History Book – The Missouri Compromise and King Kong

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, March 2nd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

This is our first program of the month of March, and this is the month we have two live events on the calendar: March 19th in Greenville, South Carolina, followed March 21st by a Saturday matinee event in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The World and Everything in It Live. I hope you can join us if you live near those areas. We have such a good time at these events so if you can, we’d love to spend some time with you. Shake your hand, take some pictures, get to know you. Connect.

EICHER: It’s a free event, made possible by our sponsor Samaritan Ministries—so no charge, but you do need to sign up to reserve your seat. Go to wng.org/live for all the particulars and an online sign up. The address is wng.org/live. Looking forward to seeing you in Greenville and Atlanta.

REICHARD: Well, next up, the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, the beginning of an international treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Plus, nearly 90 years ago a ground-breaking American film about a monstrous ape.

EICHER: But first, two hundred years ago this week, a political compromise that maintains equal power in the U.S. Senate between Northern and Southern states. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: In 1817, the U.S. territory of Missouri applied for statehood. At the time, the union had 22 states. The U.S. House of Representatives had an anti-slavery majority, but the Senate was equally divided. Missouri favored slavery, so its admittance would change the balance of power. Free states feared it would also guarantee the spread of slavery west into the Louisiana territory. 

So in 1819, a New York representative introduced an anti-slavery amendment—launching a lengthy and heated debate over the government’s right to restrict the practice. The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the amendment, but the Missouri statehood legislation failed in the Senate due to deadlock. 

Months later, the territory reapplied. This time, U.S. Speaker of the House Henry Clay proposed the creation of two states, Missouri and Maine: the former a slave state, and the later a free one—thus maintaining the Senate’s balance of power. Clay further suggested a line should be drawn through the Louisiana Territory along the 36th degree parallel—dividing it into a free north and slave south. 

After much political wrangling, the legislation passed in two parts and Missouri and Maine entered the union—an agreement known as the Missouri Compromise. Thomas Jefferson believed the legislation would further divide the nation, and lead to the destruction of the union. Historian Dick Morris reads Jefferson’s words:

MORRIS: This momentous question is like a fire bell in the night, it awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union…A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated.

Thomas Jefferson was right. The Missouri Compromise led to armed conflict—first with its westward neighbors and eventually in war between the North and South. 


Next, March 2nd, 1933. A groundbreaking monster film opens at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

CLIP: There the beast, and here the beauty. She has lived through an experience no other woman has dreamed of…

The film features starlet Fay Wray and leading men Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong—though the most memorable cast member is a 30 foot monster: King Kong.

CLIP: Don’t be alarmed ladies and gentlemen…

Using stop-motion animation, miniatures, full-sized hands and an animatronic face, the filmmakers bring the giant gorilla to life. The film pioneers many of the special effects techniques that become standard tools of the trade. Director Peter Jackson:

PETER JACKSON: You know this was pioneer times when there were so few people who understood what films were, let alone understood anything to do with visual effects.

MOVIE CLIP: Get an ambulance. Kong has escaped! 

Initially released during the Great Depression, King Kong was still a great financial success—setting an all-time attendance record and grossing more than 2 million dollars nationwide. 

CLIP: Well Denham, the airplanes got ‘em. Ah, no. It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed beast… 

And finally, March 5th, 1970, 50 years ago this week. The Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty, or NPT goes into effect. 

PRES. JOHNSON: This is a very reassuring and hopeful moment in the relations among nations…

President Lyndon B Johnson from a White House signing ceremony. The United States is one of 43 original nations to ratify and sign the treaty. The governments promise to cooperate in minimizing the spread of nuclear technology. 

U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

DEAN RUSK: This treaty is not the work of any one country, but is in fact, the product of all nations which shared our concerns over the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

The agreement builds on the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United States and Russia, and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty—prohibiting nuclear weapons in space. The Non-Proliferation Treaty raises hopes that the arms race can be slowed, if not reversed. 

British Ambassador Patrick Dean.

PATRICK DEAN: Today we are here to add another stone to the edifice which one day we all pray will ensure lasting peace to mankind through complete and general disarmament. 

But two nuclear powers did not sign-on: France and China. A handful of countries on the threshold of nuclear weapons also chose not to join, including Brazil, India, Israel, and Pakistan. 

So while the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty showed that international governments could work together, in the end, the treaty did not lead to world peace as the signers hoped. 

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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