General Electric Television Network – January 12, 1945

A sign of the times; a herald of the times, in the Times

An advertisement by General Electric from early 1945, promoting GE’s television network, through station WRGB in Schenectady, New York.  Relying far more on explanation than illustration (that illustration being a simple map), the ad connotes pride in General Electric Television’s recent past, describes the then current scope – in terms of geography and content – of GE’s network, and includes a hint about a future where, “millions of families throughout American can look forward to television in their homes after the war.”  (They had no idea…)

In the context of today – 2017 – where accessing information can be done near instantaneously, an intriguing highlight of the ad is mention of a broadcast of the 1944 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, “derived from films flown to New York.” 

The ad thus implies – without needed to explain the steps involved – the use of photographic (motion picture) film to record these events, and, the use of aircraft to transport said film to New York for development, after which images would be broadcast to GE’s audience. 

Technology not only collapses space, it collapses time.


The text of the advertisement is presented below…


five years old today

JUST FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY – January 12, 1940 – General Electric Television station WRGB, in Schenectady, added relayed programs to the service it rendered to several hundred families in upstate New York.  In addition to programs originating in its own studio, NBC programs sent out from WNBT, in New York City, were picked up by G.E.’s relay station in the Helderberg Mountains and broadcast to WRGB’s audience. 

This was America’s first television network – the first time that two television stations broadcast simultaneously the same regular programs.

Television set owners in Schenectady, Albany, and Troy have shared a lot of G-E television “firsts”.  This pioneer television audience has been a fireside laboratory.  Besides serving as “guinea pig” for relayed programs, it has expressed opinions on more than 900 different television shows originating at WRGB.  Experience thus accumulated on television programming will help to improve the television entertainment of tomorrow.

This television relay, five years old today, was developed by General Electric scientists and engineers as an answer to one of television’s greatest problems – long-distance transmission.  It has been proved by five years of actual use.  It is one more reason why millions of families throughout American can look forward to television in their homes after the war.


Here are a few of the many programs, originating at WNBT in New York, which the G-E relay has brought to homes in Schenectady, Albany and Troy areas.

1940 – January 12.  First program ever transmitted over relay was the play – “Meet the Wife”.

Easter services and Fifth Avenue Easter parade.

Opening baseball game.  Dodgers vs. Giants.

1941 – Boxing matches from Jamaica, Long Island, Arena.

Golden Jubilee Basketball Tournament from Madison Square Garden.

1942 – A series of instruction programs demonstrating Air Raid Protection methods for Air Raid Wardens.

1943 – World’s Championship Rodeo from Madison Square Garden.

1944 – Finals of Daily News Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament.

Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Chicago, from films flown to New York.

Hear the G-E radio programs: The G-E All-girl Orchestra, Sunday 10 p.m. EWT, NBC – The World Today news, Monday through Friday 6:45 p.m. EWT, CBS – The G-E House Party, Monday through Friday 4:00 p.m. EWT, CBS.


The Age of Advertising: General Electric and Television

On March 14, 1945, a few months prior to their advertisement promoting “Plastic” in both military and civilian contexts, GE ran an advertisement – with a similar 6-section graphic and textual design – presenting and explaining the economic, technical, and cultural aspects of “Television” for the postwar world.

In light of the world of 2017, there’s something almost quaint about the the content of and mindset behind this advertisement, exemplified by the description of the kind of programming that was expected to be available: studio stage shows; movies; sports events; news.  This was a natural reflection of the entertainment and informational “material” then available to the public, much already extant on radio.  Understandably, the ad’s writers could not have foreseen the technological, cultural, and economic changes that – acting in synergy – would sweep the world in the ensuing decades, and continue to do so now.  In their lack of knowledge about the future of entertainment, perhaps the copy-writers were fortunate.       

An example, perhaps, of the way that the manifestation and anticipated use of any new technology, is – at the time of the introduction of that technology – seen in the immediate intellectual context of that time itself. 

Q. What will sets cost after the war?
A. It is expected that set prices will begin around $200, unless there are unforeseen changes in manufacturing costs.  Higher priced models will also receive regular radio programs, and in addition FM and international shortwave programs.  Perhaps larger and more expensive sets will include built-in phonographs with automatic record changers.

Q. How big will television pictures be?
A. Even small television sets will probably have screen about 8 by 10 inches.  (That’s as big as the finest of pre-war sets.)  In more expensive television sets, screens will be as large as 18 by 24 inches.  Some sets may project pictures on the wall like home movies.  Naturally, pictures will be even clearer than those produced by pre-war sets.

