WX2BS Schedule, Week of June 23rd, 1940

Here’s the schedule for NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York City for the week beginning Sunday, June 23rd, 1940, straight from television listings printed in The New York Times. It was a historic week that saw the station’s regular programming pre-empted for coverage of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But viewers in New York City weren’t the only ones able to watch the convention. In The Magic Window: American Television, 1939-1953, James Arthur Von Schilling notes that “in a rare instance of cooperation within the TV industry, RCA combined with Philco and General Electric to televise the event in New York City and upstate New York” and estimates that as many 50,000 people could have watched the coverage [1].

In short, Philco’s station W3XE in Philadelphia relayed the convention to RCA/NBC’s station W2XBS in New York City via coaxial cable and General Electric’s station W2XB in Schenectady broadcast at least some of the coverage by picking up the W2XBS telecast. None of this coverage exists, although film of the convention itself certainly could, and there doesn’t seem to be much information anywhere about the content of the coverage. I imagine it was rather boring at times. But it was a significant moment in the history of television.

Here’s something interesting. On June 29th, The New York Times reported that the W2XBS transmission was intermittently received some 1,800 away in Tulsa, Oklahoma! Here’s a report from NBC”s Watt Stinson: “the pictures came through every minute or so for several seconds at a time over a two-hour period. Voting score sheets and close-ups of the chairman,in particular, were quite distinct. The sound channel was clear about 50 per cent of the time” [2]. Convention coverage was also seen in some fashion in Lake Placid (about 325 miles away) at the New York University-Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Weather Observatory, from station W2XB [3].

Monday, June 24th, 1940 [4]
11:00AM-1:00PM – Opening Session, G.O.P. Convention, Philadelphia.
9:00-11:00PM – Evening Session, Including Keynote Speech.

Tuesday, June 25th, 1940 [5]
11:00AM-1:00PM – G.O.P convention, including address of Representative Joseph W. Martin Jr.
2:30-4:30PM – Republican Convention.
9:00-11:00PM – G.O.P. convention, including address of Former President Hoover at 9:30.

Wednesday, June 26th, 1940 [6]
11:00AM-1:00PM – Interviews and Outside Pick-Ups at Republican Convention, Philadelphia.
2:30-4:30PM – Republican Convention Session.
6:45-7:00PM – News, Lowell Thomas.
9:00-11:00PM – Interviews and Session, Republican Convention.

Thursday, June 27th, 1940 [7]
11:00AM-1:00PM – Interviews at Republican Convention.
2:30-4:30PM – Republican Convention.
6:45-7:00PM – News, Lowell Thomas.
9:00-11:00PM – Republican Convention.

Friday, June 28th, 1940 [8]
2:30-4:30PM – Republican Convention.
9:00-11:00PM – Republican Convention.
(All Television Schedules Are Tentative).

Works Cited:


1 Von Schilling, James Arthur. The Magic Window: American Television, 1939-1953. Binghamton, New York: Haworth Press, 2002: 25-26.
2 “Television Images Seen at 1,800 Miles.” New York Times. 29 Jun. 1940: 5.
3 Ibid.
4 “Today on the Radio.” The New York Times. 24 Jun. 1940: 16.
5 “Today on the Radio.” The New York Times. 25 Jun. 1940: 40.
6 “Today on the Radio.” The New York Times. 26 Jun. 1940: 32.
7 “Today on the Radio.” The New York Times. 27 Jun. 1940: 43.
8 “Today on the Radio.” The New York Times. 28 Jun. 1940: 36.


2 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    The only “regular” programming on W2XBS was the occasional “simulcast” of NBC radio’s Lowell Thomas “SUNOCO NEWS” broadcast at 6:45. The result of the ’40 Republican presdiential convention was the nomination of Wendell Wilkie [the current generation only knows him from the topical gag in Bugs Bunny’s “Falling Hare” (1943), when the rabbit says, “Hey…could THAT have been a….GREMLIN?” Gremlin: (yelling into Bugs’ right ear) “IT AIN’T VENDELL VILKIE!!!”], who lost to F.D.R. that November. Newsreel footage of the convention does exist, but I’ve never seen TV cameras in any of the scenes photographed (or noticed it).

  • Joseph says:

    I thought I read somewhere that the W2XBS/NBC coverage of the 1940 convention merely consisted of speeches from the podium with Lowell Thomas serving as anchorman (from a New York control room), whose comments were generally limited to identifying speakers who were about to speak or who had just finished speaking as “That was John Doe, speaking on behalf of Wendell Willkie”.

    I think I also read somewhere that Philco’s Philadelphia station mou8nted it’s own coverage, which wasn’t seen outside of Philadelphia, and that W3XE “borrowed” a Mutual radio newsman (Fulton Lewis Jr. or Gabriel Heatter??) to serve as TV , with again, comments generally limited to identifying speakers who had or who were about to address the convention.

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