Geek History

Who invented the Telephone?

The history books pick and choose "who invented it" based on who won a specific patent battle.

When asked who invented the telephone the name Alexander Graham Bell is often offered as the correct answer. Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone first, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Alexander Bell, United States Patent No. 174,465 in 1876.

Who invented the Telephone?

An argument could be made for the answer to who invented the telephone could be Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray, or Antonio Meucci. In the 1870s all three of these individuals worked on the technology to transmit speech electrically that would become our telephone system.

In the "who invented it" mythology everyone is looking for that one "eureka" moment when something appears out of thin air, a totally new idea. In the real world of technology, inventions are part of an evolution of ideas.

Early development of the telegraph and telephone

The telephone was an extension of the work done by Samuel Morse in developing the telegraph in the 1830s. Samuel Morse independently developed and patented a recording electric telegraph in 1837. The first telegram in the United States was sent by Morse January 1838, across two miles of wire at near Morristown, New Jersey.

History books tell us Samuel Morse invented the telegraph based on a 1837 patent, but another inventor, Dr. David Alter, invented his own version of the telegraph in 1836.


According to his biography from the book American Medical Biographies by Howard Kelly and Walter Burrage, 1920, Dr. David Alter "perfected an electric telegraph in 1836 which consisted of seven wires, the electricity deflecting a needle on a disc at the extremity of each wire."

Some sources state that Alter also invented a "speaking telegraph, " a forerunner of the modern telephone system. The little known inventor from Western Pennsylvania was also a pioneer in "the discovery of the principles underlying spectrum analysis."

Early development of the Reis telephone

In 1861, German scientist and inventor Johann Philipp Reis succeeded in creating a device that captured sound, converted it to electrical impulses which were transmitted via electrical wires to another device that transformed these pulses into recognizable sounds similar to the original acoustical source. Reis coined the term telephone to describe his device

Would you believe Antonio Meucci invented the telephone?

Many people would argue that Antonio Meucci invented the telephone. Antonio Meucci worked in developing electromagnetic voice transmission, and is recognized as a early pioneer of telephone on the the Library of Congress website.

Quoting from the Library of Congress website:

" Of course, Alexander Graham Bell is the father of the telephone. After all it was his design that was first patented, however, he was not the first inventor to come up with the idea of a telephone.

Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant, began developing the design of a talking telegraph or telephone in 1849."


In 2002 the United States Congress passed resolution HRes 269 EH acknowledging the contributions of Antonio Meucci for his work in the telephone's development, stating: "That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged".

The Antonio Meucci conspiracy theory

Although the Library of Congress website states that Meucci began developing the design of a telephone in 1849, it was many years later, December 1871, that Meucci filed a patent caveat, not a patent, for a telephone device with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent caveats according to law were "a description of an invention, intended to be patented, lodged in the patent office before the patent was applied for, and operated as a bar to the issue of any patent to any other person regarding the same invention." Caveats lasted one year and were renewable.

Patent caveats were much less costly than a full patent application and required a less detailed description of the invention. If within the year another inventor filed a patent application for a similar invention, the Patent Office notified the holder of the caveat, who then had three months to submit a formal application. Antonio Meucci did not renew his caveat after 1874 and Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent in March of 1876.

According to some theories, Antonio Meucci did not know English well enough to navigate the complex American business community, and was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application process. Other stories claim that Meucci was told that the Western Union affiliate laboratory reportedly lost his working models. Interesting, Alexander Graham Bell, conducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci's materials had been stored.

It should be pointed out that a caveat does not guarantee that a patent will be granted, or what the scope of that patent will be. Antonio Meucci understood how the patent system worked, he was granted fourteen patents for other inventions. There are unanswered questions as to why Meucci did not file a patent application for his telephone, when patents were granted to him in 1872, 1873, 1875, and 1876.

Patent wars Elisha Gray versus Alexander Graham Bell

In the 1870s, two inventors, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell, both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically. Alexander Graham Bell's lawyer filed his patent application for the telephone in the U.S. patent office in Washington, D.C. on February 14, 1876. Elisha Gray's lawyer filed Gray's patent caveat the same day.

The phenomenon known as "multiple discovery" is when notable inventions have occurred simultaneously and independently among different inventors. It happens often as similar work is being done at the same time independently of each other because the evolution of technology that leads to the invention is going on all over. Was the patent office filings of both inventors on the same day the result of multiple discovery, or some other less than ethical action?

There is no shortage of conspiracy suggesting that Bell had illegally acquired knowledge of Gray's invention. Gray and Bell entered into a famous legal battle over the invention of the telephone, which Bell won.

Everyone knows the name Alexander Graham Bell because Bell Telephone is the company people associate with the evolution of the telephone.

In 1872, Elisha Gray founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company, a company that would eventually evolve into Lucent Technologies. How many people know the name Elisha Gray?

The question of who invented the telephone may seem simple, but like so many modern devices in the history of technology, the story behind "who invented it" is very interesting because none of these "inventions" were the work of one man.

Main photograph (top): History books tell us Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone
but fail to mention Antonio Meucci (left) or Elisha Gray (right).

Smaller photograph: The little known inventor from Western Pennsylvania Dr. David Alter

Who invented the Telephone?

The history books pick and choose "who invented it" based on who won a specific patent battle.

When asked who invented the telephone the name Alexander Graham Bell is often offered as the correct answer. Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone first, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Alexander Bell, United States Patent No. 174,465 in 1876.

Who invented the Telephone?

An argument could be made for the answer to who invented the telephone could be Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray, or Antonio Meucci. In the 1870s all three of these individuals worked on the technology to transmit speech electrically that would become our telephone system.

In the "who invented it" mythology everyone is looking for that one "eureka" moment when something appears out of thin air, a totally new idea. In the real world of technology, inventions are part of an evolution of ideas.

Early development of the telegraph and telephone

The telephone was an extension of the work done by Samuel Morse in developing the telegraph in the 1830s. Samuel Morse independently developed and patented a recording electric telegraph in 1837. The first telegram in the United States was sent by Morse January 1838, across two miles of wire at near Morristown, New Jersey.

History books tell us Samuel Morse invented the telegraph based on a 1837 patent, but another inventor, Dr. David Alter, invented his own version of the telegraph in 1836.


According to his biography from the book American Medical Biographies by Howard Kelly and Walter Burrage, 1920, Dr. David Alter "perfected an electric telegraph in 1836 which consisted of seven wires, the electricity deflecting a needle on a disc at the extremity of each wire."

Some sources state that Alter also invented a "speaking telegraph, " a forerunner of the modern telephone system. The little known inventor from Western Pennsylvania was also a pioneer in "the discovery of the principles underlying spectrum analysis."

Early development of the Reis telephone

In 1861, German scientist and inventor Johann Philipp Reis succeeded in creating a device that captured sound, converted it to electrical impulses which were transmitted via electrical wires to another device that transformed these pulses into recognizable sounds similar to the original acoustical source. Reis coined the term telephone to describe his device

Would you believe Antonio Meucci invented the telephone?

