Channel 13: More Feedback
John Pinckney writes:
Maybe it's because I did a quick scan of your site, but I missed seeing the original calls for both WABD and WTTG. They were W2XWV and W3XWT, respectively. Also, for what it's worth, during World War II (when it hit the air), W2XWV was on channel 4.
I've seen only one DuMont transmitter in my quarter-century in the business. KITV, channel 4, in Honolulu, had one on-air when I visited in June 1974. Somewhere in my collection is a photo of it!
The old DuMont TV's had a reputation for being on a par with Andrea in terms of quality. A girl I dated back in the early 1970's had her family's old DuMont consolette in daily use in her bedroom, complete with a UHF converter! Her father had his MSEE, and swore repeatedly that DuMont sets had the best video of them all.
One more station which ran DuMont network programs on at least an occasional basis (was) WJBF, channel 6, in Augusta, Georgia.
Maureen Carney of Holliston, Massachusetts writes:
Great site! I've always been interested in the history of DuMont, even though I was born 10 years after it went off the air. One slight correction to one reader's comments: WTEV in New Bedford, Massachusetts was not on the air when WNHC in New Haven was forced to move from channel 6 to 8. The move occurred in or around 1955, and WTEV (now WLNE) came on in 1963, in part as a result of that channel move. Just a small point, I know. I also have copies of advertisements taken out by WNHC when it came on the air saying they (were) the first affiliate of the DuMont network!
I work in radio as a copywriter and production supervisor for a community radio station just west of Boston. Although I've never worked in television, the history of TV seems more fascinating to me than that of radio. At least someone is showing DuMont the respect that both the network and Dr. DuMont himself have always deserved!
One other quick question that maybe someone out there can answer - did DuMont ever broadcast in color? I recently saw a "Biography" of Ernie Kovacs on A&E, and they had a clip from one of his DuMont shows where he said "I don't know if we're broadcasting in color tonight". It may have been a set up for the gag (all the set was marked with the color of the item - a "blue" sign on the curtain, etc.) but I don't know.
Author’s Note: Given that it took the surviving three networks another ten years after DuMont's demise to begin regular color telecasting, this seems unlikely. At the DuMont reunion in Chicago, Dr. Thomas T. Goldsmith told the author that one color program had been completed using the Electronicam system (see Appendix Four), though he did not recall which program. DuMont also invented a system for compatible color telecasting called Vitascan, but so far, the author has been not been able to pursue the subject. An April 1954 trade magazine report quoted by R.D. Heldenfels states that "only NBC and CBS-TV are doing anything color-wise...DuMont is testing via closed-circuit and ABC is 'watching' developments."
Although DuMont Laboratories conducted research into color television, the author has been unable to locate any other materials which indicate that DuMont ever broadcast over the network in color, although there were certainly "colorcasts" on local stations. Dr. Allen B. DuMont spoke publicly on the subject of color television many times, often to suggest that color television was not ready for the public, or that existing black-and-white receivers would continue to be useful for many years to come. This may have been an attempt to protect DuMont's existing black-and-white TV manufacturing business, or to avoid the high cost of gearing up for color television any sooner than absolutely necessary. (ABC would face this challenge in 1965-66, when CBS and NBC became full-color networks and ABC was obliged to keep up.)
In any event, although DuMont was in the thick of the FCC's hearings on color television, and later manufactured equipment for color telecasting as well as color TV sets, it does not appear that the DuMont network used compatible color for any of its regularly scheduled programs, and the network was long gone before the public embraced color television in meaningful numbers.
David Loudin writes:
Just a wee bit of trivia: The WDTV calls ended up at channel 5 in Weston, West Virginia. I don't know if this station ever had anything to do with the DuMont network, though.
Author’s Note: The new WDTV signed on in 1960, after the DuMont network had folded, so was never a DuMont affiliate. At least one Web site, however, claims that the WDTV call letters were chosen in honor of the original WDTV in Pittsburgh. Since the first WDTV was viewable in West Virginia, this seems possible. Conversely, the "new" WDTV was watchable to the south of Pittsburgh, where the author of this Web site grew up.
Christopher Grove from Boston, Massachusetts writes:
I was truly fascinated with your DuMont web site. I recall briefly learning about the DuMont Network during my sophomore year of college (in 1989) and thinking that there must be more to it than just these few paragraphs in my textbook. My interest was piqued more recently while watching an episode of "The Simpsons", when a giddy Mr. Burns said that he hadn't been "this excited about television since the old DuMont network." (The author has since located this quote, which is slightly different from the above, and has included it in Appendix One of this Web site - ed.)
