Early Chicago Television History
Bill Parker was a friend of mine and a few years back he passed away at the age of 89. During the early years of
Sanabria's activities, Bill Parker was employed as an engineer for the Western Television Corporation. This is his
story from a letter that I received some years ago, included here just as I received it. (P.Y.)
Wm. N. PARKER
OCTOBER 28, 1984
The following remarks describe my best recollection of my personal experiences with early television. Many of
these experiences were in the Chicago area with mechanical television systems. Interest in the subject was
revived this past summer with the death notice of Miss Marcella Lally, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune
on Tuesday, July 17th. Miss Lally was a regular television performer in Chicago in 1930 and 1931. The subject
was discussed in some detail with Dr. Thomas W. Sills, who has conducted considerable research into early
The early experimental television activity in the Chicago area started in October 1925, four months after C.
Francis Jenkins had demonstrated televised silhouettes in Washington, DC.
A nineteen year old boy, U. A. Sanabria, set up a laboratory in the Hearst Bldg. in downtown Chicago.
Financial support of the television experiments came from Wm. Randolph Hearst himself. The time period is
approximately the same as that ascribed to John L. Baird in England. In a foreword to an album of Sanabria's
songs he writes, "Stories about John Baird preceding either Jenkins or myself are incorrect as to date for we
have abundant proof to the contrary. Both Jenkins and myself developed television independently and
television is truly an America invention and do not let anyone ever tell you that the Europeans ought to share
in the credit."
I, Wm. N. Parker, had the good fortune to witness Sanabria's work in June of 1926. The television images
were in silhouette and blurred and it was barely possible to distinguish between the image of a person's
hand with outstretched fingers and that of a wrench. A rotating drum with lenses was used as a scanner.
I had just completed my sophomore year at the University of Illinois in Urbana studying electrical engineering.
I worked part time for the GM Scientific Co., a small enterprise run by two graduate students, A. J. McMaster
and Lloyd P. Garner. The company supplied photoelectric cells and other devices to experimenters such as
Sanabria and Dr. Lee DeForest. They suggested that I contact Sanabria for a summer job since I lived in
Chicago. I did not get the summer job. Sanabria wanted an experienced expert in television amplifier design.
Also, during the year I had helped Dr. Jakob Kuntz with the testing and measurement of a number of
photo-electric cells he was making for researchers at other universities. At the 1926 Electrical Engineering
Open House I demonstrated how an incandescent lamp could be controlled by the available room light; quite
a novel thing in those days. Dr. Chintz arranged for the University glassblower to make me a special
cathode-ray tube to demonstrate a novel electron-beam modulation scheme.
The summer of 1927, I spent at the General Electric CO. in Schenectady, New York. My job included the testing
and preparation of the published data for newly developed power vacuum tubes. An even more interesting
part of my summer included occasional visits to Dr. Alexanderson's laboratory where Ray D. Kell and others
were experimenting with television. They demonstrated for the press, a mechanical system using a disc
having a spiral of 24 holes. A plate type neon lamp was behind the disc and the picture was about an inch
square. The half-tones of faces were quite good. GE also had a short-wave transmitter which they sometimes
used to broadcast television pictures.
My next contact with Chicago television came in the Spring of 1928, when a quick trip was made to Sanabria's
laboratory to borrow a pair of synchronous motors for use in the demonstration of television at the University
of Illinois biannual Electrical Engineering Show. Under my direction, as EE Society President, students had
worked during the year to build an amplifier and a pair of cardboard scanning discs mounted on a common
shaft. The EE Department had ordered a pair of synchronous motors for our use. This would cause the
scanning discs to rotate in step even when separated several feet apart. A day before the show was to open
the motors had not arrived!
Sanabria had his motors built into his scanners with perforated leather belts to drive his scanning discs at 900
rpm. He told me to take the complete units for the duration of the show. I drove back to Urbana in the rain,
arriving at our laboratory about daybreak, where the other students had been working all night. The
television was ready when the show opened later that day!
