Monday, October 11, 2010



SARNOFF: He'd already told his father about the idea. He'd explained that "tele" was Greek. It meant "distant." Vision from a distance. Televsion.

The early isues of TV Guide magazine incorporated this idea into their magazine's logo.

Lee Wagner (1910–1993) was circulation director of McFadden Publications in New York in the 1930s—and later for Cowles Media Co.—distributing movie celebrity magazines. In 1948, he printed The TeleVision Guide for the New York area. On the cover was silent film star Gloria Swanson star of her short-lived "Gloria Swanson Hour." Wagner later added regional editions for New England and Baltimore-Washington areas. Five years later, he sold the editions to Walter Annenberg's Triangle Publications, but remained as a consultant until 1963.

The national TV Guide was first published on April 3, 1953. Its premiere issue cover featured a photograph of Lucille Ball's and Desi Arnez's son Desi Arnez Junior.

"Kukla, Fran and Ollie" (pictured above) is unique in the history of television: a live, daily, ad-libbed puppet show that was watched by more adults than children.

How did a puppet show created for children become "appointment television" for millions of adults? And how was it possible to go on the air for a half-hour each day and create a sharp, witty program with no script?

The answer can be given in two words: Burr Tillstrom. Burr was the creator of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie," and the only puppeteer on the show, which first ran from 1947 to 1957. Today, it's hard to imagine a simple puppet show being so popular, but KFO evoked not only loyalty but also a deep belief in its characters from anyone who watched more than a few episodes. (from LIFE magazine)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh! We're the Men of Texaco

We work from Maine to Mexico
There's nothing like this Texaco of ours!

And now ladies and gentlemen...America's number one television star...Milton Berle.

lthough RCA introduced television at the 1939 World's Fair WWII prevented it from being manufactured on a large scale until after the war. It wasn't until 1948 that true regular commercial TV was broadcast.

NBC had hired Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the Texaco Star Theatre, originally a radio program moved to television. In the early days comedian Ed Wynn (pictured) was the host, followed by Fred Allen. Berle stepped in after that as part of a rotation of comedians.

In his first full season as the host he was extremely popular. Berle was probably responsible for selling more television sets than anyone. During his run the sale of televisions grew from 500,000 his first year to over 30 million when the show ended in 1956.

He won two Emmy Awards that first year; one for Best Kinescope Show and one for Most Outstanding Kinescope Personality.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Music to Our Ears

David Sarnoff, the president of RCA who had first proposed the "radio music box" in 1916 so that listeners might enjoy "concerts, lectures, music, recitals," felt that the medium was failing to do this. By 1937, RCA had recovered enough from the effects of the Depression for it to make a dramatic commitment to cultural programming. With the most liberal terms Sarnoff hired Arturo Toscanini to create an entire orchestra and conduct it.

On Christmas night, 1937, the NBC orchestra gave its first performance—Vivaldi's Concerto Grosso in D Minor—in an entirely refurbished studio in the RCA Building. "The National Broadcasting Company is an American business organization. It has employees and stockholders. It serves their interests best when it serves the public best." That Christmas night, and whenever the NBC orchestra played over the next 17 years, he was right.

Mr. Sarnoff spared no expense in creating the NBC Symphony. Prominent musicians from major orchestras around the country were recruited for the orchestra. In addition to creating prestige for the network, there has been speculation that one of the reasons NBC created the orchestra was to deflect a Congressional inquiry into broadcasting standards.

The orchestra's first broadcast concert aired from NBC's Studio 8H on November 13, 1937 under the direction of Pierre Monteux. Toscanini conducted 10 concerts that first season, making his NBC debut on December 25, 1937. In addition to weekly broadcasts on the NBC Red and Blue networks, the NBC Symphony Orchestra made many recordings for RCA Victor of symphonies, choral music and operas. Televised concerts began in March 1948 and continued until March 1952. In the fall of 1950, NBC converted Studio 8H into a television studio (currently in use for NBC's late-night comedy program Saturday Night Live) and moved the broadcast concerts to Carnegie Hall, where many of the orchestra's recording sessions and special concerts had already taken place.

Toscanini led the NBC Symphony for 17 years. Under his direction the orchestra toured South America in 1940 and the United States in 1950.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"He got a picture."

The text (and photo) of the actual San Francisco Chronicle article referenced in The Farnsworth Invention. Those already involved in the show will recognize key players and descriptions. This comes from The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco at where you can read more information about Farnsworth and his laboratory. The original article is dated September 3, 1928.

