Early Electronic Television
James Ford Lewis Sings at the World's Fair
The following is from Mary McDonald-Lewis of Portland, Oregon:
I am a theatre director in Portland Oregon who is preparing to produce a play entitled "Ruby Sunrise," about the invention of television. In researching the play I found your site.
I happen to have a family history of an early encounter with TV and thought you might be interested in the below information!
Based on my father's recollections to me.
APRIL 20, 1939, PLUS OR MINUS A DAY OR SO.
JAMES FORD LEWIS, BORN OCT 14 1914 AND NOW 25 YEARS OLD, GOES TO THE NY WORLD'S FAIR AND SINGS FOR THE TELEVISION CAMERAS.
It happened this way: Ford Lewis was on his way to Hyde Park as a part of a quartet of young men from Salem College in Salem, West Virginia. When he stopped in to the World's Fair and went into the TV Pavilion, an exhibitor there said, "Say there young man, what brings you to the fair today?
"Well, I'm on my way to Hyde Park to sing for the president, and I thought I'd come here on my way," my father replied proudly. "Now that's terrific -- say, how would you like to sing for the people here today on television?"
"Well, I believe I could do that," he said. And he did!
From historical records:
The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was RCA's broadcasting wing. It began regular U.S. television broadcasting on April 30, 1939, with a telecast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the New York World's Fair. Programs were transmitted from the NBC mobile camera trucks to the main transmitter, which was connected to an aerial atop the Empire State Building.
Ten days prior to Roosevelt's speech, David Sarnoff, President of the Radio Corporation of America(RCA) made the dedication speech for the opening of the RCA Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. Staging this event prior to the World's Fair opening ceremonies ensured that RCA would capture its share of the newspaper headlines.
The ceremony was televised, and watched by several hundred viewers on TV receivers inside the RCA Pavilion at the fairgrounds, as well as on receivers installed on the 62nd floor of Radio City in Manhattan. Programs of 1939 included operas, cartoons, cooking demonstrations, travelogues, fashion shows, and skaters at Rockefeller Center. There were also numerous live telecasts relayed from within the fair itself.
THEN FORD LEWIS CONTINUES ON TO HYDE PARK, TO SING FOR PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND ELEANOR, AND THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS OF DENMARK.
Sometime between April 27, 1939 - May 2, 1939
April 27: The Norwegian Crown Prince and Princess arrive in Hyde Park and stay as guests of the President (length of stay not clear)
April 30: Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark arrive in Hyde Park for the day as guests of the President.
JAMES FORD LEWIS BEAT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT TO TELEVISION! THE REST IS HISTORY.
Dear Ms. McDonald-Lewis:
This is in response to your E-mail of December 16 regarding your father's performance for the Roosevelt family. The quartet from Salem College entertained the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway who visited the United States in April-May 1939.
In her "My Day" column, Mrs. Roosevelt noted: "After dinner last evening, we had a short musical program for their entertainment. * During the intermission, a quartette of boys from Salem College, Salem, West Virginia, gave us some purely American music which was appreciated also."
In Mrs. Roosevelt's papers is a letter from S.O. Bond, dated May 5, 1939, thanking Mrs. Roosevelt for the opportunity for the quartet the sing before their distinguished guests at Hyde Park.
The Library could provide you with photocopies of the "My Day" column, Mr. Bond's letter and the carbon reply for our minimum charge of $10.00. We accept payment by check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discovery). You may send a check or money order made payable to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library to the Library at 4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538. Or, you may call us with the credit card number, expiration date and a daytime telephone number at (845) 486-7762.
We shall await further word from you.
ALYCIA J. VIVONA
James Ford Lewis at 25
His parents, Dollie and Ira Lewis
The Lewis family of Warner Hall, York County, Va. probably descends from Robert Lewis of Brecon, Wales who came to Virginia in 1635. This book traces his descendants in the male and female lines, and descents from other early Virginia families. The bulk of this work is concerned with Col. John Lewis and Francis Fielding and their descendants, Col. Charles Lewis and Mary Howell and their descendants, and Col. Robert Lewis and Jane Meriwether and their descendants.