The general public was extremely interested in the display and enjoyed watching their friends in the little
receiver as they posed before the flying spot transmitting scanner. Typical "entertainment" consisted of
winking each eye or using a handkerchief. While people were waiting in line by the hundreds, H. H. Slocum
and I prepared and handed out a leaflet describing the operation of the equipment. It is quite possible that
this was the first time that the general public had been able to witness a television demonstration. Most
previous demonstrations were for the press or VIPs. A vital part of the television system was the bank of four
large photoelectric cells that picked up the light reflected from the flying spot on the subjects face. These cells
were made by Lloyd P. Garner at night when no one else was in the Physics Lab. A crucial step in the
processing of the cells consisted of heating the "window" of the 22 liter glass flask while cooling the
remainder of the evacuated flask with ice water! Adding to the danger was the fact that inside the flask was
a handful of potassium metal--enough to blow the side out of the building if exposed to the water! After the
show, some of the cells were sold to television experimenters who later used them in the Boston area.
In Chicago that summer (1928) Sanabria was working with radio station WCFL, experimentally sending his
television signals out over the broadcast channel. He invited me to witness the operation located at the end
of Navy Pier. The television images were quite good', having excellent half-tones and good definition.
During the summer of 1928 (after my graduation from the University of Illinois) I worked at Stewart Warner in
Chicago. Dr. Rava encouraged me to construct a short-wave receiver and scanner which we used to receive
television pictures broadcast by C. Francis Jenkins in Washington, DC. Although it was difficult to obtain
synchronization we could recognize someone bouncing a ball and other silhouettes. Somewhat related work
was done with selenium photo-sensitive devices. Their response was much too sluggish for television work.
In the Fall of 1928 at G.E. in Schenectady, Kell was experimenting with color television. He was trying to use
the lenticular lenses developed by Kodak for color photography. I was at G.E. again, studying in their
Advanced Course in Engineering. Extensive homework prevented me from spending much time with Kell.
It is interesting to note that both Kell and Garner had worked as students in Dr. Tycocinees laboratory in the
EE Dept. at Illinois. Dr. Tycociner is the inventor of sound-on-film talking movies, and was a friend of Dr.
Zworykin of electronic television fame.
In Chicago, Sanabria and Garner had teamed up with Clem F. Wade to form a new television laboratory to
develop a television receiver to show stock market reports. When I came home to Chicago for the Xmas
holidays, they convinced me to join them in Louisville, where the new laboratory was to be located. I returned
to G.E., resigned and arrived in Louisville in early January 1929. The laboratory was located in one of the U.S.
Foil Co. buildings. U.S. Foil Co. made the aluminum foil wrappers for Eskimo Pies. Mr. Wade had started the
Eskimo Pie Corp, and U.S. Foil belonged to Reynolds Metal Co. owned by R.S. Reynolds, the financier.
Photo-cells, special scanners and other equipment was assembled and taken to New York for a
demonstration for Mr. Reynolds. The demonstration was such a success that Western Union heard about the
new way of broadcasting stock market reports and promptly put a stop to the development! They had some
sort of franchise for their stock tickers. Plans were then made to move the laboratory to Chicago to broadcast
television for education and entertainment purposes.
I arrived in Chicago about the middle of May (1929) with my first assignment, that of modifying Crosley tuned
radio frequency standard broadcast receivers (the metal box with three dials variety) for operation at 2100
kc. The UV-171 output tube passed sufficient current to operate a plate type neon lamp. Sanabria and some
other engineers were already building the W9XAO television transmitter at 6312 Broadway where the WIBO
studios were located.
