Channel 12: Feedback
As time permits, the author will post comments about these Web pages, and memories of the DuMont network, from readers. Some contributions and corrections will be incorporated into the actual pages themselves; other comments will be included here and in subsequent pages. The author reserves the right to edit letters for subject matter and clarity, and hopes to avoid publishing self-congratulatory letters in favor of more meaningful contributions.
Ted Bergmann's remarkable tome on the rise and fall of the DuMont network was published several years ago. The DuMont Television Network: What Happened? is a book that any DuMont enthusiast must have. Click here to learn more or to order the book from its publisher, Scarecrow Press. (This web site receives no compensation whatsoever from this link or sales of the book; the link is offered only for your convenience.)
The author of this Web site met Bergmann in 1989 but lost touch with him over the years, and was pleased to recently re-establish contact through this Web site and the publication of his new book. The author was particularly gratified to hear from Bergmann that, with respect to the DuMont story, this Web site "got it exactly right." With Bergmann's permission, the author has inserted quotes from his book on this Web site. Many thanks, Ted!
Bruce Cushman from Warwick, Rhode Island, writes:
Clarke - a great site devoted to the old DuMont Network. Growing up in Kingston, Massachusetts, just north of Plymouth, and 35 miles south of Boston, we never had a DuMont station. Thanks to skip, we used to frequently receive WABD, and my earliest days of TV included watching many of the programs mentioned in your Web site. Thanks for bringing back some pleasant memories, even if it does make me feel older than I am!
Joseph Gallant writes:
I have done some research on early TV broadcasting, and discovered the following you can add to the DuMont page.
DuMont carried convention and election coverage in 1952, sponsored by Westinghouse, but actually a simulcast of CBS news coverage, anchored by a young commentator named Walter Cronkite. Westinghouse arranged to buy DuMont airtime during the 1952 campaign to have DuMont simulcast CBS election broadcasts so that they would be seen in Pittsburgh. (Westinghouse's home base - ed.)
"Studio One," also sponsored by Westinghouse, got the timeslot on CBS that it did (Mondays at 10 PM - ed.) for one reason -- it was a timeslot when DuMont wasn't feeding programming, which allowed "Studio One" to be shown live in Pittsburgh.
"The Admiral Broadway Revue" (a comedy/variety show with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, who would later go on to "Your Show of Shows") was broadcast on both DuMont and NBC, so the show could get into Pittsburgh. In most cities, the show was broadcast on only one station, but I would think it was shown on both DuMont and NBC stations in New York City and Washington.
As far as I can tell, Gillette paid for airtime on WDTV Pittsburgh between 1949 and 1954 to have WDTV air the World Series. (One begins to see, just from these few entries, why DuMont's monopoly in Pittsburgh was so important - ed.) I don't think any other DuMont stations aired the Series in those years. As far as I can tell, between 1949 and 1955, the World Series was produced by Gillette, who bought airtime on ABC, CBS, and NBC, and rented mobile units from the latter. In some cities, the World Series was broadcast on three different stations at once!
In 1953 and 1954, DuMont actually broadcast Saturday-night NFL games -- the first regular prime-time football series, a full 17 years before ABC "invented" prime-time NFL games. Nearly all the games in 1953 and 1954 originated in New York (Giants), Pittsburgh (Steelers), or Washington (Redskins). (Which makes perfect sense, since these were the home cities of the three DuMont owned and operated TV stations - ed.)
DuMont ceased most entertainment programs (and a nightly newscast) in early April, 1955. DuMont still broadcast some sports events (a Monday-night boxing show and the 1955 NFL season) until August, 1956. I think that when DuMont ceased to be an occasional-sports network in mid-1956, it put up for bids the sports rights for the 1956-57 year it had acquired as a single package. CBS supposedly won.
Author's note: Joseph, are you working on a DuMont Network web page of your own? Thanks for the plethora of information.
Dennis Jackson of Wilton, Connecticut writes:
I watched "Captain Video" on WABD, got a Decoder Ring, and insisted on Ovaltine even though Quik tasted better! Then went to RPI and my respect for DuMont deepened (RPI EE '68). Enjoyed your page very much. Super job, and thanks for the pleasure!
Jim Douglass writes:
Thanks for the site...it's great! I visited the Wanamaker studio and the DuMont Tele-Centre on East 67th Street. My favorite shows were "Captain Video" and "Rocky King, Detective" starring Roscoe Karns with his wife, "Mabel", who was never seen. I had forgotten about Johnny Olsen's "Kids and Company"...now recall going to the Ambassador Theatre on several Saturday mornings to see the show, when it was sponsored by Red Goose Shoes. Some trivia: When I moved into my current apartment in 1971, the "super" was Hal Conklin, "Dr. Pauli" on Captain Video. The original WABD tower is still atop 515 Madison. Heard the tower is idle, but it's still standing. I remember the hallways at the Tele-Centre. They were done in green tiles. Reminded me of a city housing project. DuMont leased two studios there to CBS for soap operas. I always enjoyed the shows and felt bad for (Dr.) DuMont, as well as for Major Armstrong (the inventor of FM - ed.) that their dreams were never realized. Thanks again for all the effort you put into the site.