S.F. Man's Invention to Revolutionize Television


W.W. Crocker, R.N. Bishop Head Local Capitalists Backing Genius

Philo Farnsworth holds sending and receiving tubes for the television system he invented. - San Francisco Chronicle photo.Two major advances in television were announced yesterday by a young inventor who has been quietly working away in his laboratory in San Francisco and has evolved a system of television basically different from any system yet in operation.

The inventor is Philo T. Farnsworth, and local capitalists, headed by W.W. Crocker and Roy N. Bishop, are financing the experiments and have aided him in obtaining basic patents on the system.

In any method of transmitting moving images at a distance, some means must be evolved of breaking the image into pin points of light. These points are translated into electrical impulses, the electrical impulses are collected at the receiving end and translated back into light, and the image results.


All television systems now in use employ a revolving disc, two feet in diameter, to break up or "scan" the image. A similar disc is at the receiving end, and the two discs must revolve at precisely the same instant and at precisely the same speed or blurred vision results.

Farnsworth's system employs no moving parts whatever. Instead of moving the machine, he varies the electric current that plays over the image and thus gets the necessary scanning.

The system is thus simple in the extreme, and one of the major mechanical obstacles to the perfection of television is thereby removed.

It was through this simplicity that he achieved his second greatest advance, the cutting in half of the wave band length necessary to prevent television broadcasts interfering with each other. The importance of this is manifest, inasmuch as it requires approximately four times the wave band length for television that ordinary sound broadcasting requires. Farnsworth has cut this television wave band in half and is hoping for still further reduction.


His system sends twenty pictures per seconds, so motion is perfectly recorded, and there are 8000 elements, or pin points of light, in each picture to insure detail. The laboratory model he has built transmits the image on a screen one and one-quarters inches square. It is a queer looking little image in bluish light now, one that frequently smudges and blurs, but the basic principle is achieved and perfection is now a matter of engineering.

The sending tube which is the heart of Farnsworth's transmitting set is about the size of an ordinary quart jar that a housewife uses for preserving fruit, and the receiving tube containing the screen is even smaller. Farnsworth estimates the receiving apparatus could easily be attached to an ordinary radio set and can be manufactured to retail at $100 or less.

Farnsworth is a native of Provo, Utah, and conceived the idea for his television set while a student at Brigham Young University there. He was discovered by George Everson and Leslie Gorrell, who brought the set to the attention of research engineers at the California Institute of Technology. These experts pronounced it workable and helped Farnsworth obtain the financial backing. The research laboratories are at 202 Green street.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Building an Empire

Four weeks from opening and this is what the set looks like. Larry has been doing an amazing job getting things up and going. Even I've been impressed!! Thanks also to Brian Stratton, Leroy Cupp, Bob Nees and Dan DeYonke for all your help.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Farnsworth Remembered

For years, the name Philo T Farnsworth had been mostly lost to history. Through the tireless, decades-long efforts of his widow Pem, more and more people know of his accomplishments, and that once-forgotten name has started to turn up in some most unusual places. Among the tributes to Philo:

*In Matt Groening's animated series Futurama, the professor's name is Hubert J. Farnsworth. (The "J" is a tribute to animator Jay Ward. Many of Ward's and Groening's characters have "J" as a middle initial.)

*A free app for the iPhone allows users to connect with other users watching the same TV episodes on their devices. It's called 'Philo'.

*In "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1989 cult comedy UHF, the engineer at the TV station is named Philo. (He's played by Anthony Geary of soap opera fame)

*In the Syfy series Warehouse 13, characters communicate on an odd-looking two-way device called a Farnsworth. (In the fictional history of that show, the device was created by Philo himself, and one of the characters owns the original model, known as "Farnsworth's Farnsworth".)

*At least two awards are named for him. Philo Awards are given in the midwest to honor outstanding achievements in public access programming. On a larger scale, the Philo T. Farnsworth Corporate Achievement Award is a special Emmy award for companies than have made historic contributions to television engineering. In 2009, NASA received the award for its 1969 broadcasts of the Apollo 11 landing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great Minds

Kudos to Greg Pratt for his patent worthy idea of creating business cards advertising The Farnsworth Invention!!