Initially, a small television studio was built near the main WIBO studio on the second floor. A bank of
photo-electric cells was mounted in the wall of the studio with a hole in the middle for the entrance of the
flying spot scanning beam. The light source was a Peerless reflector arc lamp as used in movie houses. The
scanning disc had 45 tiny holes arranged in three interlaced spirals, and was mounted directly on the shaft of
a 900 rpm synchronous motor so as to scan at the rate of 15 frames per second. A projection lens in front of
the disc magnified the approximately 1 inch square field at the disc to one about 2 ft. square at the location of
the performer in the studio. Lenses of different focal-lengths could be used to produce scanned fields up to 10
ft. square. As the flying spot moved rapidly across the performer, light was reflected back to the bank of
photo-cells. The photo-cells converted the fluctuating light into corresponding electrical signals which had to
be greatly amplified to be useful. An impressive part of the installation was a row of automobile storage
batteries connected across the dc supply for the arc lamp to smooth out fluctuations in the light source.
The transmitter consisted of a pair of UV-204, 250 watt vacuum tubes as oscillators, which were isolated from
electrical ground. The transmitter was located on the third (top) floor where it could feed the antenna, located
on the roof of the building. An unusual modulation scheme known as "series modulation" was used. The
modulator was located on the floor below, next to the television scanner, photo-cell bank and multistage
vacuum tube amplifier. The modulator (final stage of the picture amplifier) consisted of several UV-204 tubes
connected in parallel. Their cathodes were at ground potential and their anodes were connected to the
cathode of the oscillator tubes. A motor-generator supplied the necessary 2000 vdc.
Experimental television broadcasts from this small studio were mostly head-and-shoulder shots. One early
performer was a young man singer playing a ukulele. Some of the programs used the audio channel of WIBO.
Several movie stars also posed, including Don Ameche. The number of television receivers was very limited at
this time (early summer 1929). By this time we were operating as Western Television Corp. With Clem F.
Wade as President and Martin J. Wade Jr. as Secretary. (I still have several thousand dollars worth of the
stock, issued to me in lieu of salary.)
One of the early jobs was the finding a supplier of 900 rpm synchronous motors at a price low enough to use
in home receivers. Samples were received from G.E., Holtzer Cabot, and Emerson. The best price was around
$11 from G.E. per motor, in lots of several thousand, which meant a projected price for the complete receiver
of $250.00. Manufacturing of the receivers was started by the Hedman Mfg. Co. in Chicago.
In the Fall of 1929, the television equipment was moved to the main WIBO studio for more regular
broadcasting. Larger scanning fields here also tried, such as for a boxing match. In one case, a golf lesson
showed the entire person, including his golf club. More receivers were out in the field, mostly at stores. One of
the early television receivers was installed in the home of H. S. Hayes, U.S. Supervisor of Radio, Chicago. I
remember visiting his second floor apartment along the shore of Lake Michigan during a storm. The waves
would sometimes splash onto the windows!
My assignment in the fall of 1929 was to design and build the television equipment for use at W9XAP, the
companion station for the Chicago Daily News station WMAQ. Multiple "cameras" were to be used to facilitate
the instantaneous scene changes required for smooth programming. Two flying-spot scanners were provided,
each with a turret of four projection lenses and a steerable surface-reflecting mirror to properly position the
scanned field. The low scanner was used for persons (such as an announcer) seated at a desk right behind a
conventional bank of photo-cells built into the wall. The other scanner projected its scanning beam at eye
height into the studio and was more suitable for long shots. The light sources for the scanners were 30v at
30 amp incandescent lamps as used for smaller movie theaters.
The light pickup for the long-shots was by means of two large photocells suspended from ceiling tracks on
either side of the studio. Each photo-cell had its separate preamplifier and cable to the main-amplifier rack
located adjacent to the scanners. The main-amplifier boosted the picture signal amplitude so that it could be
sent over a special low-capacitance cable to the W9XAP transmitter over a hundred feet away. A viewing
monitor mounted in the rack permitted convenient checking of the picture. Switching between pickups made
use of relays, push buttons and signal lamps. The switching system was designed to be compatible with the
elaborate equipment in the main control room used to control the aural WMAQ programs. This allowed very
flexible sound and sight programming. A special feature in the switching automatically blanked out the picture
briefly during lens turret operation.
