The Age of Advertising: The Time of Television – 1944 (Little did they know…)

This 1944 RCA advertisement for television features an interesting combination of advocacy, sociological and technical prediction, and industry promotion. 

Like the prior post presenting GE’s 1945 advertisement about television, this earlier example explains the future uses of television within the context of education (“courses in home-making, hobbies like gardening, photography, wood-working, golf”) culture (“drama, musical shows, opera, ballet”), and large-scale future employment for returning veterans. 

All valid and true, at least in the mindset of 1944. 

All valid and true, at least until those nations (both of the – then – Allies and Axis) which had been physically devastated by the war eventually rose to levels of industrial and intellectual capability which would challenge the technical and industrial preeminence of the United States. 

All valid and true, until television, as well as other social and technological developments, would change – as much as reflect – the nature of American culture and society, and that of other countries, as well.

In terms of promotion of those firms involved in or contributing to the manufacture of televisions, the advertisement lists 43 different firms.  Of the 43, how many exist today, either independently, or as subsidiaries? 

It took fifteen to thirty years for the automobile, the airplane and the movies to become really tremendous factors in American life.

But television will start with the step of a giant, once Victory has been won and the manufacturers have had the opportunity to tool up for volume production.

Few realize the enormous technical strides television has already made, when the war put a temporary halt to its commercial expansion.

Dr. V.K. Zworykin’s famous inventions, the Iconoscope and Kinescope (the television camera “eye” and picture tube for the home), go back to 1923 and 1929 respectively.  Signalizing arrival of the long-awaited all-electronic systems of television, their announcement stimulated countless other scientists in laboratories all over the world to further intensive development and research.  By the outbreak of World War II television, though still a baby in terms of production of home receivers, had already taken giant strides technically.

During the war, with the tremendous speed-up in all American electronic development, man’s knowledge of how to solve the production problems associated with intricate electronic devices has naturally taken another great stride ahead.

When peace returns, and with it the opportunity for television to move forward on a larger scale, all this pentup knowledge from many sources will converge, opening the way for almost undreamed-of expansion.  Then American manufacturers will produce sets within the means of millions, and television will undoubtedly forge ahead as fast as sets and stations can be built.

In a typical example of American enterprise, many of the nation’s foremost manufacturers, listed here, have already signified their intention to build fine home receivers.

IN THE TELEVISION AGE, the teachers of the little red schoolhouse will offer their pupils many scholastic advantages of the big city.  And in the homes an endless variety of entertaining instruction: courses in home-making, hobbies like gardening, photography, wood-working, golf.

WHILE REMAINING AT HOME, the owner of a television set will “tour the world” via television.  Eventually, almost the entire American population should share in the variety of entertainment now concentrated only in large cities…drama, musical shows, opera, ballet.

TELEVISION will aid postwar prosperity.  Television will give jobs to returning soldiers, and an even greater effect will be felt through advertising goods and services.  Millions will be kept busy supplying products that television can demonstrate in millions of homes at one time.


The manufacturers below may well be described as a Blue Book of the radio and electronics industries.  Their spirit of invention, research and enterprise built the radio industry into the giant it is today.  Who can contemplate their achievements and fail to realize that in them America has its greatest resources for the building of the “next great industry” – Television.  Watch for their names after the war!



Standage, Tom, Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014

Trimble, David C., Television: Airwaves Church of the Future, The Living Church, V 110, N 1, Jan. 7, 1945

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.