More on WNBT’s First Day of Commercial Broadcasting

When I wrote about the anniversary of the first day of commercial television earlier this month, I explained that there was confusion about the schedule for New York City commercial station WNBT when it began broadcasting as an official commercial station on July 1st, 1941. I had forgotten that the Library of Congress has audio recordings for some of the programming broadcast on that historic day.

Recall that a schedule published in The New York Times on July 1st looked like this:

1:30-2:30PM – Test Pattern
2:30PM – Baseball: Dodgers vs. Phillies, at Ebbets Field
6:45PM – Lowell Thomas
8-9PM – Test Pattern
9PM – USO Program: Thomas E. Dewey; Mrs. Winthrop Aldrich. Others; Uncle Jim’s Question Bee; Musical Revue, Bottlenecks of 1941; Truth or Consequences

The LOC does not have a recording of the baseball game. According to an entry in its online sound catalog SONIC, the 15-minute news program hosted by Lowell Thomas was broadcast at 6PM rather than 6:45PM, as all other sources indicate. The LOC also has recordings of the USO program, Uncle Jim’s Question Bee, the Bottlenecks of 1941 musical revue and Truth or Consequences.

Based on newspaper articles about the first day of commercial broadcasting, I had assumed that Bottlenecks of 1941 had aired after the USO program and that Uncle Jim’s Question Bee and Truth or Consequences were aired back-to-back. The LOC records suggest otherwise:

  9:00PM – USO Program
  9:30PM – Uncle Jim’s Question Bee
10:00PM – Bottlenecks of 1941
10:30PM – Truth or Consequences

The LOC record for “Bottlenecks of 1941” indicates it aired from 10-10:45PM which would have cut into Truth or Consequences, so presumably that is incorrect.


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