W2XBS Schedule, Week of May 28th, 1939

I’m not sure why but on Sunday, May 28th, 1939 The New York Times finally began publishing weekly television schedules for NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York City [1]. There were no sporting events during this week but, in addition to hours of demonstration films for the benefit of those visiting the World’s Fair, W2XBS broadcast a Memorial Day parade and two hour-long variety shows.

The first of these, aired on Wednesday, June 1st, was chock full of interesting performances. Included were a pair of hillbilly singers, a modern dance group, a singing guitarist and two comedians on skis (although how far they could go on skis in a cramped studio is debatable). There was also a dramatic sketch titled “Afterwards” performed by students from Bogota High School in New Jersey. I can’t even imagine what that would have looked like.

Tuesday, May 30th, 1939 [2]
10:30AM – 12:00PM – Memorial Day Parade on Riverside Drive.
12:00PM – 4:00PM – Demonstration Films.

Wednesday, May 31st, 1939
4:30-8:30PM – Demonstration Films.
8:30-9:30PM – Judy, Zeke and Annie Canova, hillbilly singers; Hanya Holm and her modern dance group; Nick Lucas, singing guitarist, and Jay and Lou Seiler, comedians on skis. “Afterwards,” a dramatic sketch, will be presented by the amateur players of Bogota (N.J.) High School.

Thursday, June 1st, 1939
11:00AM – 4:00PM – Demonstration Films.

Friday, June 2nd, 1939
4:30-8:30PM – Demonstration Films.
8:30-9:30PM – “Jenny Lind,” first in a series of documentary presentations built around the New York City of yesterday; Tom Howard and George Shelton, comedians; the Randall Sisters, singers and films.

Saturday, June 3rd, 1939
4:00-9:00PM – Demonstration Films.

Works Cited:

1 “Notes on Television.” New York Times. 28 May 1939: X8.
2 The weekly schedule lists demonstration films running from 11AM to 4PM, overlapping the Memorial Day Parade; the daily listings for May 30th, 1939 show the demonstration films airing from 12-4PM after the parade (“Today on the Radio,” The New York Times, Page 34).


4 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    The “hillbilly singers” appearing on June 1st just happened to be the Canova family- and only one of them….JUDY….became a star in her own right: on radio, beginning in the summer of 1943, with her own situation comedy program (“cornball” humor with a first rate supporting cast, including Mel Blanc, and Judy’s endearing personality and singing voice), first on CBS, then for a long period on NBC, through the early ’50s. She also became a star of “B” movies as well (which were, of course, widely repeated on local TV stations by the late ’50s)…and the W2XBS gig was probably her first appearance on TV; but she never really established herself as a TV star.
    Nick Lucas was a popular singer/guitarist in the late ’20s and early ’30a, best known for performing “Tip Toe Through the Tulips’ in an early Warner Bros.-Vitaphone “talkie” feature, but eventually decided he didn’t want to be a movie star. He continued to appear on radio and early TV through the ’50s, and his June 1st appearance was, no doubt, one of HIS first on TV.

    Tom Howard and George Shelton were veteran vaudevillians, and a “double act” during the teens, ’20s and ’30s, and had their own radio show at that time. However, they were best known for appearing on “IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT” in the ’40s [Howard was the emcee {“If you’re waiting for this show to improve, you don’t know us”}, Shelton one of the three panelists {“the dumb one”- “I used to woik in that town!” was his catch phrase}]. But the 1951 TV version of their radio show, as Groucho’s summer replacement for “YOU BET YOUR LIFE”, was not a success.

  • Paul Lindemeyer says:

    The Seiler brothers were comic skiers (yes, indoor skiers!) who were modestly popular on the supper club circuit. In 1938, they toured with Sonja Henie’s Hollywood Ice Revue. NBC thought enough of them to run a very small still in their 1940 publicity booklet, “Television’s First Year.”

    The play “Afterwards,” enacted by the Bogota drama club, may have been some anti-war statement. According to William Hawes’ book on TV drama experiments, two students were listed as playing “bodies.”

  • D.M. Yowp says:

    May has 31 days, not 30. Your listing for June 1st should read “Wednesday, May 31st.”

    The Thursday, June 1, 1939 edition of New York Times “Today on the Radio” listings (pg. 41) state:

    TELEVISION
    (Pictures: 45.25 Megacyles; Sound, 49.75).
    9:00-W2XBS—Boxing: Baer-Nova at Yankee Stadium

    The New York Sun for that date (pg. 20) adds:
    11 A.M. to 4 P.M.—News reels and short subjects

    If the internet is to be believed the Baer-Nova match was the first major heavyweight fight to be televised.

    • Robert says:

      Thanks for the correction. If I have the time, I will go back and look at the daily listings for this entire week and see how they differ from the weekly listings.

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