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Prewar TV Sets at the FDR Home in Hyde Park

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first president to be televised, and was also the first president to have a TV receiver in his home. Here is a letter to Denny Sanders, a TV collector from Cleveland, Ohio, from the FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York:

Dear Mr. Sanders:

This is in response to your E-mail of February 2 about research for your article on the earliest days of American commercial television broadcasting.

There is an early television set on display in the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park.  For information about the provenance of the set, contact Anne Jordan, Curator, National Park Service, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site, 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, New York 12538.   There is a letter in the President's Official File on Radio and Television (OF136), dated August 30, 1939, thanking Mr. Carlton D. Smith of NBC for "the new television receiving set and for putting the old radio sets in condition" at Hyde Park. There is also a General Electric radio-television combination with an 8-inch picture tube in a mahogany cabinet in the Library's museum collection.  Its provenance is unknown.

We have found no record of which television programs, if any, the President may have viewed.  In fact, he refused the offer of a free television set for his hilltop retreat, preferring to be free of both television and radio while relaxing there.  We have also not located any photographs of the President in his Hyde Park home with the television set. 

In a letter to Frank P. Graham, president University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, January 18, 1939, the President said it was impossible for individuals in government to cover their subjects and the nation by personal appearance.   Some times he "wished the advent of television could be hastened".

In a campaign radio address from the White House, November 2, 1944, the President spoke of the end of the war and a era of expansion and production:  "We can all look forward to millions of new homes, fit for decent living; to new, low-priced automobiles; new highways; new airplanes and airports; to television; and other miraculous new inventions and discoveries, made during this war, which will be adapted to the peacetime uses of a peace-loving people".

In a wire to the first annual conference of the Television Broadcasters Association, December 10, 1944, the President stated that "television is an important matter in our national life and its progress will be of great interest to everyone."

We hope that this information is of interest to you.

Yours sincerely,


Supervisory Archivist

Thanks to Denny Sanders for this letter

The RCA set is a TRK-12. The General Electric set is probably a HM-226.

Denny Sanders also sent us this audio clip of FDR from 1944, in which he mentions television. He also added this:

Hyde Park is about halfway between New York City (home of RCA's WNBT, CBS' WCBW and DuMont's WABD) and Schenectady (home of GE's WRGB), so it is unclear which signals reached the FDR residence and what broadcasts FDR might have seen.

Early Television

Courtesy of Peter Scott