Marshall Leach writes:
I watched the DuMont Network on WGVL, Channel 23, in Greenville, South Carolina, around 1955. The station went dark before the end of the '50's. The only program I remember is "The Goldbergs." When I went off to college in 1958, all of the oscilloscopes in our electronics laboratory were made by DuMont.
Donald Forsling writes:
I've just taken a close look at your DuMont website. What a nice job! And what memories it brings back. The station clearance discussion was particularly interesting. The TV station (WOI-TV) that used to be associated with our radio stations (WOI-AM & FM) went on the air in 1950, and until the end of the "freeze", was the only TV service in Des Moines and central Iowa. So, WOI-TV carried just about all the DuMont shows and an assortment of NBC and CBS programs. Then came the end of the "freeze" and WHO-TV went with NBC, KRNT-TV went with CBS, and poor ol' WOI-TV was left with a combination of ABC and DuMont stuff. Bad days, indeed.
WOI-TV used DuMont cameras, but a GE transmitter (water-cooled). A station I worked for when I was in college used DuMont cameras *and* a DuMont transmitter!
I looked in on Bishop Sheen (from Rochester, right?) now and then, but I think my all-time favorite DuMont show was "Wrestling from Marigold" with Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd, via the Marigold Arena and WGN-TV. Jack did the play-by-play (so to speak) and Vince did the commercials for, I believe, a shaving cream called "Arrow Shave". (Or, was it Aero Shave? - ed.) God, the nation was *riveted* to those goofy wrestling matches on DuMont. Anyway, thanks for putting up a good site.
David Mark writes:
If memory serves (and mine serves less and less these days), WXEL (Cleveland) was owned by Empire Coil Company. They sold it to Storer, who insisted the deal include Empire affiliating the station with CBS instead of DuMont. At the time, WEWS, channel 5, was the CBS affiliate. The deal went through because Storer was also buying other Empire stations and had the clout to leverage the deal over the objections of Scripps-Howard, who owned WEWS, but not the other stations that would lose CBS in the other affected markets. CBS went to WXEL, which became WJW-TV, and WEWS went to ABC. I don't think DuMont ever got another Cleveland affiliate, as this all happened within a year or so of DuMont's demise.
Alan Bartenhagen writes:
I grew up in Dumont, New Jersey, and I remember thinking as a six-year-old that it was pretty neat for our town to have its own TV network -- not that I understood just what a TV network was. Thanks so much for writing the history. I remember watching "Captain Video" on Channel 5, though until today I never knew what WABD stood for.
W.T. Koltek of Louisville, Ohio writes:
Great subject for a web page -- in all the surfing I've done through broadcasting history sites so far, I've found nothing that deals specifically or in much detail with DuMont and its role in TV's early years. I wasn't aware of the direct link between DuMont and Metropolitan Broadcasting until I read your piece, and isn't it ironic that the first truly successful fourth network has direct ties to the first attempt at one! (I had forgotten all about Bill Dana in the '60's, too; great work!)
Peter Hunn of Oswego, New York writes:
Your DuMont site is truly enjoyable! It's good to know there are others interested in what was arguably the world's first commercial TV network.
This June (2, 1999) in London's Museum of the Moving Image, I am slated to present a lecture: The Video Vanishing Act...Whatever Happened to America's First TV Network? I'm hoping to be able to get a copy of the old 15-minute DuMont History program (on VHS) for the presentation.
You probably know that Utica's WKTV (originally on Channel 13) took lots of DuMont's programs. Of course, they had NBC, too, allowing them to pick and choose. WIRI-TV (now WPTZ-TV), Plattsburgh had a similar relationship.
Bernie Alan of KCET-TV in Los Angeles writes:
It was fun reading your DuMont pages and I thought I might add a few items to your data. As a youngster, I watched WABD, Channel 5, "New York's Window on the World," as well as WFIL-TV, Channel 6, in Philadelphia. When I got a TV set, Richard Coogan was Captain Video, replaced by Al Hodge a few years later when Coogan went west. The "Video Ranger" was Don Hastings, who today is "Doctor Bob" on a CBS soap opera. I see Don occasionally, and I'll tell him about your page.
DuMont, as you pointed out, was the third network in New York City, and Channel 5 maintained that place in the ratings for many years after the network failed. In the late 1940's and early 1950's, they carried the Yankees' games (only the home games were televised). DuMont had some really innovative programs including "Rocky King, Detective" with Roscoe Karns, followed by another LIVE detective show ("The Plainclothesman" - ed.) that used a new method that permitted you to see the action through the eyes of the lead character. They did "Famous Jury Trials" from WGN-TV in Chicago (could this have been "They Stand Accused"? - ed.) and they ran a Morey Amsterdam show with Art Carney, while Carney was moonlighting with (Jackie) Gleason and Morey was moonlighting on "Broadway Open House" on NBC. I almost forgot "Okay Mother" with the late Dennis James, and the live programs they did from a studio in Grand Central Station. Bill Wendell, who recently retired from the Letterman show, was a staff announcer at DuMont. It was a fun network and I was sorry to see it go. Thanks for reminding me.
