What Jack Benny fans do when they're not enjoying Jack Benny, other perfomers, shows, etc. that you might enjoy investigating


Postby Yhtapmys » Mon May 23, 2011 1:34 am

One of the things I like reading about is "early" television. By that I mean the anything before the post-war period when everyone thinks television started. There was certainly regular programming during WW2 and reviews of broadcasts can be found in Billboard on-line.

To the surprise of many, there were regular television broadcasts in the early '30s. I went back through some newspapers 70 years ago today and found an article talking parenthetically about W2XCR.

The station began experimental broadcasting in New Jersey in 1929 and was owned by Jenkins Television, makers of radio and TV sets. In May that year, it announced it was going to broadcast short movies through a company called Visugraphic Pictures. It was one of the first 26 TV stations licensed by the FRC (only four were west of the Mississippi: two in Los Angeles, one in Portland and one in Iowa City). By September, it was operating weekdays 2-3pm and 7-9pm at 2100-2200 Kcs. The station moved to 655 5th Avenue, New York City in 1931 and after a number of tests, began simulcasting on April 26 (on 147.5 meters) with WGBS radio. I've love to report Jack Benny was on the telecast, but his name isn't mentioned in the AP story of the next day.

I'll get to more on the station in a moment, but I want to post the article published 70 years ago today in a few papers that caught my eye:

New York (AP)—Television program directors do not prefer blonds. At least, as a general rule, they don't.
This idea of beauty may not be their personal opinion, but in dealing in terms of the photoelectric cell they must think in the sense of the contrast of lights and shadows.
Thus the ideal television girl would be short and shapely, have red hair, flashing eyes of any color, flawless teeth and bold facial characteristics.
There must be none of the baby-doll femininity with its china-like moulded features and startingly blond hair.
However, because the red topped miss televises so well does not mean all others are out. Even the blond is acceptable if she is of the medium type and has the features in which contrast predominates. In fact, all of the varying shades and types through the brunet also may be satisfactory.
The “television type” may best be explained in the words of Mortimer Stewart, television program director of WGBS-W2XCR, New York’s radio movie stations.
“The television girl must have distinctively large features,” he said, “have large sparkling eyes of any color, flawless teeth and hair with what he termed plenty of high-lights. The hair also must be in sharp contrast to the facial characteristics, which should be bold in the full sense of the word.
“Speaking of types, the preferred is the good old fashioned redhead. But both blonds and brunets will televise will if their type is not too pronounced.
“We have found that short girls are better for television than tall ones and that shapely girls outdo their more slender sisters.
“In fact, what we are looking for is contrast.”
These were the factors taken into consideration when models were selected for the television fashion show put on with sound and sight by WGBS-W2XCR.
Of the young women chosen to go before the television camera, two successful ones who were not redheads were Anne Dunn, short and brunet, and Kay Weir, tall and medium blond.
Similar characteristics are to be found in Dorothy Knapp, former “Vanities” feature, and winner of a beauty contest, who has been signed by the National Broadcasting company for a series of television studio tests. She is a brunet who has the features and the other requirements for the 1931 television beauty.

The station broadcast the first televised wedding on May 1. And there was this unusual broadcast the following year:

Sings Over Radio To Find Lost Dog
NEW YORK, Jan. 29.—Mme. Lucille Chevalier sang "The Last Rose of Summer" over television station W2XCR tonight. Mme. Chevalier was singing for a dog.
The dog is Pierre, her pet Pekingese. Pierre disappeared a week ago. His favorite song is "The Last Rose of Summer" and the opera singer hoped he would hear it somewhere and come home.

But the station ceased operations in 1932, leaving one station (a CBS station had come and gone during the period W2XCR was on the air in NYC). It had become obsolete. This story was found in a newspaper of April 26, 1932.

(Associated Press Radio Editor)

NEW YORK (AP)—Apparently forecasting a possible change that may come in general television experimentation before another year is out, W2XCR, first New York station to broadcast sight in conjunction with sound programs, has left the air.
Announcement of the closing said that program activities were being suspended to permit installation o£ new apparatus to replace that used since April 26, 1931.
Although no reopening date was made public, it is expected to be in the fall.
The station has been operating on 347.5 meters, transmitting 60-line pictures at 20 frames a second. Checkups on reception made by experts and others indicated that while this wavelength is suitable for areas 100 miles or more from the station, it did not provide reliable coverage within the metropolitan area.
Fading and double images were encountered within eight to 20 miles of the transmitter, while at greater distances reception was about all that could be expected.
Test Ultra Waves
Television conditions prevailing on wavelengths from 100 meters up have caused engineers to probe the ultra short waves in the hope that they could find channels that would permit them to cover a given area with a good signal and without fading and double images.
This, they now believe, has been realized as a result of tests conducted in the vicinity of seven meters with antennae located on tall buildings.
Thus, most of the experimental television seems to be turning rather seriously toward the tiny wavelengths, where it is possible to obtain channels 2,000 kilocycles wide, compared with only 2,000 kilocycles allotted for the higher waves. In television the wider the transmission channel the more detail that can be sent out per picture.
Hope For Greater Detail
Station W2XCR first started to televise the sound programs of WGBS on a regular schedule in the afternoon and evening. When the station changed ownership and became WINS this policy was continued. However, within recent weeks most of the television transmission has been without sound and was mainly of a test nature with more attention being paid to its engineering than to its entertainment possibilities.
Upon reopening, the Jenkins laboratory, owner of the station, hopes to have equipment ready that will make television program production more practical from a studio standpoint. At the same time it hopes to have completed experiments which will make possible greater picture detail.

(Associated Press Radio Editor)

NEW YORK. May 10 —(AP)—Laboratory work which has as its objective the development of a satisfactory system of mechanical or chemical scanning on 120 lines is one of the problems to be tackled in television circles this summer.
It is a comparatively simple-matter now to design and make lens disks which will reproduce 60 lines or even 120 lines, but where the question of greater details, such as
120 lines gice [sic], enters into the problem it is somewhat more complex.
Most of the 120-line work up to the present has been concentrated on the use of the cathode ray type of electrical scanning in the receiver.
Developing the 120-Line
The hope for the successful design of a 120-disk or similar apparatus is expressed in a statement from the Jenkins laboratories, which recently discontinued its operation of W2XCR, television transmitter on 147 meters, in conjunction with the sound broadcaster, WINS.
This statement says: “We have some developments under way for handling 120 lines and will confine our work to mechanical and chemical methods of scanning.” What chemical progress is to be attempted is not revealed.
Meanwhile the W2XCR apparatus is to be continued for a time in its present New York locality for further experimental work on 60 lines, the detail the station sent out during its year of operation as a unit for sound-sight broadcasts.
At the end of that time the equipment is to be revamped and again located in New York, but at present plans are somewhat indefinite.

From what I can tell, the station never resumed broadcasting. The Museum of TV website points out Jenkins Television was liquidated in March 1932 and all experiments by Jenkins Laboratories ended when Charles Jenkins died in June 1934.

Below are two photos from Popular Mechanics, August 1931, explaining how the TV station worked and the spinning-wheel camera it used.


POP MECH 1.JPG (58.87 KiB) Viewed 11767 times
POP MECH 2.JPG (45.72 KiB) Viewed 11767 times
Posts: 603
Joined: Sat Aug 05, 2006 10:27 am
Location: Vancouver, B.C.

Return to Other stuff we like

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests