The Mercury Theatre was an independent repertory theatre company founded in New York City in 1937 by Orson Welles and producer John Houseman. After a series of acclaimed stage productions, the Mercury Theatre progressed into its most popular incarnation as The Mercury Theatre on the Air. The radio series included one of the most notable and infamous radio broadcasts of all time, The War of the Worlds, broadcast on October 30, 1938. The Mercury Theatre on the Air produced live radio dramas in 1938–1940 and again briefly in 1946.
After the theatrical successes of the Mercury Theatre, CBS Radio invited Welles to create a summer show. The series began July 11, 1938, initially titled First Person Singular, with the formula that Welles would play the lead in each show. Some months later the show was called The Mercury Theatre on the Air.
Welles insisted his Mercury company — actors and crew — be involved in the radio series. This was an unprecedented and expensive request, especially for one so young as Welles. Most episodes dramatized works of classic and contemporary literature. It remains perhaps the most highly regarded radio drama anthology series ever broadcast, most likely due to the creativity of Orson Welles.