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Early Television Stations

W8XCT / WLW Stations

Crosley Broadcasting, located in Cincinnati and operator of radio station WLW, experimented with television before the war. Beginning in 1937 they began designing and building television equipment. In March of 1939 they leased space in the Carew tower for television, and made the first public demonstration of television on April 26, 1939. During 1939, the first Cincinnati Reds baseball game was televised, and they participated with RCA in a television demonstration. but they didn't receive their construction permit for W8XCT until August of 1940. It is unclear whether they were actually broadcasting prior to this date.

Columbus Citizen, April 3 1949

In 1939, WLW singer Hellen Diller appeared in a Philco television demonstration. It is unclear whether this demonstration took place in Cincinnati, though the wood paneling in the photo below is very similar to that in the next picture. Here is a 1960s Crosley brochure.

The following is excerpted from the book Cincinnati Television, by Jim Friedman:

Roscoe Duncan (above) had been working for Philco in Pennsylvania when Crosley Corporation vice president Ronald James Rockwell convinced him to come to Cincinnati. Ducan designed and built a television system using this camera, placed on the 46th floor of the Carew Tower, and broadcast under the call letters W8XCT. With only two television receivers in Cincinnati in 1939, Duncan and Crosley Corporation engineers unually just pointed the camera out the window. The image below, captured off the monitor, shows the northeast side of downtown where the Cincinnati Times-Star building (left) stands at Eight Street and Broadway. (Above, courtesy of WLWT; below, courtesy the Clyde Haehnle collection.)

Janette Davis was best known as the singing star of Arthur Godfrey's CBS television shows from 1946 to 1957. In 1939, the Crosley Radio Corporation hired Davis to perform for experimental tests. The early television cameras were very insensitive to light, so technicians needed to put a great number of lights on Davis just to create a picture. The lights generated heat and, in a short period of time, the room filled with the smell of scorched wool from Davis's clothing. This was one the early problems with the new technology; talent could be in front of the camera for only a few minutes before they were drenched with persperation. The picture below, taken off the television screen, was considered an outstanding image in 1939 (Courtesy the Clyde Haehnle collection.)

Roberta (left) Lynn, and Harris Rosedale take a bow in front of the W8XCT camera operated by Phil Underwood. The Rosedales taught dance at their downtown studio, hosted a weekly amateur-hour radio show, and staged variety shows. Every Thursday, they brought their dance students and performers to the Carew Tower to perform in front of the camera. Their involvement in television continued for decades. (Courtesy Cincinnati Post.)

The camera shown above was made by DuMont, and was used in the DuMont exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Broadcasting, March 1 1939

Mansfield News Journal (Ohio), March 21 1939

Broadcasting, April 1 1939

Broadcasting, December 1 1939

Lima News (Ohio), February 18 1940

New York Times, July 7, 1940

Coshocton Tribune (Ohio), August 29 1940

Massillon Independent (Ohio), August 29 1940

Here is more from the book Cincinnati Television, by Jim Friedman:

In addition to radio broadcasts from his Camp Washington facility, Powel Crosley invented and manufactured an electronic explosive detonator during World War II. The government did not want radio facilities near his highly classified work, so the Crosley Radio Corporation bought the Elks temple at Ninth and Elm Streets in 1942. WLW radio and, years later, WLW-T, set up operations there. Television remained there unitl June 1999, when it moved to Mount Auburn.

The first television show produced at Crosley Square at Ninth and Elm Streets was The Pogue Style Show. This look at fashions available at the popular Cincinnati department store aired on W8XCT on November 13, 1947, before the completion of the studios on Mount Olympus.

A 1945 list of U.S. TV stations shows that W8XCT had a construction permit, but the first telecasts probably started in late 1947. In February of 1948 they received the call sign WLWT as a commercial station. In 1949 Crosley started WLWD Dayton and WLWC Columbus. A private microwave network was built in 1949 to interconnect the three stations. Later, other stations were built by Crosley.

A remote broadcast from Port Columbus Airport in 1949

New York Times, November 12, 1947

Courtesy of John Pinckney

Test patterns courtesy of Steve Dichter

April, 1948 Program Schedules

Television Simple? Don't You Believe it! Here's the Dope

Sports Events Increase in Ratio to Video Sets