Many people would argue that Antonio Meucci invented the telephone. Antonio Meucci worked in developing electromagnetic voice transmission, and is recognized as a early pioneer of telephone on the the Library of Congress website.

Quoting from the Library of Congress website:

" Of course, Alexander Graham Bell is the father of the telephone. After all it was his design that was first patented, however, he was not the first inventor to come up with the idea of a telephone.

Antonio Meucci, an Italian immigrant, began developing the design of a talking telegraph or telephone in 1849."


In 2002 the United States Congress passed resolution HRes 269 EH acknowledging the contributions of Antonio Meucci for his work in the telephone's development, stating: "That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged".

The Antonio Meucci conspiracy theory

Although the Library of Congress website states that Meucci began developing the design of a telephone in 1849, it was many years later, December 1871, that Meucci filed a patent caveat, not a patent, for a telephone device with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent caveats according to law were "a description of an invention, intended to be patented, lodged in the patent office before the patent was applied for, and operated as a bar to the issue of any patent to any other person regarding the same invention." Caveats lasted one year and were renewable.

Patent caveats were much less costly than a full patent application and required a less detailed description of the invention. If within the year another inventor filed a patent application for a similar invention, the Patent Office notified the holder of the caveat, who then had three months to submit a formal application. Antonio Meucci did not renew his caveat after 1874 and Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent in March of 1876.

According to some theories, Antonio Meucci did not know English well enough to navigate the complex American business community, and was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application process. Other stories claim that Meucci was told that the Western Union affiliate laboratory reportedly lost his working models. Interesting, Alexander Graham Bell, conducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci's materials had been stored.

It should be pointed out that a caveat does not guarantee that a patent will be granted, or what the scope of that patent will be. Antonio Meucci understood how the patent system worked, he was granted fourteen patents for other inventions. There are unanswered questions as to why Meucci did not file a patent application for his telephone, when patents were granted to him in 1872, 1873, 1875, and 1876.

Patent wars Elisha Gray versus Alexander Graham Bell

In the 1870s, two inventors, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell, both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically. Alexander Graham Bell's lawyer filed his patent application for the telephone in the U.S. patent office in Washington, D.C. on February 14, 1876. Elisha Gray's lawyer filed Gray's patent caveat the same day.

The phenomenon known as "multiple discovery" is when notable inventions have occurred simultaneously and independently among different inventors. It happens often as similar work is being done at the same time independently of each other because the evolution of technology that leads to the invention is going on all over. Was the patent office filings of both inventors on the same day the result of multiple discovery, or some other less than ethical action?

There is no shortage of conspiracy suggesting that Bell had illegally acquired knowledge of Gray's invention. Gray and Bell entered into a famous legal battle over the invention of the telephone, which Bell won.

Everyone knows the name Alexander Graham Bell because Bell Telephone is the company people associate with the evolution of the telephone.

In 1872, Elisha Gray founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company, a company that would eventually evolve into Lucent Technologies. How many people know the name Elisha Gray?

The question of who invented the telephone may seem simple, but like so many modern devices in the history of technology, the story behind "who invented it" is very interesting because none of these "inventions" were the work of one man.

Main photograph (top): History books tell us Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone
but fail to mention Antonio Meucci (left) or Elisha Gray (right).

Smaller photograph: The little known inventor from Western Pennsylvania Dr. David Alter

Tesla tower at Wardenclyffe and the free energy myth

As we dig deeper in researching topics here at GeekHistory the one topic that people keep asking questions about is Nikola Tesla's tower at Wardenclyffe and his free energy theories. We have addressed many of the commonly asked questions in this article.

Wardenclyffe New York 1901

Nikola Tesla sold his Wardenclyffe tower idea to J.P. Morgan based on a plan to send wireless messages to Europe and compete with Marconi. The contract was agreed upon in February of 1901 and signed in March for Morgan to give Tesla $150,000 to build a tower to transmit radio. Tesla began to build his Wardenclyffe laboratory on Long Island, New York in 1901.

Soon after construction began it became apparent that Tesla was going to run out of money before it was finished. Tesla underestimated the cost of building the tower, and economic conditions were causing prices to rise for the materials Tesla needed.

Tesla's personal goal was to use the tower for the transmission of power as well as information. Morgan was expecting to make money on radio. The wireless power angle was Tesla’s idea, it was never part of Morgan’s plans. It was never finished because Tesla ran out of money.

Various sources place the abandonment of the project at around 1904. Tesla took out a mortgage on Wardenclyffe with George C. Boldt of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to cover his living expenses. Boldt eventually foreclosed on the Wardenclyffe property and the tower was torn down and sold for scrap in 1917. Adding to the Tesla mythology and conspiracy theories was the timing of the demolition of the tower, during WWI. Various stories were told that the tower was demolished on orders of the United States Government because German spies were using it as a radio transmitter or observation post.

Did J.P. Morgan withdraw backing?

There are many conspiracy theories that blame J.P. Morgan for Tesla's failure at Wardenclyffe, stating that J.P. Morgan withdrew support because he saw no way to make money on wireless power.

Tesla's dream tower cost him a lot more than he had planned. Tesla signed a contract with J.P. Morgan in 1901 to receive a total of $150,000. Equivalent to millions in modern dollars, that was a pretty generous offer. That was actually $50,000 more than his initial request.

J. P. Morgan was a ruthless banker, part of the business culture of the late 1800s known as Robber Barons. The Robber Barons were the venture capitalists of their day, the 19th century version of Shark Tank. Tesla sold his tower idea to Morgan with a plan to send wireless messages to Europe and compete with Marconi. Tesla failed to mention the lab included his ideas of wireless power transmission.

Tesla came back to Morgan to ask him for more money at a time J.P. Morgan was having his own financial issues with a panic on Wall Street. When you go back to the bank to ask for more money, after they have already given you a substantial amount, and now you need more money, what do you think your odds of success are?

Tesla pleaded to Morgan for more funds, Morgan said no. It's not that Morgan withdrew his backing, it was he refused to provide additional funding. Morgan had already fulfilled his part of the initial contract. When Tesla came back to Morgan asking for additional funds, what incentive did Morgan have to give Tesla more money?

Why wasn't Nikola Tesla able to raise more funds from investors?

When Tesla walked away from his partnership with Westinghouse he was a rich man. Contrary to many stories that Tesla walked away from his royalty contract with Westinghouse, he did receive a lump sum settlement when he severed ties with Westinghouse in the neighborhood of $200,000. Keep in mind we are talking 1890s dollars, which would be the equivalent of millions of dollars today.

With the War of Currents and his work for Westinghouse behind him, Tesla moved on to begin a new series of experiments. With a $30,000 investment from John Jacob Astor IV, thought to be among the richest people in the world at that time, Tesla begin building a new experimental station near Pikes Peak, Colorado.

The wealthy John Jacob Astor IV gave Tesla the money he used to build the Colorado Springs lab under the assumption that Tesla was going to develop and produce a new lighting system. Tesla instead used the money to fund his lab to experiment with high voltage, high frequency electricity, and the wireless transmission of power. Tesla misrepresented his intentions.