The special television studio was located on the 25th floor of the Chicago Daily News Building, 400 West
Madison St., just West of the river. This was one floor above the main studios and control room. When the
television equipment had been installed and checked out it was learned that the W9XAP transmitter was
barely started! It was to have been constructed by WMAQ operators and engineers. My next assignment was
to work with them full time to expedite completion. Walter Lindsay, their Chief Engineer was most helpful.
The transmitter was designed like a commercial broadcast transmitter with a temperature controlled quartz
crystal to maintain the exact 2150kc carrier frequency. Several RF buffer stages amplified the carrier so as to
drive a 1 KW water-cooled output vacuum tube. A similar water-cooled tube was used as the modulator in a
series modulation scheme similar to that at W9XAO. A large storage battery on an insulated platform was
used to heat the filament of the RF output tube, since the ac power in the building was sufficient only for
running clocks and small devices. The 4000 vdc supply consisted of two double commutator generators
connected in series and mounted on either side of a large dc motor. The antenna was strung between the
two flag poles on the roof of the building just above the transmitter room.
During the final tune-up it was observed that modulation was very shallow, making the televised signal
ineffective. Technical data and curves were measured, since none had been available. Calculations then
showed the water-cooled tube to be ill suited to be used as a modulator. The transmitter was then modified
along more conventional lines, with modulation taking place at a lower level RF stage and the two
water-cooled tubes operating together as the final power-amplifier. Excellent modulation depth was now
possible with a resultant powerful signal from W9XAP.
The "grand opening" of television Station W9XAP took place in the evening of August 27, 1930. A number of
receivers had been distributed to homes and stores in the Chicago area. Sears Roebuck had advertised
extensively and crowds had assembled to see and hear. Bill Hay was the announcer and several other WMAQ
artists performed. The signal was strong and the program good but ---- ghost images were terrific and the
results disappointing. Apparently the nice crystal-steady signal from W9XAP made the ghost images distinct
and objectionable, whereas the self-excited oscillator of W9XAO seemed to make them less distinct and quite
Usually the television pictures received from W9XAP were very clear and free from ghosts. The opening night
had a peculiar set of ionized layers located 50 to 100 miles above the surface of the earth which reflected the
television signal back to earth but delayed in time. A test after the program, on opening night utilized a single
tiny black spot on a white background. Observations of the received picture showed a dozen or more
additional spots fading in and out. The location of the spots in the picture field enabled the calculation of the
propagation path lengths. The occasional poor performance in this manner helped in the later abandonment
of this frequency band in favor of the VHF and UHF frequency bands currently used for television broadcasting.
The signals from both W9XAO and W9XAP were received at distances up to 400 or so miles thru out the
Midwest. On one occasion I attempted to demonstrate a television receiver at a dinner meeting of radio
engineers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. They had been interested in television for some time but did
not as yet have an operating system. After dinner the set was turned on (with hopeful expectations). The
signal from W9XAP was nice and strong and a clear picture of Irene Wicker making dolls and other articles
from paper could be seen. Many of the programs were sight-only since most of the W9XAO programs were
not yet designed for television. One interesting "sight-only" program broadcast during the evening of
November 4, 1930 consisted of election returns. The returns were posted on the back of the studio at W9XAP
and the long-shot scanner was used.