Just gave one of them out today. They are perfect; easy to carry and contain all the pertinent information for friends and family.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A first for NBC

This is from Sarnoff’s dedication of the RCA Exhibit Building at the 1939
World’s Fair. Sarnoff spoke in front of a television camera, with Fair visitors watching on receivers inside the building and RCA engineers monitoring the broadcast from 30 Rockefeller


Today we are on the eve of launching a new industry based on imagination, on scientific
research and accomplishment. We are now ready to fulfill the promise made to the public last
October, when after years of research, laboratory experiments, and tests in the field costing
millions of dollars, the Radio Corporation of America announced that television-program service and commercial-television receivers would be made available to the public with the opening of
the New York World’s Fair.

Ten days from now, this will be an accomplished fact. The long years of patient experimenting
and ingenious invention which the scientists of the RCA Research Laboratories have put into
television development have been crowned with success. I salute their accomplishments and
those of other scientists, both here and abroad, whose efforts have contributed to the progress of
this new art.

On April 30th, the National Broadcasting Company will begin the first regular public television-program service in the history of our country; and television receiving sets will be in the hands of
merchants in the New York area for public purchase. A new art and a new industry, which eventually will provide entertainment and information for millions and new employment for
large numbers of men and women, are here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"If there are any Brits in the house..."

The play The Farnsworth Invention dismisses fairly quickly the contributions of John Logie Baird to the development of television. However, Baird (who was Scottish) does have a following in the UK and Australia, folks who will point out, quite correctly, that Baird got there first. His mechanical system may have been inferior to what Team Philo and Team Sarnoff were working on, but he showed his system to the public almost two full years before Farnsworth did.

A website maintained by Baird's son details his father's contributions to television, as well as other inventions Baird developed in his career. It also has remarkably objective profiles of Sarnoff, Zworykin, Farnsworth and many other TV pioneers. There's even his take on the play!

The Australian equivalent of the Emmy Awards for outstanding television are know as the Logie Awards in honor of Baird. The most popular personality in Australian television each year wins the coveted "Gold Logie".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

"People have confidence in the dog."

Named for his tendency to bite guests in the leg, Nipper was a real dog who lived in England in the late 19th century. The iconic image of Nipper listening to “His Master’s Voice” was originally a photograph of Nipper and a rare (even for its time) Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. A British artist replaced the unusual cylinder machine with a more common wind-up gramophone and tried to sell his painting for advertising purposes. He was rejected by Edison-Bell (supposedly told “dogs don’t listen to phonographs”) but later sold a modified version of his painting to England’s The Gramophone Company.

The American Victor company acquired the use of the trademarked image in the early 20th century, and RCA picked it up with its acquisition of Victor in 1929. Today, the trademark's ownership is divided among different companies in different countries. Global electronics giant JVC, for example, is actually the Victor Company of Japan and still uses Nipper in its logo and advertising, but only in Japan.

The original title of the painting was “His Late Master’s Voice”, but that was quickly determined to be a bit morbid as an advertising campaign.

In the 1990s, RCA produced a series of commercials featuring Nipper played by a real dog. Those ads also introduced a puppy, “Chipper”.

The Gramophone Company became so associated with the logo and slogan that around 1908 the company was renamed HMV. Today, more than a hundred years later, HMV is a popular global retail chain which continues to use the Nipper logo.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The Farnsworth Invention CAST ANNOUNCED
Sorry about the format; I can't seem to fix it

SARNOFF Doak Bloss
PHILO Joseph Baumann
PEM Kat Cooper
LIZETTE/PICKFORD Veronica Gracia-Wing
STAN Joseph Quick
CLIFF Simon Tower
EVERSON Darrin Fowler
GORRELL Mark Bethea
ZWORYKIN Roger Nowland
BETTY Sarah Sonnenberg
AGNES Erin Hoffman
MINA Charlotte Rupert
CROCKER Michael Ewine
HARLAN William Beam
HARBORD John Donohoe
SIMMS Greg Pratt
WILKINS Jim Murphy
RIDLEY Brian Stratton
PHILO (boy) Reese Brockhaus
SARNOFF (boy) Danny Bethea

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Information Please

FIRST REHEARSAL- Tuesday, September 7

CONFLICTS- Conflicts will be a factor in casting this show. Because of the interwoven nature of scenes, characters, and actors playing multiple roles, scheduling around frequent conflicts will be difficult. Please look at your schedules now. It is inevitable that sometimes we have to work around conflicts but ones that involve long periods of time, recurring weekly conflicts, or many absences during the course of the rehearsal period will be problematic.

ALL HANDS ON DECK...LITERALLY. The structure of this show is fluid and seamless. One scene runs into another into another etc. There are no scene breaks or blackouts during the acts. It is an extremely exciting paradigm. The ENSEMBLE of actors will be executing all scene shifts. This show will not be using a traditional running crew.