The author was excited to receive the following E-mail from Chris Witting of Chicago:
I really enjoyed reading through your DuMont TV Web site. My dad, who is now in his 80's and lives in Syracuse, New York, was GM of the DuMont network and tells a lot of great stories about those days. I believe he was instrumental in getting Gleason, Lucille Ball, and some others into TV. He tried to get Walter Cronkite to do news at DuMont (before he got famous at CBS), but Cronkite turned him down. I met Cronkite in New York around 1990 and, when he heard my name, asked if my dad had worked for DuMont, so he remembered the offer, I guess. Another quick story: my dad worked in New York for DuMont and had a city street map on his office wall, with pushpins where there were TV sets in use! He'd give free sets to bars just so the men would see them and want one for their homes too. I still have an old DuMont TV set in the basement...no, it doesn't work!
Bill Diehl of ABC News writes:
Nice work on the DuMont Television Web site. Very impressive. Obviously you've put a good deal of work into getting lots of background on the DuMont network. Thanks to you, the DuMont web is "gone but not forgotten." I remember growing up in Corning, New York, where I got my start in radio (a teenage DJ at 15) in the 1950's, and the only TV station we could get was WNBF, Channel 12 in Binghamton. It was a primary CBS affiliate in those days, with no competition. WNBF picked up NBC, ABC, and even the DuMont network on occasion; mostly, if I remember correctly, it was for wrestling from Chicago on Saturday night. Again, congratulations on the DuMont Web page. Keep up the good work. I can tell it's a labor of love.
Charles J. Polio of Hamden, Connecticut writes:
Thank you for a very enlightening Web page on the DuMont network. One of the earliest affiliates of the DuMont network was WNHC-TV, Channel 6 (now WTNH, Channel 8) in New Haven, which went on the air in the summer of 1948 (claiming to be the first in New England) using donated DuMont studio equipment and picking up their signal directly from WABD in New York via a microwave relay located in Oxford, Connecticut. The station also carried NBC (transmitter donated by RCA) and CBS also using relayed signals from their New York outlets.
WNHC was also a victim of the "channel squeeze" in the early 1950's, being located on channel 6 between WFIL in Philadelphia and a station whose call (letters) I cannot remember in New Bedford, Massachusetts (this station is, or was, WTEV - ed.) Their (WNHC's) move to Channel 8 pretty much wiped out off-the-air reception of channels 7, 9, and 11 from New York for the areas north of New Haven.
Also, in the late 1940's, WABD had a small storefront studio on 5th Avenue, a few doors north of 42nd Street, where they did many of their daytime two-camera shows such as Vincent Lopez. The studio was very long and narrow, with two (maybe three) rows of seats extending the length of the studio, and the cameras moved sideways from set to set. It was interesting to watch, and the doors were always open to the public.
Robert Porrazzo, also in Connecticut, sends a similar letter:
This is a great Web site about one of the lost networks of TV. I'm a 25-year-old man who loves nostalgia, especially about DuMont. I was first introduced to DuMont when Channel 5 in New York City aired its 40th anniversary special in 1984 about how it got started with DuMont. But did you know that we had DuMont programming in Connecticut? In 1948, when WNHC-TV, Channel 6, signed on as Connecticut's first TV station, it carried programming from DuMont as well as ABC, CBS, and NBC. In 1954, the station switched networks to a permanent ABC affiliation, and channel numbers to 8. Today, the station operates as WTNH-TV, News Channel 8. Again, this is a great site about a network that soon may be joined by UPN in the network graveyard.
Howard Smead writes:
I visited your Web site on DuMont and found some great information on Captain Video. Thanks for that. My father used to build the cabinets for DuMont, which was, I think, the only network to make its own TV sets. When the network tanked, it caused considerable problems for our family, as you might expect.
(On this page at least.) The author was honored to receive the following mail from Bruce DuMont, nephew of Allen B. DuMont and president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago:
Congratulations! Your work on the DuMont network website is very impressive.
Thanks to people like you and those who have written, the history of DuMont TV will live on.
The MBC is working to gather more shows. Thomas T. Goldsmith, my uncle's right hand man,
is still alive and well and is living in Washington state.
Dr. Goldsmith was present at the DuMont reunion at the MBC in Chicago on April 30, 1999. The author of this Web site was also present, thanks to a kind invitation from Bruce DuMont, and was pleased to meet Dr. Goldsmith and others and donate 20 DuMont shows to the MBC for its archives.
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