National Radio Day | August 20
(Last Updated On: November 8, 2022)


On August 20th, National Radio Day recognizes the great invention of the radio. Celebrate the news, information, music, and stories carried across the airwaves.


Several inventors participated in the invention of the radio in the late 1800s. Amazingly, not just one person can be credited with its beginning. Instead, each component developed through invention and discovery. As these technologies converged, the radio came to life.

Who invented the radio?

The paragraphs that follow describe a noted international effort that contributed to the conception of the radio. In Germany, Heinrich Hertz’s research proved electricity could be transmitted wirelessly. Elsewhere, the prolific inventor Nicola Tesla patented multiple inventions. He provided the radio with the Tesla coil. Born in Croatia, Tesla also contributed many patents involving alternating current. Not only did Tesla make the radio possible, but he also advanced the science and production of numerous other inventions. However, when it comes to the first commercially available wireless, Italian, Guglielmo Marconi receives the honor.   

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 In radio, you have two tools. Sound and silence. ~ Ira Glass


Entertainment and music did not always fill the airwaves. In fact, the radio’s first function was much more practical. First, the wireless radio served the military. The radio also provided a regular public service role. Much like the dits and dots of a telegram, the wireless transmitted information. It also served in an emergency capacity. In 1912, a Marconi wireless broadcast the Titanic’s distress signal.

In 1906, Reginald Fessenden created the first radio broadcast of voice and music purely for entertainment purposes aired. He transmitted the program from Brant Rock, MA, for the general public to hear. The Canadian-born scientist would go on to many more successes in his lifetime.  

An American contributor to the radio, Lee de Forest, invented the Audion vacuum. This invention made live broadcasting possible. Born in Iowa in 1873, de Forest would become the chief scientist for the first U.S. radio firm, American Wireless Telephone, and Telegraph.    

When did the first radio stations broadcast?

The 1920s brought the first broadcast stations to the forefront. Around the world, listeners tuned in for news and world events for the first time. Other radio facts include:

  • Radio ownership grew. In 1931, two out of five homes owned a radio. By 1938, four out of five owned a radio.  
  • According to FCC statistics, at the end of 2012, more than 15,000 licensed broadcast radio stations were operating in the U.S.
  • On October 1, 1999, the first satellite radio broadcast occurred. Worldspace aired the broadcast in Africa. 

The Tech Ranch Podcast

The founder of National Day Calendar hosts a radio talk show. The “Guru of Geek” Marlo Anderson hosts the Tech Ranch, featuring discussions on technology for everyday life. Click here to listen.


To celebrate National Radio Day, listen to your favorite radio station. Give special recognition to the station, radio personalities, and the programs that make your days better. Use #NationalRadioDay to post on social media. 

Educators and families, visit the National Day Calendar Classroom for more ways to Celebrate Every Day.  


We were unable to find the creator and the origin of National Radio Day. However, it is interesting to note that the first commercial radio station began broadcasting on this date in 1920. Keep reading for more history on this day. 

Radio FAQ

Q. When was the first radio signal broadcast?
A. On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first radio signal across the Atlantic Ocean.

Q. When was the first commercial radio broadcast?
A. On November 2, 1920, Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing broadcast the voter returns for the 1920 presidential election. They broadcast out of Pittsburgh, PA, under the call sign KDKA.

Q. What’s the difference between traditional radio and online radio?
A. Traditional radio is broadcast over airwaves and has a limited range. Online radio is broadcast through the internet and is limited only by the availability of the internet.


August 20th Celebrated History


Charles Darwin and Arthur Wallace both publish their theories on evolution in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London.


Nearly a year after the end of hostilities, President Andrew Johnson formally declares the end of the American Civil War.


William Robinson receives patent No. 130,661 for his open circuit signaling system for railroads.


Pyotr Tchaikovsky debuts his 1812 Overture in a specially built concert hall in Moscow.


Sir Ronald Ross dissects an anopheline mosquito and discovers malaria parasites. His discovery went on to prove how anopheline mosquitoes spread malaria.


The New York Times sends the first telegram around the world. Using a commercial service, they aimed to determine the speed of a message sent around the world by telegraph. The message was relayed by 16 different operators over 28,000 miles and was received 16.5 minutes later. What did it say? “This message sent around the world.”


The American Professional Football Association forms. They elect Jim Thorpe as their first president.


The first commercial radio station begins airing. Started by The Detroit News, the station’s original call sign was 8MK.


La Choy receives a registered trademark for its brand name products – registration number 0260241.


The Soviet’s Sputnik 5 with two dogs, mice, rats and plants return to Earth after a 1-day venture in space. Belka, Strelka and the other living creatures were unharmed during their voyage.


Rolling Stones release the single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in the United Kingdom.


NASA launches Voyager II into space with a record including greetings in 60 languages as well as scientific information, music and Earth sounds.


Dwight Gooden becomes the first National League pitcher to strike out more than 200 batters in his first 2 seasons.


The Supreme Court of Canada reaches a decision regarding the legality of Quebec succeeding from Canada. After two failed referendum attempts to vote for sovereignty by the governing party, Parti Quebecois, the Canadian government brought the issue to the courts.


August 20th Celebrated Birthdays

Thaddeus S.C. Lowe – 1832

Known as the grandfather of the United States Air Force, Lowe served Union Army during the American Civil War. His contributions to aeronautics come in the form of hydrogen balloons and other aerial tools used to spy on the Confederates.

Benjamin Harrison – 1833

Benjamin Harrison served as the 23rd president of the United States and the only president from the state of Indiana.

HP Lovecraft – 1890

The prolific writer of horror and the bizarre never lived to see the success of his work.

Roger Wolcott Sperry – 1913

Sperry’s research in the nervous system led to several breakthroughs. One included a better understanding of the optic nerves.

Jacqueline Susann – 1918

Writer Jacqueline Susann is best known for her novel Valley of the Dolls.

Jim Reeves – 1923

Known as “Gentleman Reeves,” the country music artist gained a huge following overseas.

Don King – 1931

The flashy boxing promoter is known for organizing bouts for Mohammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Mike Tyson to name a few.

Connie Chung – 1946

As a journalist, Chung reported on several television news shows. In 1993, she broke into the national networks when she was hired as co-anchor for CBS Evening News. Chung was the first woman to hold this role and only the second woman to anchor a major network newscast in the United States.

Al Roker – 1954

Before replacing Willard Scott presenting the weather and other segments on the Today show, he started with smaller venues and filling in for Scott.

Joan Allen – 1956

The television and Broadway actor has appeared in numerous roles including Pleasantville, The Bourne film series, and The Notebook.

Patricia Rozema – 1957

The film director, writer, and film producer is best known for her work on the films Grey Gardens and A Wrinkle in Time.

Sally Yates – 1960

The former deputy attorney general was also the lead prosecutor of the Atlanta Centennial Park bomber, Eric Rudolph.

Amy Adams – 1974

The versatile comedic and dramatic actor has played several starring roles since her breakthrough in Enchanted in 2007.

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