Tesla's biggest obstacle was often himself. Just like he was with John Jacob Astor IV, Tesla was less than honest with J.P. Morgan, as his plan was to concentrate on a system of wireless transmission of power, not a system of radio transmission that he sold to Morgan. Once you burn your bridges with two of the richest men in the world, it's hard to get funding for future projects.

Looking for the lost files of "Tesla`s Latest Wonder"

Some conspiracy theories say that the secrets to the success of Tesla's wireless power ideas are lost. The original ideas of Tesla are not exactly lost. Tesla's ideas were published and patented in the late 1890s. At the end of this article you will find the links to Tesla's patents and the San Francisco call newspaper article from 1898.

The article published in 1898 titled "Tesla`s Latest Wonder" describes, "What Tesla proposes to do now is to transmit almost any amount of power almost any distance without wires, and without loss." Tesla's filed two patents on wireless electricity. Patent US 645576: System of transmission of electrical energy, was filed by Nikola Tesla in 1897, and Patent US 649621: Apparatus for transmission of electrical energy, was filed by Nikola Tesla in 1900. In addition to his patents, Tesla's notes from his experiments in Colorado from around 1899 have also been found, and nothing has been made from them either.

There are numerous unanswered questions regarding Tesla's "free power" ideas. The fact that there are so many questions that need to be answered about the details of Tesla's "free power" shows that Tesla's theories were far from a finished product. Even though wireless electricity is being developed on a small scale, it is still very far from a working system at the level that Tesla proposed.

Tesla's wireless transmission ideas that were attached to the Wardencliffe project were never anything more than just a dream. We could second guess all the "what if" scenarios of how Tesla could have done it better, done it differently, but the bottom-line is, it never became a working system.

There are a lot of great scientists in the world of physics that have access to all these great ideas of Tesla's, you would think that if it were practical they would have been able to create Tesla's dream machine.

The free energy myth

The phrases "free energy" and "make power free" as they are used in Tesla mythology assume that everything about the process is free. Even if Tesla's idea was a reality, he could somehow extract electricity from the earth to be reused, it would be free in the sense that we did not have to burn coal, or burn oil, to fire up a generator to produce the electricity. In that sense there are many forms of "free energy" such as wind power, solar power, and water power. Study the field of alternative energy and you will find many ways to generate "free energy" by avoiding the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

But even with "free energy" there is the cost of a system to distribute the electricity. Even if Tesla's idea was a reality, the way to initially create the energy was "free," there would the cost of building transmitters and receivers to make it usable in your home.

Go to your local convenience store, and ask them for a free bottle of natural spring water. What, it's not free? That water came from the ground, and it has no cost associated with producing it! That's right, but there is a cost associated with getting that free substance from the ground to you in a usable form. That's the cost of distribution.

You are free to eat your lunch anywhere you chose, but the lunch isn't free, that you will have to pay for.

Was Nikola Tesla crazy for thinking free energy was possible?

An often used expression is that there a fine line between genius and insanity. Over the course of history there have been many highly intelligent people who have done some very crazy things.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison are often portrayed as bitter rivals because they were on different sides of the War of Currents. But when they crossed paths later in life there are indications that there was some degree of mutual respect between them. Perhaps this bit of mutual respect was because they were both very passionate about their beliefs.

Even when it was becoming obvious that DC (direct current) would lose out to AC (alternating current) as the primary form of delivering electricity to our homes, Edison refused to back off of his belief in his ideas. Edison lost control of Edison Electric because of his stubbornness, and he did some very crazy things during the War of Currents. But Edison was also successful with many inventions, in spite of his stubbornness and compulsive behavior.

After defeating Edison in the War of Currents, Tesla became so obsessed with proving many of his "free power" theories that he lost credibility in the eyes of his contemporaries. Did Tesla's obsessions cross over the line between genius and insanity? Some would say yes. The phrase that would better describe Tesla's obsession with free power is that he was blinded by his ambition.

He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must fall with the greatest loss. – Niccolò Machiavelli

Below you will find the links to Tesla's patents and the San Francisco call newspaper article from 1898.

The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 13, 1898
The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 13, 1898, Page 25, Image 25

Below you will find the links to Tesla's patents on wireless electricity.Patent US 645576  System of transmission of electrical energy filed by Nikola Tesla in 1897
Patent US645576 - System of transmission of electrical energy

Patent US 649621 Apparatus for transmission of electrical energy filed by Nikola Tesla in 1900
Patent US645576 - System of transmission of electrical energy.

Graphic made from a 1904 photo of Wardenclyffe in the public domain in the United States

Tesla tower at Wardenclyffe and the free energy myth

As we dig deeper in researching topics here at GeekHistory the one topic that people keep asking questions about is Nikola Tesla's tower at Wardenclyffe and his free energy theories. We have addressed many of the commonly asked questions in this article.

Wardenclyffe New York 1901

Nikola Tesla sold his Wardenclyffe tower idea to J.P. Morgan based on a plan to send wireless messages to Europe and compete with Marconi. The contract was agreed upon in February of 1901 and signed in March for Morgan to give Tesla $150,000 to build a tower to transmit radio. Tesla began to build his Wardenclyffe laboratory on Long Island, New York in 1901.

Soon after construction began it became apparent that Tesla was going to run out of money before it was finished. Tesla underestimated the cost of building the tower, and economic conditions were causing prices to rise for the materials Tesla needed.

Tesla's personal goal was to use the tower for the transmission of power as well as information. Morgan was expecting to make money on radio. The wireless power angle was Tesla’s idea, it was never part of Morgan’s plans. It was never finished because Tesla ran out of money.

Various sources place the abandonment of the project at around 1904. Tesla took out a mortgage on Wardenclyffe with George C. Boldt of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to cover his living expenses. Boldt eventually foreclosed on the Wardenclyffe property and the tower was torn down and sold for scrap in 1917. Adding to the Tesla mythology and conspiracy theories was the timing of the demolition of the tower, during WWI. Various stories were told that the tower was demolished on orders of the United States Government because German spies were using it as a radio transmitter or observation post.

Did J.P. Morgan withdraw backing?

There are many conspiracy theories that blame J.P. Morgan for Tesla's failure at Wardenclyffe, stating that J.P. Morgan withdrew support because he saw no way to make money on wireless power.

Tesla's dream tower cost him a lot more than he had planned. Tesla signed a contract with J.P. Morgan in 1901 to receive a total of $150,000. Equivalent to millions in modern dollars, that was a pretty generous offer. That was actually $50,000 more than his initial request.

J. P. Morgan was a ruthless banker, part of the business culture of the late 1800s known as Robber Barons. The Robber Barons were the venture capitalists of their day, the 19th century version of Shark Tank. Tesla sold his tower idea to Morgan with a plan to send wireless messages to Europe and compete with Marconi. Tesla failed to mention the lab included his ideas of wireless power transmission.

Tesla came back to Morgan to ask him for more money at a time J.P. Morgan was having his own financial issues with a panic on Wall Street. When you go back to the bank to ask for more money, after they have already given you a substantial amount, and now you need more money, what do you think your odds of success are?

