This essay examines the regulation of amplified public speech in New York City from 1930 to 1948. It documents the emergence of the public address system as a political communication tool and traces its use by radical organizations and minor parties to expand the acoustic territory of street speech, highlighting the city's efforts to restrict this territory through antinoise ordinances and targeted permit denials. This lingering tension culminated in an “aural panic” after a riot that occurred during a 1939 meeting of the German American Bund, which prompted new municipal and national strategies to bring sound into the arena of permissible liberal discourse. The essay concludes with a discussion of postwar legal challenges to the city's sound device ordinance and their impact on New York's street-based public sphere.
1 January 2015