Television Milestones…1939 – 1940 Historical Events Timeline
Sometimes, it’s good to put things is perspective with a big picture overview of how television developed. Here is a look at the early milestones of the new media…baby steps along the way. By the way, W2XBS became WNBT or what we now know as WNBC. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Apr. 30, 1939. President Roosevelt is the first President to appear on television, from the New York World’s Fair on W2XBS, now transmitting on 45.25 MHz visual and 49.75 MHz aural.
May 17, 1939. A Princeton-Columbia baseball game is telecast from Baker Field in New York by W2XBS, making this the first sports telecast 4 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Bill Stern was the announcer.
June 1, 1939. First heavyweight boxing match televised, Max Baer vs Lou Nova, form Yankee Stadium on W2XBS.
Aug. 26, 1939. First major league baseball game telecast, a double-header between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, announcer Walter L. “Red” Barber on W2XBS.
Sept. 30, 1939. First televised college football game, Fordham vs Waynesburg, at Randall’s Island, New York, on W2XBS.
Oct. 22, 1939. First NFL game is televised by W2XBS: the Brooklyn Dodgers (correct, there was such a team) beat the Philadelphia Eagles 23-14 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Play by play announcer was Allen (Skip) Walz.
Nov. 10, 1939. W2XB in Schenectady NY goes on the air (became WRGB in 1942). This GE property (W2XB) was the first experimental station licensed and RCA (W2XBS) was second. The XB stand for Experimental Broadcast…the S in W2XBS is for South, as NYC was to the south of the first licencee.
Jan. 1940. The FCC holds public hearings on television.
Feb. 1, 1940. The first NBC network television program was broadcast (with help from AT&T) from W2XBS NYC to Schenectady.
Feb. 25, 1940. First hockey game televised, Rangers vs Canadians, on W2XBS, from Madison Square Garden.
Feb. 26, 1940. The first quiz show, “Spelling Bee”, on W2XB (WRGB).
Feb. 28, 1940. FCC announces a limited commercial television service will be authorized beginning on September 1. Standards were not set, pending further research until the best system could be determined. Two days later the FCC suspended its authorization for commercial service, declaring that the marketing campaign of RCA disregarded the commission’s findings and recommendations.
Feb. 28, 1940. First basketball game televised, from Madison Square Garden, Fordham vs The University of Pittsburgh, by W2XBS.
Mar. 10, 1940. W2XBS utilizes the Metropolitan Opera to broadcast a scene from the opera “Pagliacci” from NBC Studio 3H. The audio portion is carried over radio station WJZ.
Mar. 15, 1940. Broadcasting reports RCA cuts price of television sets, starts sales drive intended to put a minimum of 25,000 in homes in service area of NBC’s W2XBS.
Apr. 1, 1940. Broadcasting reports FCC suspends order for “limited commercial” operation of TV, censures RCA for sales efforts which are seen as an attempt to freeze TV standards at present level, calls new hearing; critics call move “usurpation of power.”
Apr. 13, 1940. W2XWV (WABD) licensed to DuMont.
June 1940. W2XBS (NBC) covers the Republican National Convention from Philadelphia for 33 hours over five days. Broadcast to NYC, Schenectady and Philadelphia as first three city NBC network feed. W3XE (WPTZ) was the Philadelphia station.
Aug. 5, 1940. W9XBK (WBKB) Chicago goes on the air (Balaban & Katz/Paramount).
Aug. 29, 1940. Peter Goldmark of CBS announces his invention of the Field Sequential color TV system.
Sept. 3, 1940. First showing of color TV, by W2XAB, (WCBS) transmitting from the Chrysler Building, using 343 lines. This was the first telecast of any kind from CBS since the closing of their scanner station February 2, 1933.