Monday, August 2, 2010


(Photo from Chicago's TimeLine Theatre production)

Yes!! Absolutely!! There ARE Women in The Farnsworth Invention....5 of them.

PEM FARNSWORTH 20-40's Philos wife

LIZETTE SARNOFF 30-40's Sarnoff's elegant French wife

BETTY 20-35 Sarnoff's secretary

AGNES FARNSWORTH 20-35 Philos sister and
lab partner

MINA EDISON 40-60 Edison's widow

In addition most of the women play an additional
10 roles

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Abuse of Power

"It will be admitted by all that so good a scientific invention (TV) for the purpose and pursuit of entertainment alone would be a prostitution of its powers and an insult to the character and intelligence of people."
-President of the BBC, 1925

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Woman Behind the Man

My husband invented the ignition lock, which may not sound like much, except he was twelve years old at the time. What were you doing when you were twelve, Mr. Sarnoff?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"What is fair for one is not fair for all."

Sarnoff: I don't think I stole television - if I did, I did it fair and square.
But he deserved better in my hands. He was gonna do a lot more, but I burned his house down so he wouldn't burn mine down first.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Means to an End

SARNOFF: And by the way the ends do justify the means, that's what the means are for!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chess anyone?

"It is no accident that the play's title sounds like a chess gambit."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Character Descriptions

In the 1920s and 1930s, the battle to create and control television came down to two men: David Sarnoff, a self-made titan of industry and the president of RCA; and Philo T. Farnsworth, an unsophisticated but brilliant inventor working independently in a private laboratory. Their separate paths eventually collide in a legal battle for control of the 20th century’s most powerful communications tool. The turning point of the 20th century wasn't on television. It was television.

There are about 60 speaking parts (more than are listed below), plus crowd scenes and other dialogue. With the exception of several male leads, every performer will play multiple roles. Some redistribution of roles may be possible. The + others indicates how many other roles this actor will play. The last number in parentheses indicates the number of SCENES in which each actor appears.

Actor 40s-50s: DAVID SARNOFF The first media mogul. Smart, relentless, savvy. Appears confident and determined. (almost all scenes)

Actor 30s-40s: PHILO T FARNSWORTH The last lone inventor. Even smarter, equally relentless but not as savvy. Appears distracted. (almost all scenes)

Actress 30s-40s: LIZETTE (Sarnoff’s elegantFrench wife), MARY PICKFORD (the movie star, a potential investor) (6)

Actress, 20s-30s: PEM FARNSWORTH (Philo’s wife, loving and down-to-earth) (8)

Actor 40s-60s: WILLIAM CROCKER (Farnsworth’s main investor, a father figure) + 4 others (12)

Actor 20s-30s: CLIFF GARDNER (Pem’s brother) +5 others (13)

Actor 30s-50s: ATKINS (Crocker’s assistant), WALTER GIFFORD (a crass radio station owner), DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS (the movie star, a potential investor) + 4 others (13)

Actor 30s-40s: WILKINS (Crocker’s assistant) +6 others (12)

Actor 40s-60s: GEORGE EVERSON (a Farnsworth investor, more trusting than his partner Gorrell) (11)

Actor 40s-60s: VLADIMIR ZWORYKIN (the RCA scientist) + 5 others (11)

Actor 30s-50s: LESLIE GORRELL (a Farnsworth investor, more cynical and doubting than his partner Everson) (11)

Actor 20s-30s: STAN WILLIS (a Farnsworth assistant) and +3 others (12)

Actor 50s-60s: JUSTIN TOLMAN (Farnsworth’s high school teacher) +6 others (11)

Actor 40s-50s:JIM HARBORD (a top RCA executive) + 5 others (12)

Actor 40s-50s: SIMMS (an RCA executive) Lippincott (Philo's attorney) + 4 others (8)

Actress 20s-30s: BETTY (Sarnoff’s secretary) +1 other (11)

Actor 20s-30s: HARLAN HONN (a Farnsworth assistant) +3 others (12)

Actress 2os- 30s AGNES (Philo’s sister) +1 other (12)

Actress 30s-50s MINA EDISON (Thomas Edison’s widow) +4 others (7)

Actor 40s-50s: WACHTEL (an RCA executive) +1 other (10)

Actor 10-14: YOUNG DAVID SARNOFF (3)


SUNDAY, August 29
MONDAY, August 30

Riverwalk Theatre