Schwartz, Tony

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Biographical Note

Tony Schwartz, 1923-2008, was a media consultant, radio host and producer, educator, author, folk music documentarian and collector, and sound designer whose work has influenced many different aspects of the audiovisual landscape of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He is most commonly associated with the “Daisy ad” he helped develop for Lyndon Baines Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign against Barry Goldwater, a spot that aired only once but that nevertheless had a game-changing effect on political advertising. In the promotion of public health and civic issues, too, Schwartz applied innovative advertising and marketing techniques, most notably with a sustained series of campaigns against smoking and tobacco companies. So powerful was his first anti-smoking ad -- the first such ad ever produced -- that the tobacco industry voluntarily stopped advertising on radio and television.

Less widely known but hardly less significant than his work in advertising was Schwartz's inventive use of audio technology. Over the length of his career, Tony Schwartz pioneered many techniques and approaches to working with sound. He embraced recording technologies developed during World War II, not only adopting the reel-to-reel tape recorder as early as 1945, but also adapting it: he modified an early commercial tape recorder for portability by adding a shoulder strap and an internal power source. With the recorder slung over his shoulder, he ventured onto the streets of New York to record what he heard, from the sounds of nature to the unpredictable and rich variety of sounds produced by people.

Born August 19, 1923, Tony Schwartz was educated at Peekskill High School and the Pratt Institute. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he began his advertising career as an art director. Schwartz's spur-of-the-moment purchase of a Webster wire recorder soon pointed him in a new direction, however. Deeply interested in folk music, he recorded radio programs such as Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival and invited performers like Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Jean Ritchie, and Woody Guthrie to record in the studio he built in his home on W. 56th Street. His tape exchange program, in which Schwartz swapped music with folklorists and collectors around the world, resulted in a collection of well over 30,000 songs and tunes from 46 countries. The folk music recordings he made in his home studio, acquired from other enthusiasts, and discussed as a guest on a WNYC radio program attracted the attention of artist and Sears-Roebuck heir William Rosenwald, whose financial support led to Schwartz's next endeavor: recording the sounds and music of New York City, or rather, one part of that city.

Tony Schwartz lived with a pronounced agoraphobia that prevented him from traveling beyond a small section of Manhattan, specifically the area known for much of his life as Postal Zone 19. His ability to discover and capture the stories, songs, games, and everyday sounds of work and play in that lively New York neighborhood, combined with the sheer size and wealth of his folk music collection, led, nevertheless, to a productive relationship with both Folkways and Columbia Records. Schwartz’s first two releases on Folkways, 1, 2, 3 and a Zing Zing Zing (Folkways FW07003, 1953) and New York 19 (Folkways FW 05558, 1954), were followed by titles like Nueva York: A Documentary of Puerto Rican New Yorkers (Folkways FW 05559, 1955), An Actual Story in Sound of a Dog's Life (Folkways FW05580, 1958), and The New York Taxi Driver (Columbia ML5309, 1959). The sounds of his neighborhood, as well as audio experiments he created (such as Jimmy Giuffre's clarinet playing juxtaposed against high heel clicks on a marble-floored lobby), were incorporated into his series of brief radio programs for WNYC and WBAI, Adventures in Sound (also known as Around New York ) and Communications Journal . The series ran from the 1950s until 1976.

Schwartz's Folkways records received widespread attention, and he reentered advertising with a focus on sound as the primary means of communicating with an audience. He produced effective radio and television commercials for national brands such as Coca Cola, AT&T, Betty Crocker, and many more. Following the success and controversy of the “Daisy” political ad, Schwartz recorded thousands of spots for local, state, and national candidates, including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Edward Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Tom Foley, and Daniel Moynihan. Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, noted that "Tony Schwartz, as much as any person, laid the foundation for modern political advertising."

Later in his career, Schwartz consulted for various interest groups and organizations. He used the skills he developed in commercial and political advertising to focus attention on issues of public health and safety that were of personal interest to him, such as gun control, environmental protection, and combating tobacco use. Schwartz created anti-smoking campaigns for clients such as the American Cancer Society, Citizens for a Tobacco-Free Society, and the Non-smoker’s Rights Association. He also took on issues in his neighborhood and city, vigorously defending John Jay College for Criminal Justice from closure and supporting the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA).

