The Paley Center’s Countdown to the 70th Anniversary of Television:

TV Facts You Will Want to Know! 

Join the TV Countdown conversation

Despite its importance in the history of television, July 1, 1941, is an unheralded date. Did you know that it’s TV’s own birthday! It was on July 1, 1941, that commercial television became a reality when the first two transmitters were licensed in New York. W2XBS changed its call to WNBT (which became WNBC-TV) while the CBS station became WCBW (and later WCBS-TV), each offering four hours of programming for those few able to see it.*


TV is looking pretty good for 70 years young. To celebrate its birthday, our Curatorial team has unearthed a dizzying array of firsts, oddities, strange coincidences, and thought-provoking tidbits across all genres going back 70 years to 1941. Come back each day to learn something new, see some interesting clips, and join in the conversation with the curators on Twitter #TV70.

And come to the Paley Center in New York or Los Angeles on July 1 for some birthday cake.

*Were You Watching? The Paley Center is looking for anyone who was watching TV on that historic July 1, 1941 day. Our curators would love to talk to him or her. Help us get the word out to friends and family. Or if you have a family story from someone who watched, we want to hear from you too. Email to contact us.

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JULY 1, 1941: Welcome to TV Fact #1: the Paley Center's look at the day TV was commercially born!

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JUNE 30, 1952: Today marks the anniversary of the CBS television premiere of Guiding Light, the longest running daytime soap opera of them all. The series had its first incarnation on radio beginning in 1937—and ended its run on television on September 18, 2009. The titular light refers to the lamp in the study of Reverend Dr. John Ruthledge (a major character when the series debuted on radio) that family and residents could always see shining—the proverbial beacon for finding help.

What are your favorite Guiding Light moments? Discuss…


A tribute to Guiding Light by Betty White.
Watch clips from our 2009 Guiding Light panel.

JUNE 29, 1989: Susan Lucci loses her tenth straight Daytime Emmy Award (to Marcy Walker of Santa Barbara). Lucci, who plays the much-married Erica Kane on ABC's All My Children, which premiered on January 5, 1970, is the only remaining original cast member from the series (which recently moved its production studios from New York City to L.A.). Lucci finally won her Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1999, after eighteen failed attempts.

What are your favorite Susan Lucci story lines? Discuss…


Susan Lucci wins her Emmy.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our collection of Susan Lucci programs.

JUNE 28, 1959: ABC broadcasts a tribute to the recording industry, The Record Years, hosted by Dick Clark. Guests include Johnny Mathis, Fabian, the McGuire Sisters, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Fats Domino, and Stan Freberg. Two years earlier Dick Clark had become the host of the ABC teen dance program, American Bandstand.

What are your favorite Dick Clark moments? Discuss…


A salute to Dick Clark.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our collection of American Bandstand.

JUNE 27, 1973: At 8 o'clock kids across the country are eating their Cheerios and watching another hour-long episode of the beloved children's show Captain Kangaroo. On this summer day it's business as usual as the Captain—a kind, white-haired gentleman—tells stories, shows cartoons, and talks to the cast of regulars including Mr. Green Jeans, Bunny Rabbit, Grandfather Clock, and Mr. Moose. In addition, a couple of special guests—"a Japanese silky rooster and a hen"—visit the Captain's house. Today also happens to be the forty-sixth birthday of Bob Keeshan, the actor who began his career as Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody before taking on Captain Kangaroo—a role he was to play for the next three decades and be closely identified with for the rest of his life.

Who are your favorite Captain Kangaroo show characters? Discuss…


The opening to Captain Kangaroo.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our classic episodes of Captain Kangaroo.

JUNE 26, 1967: On this day, Charles Kuralt's "On the Road" segments had their debut on the CBS Evening News. Kuralt was able to turn his basic curiosity about everyday people into a prize-winning journalistic touchstone as he traveled across the country to interview ordinary, underappreciated people. Among his subjects was a man in North Carolina who collected and repaired bicycles, which he lent to poor neighborhood children; a woman who fed birds of all kinds; and three retired construction workers who had helped build San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. From 1967 to 1980, Kuralt visited all fifty states, usually in his downscale motor home, creating "big hearted essays on topics others thought tiny," according to the New York Times. From 1979 to 1994, Kuralt was the anchor of the CBS News program Sunday Morning. He died in 1997 at the age of 62.

What are your favorite On the Road segments? Discuss…


Charles Kuralt interviews one of the last steam engine railroad engineers.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our collection of On the Road episodes.

JUNE 25, 1951: Regularly scheduled, commercial color broadcast transmissions are inaugurated by CBS from Manhattan. The first color show with commercial sponsorship was a variety performance featuring Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey, and Faye Emerson, which was broadcast at 4:35 pm. The first color series, The World Is Yours, featuring the British naturalist and author Ivan T. Sanderson, began airing the following day on five CBS affiliate stations in the eastern United States. At the time only a handful of prototype color television sets were in existence; the first commercially manufactured television sets arrived in stores in the fall of 1951.

What about B&W television programs is preferable to color programs? Discuss…


Clips of early TV network logos.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our huge collection of early television programs.

JUNE 24, 2010: Tennis fans around the world watch . . . and watch . . . and watch as the Isner–Mahut match in the first round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships finally ends after three days (and a total of eleven hours and five minutes of play ), with American John Isner beating French Nicolas Mahut (6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68). Isner went on to lose almost immediately in the second round due to his exhaustion. However, Isner and Mahut received the 2010 ESPY Award for "Best Record-Breaking Performance." They also set the records for longest match, longest set (eight hours!), most games in a set, most games in a match, most aces in a match by one play, total aces in a match, and consecutive service games held.

What are your favorite Wimbledon moments? Discuss…


Clips of the famous match.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our collection of Wimbledon tournaments.

JUNE 23, 1963: The Ed Sullivan Show, the longest running variety series in television history (a staple of the CBS Sunday lineup from 1948 to 1971), celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with highlights from previous programs. Sullivan, a most unlikely host (bland and cadaverous in appearance and demeanor, with a knack for bungling names), had an eye for talent—giving equal time to opera singers, comedians, and dancing bears. Highlights on this anniversary show included Helen Hayes talking about her role in Victoria Regina; Elvis Presley singing "Hound Dog"; Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet performing numbers from Camelot; Abbott and Costello revisiting some of their familiar comedy routines; Harry Belafonte singing "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore"; Maya Plisetskaya dancing "The Dying Swan"; and Sullivan himself conversing with the puppet known as Topo Gigio (the "Little Italian Mouse"). The only act missing was the Beatles—who arrived on Sullivan's show the following February.

What are your favorite Ed Sullivan Show moments? Discuss…


A clip of Julie Andrews and Richard Burton on Ed Sullivan.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our collection of The Ed Sullivan Show.

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