The very first television drama aired 90 years ago today on September 11th, 1928. “The Queen’s Messenger,” a radio drama adapted for television, aired on General Electric’s experimental TV station W2XAD (now WRGB) in Schenectady, New York. Radio station WGY, which owned W2XAD, broadcast audio of the production.
(W2XAD also used the call sign W2XB at some point in 1928. Some sources suggest the station was still called W2XB when “The Queen’s Messenger” aired.)
W2XAD used two cameras focused on the faces of actress Isetta Jewell and actor Maurice Randall, the stars of the drama. A third camera was used for hand gestures and the occasional prop.
“The Queen’s Messenger” aired long before the introduction of the kinescope process for recording live TV. Remarkably, behind-the-scenes footage of either a rehearsal or the actual live broadcast survives:
Viewers as far away as Los Angeles reportedly picked up the broadcast.
Learn more about “The Queen’s Messenger” at the Early Television Museum.