Schwartz also worked as an educator. He shared the Schweizer Chair at Fordham University with Marshall McLuhan and taught courses in media theory for the Harvard University School of Public Health and Social Behavior, Emerson College, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Focusing on his theories about communication and the use of audiovisual media in social and political discourse, Schwartz taught from his home office, communicating with his students via the telephone and incorporating sound and visual elements to illustrate his lectures.

Tony Schwartz made little distinction between his professional and personal activities; he worked almost exclusively from his home for much of his career and the voices of his wife, Reenah, and his children, Kayla and Anton, may be heard on many his recordings. Schwartz's business activities grew and developed from interests that he explored first as hobbies, such as recording sound and collecting folk music. His curiosity about communication through electronic media introduced him to Marshall McLuhan and resulted in his reputation as a published media theorist. His innovative advertising work led to influential political consulting, and he later used these skills to support causes and social issues that mattered to him personally. As a result, the rich collection of material he left behind defies easy classification.

From the guide to the Tony Schwartz collection, 1912-2008, 1950-2008, (Recorded Sound Reference Center, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Library of Congress)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Typocrafters (Group) papers, 1937-2000. Houghton Library.
referencedIn New York Times Company records. A.M. Rosenthal papers, 1955-1994, 1967-1986 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Arthur Unger collection of recorded interviews [sound recording] The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
creatorOf Tony Schwartz collection, 1912-2008, 1950-2008 Recorded Sound Reference Center, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Library of Congress
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith American Cancer Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. corporateBody
associatedWith American Heart Association. corporateBody
associatedWith American Lung Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Bemporad, Jack. person
associatedWith Bleviss, Alan. person
associatedWith Bredesen, Phil, 1943- person
associatedWith Carey, John, 1946- person
associatedWith Carter, Jimmy, 1924- person
associatedWith Center for Media in the Public Interest, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Cherner, Joe. person
associatedWith City University of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Clinton, Bill, 1946- person
associatedWith Dainard, Michael, 1944- person
associatedWith Doctors Ought to Care (Organization) corporateBody
associatedWith Dukakis, Michael S. (Michael Stanley), 1933- person
associatedWith Emerson College. corporateBody
associatedWith Foley, Thomas S. person
associatedWith Folkways Records. corporateBody
associatedWith Foundation for a Smokefree America. corporateBody
associatedWith Gravel, Mike, 1930- person
associatedWith Hardin, Louis. person
associatedWith Harvard School of Public Health. corporateBody
associatedWith Hoffman, David (David Michael), 1941- person
associatedWith Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978 person
associatedWith Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. person
associatedWith John Jay College of Criminal Justice. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973 person
associatedWith Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009 person
associatedWith Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968 person
associatedWith Landers, Bob (Radio announcer) person
associatedWith Martin Himmel Health Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith McFeeley, Ken. person
associatedWith McGovern, George S. (George Stanley), 1922-2012 person
associatedWith McLuhan, Marshall, 1911-1980 person
associatedWith Mezvinsky, Edward M. person
associatedWith Mondale, Walter F., 1928- person
associatedWith Moyers, Bill D. person
associatedWith Moynihan, Daniel P. (Daniel Patrick), 1927-2003 person
associatedWith Napolitan, Joseph, 1929- person
associatedWith New Sounds, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Non-Smokers' Rights Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Pell, Claiborne, 1918-2009 person
associatedWith People for a Smoke-Free Indoors. corporateBody
associatedWith Pertschuk, Michael, 1933- person
associatedWith Reid, Harry, 1939- person
associatedWith Reynolds, Patrick. person
associatedWith Ribicoff, Abraham, 1910-1998 person
associatedWith Robert L. Smith person
associatedWith Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1937- person
associatedWith Rosenthal, A. M. (Abraham Michael), 1922-2006 person
associatedWith Rudman, Warren B. person
associatedWith Schwartz, Anton, 1967- person
associatedWith Schwartz, Kayla. person
associatedWith Schwartz, Reenah. person
associatedWith Seith, Alex. person
associatedWith Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969 person
associatedWith Skelton, Isaac Newton. person
associatedWith Tisch School of the Arts. corporateBody
correspondedWith Typocrafters (Group). corporateBody
associatedWith Unger, Arthur person
associatedWith United States Information Agency. corporateBody
associatedWith Varied Directions, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Vrdolyak, Ed, 1937- person
associatedWith Weiss, Ann. person
associatedWith WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Young, Andrew, 1932- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Hell's Kitchen (New York, N.Y.)
West Side (New York, N.Y.)
New York (N.Y.)
Subject
Advertising agencies--New York (State)--New York
Occupation
Function

Person

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