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Early Television Stations

W9XAL Kansas City (First National Television)

Most pre-1945 TV stations were located in the major cities. However, one pioneer station was in Kansas City, MO, operated by First National Television, a vocational training school. Here is what we have learned about it.

The experimental station started in January 1933,  broadcasting on 2.75- 2.85 mHz, using mechanical TV equipment. The station was licensed to First National Television, Inc., which was owned by Midland Radio and Television School, a technical training school. Later, the name of the school was changed to Central Technical Institute, and finally to DeVry Institute, which is still in operation. Here are some letters describing reception of the station in Missouri and the program schedule of the station in 1933.  First National Television also operated an experimental high fidelity radio station.

Here is a quote from a story written by C.C. Jones:

At that time I lived in Baldwin, Kansas and on a good night I could receive WDAF-WHB and on a very good night, WLW. My next radio was a direct current, vacuum tube set with a speaker. After receiving a Federal Communications Commission first class Radio Telephone Operators License, logged time on W9XBY radio and W9XAL television stations both at that time operating with experimental license.

We had an Echophone television set at our apartment. The receiver consisted of a glow lamp, a rotating disk with a spiral of pin hole sized holes. a four inch ground glass viewing screen. The impulses received from the station in the K.C. Power and Light Building at 14th and Baltimore would cause the glow lamp to vary the light intensity, shine through the rotating pinholes and show on the ground glass. With some imagination you could recognize the picture being broadcast. Television developed rapidly since that time.

A 1933 brochure describes their mechanical TV station. A 1936 brochure shows both mechanical and electronic equipment, and a 1939 brochure shows only electronic equipment. Here is the camera they used until 1936. In 1935 the station was licensed to operate at  42-56 mHz, a band used for electronic TV. The brochure mentions that they used electronic equipment from Farnsworth. Other material indicates that TV receivers were imported from England, and by 1938 the station had "modern 441 line TV camera equipment from RCA".

Another brochure, titled "Wanted - Young Men to Earn Big Money in Televison",  described their television training program.

Here is a quote from The Great Television Race by Joe Udelman:

In 1932 First National Television, Incorporated, of Kansas City, Missouri, began operating W9XAL in conjunction with a school organized to train students in television techniques. W9XAL originally operated as a shortwave mechanical station from 106 West Fourteenth Street, but later converted to CRT equipment on VHF and moved to the 35th floor of the Fidelity Building. From this location the station continued to function until January 1941.

Several sources mention the John Cameron Swayze had a three times a week 15 minute news program on the station, starting in 1933 and going at least until 1937.

Recently, we heard from a resident graduate of Midland Radio and Television School, Newcomb Weisenberger. Here is his story.

Early Television

Radio World, February 27 1932

Early Television

Popular Mechanics, October 1935

Early Television

Modern Mechanics, June, 1936

Early Television

A QSL card from W9XBY from 1935

Early Television

Christmas party, 1936

MIdland Schools was owned by Midland Broadcasting, Inc. which also owned KMBC radio, the NBC affiliate in Kansas City.

Early Television