Q. What kind of shows will we see?
A. All kinds.  For example:  (1) Studio stage shows – dancers, vaudeville, plays, opera, musicians, famous people.  (2) Movies – any moving picture can be broadcast to you by television.  (3) On-the-spot pick-up of sports events, parades, news happenings.  G.E. has already produced over 900 television shows over its station, WRGB, in Schenectady.

Q. Where can television be seen now?
A. Nine television stations are operating today – in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Schenectady.  Twenty-two million people – about one-fifth of all who enjoy electric service – live in areas served by these stations.  Applications for more than 80 new television stations have been filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

Q. Will there be television networks?
A. Because television waves are practically limited by the horizon, networks will be accomplished by relay stations connecting large cities.  General Electric set up the first network five years ago, and has developed new tubes that make relaying practical.  G-E stations WRGB, since 1939, has been a laboratory for engineering and programming.

Q. What is G.E.’s part in television?
A. Back in 1923, a General Electric engineer, Dr. E.F.W. Alexanderson, gave the first public demonstration.  Before the war, G.E. was manufacturing both television transmitters and home receivers.  It will again build both after Victory.  Should you visit Schenectady, you are invited to WRGB’s studio to see a television show put on the air.

TELEVISION, another example of G-E research
Developments by General Electric scientists and engineers, working for our armed forces on land and sea and in the air, are helping to bring Victory sooner.  Their work in such new fields as electronics, of which television is an example, will help to bring you new products and services in peacetime years to follow.  General Electric Company, Schenectady, N.Y.

Hear the General Electric radio program:  “The G-E All-girl Orchestra,” Sunday 10 p.m. EWT, NBC – “The World Today” news, every weekday 6:45 p.m. EWT, CBS.

The Age of Advertising: General Electric and Plastic – July 10, 1945

From July 10, 1945, here’s an advertisement by General Electric promoting and introducing “PLASTICS”.  

The advertisement, divided into six sections – each with an emblematic illustration – describes the use of plastic in three contexts:  Military: The M-51 fuse; The home: kitchen utensils; Industry and machinery: gears; The military once again: the triple-cluster aerial bazooka as used by USAAF P-47s and P-51s, and, binoculars.  The ad then concludes with a section about the design and development of plastic. 

Though the first genuinely synthetic polymer had existed for some time (Bakelite, created by Leo Bakeland in 1907), only by the 40s and 50s did mass production of plastic actually commence.

The war was winding down, victory was obvious, and GE was thinking of the future.

The full text is presented below… 

26,000,000 fuses.  At the tip of this trench mortar is the M-51 fuse – most difficult mass production job ever done in plastics.  Sixty-seven different operations check its perfection.  Design was completed and mold started by G.E. the day before Pearl Harbor.  Why was General Electric picked for this job?

You’ll find the right answer in your own kitchen.  The handle on your coffee maker, the case on the kitchen clock, the light switch on the wall – chances are these are G-E plastics.  For General Electric has molded more plastic products than anybody else.  And some you’d never guess.  For example…

Cloth that wears like steel.  Steel against steel is noisy.  Wears fast.  Imagine, then, a gear made of cloth – packed in layers, impregnated with resin, pressed under heat.  Oddly enough, G-E engineers who discovered this found that for certain uses such gears were not only quieter, but actually outwore steel.

Would plastic bazookas blow up?  The first hundred plastics tried failed.  Then G.E. laminated a rare paper with a special resin.  The plastic tube stood the shock of repeated firings, was non-inflammable.  Now many planes carry these rocket launchers.  G.E.’s 1400 presses turn out everything from electronic equipment housings to submarine parts.

Salt-water-proof binoculars are new.  And won’t mildew in the tropics.  General Electric worked these out with the U.S. Naval Observatory and specialists in optics.  Plastics were combined with metal, and, to make shrinkage the same, a new metal alloy was developed.  The lenses are universal focus, specially treated for night vision.

How do plastics get born?  Designers say what shape, how heavy or light, soft or hard.  Engineers design special machinery.  Chemists then invent the plastic to fit the need.  Finally, a factory can go to work.  In war or peace, General Electric research and engineering count in plastics, too.  General Electric Company, Schenectady, New York.

Hear the G-E radio programs:  The G-E All-girl Orchestra, Sunday 10 p.m. EWT, NBC – The World News, Monday through Friday 6:45 p.m. EWT, CBS – the G-E House Party, Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. EWT, CBS.


Thompson, Richard C., Swan, Shanna H., Moore, Charles J., and vom Saal, Frederick S., Our Plastic Age, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B, V 364, July 27, 2009.