Tesla pleaded to Morgan for more funds, Morgan said no. It's not that Morgan withdrew his backing, it was he refused to provide additional funding. Morgan had already fulfilled his part of the initial contract. When Tesla came back to Morgan asking for additional funds, what incentive did Morgan have to give Tesla more money?

Why wasn't Nikola Tesla able to raise more funds from investors?

When Tesla walked away from his partnership with Westinghouse he was a rich man. Contrary to many stories that Tesla walked away from his royalty contract with Westinghouse, he did receive a lump sum settlement when he severed ties with Westinghouse in the neighborhood of $200,000. Keep in mind we are talking 1890s dollars, which would be the equivalent of millions of dollars today.

With the War of Currents and his work for Westinghouse behind him, Tesla moved on to begin a new series of experiments. With a $30,000 investment from John Jacob Astor IV, thought to be among the richest people in the world at that time, Tesla begin building a new experimental station near Pikes Peak, Colorado.

The wealthy John Jacob Astor IV gave Tesla the money he used to build the Colorado Springs lab under the assumption that Tesla was going to develop and produce a new lighting system. Tesla instead used the money to fund his lab to experiment with high voltage, high frequency electricity, and the wireless transmission of power. Tesla misrepresented his intentions.

Tesla's biggest obstacle was often himself. Just like he was with John Jacob Astor IV, Tesla was less than honest with J.P. Morgan, as his plan was to concentrate on a system of wireless transmission of power, not a system of radio transmission that he sold to Morgan. Once you burn your bridges with two of the richest men in the world, it's hard to get funding for future projects.

Looking for the lost files of "Tesla`s Latest Wonder"

Some conspiracy theories say that the secrets to the success of Tesla's wireless power ideas are lost. The original ideas of Tesla are not exactly lost. Tesla's ideas were published and patented in the late 1890s. At the end of this article you will find the links to Tesla's patents and the San Francisco call newspaper article from 1898.

The article published in 1898 titled "Tesla`s Latest Wonder" describes, "What Tesla proposes to do now is to transmit almost any amount of power almost any distance without wires, and without loss." Tesla's filed two patents on wireless electricity. Patent US 645576: System of transmission of electrical energy, was filed by Nikola Tesla in 1897, and Patent US 649621: Apparatus for transmission of electrical energy, was filed by Nikola Tesla in 1900. In addition to his patents, Tesla's notes from his experiments in Colorado from around 1899 have also been found, and nothing has been made from them either.

There are numerous unanswered questions regarding Tesla's "free power" ideas. The fact that there are so many questions that need to be answered about the details of Tesla's "free power" shows that Tesla's theories were far from a finished product. Even though wireless electricity is being developed on a small scale, it is still very far from a working system at the level that Tesla proposed.

Tesla's wireless transmission ideas that were attached to the Wardencliffe project were never anything more than just a dream. We could second guess all the "what if" scenarios of how Tesla could have done it better, done it differently, but the bottom-line is, it never became a working system.

There are a lot of great scientists in the world of physics that have access to all these great ideas of Tesla's, you would think that if it were practical they would have been able to create Tesla's dream machine.

The free energy myth

The phrases "free energy" and "make power free" as they are used in Tesla mythology assume that everything about the process is free. Even if Tesla's idea was a reality, he could somehow extract electricity from the earth to be reused, it would be free in the sense that we did not have to burn coal, or burn oil, to fire up a generator to produce the electricity. In that sense there are many forms of "free energy" such as wind power, solar power, and water power. Study the field of alternative energy and you will find many ways to generate "free energy" by avoiding the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

But even with "free energy" there is the cost of a system to distribute the electricity. Even if Tesla's idea was a reality, the way to initially create the energy was "free," there would the cost of building transmitters and receivers to make it usable in your home.

Go to your local convenience store, and ask them for a free bottle of natural spring water. What, it's not free? That water came from the ground, and it has no cost associated with producing it! That's right, but there is a cost associated with getting that free substance from the ground to you in a usable form. That's the cost of distribution.

You are free to eat your lunch anywhere you chose, but the lunch isn't free, that you will have to pay for.

Was Nikola Tesla crazy for thinking free energy was possible?

An often used expression is that there a fine line between genius and insanity. Over the course of history there have been many highly intelligent people who have done some very crazy things.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison are often portrayed as bitter rivals because they were on different sides of the War of Currents. But when they crossed paths later in life there are indications that there was some degree of mutual respect between them. Perhaps this bit of mutual respect was because they were both very passionate about their beliefs.

Even when it was becoming obvious that DC (direct current) would lose out to AC (alternating current) as the primary form of delivering electricity to our homes, Edison refused to back off of his belief in his ideas. Edison lost control of Edison Electric because of his stubbornness, and he did some very crazy things during the War of Currents. But Edison was also successful with many inventions, in spite of his stubbornness and compulsive behavior.

After defeating Edison in the War of Currents, Tesla became so obsessed with proving many of his "free power" theories that he lost credibility in the eyes of his contemporaries. Did Tesla's obsessions cross over the line between genius and insanity? Some would say yes. The phrase that would better describe Tesla's obsession with free power is that he was blinded by his ambition.

He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must fall with the greatest loss. – Niccolò Machiavelli

Below you will find the links to Tesla's patents and the San Francisco call newspaper article from 1898.

The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 13, 1898
The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 13, 1898, Page 25, Image 25

Below you will find the links to Tesla's patents on wireless electricity.Patent US 645576  System of transmission of electrical energy filed by Nikola Tesla in 1897
Patent US645576 - System of transmission of electrical energy

Patent US 649621 Apparatus for transmission of electrical energy filed by Nikola Tesla in 1900
Patent US645576 - System of transmission of electrical energy.

Graphic made from a 1904 photo of Wardenclyffe in the public domain in the United States

The myths and legends of evil villains Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison

The myths and legends run rampant in the stories of both Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison. They have become legendary, and along with that the mythology gets bigger.

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison have become the geeks that the world loves to hate. But why all the hate?

A common theme among so called successful people is an obsessive compulsion to succeed. Both were known for being hard driving over bearing bosses, which means they made some enemies and acquired some haters along the road to success. Some people say the success of people like Jobs and Edison came at the expense of their former associates.

The evil Jobs versus mild mannered geek Woz

As much as you want to blame Steve Jobs for the departure of Stephen Gary "Steve" Wozniak, aka Woz, from Apple, Woz has said in many interviews that he enjoyed the technology side of creating Apple but not the business side. He left because he felt the need to move on.

Even though Woz quit working for Apple in 1985, he stayed on the Apple payroll and remained a stock holder for many years. I would say he has done pretty well for himself as Woz has been involved in numerous technology companies over the years since leaving Apple.


The evil Edison versus well meaning inventor Tesla

I've spent many years researching the Edison versus Tesla mythology. The story of Edison offering Tesla $50,000 if he could improve something is told so many different ways, you really have to wonder what is the truth. The story that Edison once electrocuted an elephant stirs up a reason to hate Edison, but if you research it, the facts dispute the story.

