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Mechanical Television

Television at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair

From a 1933 Chicago magazine cover. The World's Fair demonstration was not in color, of course. The 1933/34 Chicago Worlds Fair was titled "A Century of Progress." At the Hall of Science Electrical Building. U. A. Sanabria had a large screen television demonstration. The exhibit was sponsored by the Hudson-Essex car company:

Courtesy of Jeff Jaworski

Here is a description of the demonstration, from the book The 1933 Chicago World's Fair: A Century of Progress, by Cheryl R. Ganz:

Here is another description of the exhibit:

The principle of television was demonstrated in an exhibit constructed by M. L. Hayes. The process involved breaking down a picture into elements of light and dark in the transmitter, and then using the same elements to build up the picture in the receiver.

In this exhibit is included a television transmitter and receiver specially designed in order to demonstrate the operations step by step. As the exhibit runs through its cycle, a series of lantern slides are projected to explain each operation."

A recollection of the exhibit, from John N. Cox:

The boys' disappointment was only momentary because there were so many other marvels to see at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933. The boys repeatedly went to see one of the first television sets ever displayed in public. At each television demonstration, a person from the audience was invited on stage to stand in front of a camera and appear on television. At one show, Bob was selected and became the first person in the Cox family to appear on TV.

And one from an anonymous viewer:

In 1933 or 34, I am not sure, my across-the-street neighbor (whose name escapes me) in Chicago was some sort of an RCA engineer and they were putting on demonstrations of some sort at the World's Fair, giving his engineers something to work on.  I was 8 or 9 years old and collected snakes, so I was on TV a talk show, talking about snakes.  I guess he just needed something for programming then, and I was convenient.  I now tell grandchidren that I was an early TV star.

I regret not being able to tell you any more.  I had no idea at the time that this was such an historic event, and never gave it any more thought until about a month or so ago. I recall only another person on the set being afraid of my snakes--but then, most people are.

The camera that was probably used at the Chicago Worlds Fair