by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles
Television was first introduced to the American public in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair. For seventy years, television was broadcast in analog format. On June 12, 2009, the broadcast signal was converted to digital format. Older analog televisions have been rendered unable to receive signals unless they have a digital converter box or a cable or satellite connection.
The earlier versions of television featured a small black and white screen and were often housed in wood furniture style cabinets that blended into the home décor. Later versions often were combined with phonograph and radio components. Although introduced in the 1950s, color television did not become common until the 1960s when color television sets became more affordable.
We are fortunate to have some excellent examples of early televisions in our collections. The rare Philco Predicta Danish Modern or Continental television was influenced by the streamlined Scandinavian designs that became popular in the 1950s. It features a swivel mounted picture tube on a wood pedestal base which houses the speaker and controls.
Considered to be one of the highest quality televisions, the DuMont RA-113 was originally purchased in 1951 at a cost of $2,000.00. The wood cabinet conceals a television as well as AM/FM radio and phonograph.The Zenith K1812R tabletop television was introduced in 1952. The blonde wood cabinet was one of the style options for this model. Located between the channel and volume knobs is a drop down panel that conceals the horizontal, vertical, and contrast control knobs.
Today’s televisions with their high definition digital quality and LCD and plasma screen technology have far surpassed the televisions of the 1950s and 1960s. There are those of us who remember the days of rabbit ears, aerial antennas, and getting up to change the channel by turning a knob. Saying goodbye to analog is the end of an era for us.