I really get frustrated when people say the War of Currents was a battle between Edison and Tesla. George Westinghouse was working on AC power distribution before he met Tesla. When he heard of Tesla's experiments, George Westinghouse not only paid Tesla for his patents, but offered him a job working with him.

Tesla and Westinghouse had a life long respect for each other. When Edison died, Tesla had sharp criticism of Edison. When Westinghouse died, Tesla's comments showed a deep respect for Westinghouse.

Tesla died broke because of Edison?

The mythology tells the story that Tesla died a broken down old man because of Edison, but the truth is that Tesla lived more than 40 years after the War of Currents and his battle against Edison.

Tesla fought a lot with Westinghouse engineers, he had a hard time working on a team. Tesla decided to go back out on his own rather than stay with Westinghouse. Tesla walked away from his association with Westinghouse in the 1890s with a few hundred thousand dollars, the equivalent of millions in today's money.

Tesla received large investments for his experiments in Colorado Springs and Wardencliffe, New York. In both cases Tesla misrepresented his true intent. The wealthy John Jacob Astor IV gave Tesla the money he used to build the Colorado Springs lab in 1899, under the assumption that Telsa was going to develop and produce a new lighting system. Tesla instead, used the money to fund his lab to experiment with high voltage, high frequency electricity, and the wireless transmission of power.

J.P. Morgan thought he was investing in wireless communications when he gave Tesla money to build his dream lab in Wardenclyffe New York in 1901. Tesla failed to mention the lab included his ideas of wireless power transmission. Morgan did not "cut off" Tesla as told by many stories, he simply refused to give Tesla more money when Tesla went way over budget on the project.

In the PBS documentary "Tesla Master of Lightning" Tesla's grand-nephew William Terbo explains the downfall of Nikola Tesla. "He was totally disinterested in business. He did not make the relationship between the importance of business and the importance of his invention and discovery."

Set aside the myths and legends

The tales of the evil Steve Jobs versus the mild mannered geek Woz and the powerful Thomas Edison versus the well meaning inventor Tesla make for good mythology, but every story of success is not an epic battle of good versus evil. Geek History helps you understand and appreciate great inventors and technology innovators and get to the truth behind the myths and legends..

There are lessons to be learned from the stories of Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, set aside the myths and legends, and learn the reasons for success and failure.

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War

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The myths and legends of evil villains Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison

The myths and legends run rampant in the stories of both Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison. They have become legendary, and along with that the mythology gets bigger.

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison have become the geeks that the world loves to hate. But why all the hate?

A common theme among so called successful people is an obsessive compulsion to succeed. Both were known for being hard driving over bearing bosses, which means they made some enemies and acquired some haters along the road to success. Some people say the success of people like Jobs and Edison came at the expense of their former associates.

The evil Jobs versus mild mannered geek Woz

As much as you want to blame Steve Jobs for the departure of Stephen Gary "Steve" Wozniak, aka Woz, from Apple, Woz has said in many interviews that he enjoyed the technology side of creating Apple but not the business side. He left because he felt the need to move on.

Even though Woz quit working for Apple in 1985, he stayed on the Apple payroll and remained a stock holder for many years. I would say he has done pretty well for himself as Woz has been involved in numerous technology companies over the years since leaving Apple.


The evil Edison versus well meaning inventor Tesla

I've spent many years researching the Edison versus Tesla mythology. The story of Edison offering Tesla $50,000 if he could improve something is told so many different ways, you really have to wonder what is the truth. The story that Edison once electrocuted an elephant stirs up a reason to hate Edison, but if you research it, the facts dispute the story.

I really get frustrated when people say the War of Currents was a battle between Edison and Tesla. George Westinghouse was working on AC power distribution before he met Tesla. When he heard of Tesla's experiments, George Westinghouse not only paid Tesla for his patents, but offered him a job working with him.

Tesla and Westinghouse had a life long respect for each other. When Edison died, Tesla had sharp criticism of Edison. When Westinghouse died, Tesla's comments showed a deep respect for Westinghouse.

Tesla died broke because of Edison?

The mythology tells the story that Tesla died a broken down old man because of Edison, but the truth is that Tesla lived more than 40 years after the War of Currents and his battle against Edison.

Tesla fought a lot with Westinghouse engineers, he had a hard time working on a team. Tesla decided to go back out on his own rather than stay with Westinghouse. Tesla walked away from his association with Westinghouse in the 1890s with a few hundred thousand dollars, the equivalent of millions in today's money.

Tesla received large investments for his experiments in Colorado Springs and Wardencliffe, New York. In both cases Tesla misrepresented his true intent. The wealthy John Jacob Astor IV gave Tesla the money he used to build the Colorado Springs lab in 1899, under the assumption that Telsa was going to develop and produce a new lighting system. Tesla instead, used the money to fund his lab to experiment with high voltage, high frequency electricity, and the wireless transmission of power.

J.P. Morgan thought he was investing in wireless communications when he gave Tesla money to build his dream lab in Wardenclyffe New York in 1901. Tesla failed to mention the lab included his ideas of wireless power transmission. Morgan did not "cut off" Tesla as told by many stories, he simply refused to give Tesla more money when Tesla went way over budget on the project.

In the PBS documentary "Tesla Master of Lightning" Tesla's grand-nephew William Terbo explains the downfall of Nikola Tesla. "He was totally disinterested in business. He did not make the relationship between the importance of business and the importance of his invention and discovery."

Set aside the myths and legends

The tales of the evil Steve Jobs versus the mild mannered geek Woz and the powerful Thomas Edison versus the well meaning inventor Tesla make for good mythology, but every story of success is not an epic battle of good versus evil. Geek History helps you understand and appreciate great inventors and technology innovators and get to the truth behind the myths and legends..

There are lessons to be learned from the stories of Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, set aside the myths and legends, and learn the reasons for success and failure.

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War

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Early television technology frequently asked questions

As we look at the history of television, I wanted to tackle some of the frequently asked questions about the origins of the technology, as well as share some cool resources on movies and television.

One commonly asked question is why the early televisions had round screens. The television picture tube was a vacuum tube that contains one or more electron guns and a phosphorescent screen used to display images known as a cathode ray tubes (CRT).  When the original cathode ray tube was invented it was an experimental device, television was not yet developed. The natural shape of the cathode ray tube was round, as shown here in the diagram. The cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a CRT was to make it round.

The television picture is created on the surface of the cathode ray tube by drawing it rapidly line by line. The entire front area of the CRT is scanned repetitively and systematically in a fixed pattern. Before 1940 there was no standard in the United States for how the picture was created electronically using the cathode ray tube.

In 1940 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established The National Television System Committee (NTSC) to resolve the conflicts that were made between companies over the introduction of a nation wide analog television system in the United States.  The NTSC standard selected 525 scan lines, an aspect ratio of 4:3, and frequency modulation (FM) for the sound signal. The number of 525 lines was chosen as a because of the limitations of the vacuum-tube-based technologies of the day.


Why an aspect ratio of 4:3?

