three-year stint. He then studied journalism and ...read more

Plane crashes off Ivory Coast

A Kenya Airways Airbus A-310 crashes after takeoff into the Atlantic Ocean off the Ivory Coast on this day in 2000. Because the passengers did not have enough time to put on life jackets, only 10 people out of the 179 on board survived.Kenya Airways Flight 431 left Nairobi, ...read more

Gandhi assassinated in New Delhi

Mohandas Gandhi, the world’s chief advocate of non-violence, is assassinated in New Delhi by a terrorist sponsored by a right-wing Hindu militia group. The murder came only 10 days after a failed attempt on Gandhi’s life. Thirty-nine-year-old Nathuram Godse shot the great Indian ...read more

Tet Offensive shakes Cold War confidence

In coordinated attacks all across South Vietnam, communist forces launch their largest offensive of the Vietnam War against South Vietnamese and U.S. troops. Dozens of cities, towns, and military bases–including the U.S. embassy in Saigon–were attacked. The massive offensive ...read more

Nathaniel Banks born

On this day in 1816, Union General Nathaniel Banks is born in Waltham, Massachusetts. Banks was a political general–he had few military skills, but as an anti-slave Republican from Massachusetts, he helpedPresident AbrahamLincoln’s administration maintain support in that ...read more