Walt Love of Muskegon, Michigan writes:
I got interested in the DuMont network about two years ago when I picked up a copy of the (Brooks and Marsh) Prime Time TV Shows book at a garage sale. The only thing I remembered about DuMont was the Electronicam logo at the end of "The Honeymooners" reruns on WGN-TV when we used to see it on skip in the summer. (I live in Muskegon, Michigan, right on the lakeshore).
I was born in 1956, so seeing DuMont live was not an option. I have asked my mother and aunts and uncles about DuMont, and the only information I could obtain was from an aunt and uncle who lived in Annapolis during my uncle's Navy years. They used to watch DuMont out of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, depending on reception...
Your Web site is quite a gold mine, and the first time I logged on, I was on all night going to links and reading your site. Keep up the great work. I'll be checking in frequently.
Joseph Gallant writes:
Boston-based radio/TV broadcasting historian Donna Halper has just written a fantastic article telling the story of "Big Brother" Bob Emery, who pioneered children's radio programming in the early 1920's, went on to the DuMont network between 1947 and 1952, then spent many years doing a local children's show on WBZ-TV Boston. You can find Ms. Halper's article at www.bostonradio.org/essays/big-brother.html.
An anonymous reader writes:
Thank you for an excellent memory jogger. I was just a kid, and my dad worked for Sears so we had one of the first TVs in the neighborhood. I was amazed and I watched everything that was presented. What really knocked me (and probably only me) off my chair was Paul Dixon. I actually remember his show! I remember one time he got up from his little desk, walked off the set and opened the door to the outside. Here I was in a front room in Illinois, watching the traffic go by in Cleveland. (Cincinnati? - ed.) I thought that was just miraculous. I really enjoyed his program. I don't think anyone else outside of Ohio would remember that show.
Nat Pendleton, who is Curator of History and Technology at the South Carolina State Museum, writes:
I thoroughly enjoyed your web page on "The DuMont Television Network." I curated an exhibit on early television and radio at "The South Carolina State Museum" in Columbia, SC where I work. The exhibit features both Allen B. DuMont and his Chief Engineer, Thomas T. Goldsmith. Dr. Goldsmith donated several pieces of studio equipment to our museum about 10 years ago. Featured in the exhibit is a prototype 16-mm Electronicam TV film system (the 35-mm commercial versions filmed the later episodes of "The Honeymooners.") The device came just before videotape. We also display two DuMont TV cameras used at WCSC Channel 5, Charleston, SC and at WNOK-TV, Channel 67, Columbia (now WLTX, Channel 19). Both stations were fully equipped by DuMont and went on the air in 1953.
The exhibit is a "permanent" exhibit and should remain up for about 10 years. The DuMont connection is featured because Thomas T. Goldsmith is a native of Greenville, SC and a Furman graduate. It was fortunate that we also located the two DuMont TV cameras. In short, the TTG connection is used to demonstrate DuMont's pioneering activities (i.e. prewar R&D, Electronicam in the 1950's) and the two TV cameras highlight other studio gear which demonstrates TV's start in South Carolina after the FCC lifted the "freeze." From 1949 until 1952 the only stations available were WBT in Charlotte, NC and, if a big tower was used at high elevation, two stations in Atlanta, GA were viewed. But in 1953, six stations went on the air in South Carolina.
I hope to use your web page as a reference in a paper on "Early SC Television" which I hope to give next year.
Paul Lantz of Moosonee, Ontario, Canada writes:
Enjoyed your pages on DuMont. I am not sure if I ever saw a program on DuMont, but one of your reader comments makes me understand how it might have been possible, by noting that WKTV in Utica carried some DuMont programs when it was on Channel 13. I grew up across the lake from Rochester (New York) in Belleville, and (I) remember that, pre-cable, there were times when we got stations other than the Rochester and Watertown stations. I think that WOKR did not come on the air on (Channel) 13 until fairly late (1960?) so we might have watched WKTV. I do know that my father told me that there had been a fourth network in the past and I think he said it was called DuMont. He had purchased a TV set in the late 1940's, (and) had to have lined with foil so that it would not interfere with radio reception. The first set that we had that I remember had Channel One.
Maxim M. Muir writes:
I developed an interest in the DuMont network from reading about it in the McNeill television history book. I was absolutely APPALLED to read some clown dumped the ABC DuMont archives in the New York harbor ... (today) we are much more "preserve our cultural history" aware than ever before. (Look at the film preservation projects going on - certainly UCLA would have gladly taken the archives?)
The remains of DuMont in Ohio stuck around on WLWC (now WCMH) in Columbus and WLWT in Cincinnati as I was growing up in the 1960's. Paul Dixon had a show that aired at 9:00 AM on WLWC called, obviously, "The Paul Dixon Show". Dotty Mack was his co-host (the "Girl Alone" who pantomimed the records - she occasionally did it in the later edition of the Paul Dixon Show). These two stations and the shows they shared formed what was called "The Crosley Network".