The term aspect ratio is used in many fields to describe the proportional relationship between width and height, expressed as two numbers separated by a colon. For example when we say that the early televisions had an aspect ratio of 4:3, that means they are 4 units wide and 3 units high.  The early television standard of the 4:3 aspect ratio was chosen because movies in that era were filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Movies originally photographed on 35 mm film could be satisfactorily viewed on early televisions.

Motion pictures, a series of still images which, when shown on a screen, creates the illusion of moving images, or as we sometimes call them, movies, are a different field from television.  But the early days of motion pictures actually set the standard for the concept of aspect ratio, the relationship of height to width of an image. For many years the standard movie screen, as well as the standard analog television, had an aspect ratio of 4:3.  

The evolution of round screens to rectangular

The cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a CRT was to make it round. But the aspect ration of 4:3 lends itself to a more rectangular design. The CRT slowly evolved to being essentially rectangular in shape but it had rounded edges because it was a glass tube. You could not create a perfect rectangle using the process that created the glass cathode ray tubes in the early days of television.

If you look at the photo of various televisions you see a variety of screen sizes as well as shapes, and you can see the evolution of round screens to rectangular. The attached photograph was taken at the National Capital Radio and Television Museum, a cool little geek history museum located in Bowie, Maryland. It is a small house jam-packed with displays on the history of radio and television. The extremely knowledgeable staff was full of stories about everything on display and ready to answer any question. The museum does a great job of preserving technology history.

Increasing the number of channels

During the 1940s and the 1950s broadcast television stations in the United States were primarily transmitted on the VHF band, channels 2-13.  If you live in a large city you will notice the long established stations usually are lower numbered.  Television manufacturers like RCA, ran their own networks, such as NBC. Since the major TV networks were well-established on VHF, many smaller stations on the UHF band, channels 14 to 83, were struggling for survival. Fourth-network operators such as the DuMont Television Network were forced to expand using UHF channels due to a lack of available VHF channels.

In 1961 the United States Congress passed the All-Channel Receiver Act (ACRA) to allow the Federal Communications Commission to require that all television set manufacturers must include UHF tuners. All new TV sets sold after 1964 had built-in UHF tuners.  The All-Channel Receiver Act allowed the UHF TV stations to grow and eventually would outnumber the long established VHF stations.

What happened to Channel 1?

When I was young, and the television had a rotary dial that took me from channels 2 through 13, I always wondered, what happened to channel 1? In 1948, Channel 1 frequencies were deleted from those allocated to television use and given over completely to radio services. The FCC decided not to renumber the channels since many televisions were being made using the existing channel numbers.

History of Television resources

If you want to learn more about television, from the perspective of the appliance that sits in your living room, rather than from the broadcasting side, there is a great pair of videos by RCA.  Reasons Why, The (Part I) (1959) and Reasons Why, The (Part II) (1959) are two videos that can be watched online or downloaded for later viewing. 

Reasons Why, The (Part I)  https://archive.org/details/reasons_why_1

Reasons Why, The (Part II)  https://archive.org/details/reasons_why_2

Classic scenes of geeks from the 1950s showing various facets of television set design, engineering, and quality control. The RCA manufacturing videos are part of a section of the Internet Archive known as the Prelinger Archives, a collection of over 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films.

Created in 1992 primarily to document the history of the Cathode Ray Tube it does a nice job of illustrating the basic concept of the CRT. It also includes a bit of television history showing the evolution of the CRT.

Cathode Ray Tube https://archive.org/details/KF.BraunCathodeRayTube

A propaganda infomercial by RCA to brag about what they have done in the world of television. Not the most historically accurate account of television, but still a very interesting bit of geek history.

Story of Television  Published 1956 https://archive.org/details/Story_of_Television_The

Free online movies great digital library

Spending a Saturday morning at the Internet Archives (archive.org) is like going to the library or your favorite museum, and the best part about it is that you don't need to leave the comfort of your home computer desk.

All of the video files can be viewed for free online, and many are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. The Internet Archive does a decent job of making sure copyrights are not violated.  Most of the files are public domain, but some may occasionally have some restrictions for use and are marked as to how they may be used.  Because copyright laws have changed from time to time over the years, many of the files are considered public domain, or copyright free, for a variety of reasons.

The Internet Archive does a decent job of making sure copyrights are not violated.  Most of the files are public domain, but some may occasionally have some restrictions for use and are marked as to how they may be used.  Because copyright laws have changed from time to time over the years, many of the files are considered public domain, or copyright free, for a variety of reasons.  All of the video files can be viewed for free online, and many are available to be downloaded and viewed offline.

Save

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Early television technology frequently asked questions

As we look at the history of television, I wanted to tackle some of the frequently asked questions about the origins of the technology, as well as share some cool resources on movies and television.

One commonly asked question is why the early televisions had round screens. The television picture tube was a vacuum tube that contains one or more electron guns and a phosphorescent screen used to display images known as a cathode ray tubes (CRT).  When the original cathode ray tube was invented it was an experimental device, television was not yet developed. The natural shape of the cathode ray tube was round, as shown here in the diagram. The cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a CRT was to make it round.

The television picture is created on the surface of the cathode ray tube by drawing it rapidly line by line. The entire front area of the CRT is scanned repetitively and systematically in a fixed pattern. Before 1940 there was no standard in the United States for how the picture was created electronically using the cathode ray tube.

In 1940 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established The National Television System Committee (NTSC) to resolve the conflicts that were made between companies over the introduction of a nation wide analog television system in the United States.  The NTSC standard selected 525 scan lines, an aspect ratio of 4:3, and frequency modulation (FM) for the sound signal. The number of 525 lines was chosen as a because of the limitations of the vacuum-tube-based technologies of the day.


Why an aspect ratio of 4:3?

The term aspect ratio is used in many fields to describe the proportional relationship between width and height, expressed as two numbers separated by a colon. For example when we say that the early televisions had an aspect ratio of 4:3, that means they are 4 units wide and 3 units high.  The early television standard of the 4:3 aspect ratio was chosen because movies in that era were filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Movies originally photographed on 35 mm film could be satisfactorily viewed on early televisions.

Motion pictures, a series of still images which, when shown on a screen, creates the illusion of moving images, or as we sometimes call them, movies, are a different field from television.  But the early days of motion pictures actually set the standard for the concept of aspect ratio, the relationship of height to width of an image. For many years the standard movie screen, as well as the standard analog television, had an aspect ratio of 4:3.  

The evolution of round screens to rectangular

The cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a CRT was to make it round. But the aspect ration of 4:3 lends itself to a more rectangular design. The CRT slowly evolved to being essentially rectangular in shape but it had rounded edges because it was a glass tube. You could not create a perfect rectangle using the process that created the glass cathode ray tubes in the early days of television.

If you look at the photo of various televisions you see a variety of screen sizes as well as shapes, and you can see the evolution of round screens to rectangular. The attached photograph was taken at the National Capital Radio and Television Museum, a cool little geek history museum located in Bowie, Maryland. It is a small house jam-packed with displays on the history of radio and television. The extremely knowledgeable staff was full of stories about everything on display and ready to answer any question. The museum does a great job of preserving technology history.

