History of Shows and Major Events in Television in the 1940s Part 1

About the history of television in the 1940s, many major events and famous firsts, first color broadcast, first commercial, first World Series broadcast, introduction of wrestling and Howdy Doody.

Tuning in on Television: From 1925 to 1975


1940--The 1st color broadcast in history emanated from the CBS transmitter located atop the Chrysler Building in New York.

1941--The 1st TV commercial--an advertisement for a Bulova wristwatch--was aired over WNBT in New York. As the camera focused in for a close-up of the watch's face, an announcer read the time--10 minutes after 10 P.M. The ad cost Bulova $9.

--On the evening of December 7, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, CBS presented a 90-minute documentary about the attack and America's reaction to it. The program was TV's most impressive coverage to date of a major breaking news story. It was followed the next day by America's entry into the war.

1942--Television joined the war effort with programs like NBC's "TV Training," designed specifically for air-raid wardens in New York. CBS promoted war bonds, using guest stars like Dorothy McGuire, Jack Dempsey, and Andre Kostelanetz.

1945--Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, widowed for less than one month, gave an inspiring speech when she made her TV debut on V-E Day. Wearing black and sitting poised at a desk flanked by 2 American flags, Mrs. Roosevelt spoke over NBC's television station WNBT in New York about the success of America's unified war effort.

1947--With the help of Uncle Bob Smith and Clarabell the Clown, freckle-faced marionette Howdy Doody began entertaining the nation's children on NBC. Youngsters sitting in the Peanut Gallery participated in the show.

--TV brought wrestling into America's living rooms, and made Gorgeous George one of TV's earliest celebrities. George's peroxided blond hair was always perfectly set thanks to a permanent wave, and while he earned $70,000 a year, sportswriter Red Smith was outraged enough to say of him: "Groucho Marx is prettier, Sonny Tufts a more gifted actor, Connie Mack a better rassler and the Princeton Triangle Club has far superior female impersonators."

--The rough-and-tumble Roller Derby came to TV, saving it from financial bankruptcy. Thousands of Americans were fascinated by the fast skating and frequent brawls.

--TV news took on a serious tone when Douglas Edwards was hired as anchorman of the "CBS Evening News." In his 1st year, Edwards described major news events like the Marshall Plan proposal and the passage of the controversial Taft-Hartley Act.

--NBC telecast the World Series for the 1st time, with 4 cities--New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and Schenectady--receiving the transmission. The New York Yankees, managed by Bucky Harris, beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in 7 games.

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