W2XBS Schedule, Week of April 30th, 1939

When I first started posting schedules for NBC’s experimental station WX2BS in New York City I started with the 1940 simply because it seemed like a natural place to begin. Of course, looking back, I really should have started at the beginning, or at least the beginning of broadcast television. I’m going to be posting schedules from both 1939 and 1940 before hopefully catching up by the time 1941 rolls around.

The medium of television was officially unveiled on Sunday, April 30th, 1939 with the opening of the New York World’s Fair. The New York Times reported on April 23rd that the station would broadcast from 12:30-4:30PM that first day, followed by regular studio presentations on Wednesdays and Fridays from 8-9PM with outdoor pick-ups on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons [1].

When the outdoor pick-ups started was not made clear, although the article did note that they would be “attempted,” suggesting that they might not have worked as planned. An April 30th article noted that the schedule would likely become monotonous and might not be strictly followed [2]. Thus, there’s no way to know exactly what was shown during the long blocks consisting of “ten-minute transmissions at fifteen-minute intervals” broadcast so salesmen would have something to show potential customers [3].

Here’s a very generic schedule for the first week of broadcast television in the United States:

Sunday, April 30th, 1939
12:30-4:00PM – Opening of New York World’s Fair.

Monday, May 1st, 1939
11:00AM-4:00PM – Films.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 1939
11:00AM-4:00PM – Films.

Wednesday, May 3rd, 1939
4:00-8:00PM – Films.
8:00-9:00PM – Studio presentations.

Thursday, May 4th, 1939
11:00AM-4:00PM – Films.

Friday, May 5th, 1939
4:00-8:00PM – Films.
8:00-9:00PM – Studio presentations.

Saturday, May 6th, 1939
Off the air.

Sources:

1 “Telecasts.” New York Times. 23 Apr. 1939: 134.
2 Dunlap, Jr., Orrin E. “Today’s Eye-Opener.” New York Times. 30 Apr. 1939: 186.
3 Ibid.

3 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    I suspect the same kind of films shown that first week were seen over the next two years on W2XBS- lots of “obscure” films (some “silent”), tons of “industrial” and “commmercial” shorts, travelogues and old cartoons…as for live remotes, I believe most of them originated from the World’s Fair itself (especially at the RCA exhibition), with “man on the street” interviews, demonstrations, some live “performances”…and studio “filler” at night- “charades”, some drama and comedy, perhaps a cooking demonstration, a fashion show….a fascinating period!

  • Fredric M. London says:

    I find this fascinating, and wish I could have seen these telecasts! I am sure my GE saw at least some of them, but I was not alive at the time. I know that the first television drama was “The Queen’s Messenger” in 1928, and the first US electronic dramatic broadcast was in 1936 (written by Eddie Albert), but I would love to know all the dramatic broadcasts from prior to Kraft Television Theater in 1947. I recall a book, which covered programming through 1941, but I do not recall the title. Do any of you know of this book?

    • Garry Berman says:

      In my own research for a TV book I’m writing, I’ve been consulting a very informative book by film director Michael Ritchie, called “Please Stand By: A Pre-history of Television.” Could that be the book you’re thinking of?

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