This poster promoting the television exhibit features the Fifth Avenue NBC television antenna in the upper left.    More information

Lenox Lohr, President of NBC joins David Sarnoff, President of RCA and Fair President Grover Whalen as they sign contracts.   More information

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A group at the construction site of the RCA Building with an open television.    More information

Excerpts from a speech by John S. Young, Director of Broadcasting and Television for the Fair, in February 1939.   More information

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NBC announced their first television schedule in this press release from April 17, 1939.    More information

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Fair officials use a teletype to send out opening ceremony invitations to the “ruling heads of all nations.”   More information

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Eugene Du Bois of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle weighs the pluses and minuses of television at the Fair.   More information

“Into the ether 250 feet” reaches an antenna “connecting far places by the magic of television … and sound broadcasting.”    More information

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General Electric joined the radio exhibits — here Grover Whalen examines the coverage area of GE’s shortwave stations.   More information

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Though FDR's speech at the Fair opening was the first presidential telecast, no filmed record appears to exist.    More information

Soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Brigade, representing the U.S. Army at the Fair, listen to one of FDR’s radio addresses.   More information

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John S. Young, Director of Broadcasting and Television for the Fair, explains the various communications exhibits.   More information

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President of NBC Lenox Lohr speaks at the televised dedication of the RCA Building.   More information

A group talking while being filmed during a National Press Club event.    More information

Part of a speech by John S. Young describing the wonders of “static-less radio.”   More information

A plaque dedicated to “free radio in the public interest” was unveiled on “Broadcasting Day” during the 1940 season.   More information

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Bud Abbott, dressed as Father Time, and Lou Costello as Time of Tomorrow, look at the “Talking Clock.”   More information

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A memo from Finch Telecommunications Laboratory explains the technology behind radio facsimile transmissions.   More information

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A model of the Communications Building, constructed by architects Leonard Dean and Francis Keally.   More information

Eugene Savage's Means of Communication was painted above the entrance to the Communications Building.   More information

Savage’s murals of individual means of communication covered the range, from smoke signals to radio.   More information

In the center of the Court of Communications stood the statue Speed created by Joseph E. Renier.   More information

Broadcast director John S. Young explains the Public Access Center in the Communications Building.   More information

The Hall of Communications occupied one and a half acres of ground.    More information

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Means of Communication

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Introducing Television to "Mr. Average Man"

Into the Ether

The Radio Living Room of Tomorrow

From Savagery to Civilization

“We are living in a world of headlines, headlines of destruction, headlines of construction. As Europe races madly along the road whose guideposts are grim signs marked ‘War,’ whose factories work day and night shifts making planes, guns, cannons … America and the New York World’s Fair speed along the highway marked ‘Civilization,’ where shops are fashioning wonders for the ‘World of Tomorrow’ — feverishly preparing a date with Destiny … for April 30 1939, the Opening Day of the Fair.” So spoke John S. Young, Director of Broadcasting and Television for the Fair, in a speech announcing several of the broadcasting wonders to be featured, including television.
Though television had technically been available since the late 1920s, the Fair aimed to formally introduce televisions into the American home. “As past fairs have ushered in the reaper, the automobile, and the telephone, among other great inventions, the New York exposition expects to take the miracle of projecting sight through space out of the laboratory and splash it on the screen of Mr. Average Man’s receiver, at least within the metropolitan area,” Young proclaimed.
The Fair’s communications coup involved a deal with both RCA and NBC to have “extensive participation in the Fair.” Televisions were made available for viewing within the RCA exhibit as well as in the Fair Corporation’s Communications Building, and visitors could even see themselves being filmed at various participation areas in the buildings. From the moment the deal was made, the cameras started rolling. A myriad of events was scheduled to be recorded and broadcast, including the signing of the contracts themselves.

The Fair arranged to stage the first major public event involving television by broadcasting the opening ceremonies on Saturday April 30th, featuring a speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The two-hour broadcast was advertised by NBC as “American television’s first program schedule of high definition pictures and sounds designed specifically for home viewing,” and would bring the President’s moving image into living rooms for the first time. It also marked the beginning of regularly scheduled telecasting. Somewhat ironically (if not tragically), no record of the broadcast exists; it is considered a “lost program” by the Paley Center for Media.

The Fair had multiple communications displays throughout the grounds. In the GE Building, you could “have your features televised.” The Crosley Radio Corporation built a broadcasting studio that took up an acre of the grounds. WNYC was even represented, with two studios and a portable sound truck.
The largest and most impressive display was at the RCA Building, with six rooms of communications technology. Inside, the “Radio Living Room of Tomorrow” housed receivers for television, facsimile, and radio in a single cabinet — compared to the “Radio Living Room of Today” where each occupied an individual cabinet, as they were then available to the public. The other four rooms of the building housed multiple television receivers (which broadcast NBC programs, recordings from the RCA-NBC Mobile Unit, and motion pictures), recording devices, and other communications inventions including such marvels as the “talking clock.”

The Fair Corporation sponsored its own building at the Fair — the Hall of Communications. The facade featured a large mural depicting “various means of communications used by mankind in his upward struggle from savagery to civilization,” painted by Eugene Savage (inside were several more murals). Along the sides of the building stood two 160-foot plastic pylons slotted with shafts of light, which represented positive and negative charges of electricity. The sculpture outside, Speed, was created by Joseph E. Renier. Inside was a 500-seat restaurant, along with various exhibits including the “Public Access Center” housing four studios and a control room “comparable to the best in the world.”

 

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