The Voice of Firestone began life as a radio broadcast on NBC Radio on December 3, 1928. Since its inception, the program featured performances by acclaimed classically trained musicians and popular Broadway stars. Performers such as Risë Stevens, Richard Crooks, Eleanor Steber and Gladys Swarthout were frequent guests on the program. In 1949, The Voice of Firestone made history by becoming one of the first series to be simulcast on both radio and television. The Voice of Firestone television program continued to air on NBC until 1954, when due to scheduling conflicts, the show producers chose to end their contract and sign with ABC.The radio broadcast ended in 1956, but the television broadcast continued to air on ABC off and on until 1963.
The show was sponsored throughout its run by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and featured active involvement by members of the Firestone family. Most notably was the involvement of Idabelle Firestone, wife of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company founder Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938). Idabelle Firestone, née Smith, was born November 10, 1874. She and Firestone were married in 1895, and were the parents of six children. Idabelle was a musician and composer, and as such contributed several songs to The Voice of Firestone. The compositions “In My Garden” and “If I Could Tell You” both were featured as theme songs for the program. Many of her other compositions were published, and her work was often recorded, perhaps most notably by the famous mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens. Idabelle became a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (A.S.C.A.P.) in 1948, and maintained an active interest in music and The Voice of Firestone until her death on July 7, 1954.
Idabelle’s eldest son, Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. was born April 20, 1898, and succeeded his father as Chairman of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. He was extremely active in the management of The Voice of Firestone, and conducted much of the business surrounding both the program and, especially, his mother’s music. Both father and son hosted The Voice of Firestone radio show. During the year 1931-1932, Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. gave talks on the rubber industry. Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. was highly invested in the fate of The Voice of Firestone, and took on a very vocal role during the aforementioned scheduling conflicts. He championed the show as it was, and did not compromise the vision of the program to satisfy network pressures. He also was responsible for managing much of his mother’s later career, especially in regard to copyright issues and dealings with collaborators. Harvey S. Firestone Jr. passed away on June 1, 1973.
In the early 1990s, Video Artists International (VAI) produced segments of The Voice of Firestone television episodes on commercial VHS, each devoted to an individual performer.
-Joel Sternberg, “Voice of Firestone, The,” The Museum of Broadcast Communications (Accessed April 2012), <http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=voiceoffire>
For a look at a recent exhibit featuring selected photos and memorabilia from the Voice of Firestone collection, click here.
Idabelle Firestone Audio Library
In 1971 the Firestone Company generously donated several hundred kinescope film recordings of the weekly television production of The Voice of Firestone to New England Conservatory. Two years later in 1973, the Idabelle Firestone Audio Library opened at NEC, construction funded by the Firestone Foundation. The Library was designed by the architecture company of Kilman, Hopkins, Greeley and Brodie, and contracted by the George B. Macomber Company. This new library provided a special vault for storing The Voice of Firestone kinescope film collection and an Audio/visual library for student listening/viewing.
As Firestone library reached its 40 year anniversary library it housed over 3,500 video recordings and 72,000 sound recordings. These include general recordings, all NEC concerts and faculty recitals since 1969, and The Voice of Firestone collection.
In 2009, the Harvey Firestone Jr. Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to NEC for a preservation project to transfer a major portion of The Voice of Firestone kinescope film collection to DVD. In 2012 this preservation project was completed. The Voice of Firestone film collection is now available on DVD for viewing in the NEC Library. To view an episode index to the Voice of Firestone television show, click here.
The Voice of Firestone Collection consists of two manuscript boxes, one newspaper box, and two record cartons. It spans approximately 7 linear feet. The collection is primarily paper, but also contains a sizable assortment of photographs, several scrapbooks, and several artifacts, including trophies awarded to The Voice of Firestone. There is also one oversize box containing Firestone Library architectural plans.
The materials in this collection originally belonged in two separate collections. Due to the fact that both collections pertained to the same topic, they were merged in summer 2012. The contents of the entire collection were donated to NEC by the Firestone family between 1969-1971. Materials such as those created by the Conservatory administration, Harvey Firestone, Jr., the architect James Hopkins, contractor George Macomber, Remington Rand, Educational Electronics, Lake Systems, VAI, and various other parties were originally located in the audio department of the Conservatory, were transferred to Performance Services in the 1990s, and then were given to the NEC Archives in 2008. Other portions of this collection such as photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, and music by Idabelle Firestone had been housed in Spaulding library with the audio/video items stored in Firestone. Now the entire collection will be housed together in the new NEC Library.
Access to this collection is by appointment with the NEC Archivist. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection.
All copyrights to The Voice of Firestone collection belong to the New England Conservatory. Permission to publish materials from this collection is granted by the Director of Libraries. This collection should be cited as:The Voice of Firestone Collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA
*processed by Andrea Brunner, Fall 2009; processed and merged by Kiersten Paine, Spring-Summer 2012.