Increasing the number of channels

During the 1940s and the 1950s broadcast television stations in the United States were primarily transmitted on the VHF band, channels 2-13.  If you live in a large city you will notice the long established stations usually are lower numbered.  Television manufacturers like RCA, ran their own networks, such as NBC. Since the major TV networks were well-established on VHF, many smaller stations on the UHF band, channels 14 to 83, were struggling for survival. Fourth-network operators such as the DuMont Television Network were forced to expand using UHF channels due to a lack of available VHF channels.

In 1961 the United States Congress passed the All-Channel Receiver Act (ACRA) to allow the Federal Communications Commission to require that all television set manufacturers must include UHF tuners. All new TV sets sold after 1964 had built-in UHF tuners.  The All-Channel Receiver Act allowed the UHF TV stations to grow and eventually would outnumber the long established VHF stations.

What happened to Channel 1?

When I was young, and the television had a rotary dial that took me from channels 2 through 13, I always wondered, what happened to channel 1? In 1948, Channel 1 frequencies were deleted from those allocated to television use and given over completely to radio services. The FCC decided not to renumber the channels since many televisions were being made using the existing channel numbers.

History of Television resources

If you want to learn more about television, from the perspective of the appliance that sits in your living room, rather than from the broadcasting side, there is a great pair of videos by RCA.  Reasons Why, The (Part I) (1959) and Reasons Why, The (Part II) (1959) are two videos that can be watched online or downloaded for later viewing. 

Reasons Why, The (Part I)  https://archive.org/details/reasons_why_1

Reasons Why, The (Part II)  https://archive.org/details/reasons_why_2

Classic scenes of geeks from the 1950s showing various facets of television set design, engineering, and quality control. The RCA manufacturing videos are part of a section of the Internet Archive known as the Prelinger Archives, a collection of over 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films.

Created in 1992 primarily to document the history of the Cathode Ray Tube it does a nice job of illustrating the basic concept of the CRT. It also includes a bit of television history showing the evolution of the CRT.

Cathode Ray Tube https://archive.org/details/KF.BraunCathodeRayTube

A propaganda infomercial by RCA to brag about what they have done in the world of television. Not the most historically accurate account of television, but still a very interesting bit of geek history.

Story of Television  Published 1956 https://archive.org/details/Story_of_Television_The

Free online movies great digital library

Spending a Saturday morning at the Internet Archives (archive.org) is like going to the library or your favorite museum, and the best part about it is that you don't need to leave the comfort of your home computer desk.

All of the video files can be viewed for free online, and many are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. The Internet Archive does a decent job of making sure copyrights are not violated.  Most of the files are public domain, but some may occasionally have some restrictions for use and are marked as to how they may be used.  Because copyright laws have changed from time to time over the years, many of the files are considered public domain, or copyright free, for a variety of reasons.

The Internet Archive does a decent job of making sure copyrights are not violated.  Most of the files are public domain, but some may occasionally have some restrictions for use and are marked as to how they may be used.  Because copyright laws have changed from time to time over the years, many of the files are considered public domain, or copyright free, for a variety of reasons.  All of the video files can be viewed for free online, and many are available to be downloaded and viewed offline.

Save

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The Lost and Forgotten DuMont Television Network

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There is a lot of entertainment and television broadcasting history found in the often lost and forgotten fourth television network created by scientist and inventor Allen B. DuMont.

DuMont was an American electronics engineer, scientist and inventor best known for improvements to the cathode ray tube for use in television receivers.  DuMont Laboratories was the primary manufacturer of cathode-ray tubes in the United States in the 1930s and was fairly successful in the manufacturing of TV receivers.

To sell televisions, DuMont started the DuMont Television Network in 1946.  The television broadcasting division of DuMont separated from the manufacturing division in 1955. The DuMont Television Network ceased operations in 1956. The DuMont consumer products manufacturing division would be purchased by Emerson Electric Company in 1958.

The DuMont Television Network had a difficult time competing for big name stars and talent of the day. The big three networks were all spin offs from radio networks which provided financial support for their television divisions. Some folks attribute the failure of the DuMont Television Network on the lack of backing from a radio network.

Growing up, like many baby boomers in the United States, I remember the big three television networks in the 1960s were NBC, ABC, and CBS. Any reference to a fourth network might make me think of PBS.

When making the statement the forgotten fourth network, some people may think that is meant to be a joke about the current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company, rather than a reference to the DuMont Television Network, a functional on the air television network from 1946 to 1956.



Other Fourth Television Networks

Not long after the DuMont Television Network dissolved a part-time television network, NTA Film Network, was created. The NTA Film Network had over 100 affiliate stations and operated from 1956 until 1961.

Interesting that the NTA Film Network had the financial support of Twentieth Century-Fox, the sibling of current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company. The NTA Film Network broadcast television shows as well as movies, showing many Twentieth Century-Fox films of the late 1950s. The company name Twentieth Century-Fox comes from motion picture executive William Fox who founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915.

There were many other failed fourth television networks over the decades that followed. It wound not be until the launch of the Fox Broadcasting Company in 1986 that a fourth television network in the United States would challenge the the big three television networks as an equal in terms of power and market share.

The forgotten fourth network lives on

Although DuMont pre-dated videotape many programs were saved on kinescope films. The television show archives were stored in a warehouse until the 1970s when the stored kinescopes were loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay.

 A 1996 Hearing Before the Panel of the Library of Congress describes the details of the dumped archives that were destroyed during a legal dispute over who would store and control the recordings.
 
The forgotten DuMont Television Network lives on with many memories of Jackie Gleason and a sketch called "The Honeymooners." 

Jackie Gleason on Cavalcade of Stars

Cavalcade of Stars would become one of the most popular shows on The DuMont Television Network. The show would produce the most famous star of the DuMont Television Network with Jackie Gleason as host and performer.

The Cavalcade of Stars would also be responsible for birth of a well know classic TV show, as a sketch called "The Honeymooners" was first performed on the show. It would later be picked up by the CBS Network as part of the Jackie Gleason Show and become a television classic.

As a history lover, and someone always digging to learn more about the history of technology, I discovered the DuMont Television Network while doing some research on the Internet Archive. If you do a search on the DuMont Television Network at the Internet Archive you will find quite a bit of old videos of station IDs, commercials, and shows from this long lost network.  It is worth the watching and downloading just to see a treasure of television history videos. 

The video of Jackie Gleason on "Cavalcade of Stars" (1951) is a rare find for any history of television fan. The well known sitcom called "The Honeymooners" was based on a sketch first performed on Cavalcade of Stars.

Cavalcade of Stars http://www.archive.org/details/Cavalcade_Of_Stars

One other notable show was Captain Video and His Video Rangers as it was the first science fiction show on television. While by today's standards the series looks pretty primitive, it was quite groundbreaking for the time.

1949 episode of the TV series "Captain Video"  https://archive.org/details/captainvideo

Additional resources to learn more

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization on a mission to build a digital library. Just like a visit to your favorite museum or traditional paper library, they provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public to digital files on a wide variety of topics.