Norm Howard from KQED-FM in San Francisco writes:
What a great web site on DuMont. I purchased the first TV set for our family in 1953 when I was fourteen. I persuaded my parents to sign an installment contract for me after I had saved up a down payment from my earnings working after school at the local (Vacaville, CA) bakery. The set was a 17-inch Westinghouse Bakelite table model. It cost $239.00. The four-bay conical antenna, on a 50-foot mast (Vacaville is shielded in the direction of S.F. by a range of low hills, making it a fringe area) cost an additional $115.00!
I recall that KPIX, Channel 5, occasionally ran DuMont kinescopes in non-prime time slots. One that I recall that you don't list is "What In The World"--a panel show that featured a trio of scientists (Dr. Carleton S. Koon was one of them) attempting to identify artifacts from some university anthropological museum. After the experts had a go at it, an off-screen announcer would identify the object and the panelists would be appropriately triumphant or chagrined. The theme music was one of the Resphigi tone poems. The DuMont kinescopes always seemed noticeably murkier than the others we saw out here.
A number of years ago, a friend of mine (now deceased) had a couple of Du Mont brochures describing a flying spot color system. The "camera" contained a projection CRT which provided the flying spot. Large scoops of the sort usually used for lights were hung from the studio grid. Each scoop contained two red-filtered photomultipliers and one each blue and green filtered tubes. The set was "lit" by repositioning the scoops - the light just travelled in the opposite direction from the usual. A set of strobe tubes flashed during the vertical interval so the actors could see what they were doing!
For the economy-minded station owner a system was described which, with the quick flip of a mirror, could switch from scanning a head-and-shoulders view of the program host to scanning filmed program material.
I doubt that such a system was ever marketed, but it seemed to have gotten as far as the advance promotion stage. I regret not having acquired those brochures.
George Jacob of New Eagle, Pennsylvania, writes:
I currently work for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. At our transmitter site, we have log books dating back to the sign-on of WDTV in Pittsburgh. Although most entries are technical in nature, there are many which state dates when things actually happened, like the first color program broadcast, the sale to Westinghouse, etc. Yes, they did broadcast in color, although there is no indication that they were DuMont shows. I am the RF person at the station, and also possess a modification to color for a DuMont transmitter.
I have a printed program listing from the week of April 26, 1953 which shows the line-up of shows...I have talked about it with many friends and they really enjoy reminiscing about the old programs...
On the subject of WENS, there was a "big wind" in April of 1955 that some say was a tornado, others say was a microburst. It is not clear what it was, but it took down the WENS Channel 16 tower, a Blaw-Knox brand and the same type that then KDKA-TV had purchased from DuMont at 4101 Grizella. The downing of the WENS tower kind of put the nail in (their) coffin. The wind also severely damaged the KDKA tower, and emergency reinforcing was added to the tower to buy time to get the present guyed tower built. The original tower (originally 500 feet) was later taken down to the 125 foot level, where it stands today. There was also a brief time that Channel 53 was on the air from studios and transmitter atop Mount Washington in Pittsburgh. I am not sure of the dates, but they didn't last long and went dark before long. (The studios are still there and are now owned by Infinity/CBS, WBZZ.) When Channel 53 returned to the air (in 1969), they did so from the old WENS site, just 3/4 mile east of the KDKA transmitter site, and now the building is adorned with "FOX" signage. I should try to put some dates on this stuff. Thanks for the wonderful Web site, this is what the Internet is all about!
Author’s Note: Channel 53 in Pittsburgh was originally WKJF-TV, co-owned with WKJF-FM (93.7), and operated from 1953-54 with relatively low power (1 or 2 kw) from studios and transmitter on Mount Washington, overlooking downtown Pittsburgh. The space once occupied by the Channel 53 studios was still there, and mostly vacant, when the author worked at the FM station (then WBZZ) in the 1980's. One could walk downstairs and sit in the former WKJF-TV control booth (with the old soundproofing still on the walls), looking out on the studio floor where live television had once held forth (and where the radio station's vehicles were later parked for storage). Fascinating stuff for a budding television historian. The building and FM transmitter site are still there, although WBZZ recently moved its studios. The author owns a number of old TV Guides which list programs for WKJF-TV and WENS, as well as a 1954 Pittsburgher magazine with feature articles on both stations. There was a construction permit for a third UHF station in Pittsburgh during this period (WTVQ, channel 47), which was apparently never built.
Go to Appendix One: Programs (A-L)