More About Tony Schwartz, Media Pioneer & Audio Documentarian (1923-2008)


Tony Schwartz in his media lab, New York City, 1982.

Tony Schwartz in his media lab, New York City, 1982 (Photo by Nancy Kaye)

An article about Tony Schwartz was previously published on this blog on November 9, 2011. See .

About Tony Schwartz

Tony Schwartz, master of electronic media, created more than 20,000 radio and television spots for products, political candidates and non-profit public interest groups. Featured on programs by Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue and Sixty Minutes, among others, Schwartz has been described as a “media guru,” a “media genius” and a “media muscleman.” The tobacco industry even voluntarily stopped their advertising on radio and television after Schwartz’s produced the first anti-smoking ad to ever appear (children dressing in their parents’ clothing, in front of a mirror). The American Cancer Society credits this ad, and others that followed, with the tobacco industry’s decision to go off the air, rather than compete with Schwartz’s ad campaign.

Born in midtown Manhattan in 1923, a graduate of Peekskill High School (1941) and Pratt Institute (1944), Tony Schwartz had a unique philosophy of work: He only worked on projects that interested him, for whatever they could afford to pay.

For thirty-one years (1945-1976) he created and produced a weekly radio program of people and sounds of New York on WNYC (AM & FM). For over 15 years he wrote a weekly column for Media Industry Newsletter (MIN).

When Marshall McLuhan met Tony Schwartz, he said he met “a disciple with twenty years prior experience!” Later, McLuhan and Schwartz shared the Schweitzer Chair at Fordham University [Note: Schwartz  collaborated with McLuhan at Fordham, but did not “share” the Schweitzer Chair.]


“Documenting life in sound and pictures” is something Tony Schwartz begin in 1945, when he bought his first Webcor wire recorder and began to record the people and sounds around him. From this hobby developed one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of voices, both prominent and unknown, street sounds and music, a collection that resulted in nineteen phonograph albums for Folkways and Columbia Records.

Schwartz began to do commercials for national advertisers, in which he revolutionized the industry: he was the first ever use real children’s voices in radio and television ads, as opposed to adults imitating children. From commercials involving children, he moved to general advertising, everything from Coke to airlines, political campaigns and public interest media — every ten years, Schwartz’s sphere of interest expanded to include new directions and new challenges, as well as continuing the old.

Credited with the single most effective and talked about ad ever produced, Tony Schwartz created the Daisy Ad, as it has become known, to highlight the dangers of nuclear arms. It was used by the Johnson campaign in 1964 to clearly illustrate his position on the use of nuclear weapons. Considering the extensive discussion that the ad has sparked, it is remarkable that the ad ran only once. (Source: )


The following recent article by Michael Schmidt describes some of Tony Schwartz’s sound recording experiments:-

“Nancy Grows Up,” the Media Age, and the Historian’s Craft

Recorded over the course of the 1950s and the early 1960s, “Nancy Grows Up” gives us a beautiful and stimulating portrait of growth. It is an audio montage; Tony Schwartz, its creator, continuously taped his niece from her first month of life to the age of thirteen and, later, spliced together pieces chronologically. Schwartz likened what he did to time-lapse photography: it condenses the story of thirteen years, as Schwartz said, in less than two and a half minutes.

Source: (My thanks to Graham Larkin for bringing this to my attention)

Tony Schwartz is the author of 3 books, and a subject of many others.


THE RESPONSIVE CHORD (1973 paperback) defines the resonance principle in communications. Says McLuhan, “This book is the only one…which even begins to approach the problem of human scale in relation to electronic media. This is a totally untouched field and Tony Schwartz has a monopoly in this area.” [more info]


MEDIA: THE SECOND GOD (1983 paperback) describes how media has changed our society and how to use it to change our society. Of Schwartz, upon reading the book, Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Who else could write more brilliantly about media as a second god than one of the few human beings who has learned how to use it and control it?!”[more info]


Hardcover first edition copy. [more info]

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