He auditioned for television — in 1933!

Thomas Francis McLaughlin, who usually went by his middle name, was a son of prominent Jordan (NY) attorney John C. McLaughlin. Francis McLaughlin majored in music at Syracuse University and in the early 1930s was a popular singer in Central New York, once appearing on the nationally broadcast radio show hosted by Major Edward Bowes from Radio City. That show was the "American Idol" of its time.

Francis McLaughlin also came very close to being the first Central New Yorker to appear on local television — in 1933 — though, admittedly, this was only a demonstration of the new medium, the development of which would be delayed by events that led to World War 2.

Marcellus Observer, April 22, 1931
The Post-Standard speaking of this week’s Keith bill says: “Francis McLaughlin, Syracuse University boy who won the recent college boys’ contest at this theatre, appears with two songs. The judges were right in awarding him the prize, judging from the caliber of his voice. He appears this week with two songs.”

Television didn't begin to impact us until after World War 2, but it was created several years later. One of the pioneers was Ulises Armand Sanabria, who did much of his work on behalf of William Randolph Hearst, whose newspapers included the Syracuse Journal and Sunday's Syracuse American.

In 1933 Sanabria toured the country, giving demonstrations of television at theaters, including Loew's State in Syracuse. To prepare for the event, the Journal-American sponsored a talent test to select the first local person to appear on television, albeit in a program that would be shown only in the theater.

Thomas Francis McLaughin, better known by his middle name, came close to being the star of that broadcast.

Syracuse Journal, June 7, 1933
Two Syracuse University graduates tied for honors in the Journal-American-Loew’s State Theater television talent test on the stage at Loew’s at the 9 o’clock show last night and were both declared winners by manager Harry shaw.

They are Miss Mildred Oakes of 220 West Corning avenue and Francis McLaughlin of Jordan.

Miss Oakes and McLaughlin were both so enthusiastically received by the audience that it was impossible to determine a single winner on the basis of applause, so Shaw gave both the right to compete in the finals at the 9 o’cloc performance tomorrow night against winners of other nightly contests.

Friends since childhood, neither Miss Oakes nor McLaughlin knew the other was in the television talent test until they met backstage at the theater.

Miss Oakes sang “Smilin’ Through” and “Alice Blue Gown.” She was accompanied by Bettye Lee Taylor, Loew’s organist. Miss Oakes, who is a soloist for Good Will Congregational Church, received her M. A. degree at Syracuse University Monday. She is a member of Alpha Iota, national musical fraternity.

“Have You Ever Been Lonely?” and “Love Songs of the Nile” were McLaughlin’s contest numbers. He played his own accompaniment. The Jordan singer was graduated on the Hill last year. He was soloist with the Syracuse University Chorus and Glee Club and has been soloist for the Morning Musicals several times.

On June 8 the eight preliminary winners performed again; the audience favorite was Lincoln D. Owens, a singer from Kirkville, who then performed at the theater for a week as the "star" of a big screen television demonstration conducted by Sanabria.

The first Syracusan to appear on the screen likely was the city's four-term mayor, Rolland B. "Rolly" Marvin, who delivered a short speech at the opening demonstration. Also featured was Donald M. Dey of the department store, Dey Brothers & Company. He was the son and newphew of the two men who founded the store.

As for Francis McLaughlin, he was regularly featured that year on a local radio show.

Marcellus Observer, February 4, 1937
It was with mingled surprise and delight that radio lovers of the community the other night heard the inimitable Major Bowes announce that Mr. Francis McLaughlin would be the next singer on the program.

Hearing the questions put to Mr. McLaughlin, the listeners learned that it was none other than Prof. Francis McLaughlin, supervisor of music at Marcellus Central School. With Mrs. McLaughlin, he was taking what he told Major Bowes was a belated holiday trip. After the preliminary questions, Mr. McLaughlin sang "Vision Fugitive", from "Herodiade", by Massenet. There was plenty of applause when the soloist had finished his number.

Mr. McLaughlin was in New York taking an audition when Major Bowes entered the studio. Being greatly impressed with the young instructor’s voice, the Major requested Mr. McLaughlin sing on his program. The singer accepted and rather enjoyed the thrill of the experience. At the close, the Major offered Mr. McLaughlin a place on a unit, but this was impossible.


Marcellus Observer, September 1, 1938
Engaged to teach vocal music in the high school at Kenmore, NY, Francis McLaughlin of the Marcellus Central School faculty will take up his duties in that city with the opening of school, September 6.

Coming to Marcellus after leaving Syracuse University in 1933, Mr. McLaughlin has been a member of the local faculty for the past five years. In 1934 he was married to Helene Lawless, daughter of Frank J. Lawless. They have one son, David.

Mr. McLaughlin was born in Jordan, a son of the Hon. and Mrs. John C. McLaughlin. He graduated from Jordan High School in 1927 and entered Syracuse University, majoring in music. He was graduated in 1931, receiving a post graduate scholarship. He returned to Syracuse, completing the work in 1933.

For several years Mr. McLaughlin has been known as a singer of unusual ability. He recently completed a contract of 36 weeks as a regular feature on the radio, singing from Syracuse. Upon one occasion he was the invited guest of Major Edward Bowes from Radio City. He was also a soloist with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and was instrumental in booking that orchestra for two concerts at Marcellus. He was generous with his talent and assisted as often as possible at local musical affairs.

Kenmore is a city of 20,000 with a high school having a student body of 2,600. There is a population of 50,000 in the school district served by the school.

Although Marcellus can ill afford to lose its popular vocal instructor, it bids him God-speed and wishes him success in his new field of endeavor.


Marcellus Observer, November 24, 1938
Francis McLaughlin, professor of music in the schools at Kenmore, NY, is singing on the radio every Wednesday evening at 9:05. Mr. McLaughlin is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John McLaughlin of Jordan, a graduate of Jordan High School and formerly teacher of music at Marcellus during which time he sang over the Syracuse station WFBL.