The way of finding things on the Internet Archive can be more like exploring a museum, that searching a catalog at the library.  For example, I was looking for the link to my very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial starring 1960s rock band Paul Revere And The Raiders. I searched on Pontiac, and I searched on GTO, and I could not find it.  It was only by going to the link for Car Commercials 1966-1970 that I found the file I was looking for on a long list of files of car commercials.

Most of the files of commercials I found  simply by searching the site rather than using the indexes.  Once you find one type of file you like, you can see how it is tagged and search for similar files. I love cars of the 1950s and 1960s, so I searched and found commercials for the 1957 Edsel, the 1958 push button transmission Dodge, the 1960 Ford Thunderbird, and a very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial.

Car Commercials 1966-1970  https://archive.org/details/Car_Commericals_1966-1970

From the Animation and  Cartoons section I have download numerous files of shows I watched on television back in my youth.  Of course my kids think it is all pretty silly, but I get a kick out of cartoon classics like Woody Woodpecker and Betty Boop. There are also some of the classic super hero cartoons like Superman. The quality of the files vary, but I enjoy downloading a bunch and creating my own mix of cartoon classics that I burn to DVD. 

Animation & Cartoons  http://www.archive.org/details/animationandcartoons

Great digital library for fun and researching television history 

The Internet Archive is a great online library of video files. Thousands of files are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. Much like your favorite museum or traditional paper library,  If you love the history of technology, or the history of entertainment, what could be more fun than a vault full of old black and white movies, free for you to download or watch at your leisure.

 

Save

The Lost and Forgotten DuMont Television Network

Save

There is a lot of entertainment and television broadcasting history found in the often lost and forgotten fourth television network created by scientist and inventor Allen B. DuMont.

DuMont was an American electronics engineer, scientist and inventor best known for improvements to the cathode ray tube for use in television receivers.  DuMont Laboratories was the primary manufacturer of cathode-ray tubes in the United States in the 1930s and was fairly successful in the manufacturing of TV receivers.

To sell televisions, DuMont started the DuMont Television Network in 1946.  The television broadcasting division of DuMont separated from the manufacturing division in 1955. The DuMont Television Network ceased operations in 1956. The DuMont consumer products manufacturing division would be purchased by Emerson Electric Company in 1958.

The DuMont Television Network had a difficult time competing for big name stars and talent of the day. The big three networks were all spin offs from radio networks which provided financial support for their television divisions. Some folks attribute the failure of the DuMont Television Network on the lack of backing from a radio network.

Growing up, like many baby boomers in the United States, I remember the big three television networks in the 1960s were NBC, ABC, and CBS. Any reference to a fourth network might make me think of PBS.

When making the statement the forgotten fourth network, some people may think that is meant to be a joke about the current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company, rather than a reference to the DuMont Television Network, a functional on the air television network from 1946 to 1956.



Other Fourth Television Networks

Not long after the DuMont Television Network dissolved a part-time television network, NTA Film Network, was created. The NTA Film Network had over 100 affiliate stations and operated from 1956 until 1961.

Interesting that the NTA Film Network had the financial support of Twentieth Century-Fox, the sibling of current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company. The NTA Film Network broadcast television shows as well as movies, showing many Twentieth Century-Fox films of the late 1950s. The company name Twentieth Century-Fox comes from motion picture executive William Fox who founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915.

There were many other failed fourth television networks over the decades that followed. It wound not be until the launch of the Fox Broadcasting Company in 1986 that a fourth television network in the United States would challenge the the big three television networks as an equal in terms of power and market share.

The forgotten fourth network lives on

Although DuMont pre-dated videotape many programs were saved on kinescope films. The television show archives were stored in a warehouse until the 1970s when the stored kinescopes were loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay.

 A 1996 Hearing Before the Panel of the Library of Congress describes the details of the dumped archives that were destroyed during a legal dispute over who would store and control the recordings.
 
The forgotten DuMont Television Network lives on with many memories of Jackie Gleason and a sketch called "The Honeymooners." 

Jackie Gleason on Cavalcade of Stars

Cavalcade of Stars would become one of the most popular shows on The DuMont Television Network. The show would produce the most famous star of the DuMont Television Network with Jackie Gleason as host and performer.

The Cavalcade of Stars would also be responsible for birth of a well know classic TV show, as a sketch called "The Honeymooners" was first performed on the show. It would later be picked up by the CBS Network as part of the Jackie Gleason Show and become a television classic.

As a history lover, and someone always digging to learn more about the history of technology, I discovered the DuMont Television Network while doing some research on the Internet Archive. If you do a search on the DuMont Television Network at the Internet Archive you will find quite a bit of old videos of station IDs, commercials, and shows from this long lost network.  It is worth the watching and downloading just to see a treasure of television history videos. 

The video of Jackie Gleason on "Cavalcade of Stars" (1951) is a rare find for any history of television fan. The well known sitcom called "The Honeymooners" was based on a sketch first performed on Cavalcade of Stars.

Cavalcade of Stars http://www.archive.org/details/Cavalcade_Of_Stars

One other notable show was Captain Video and His Video Rangers as it was the first science fiction show on television. While by today's standards the series looks pretty primitive, it was quite groundbreaking for the time.

1949 episode of the TV series "Captain Video"  https://archive.org/details/captainvideo

Additional resources to learn more

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization on a mission to build a digital library. Just like a visit to your favorite museum or traditional paper library, they provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public to digital files on a wide variety of topics.

The way of finding things on the Internet Archive can be more like exploring a museum, that searching a catalog at the library.  For example, I was looking for the link to my very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial starring 1960s rock band Paul Revere And The Raiders. I searched on Pontiac, and I searched on GTO, and I could not find it.  It was only by going to the link for Car Commercials 1966-1970 that I found the file I was looking for on a long list of files of car commercials.

Most of the files of commercials I found  simply by searching the site rather than using the indexes.  Once you find one type of file you like, you can see how it is tagged and search for similar files. I love cars of the 1950s and 1960s, so I searched and found commercials for the 1957 Edsel, the 1958 push button transmission Dodge, the 1960 Ford Thunderbird, and a very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial.

Car Commercials 1966-1970  https://archive.org/details/Car_Commericals_1966-1970

From the Animation and  Cartoons section I have download numerous files of shows I watched on television back in my youth.  Of course my kids think it is all pretty silly, but I get a kick out of cartoon classics like Woody Woodpecker and Betty Boop. There are also some of the classic super hero cartoons like Superman. The quality of the files vary, but I enjoy downloading a bunch and creating my own mix of cartoon classics that I burn to DVD. 

Animation & Cartoons  http://www.archive.org/details/animationandcartoons

Great digital library for fun and researching television history 

The Internet Archive is a great online library of video files. Thousands of files are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. Much like your favorite museum or traditional paper library,  If you love the history of technology, or the history of entertainment, what could be more fun than a vault full of old black and white movies, free for you to download or watch at your leisure.

 

Save