Early Television Library (TV)
US television library, quite possibly the most important early television library still in private hands, I feel confident anyway that it must be within the top half dozen in existence.
As a rough guide in each section the important items are highlighted. Yellow for rare and early and Red for exceptionally rare or seriously important pieces.
- Rare collection of mechanical television catalogues
- 87 original US patent documents from the late 1920s on television and television related inventions.
- Early television articles from 1898 - 1911 in Scientific American.
- By 1941 when the USA entered WWII after Pearl Harbour sales of TV sets had effectively ground to a halt with the total number of domestic TV sets sold estimated at 4,500. The set manufacturers had unsold inventory and many had already switched to war production. However, unlike the UK where programme transmissions ceased on 1 September 1939 (they didn't resume until late in 1946), in the USA the transmission of TV programmes carried on throughout the war to the same tiny audiences. There were so few TV sets in operation that could receive these programmes that it wasn't worth publishing the broadcast schedules in the newspapers so the TV companies sent the weekly schedules by post directly to subscribing owners of TV sets. Ephemera like this tends to end up in the trash so the collection of TV schedule postcards in this library is quite possibly unique and represent probably the only large extent record of what was actually transmitted during this period. Single examples occasionally turn up on EBay at non-bargain prices. See also the 1953 schedule booklet featuring Marilyn Munro on the cover.
- Early Color TV is divided into two sections CBS and RCA. Highlights: the CBS catalogue and the collection of early RCA documents from 1946 charting RAC's development of color TV.
- See index summery of sales catalogues, brochures and adverts by company and date on page 84.
1919 - 1959. The whole collection represents a
major reference source on early US TV sets.
Page 120, a composite photo of files containing unlisted US sets by manufactures mainly from the decade 1960 - 1970.
Page 121, photo of a selection of hundreds of unlisted TV catalogues, mainly but not exclusively, Japanese companies covering thousands of TV sets including most of the major iconic designs during the latter part of the twentieth century.
- This section gives an overview view of how the advertising of TV sets changed over the decades. Television advertisements during the war years were very unusual so the collection of Farnsworth advertisements and others are exceptional. See pages 273, 274 and 275.
- Magazines should be rated on three criteria: early single issues, long runs of specialist magazines and individual issues of broader based journals with important articles focusing on television. Early single issues have a wider interest beyond the confines of television history if they have interesting futuristic covers.
is in many ways one of the most interesting sections
because of the variety and the quirky nature of some
of the contents like the 1939 Valentine card (page
439), the 1939 film poster "Television Spy" (page
439), the envelope sent from Fernsch in Berlin in
1941 to Farnsworth Television in Indiana via Siberia
just before Pearl Harbour (page 439). Of note too are
the "chocolate cards" from the Victorian era
illustrating television in science fiction terms
(pages 436 & 437). Of note also is the autograph
photo of Lee de Forest (page 436) and the 1957 RCA TV
salesman's sales kit complete with a 'tutorial' on
two LPs (page 434). The RCA section includes two
significant original patents complete with ribbon and
seals plus the internal RCA documentation (pages 432
Of particular historical interest are two programmes - four "kinescope" reels on 16mm film (pages 448 & 449). Before the advent of video recording at the beginning of the 1950s the only way to record TV programmes for re-transmission was to put a cine camera in front of a TV set and record the programme on film off the screen during its transmission. The rarity of kinescope films is unknown but any surviving examples like these are the only historical record of actual early television programmes from the 1940s.
- Photo archive1927 photo of Philo Farnsworth with his first electronic television (page 454).
- Books: One of the major "stars" of the library is the tenth book in Philo Farnsworth's personal library purchased when he was twenty years old two weeks after he was loaned $6,000 from his bankers in 1926 on his promise to create electronic television in "one year" which he did (page 483).
- Technical: Many schematics from the 1940s and 1950s are included in the library but are not catalogued.
- Canada: two pre war pamphlets on television in Canada 1932 and 1939 (page 552).
Price: negotiable to any serious buyer at the time, institutional or private.
Michael Bennett-Levy, 1st September 2016
An extensive library of original documents relating to the development of television. Catalogue sections are available as follows:
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