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Video Noir: 1948

Video Noir: 1948

March 10, 1948. Washington, D.C. "Griffith Consumers Co. -- Exterior of Dumont Television WTTG, 12th Street." Photo by Theodor Horydczak. View full size.


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Early TV Teamwork

We had a fellow who worked in our service department in the 1960s who had taken a job with DuMont as an installer. His naval career ended in 1946 and as a trained electronic tech he was a perfect fit for the fledgling TV manufacturer. He told me that in those early post-war years, DuMont would deliver the TV set and install the roof antenna on one day and he would follow up the next day with the picture tube.


WTTG was named after Dr. Tom T. Goldsmith, who was a brilliant scientist and engineer. He was director of research for DuMont Laboratories, and (after 1953) vice presiden. He also became the chief engineer for the DuMont Television Network. He is even co-credited with creating the first patented video game using CRT technology. In his later years, he served as a physics professor at his Alma Mater, Furman University, in his hometown of Greenville, SC. He retired shortly before I became a physics major there. He left a wonderful laboratory filled with a complete studio setup from DuMont (maybe even WTTG?) It was black and white era equipment and all based on vacuum tubes. There were thousands of vacuum tubes in bins to keep it all working. Man, vacuum tubes are such a pain! You wouldn't believe how much effort it took sometimes to find which was burned out. I spent many happy hours messing around with that equipment. He died at the ripe old age of 99 in 2009.


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One day in the life

Yes, one day. I was one day old when that photo was secured for posterity. I have heard of the DuMont network, but that's about it. I do remember asking my parents to turn off the TV when sent to bed so I could watch the remainder of the show when I got up. Didn't work.

Captain Video

Though the "poverty row" of television networks, Dumont brought two icons of early television into prominence: Jackie Gleason (on "Cavalcade of Stars") and that all-round guardian of the universe, Captain Video.

Dressed in a baggy business suit and football helmet, and operating from a space ship whose walls tended to vibrate in a decidedly pasteboard fashion, the good Captain countered the sinister ambitions of the evil Dr. Pauli while periodically checking in with the Video Rangers back on Earth (a.k.a. clips from old Western movie serials with connecting voiceover).

As a Junior Video Ranger myself, I avidly watched the show on WTTG in 1950. I believe the musical theme was the overture to Wagner's "Flying Dutchman."

Collectors aglow

In my younger years, I dated a girl whose father owned a TV repair shop (remember those?). A lot of his customers were elderly, and had sets from the '40s and '50s that he serviced. When a set got too expensive to repair, he would sell them a new set (with those newfangled transistors) and take the old set away. I expressed an interest in these old sets, and through bartering of my automotive skills, he would fix these up and give them to me. My parents really didn't like these behemoths taking up space in their basement, but it kept me off the streets, so they obliged. At one time I had 10 of these, all in working condition. I even had the sister to the radio seen in "A Christmas Story."

Alas, when my bride to be (different girl) took my blinders off and made me realize we would have no room in our new apartment, they were sold, much to my dismay.

Call Letters

Of the DuMont Television Network owned-and-operated stations still on-air under new owners in New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, only WTTG has retained the original call letters for Chief Engineer, Thomas T. Goldsmith.

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