Television station WTTG, Channel 5, in Washington, D. C., celebrates its
51st birthday in May, which means it's a certified pioneer. According to
Patricia Brennan's story about WTTG that appeared in The Washington
Post's TV magazine, the station got off to a tenuous start.
During the last days of World War II, the station's transmitter and other
components were driven from New Jersey to Washington by engineer Thomas
G. Goldsmith Jr. and three associates. They managed to transfer all of
the equipment to a room on the 12th floor of the Harrington Hotel, then
employed unused elevator cables to feed power up to the equipment fro
the hotel's basement.
On May 19, 1945, the FCC issued the construction permit. Only nine days
later, an experimental license was issued because station W3XWT was
ready to begin telecasting. This station was being put on the air under
the auspices of Allen B. DuMont Laboratories of Passaic, N. J., where
Goldsmith was the director of research.
DuMont Labs manufactured expensive upscale TV receivers. Because there
were few TV stations in operation, DuMont was anxious to get more
stations on the air in order to spur receiver sales. Goldsmith had
previously put DuMont's New York station on the air (WABD, Channel 5),
and Pittsburgh was scheduled after Washington was up and running.
DuMont's New York station had a few hours per week of local programming.
That didn't help W3XWT, which hadn't gotten around to doing more than
getting a signal on the air. The station ran a test pattern, and a
repeating audio message asking viewers to call the station at the hotel.
It took three months before they got any response, and that was in
August when the war in the Pacific ended.
That day, crowds of celebrating people were surging through the streets.
Goldsmith, therefore, decided to take his pen and write "War Is Over"
across a blank video slide. That's when the Navy called the station.
They had been monitoring the radio spectrum for clandestine activity,
and became curious about the signals. This was the station's first
"program," and its first viewer reaction! Certainly this must be the
most inauspicious beginning ever to a 50-year career in television
In November 1946, the FCC licensed W3XWT as commercial station WTTG. The
call letters incorporated Thomas T. Goldsmith's initials. Washington,
New York and Pittsburgh eventually became the nucleus of the DuMont
Network. DuMont later sold an interest in the network to Paramount
Pictures. This proved counterproductive and resulted in programming
cutbacks, forced the sale of the profitable Pittsburgh station, as well
as creating FCC inquiries.
DuMont changed its name to Metropolitan Broadcasting in 1958, and by 1959
Paramount was bought out by John Kluge. The company then became known as
Metromedia Inc. Fox Television purchased Metromedia in 1986.
This excellent information about W3XWT/WTTG was sent in by Brian Bohall,