Television programs from WIBO-W9XAO during the spring of 1930 were regular enough so that they were
listed in the newspaper. For example, the Chicago Daily News for May 7, 1930 lists the programs and shows a
big two column photo of Marcella Lally performing before the photo-cell bank at WIBO-W9XAO. Miss Lally
might well be the first regular live television performer to be seen and heard simultaneously. She also sang
regularly at W9XAO and W9XAP in the fall of 1930, as indicated in the November 6, 1930 issue of the Chicago
An even more demanding test of the programming flexibility was on the evening of January 7, 1931 when the
play "The Maker of Dreams" was broadcast from W9XAP and W9XAO. The cast included Irene Wicker, Douglas
Hope and Vinton Hayworth. This may well have been the first simultaneous sight and sound broadcast of a
compete dramatization. A number of interesting program experiments were tried under the direction of Judith
Waller, the W9XAO Program Director. The whole television activity was enthusiastically supported by Wm. S.
Hedges, the Station Manager. In addition, demonstrations were put on for special groups. The transmission of
fingerprints for Police Commissioner John H. Alcock was considered quite a success. On another occasion
several hundred school principals where assembled to see and hear how television worked and could be
used as a powerful educational tool. I had to give the talk! Actually I was assigned to spend most of my time
at W9XAP after it was in operation. Many famous people visited the facilities, including Dr. Lee De Forest. A
third scanner was added to transmit ticker-tape stock quotations over W9XAP. The tape was obtained from a
broker's office in the building and was at least 15 minutes old. Several programs consisted of cartoons drawn
on tape and then slowly pulled past the scanner.
The educational aspect of television was further emphasized in a talk before a group of Broadcast executives
at Ohio State University in the spring of 1931. Mr. Clem F. Wade had been scheduled to deliver the talk but
the day before the conference he called me in to say he had an "earache" and that I was to take the train to
Columbus that night and give the talk in his place. He had no talk to read, nor any notes! After a sleepless
night on the train I made some notes while waiting for Miss Waller to finish her breakfast so I could ride with
her to the meeting. The talk was taken down in shorthand and published in the 1931 edition of "Education On
The Air", by the Ohio State University.
At the Western Television Laboratory a search was on for a cheaper synchronous motor. Furthermore, the
motor should be able to drive a scanning disc with lenses in place of the tiny holes. The search was prompted
by a remark by a West Coast banker after witnessing a television demonstration. He said, "Your picture has
definite entertainment value, but the receiver has to be able to be sold for $50.00"! We had been proud of
the GE synchronous motor, but the price was obviously much too high. One low-cost synchronous motor
investigated was used to operate Tinker Toy models. It had little power and could only drive a small light
weight disc. Another synchronous motor was made by Barber Coleman Co. at Rockford Illinois. The parts for
this motor could be purchased for less than $1.00 and was quite powerful. However, the synchronous speed
of this motor was 1200 rpm, an unusual speed for a two-pole motor operating on 60 cycles. Also, this motor
would not operate a disc having appreciable inertia.
The solution turned out to be a pair of gears to reduce the speed to the necessary 900 rpm, combined with a
slip-clutch arrangement to permit the motor to attain its full speed before the high-inertia lens disc could get
up to speed. The slip-clutch included a helical spring to isolate the motor from the high-inertia disc. The spring
connected two conical sleeves so as to allow slippage only in the rotational direction which tended to unwind
the spring. A small friction disc prevented undesirable torsional oscillations in the spring-disc system and
allowed the picture to smoothly pull into synchronism.
The scanning disc used with the new motor was aluminum and about 8 inches in diameter. Forty five lenses
about 1 cm. in diameter and having a focal-length of 1 inch were arranged in three interlaced spirals. It was
important that the optical centers of the lenses be accurately located to provide a uniform scanning field
without dark lines. (or overlapped lines either). Careful hand-sorting enabled the use of relatively inexpensive
commercially produced lenses. They were made by the Simpson Instrument and Lens Co. of Chicago. The
lenses were seated in counterbored holes in the disc and carefully staked using a drill press The
counterbored holes were accurately located using a precision-made jig made on a Swiss boring mill. The other
parts were made on a small bench-lathe, (owned personally by Garner). Analysis of time and costs indicated
that the $50.00 target could indeed be met.
The new scanner was used in two new models of Western Television receivers: a table model and a tall floor
version called the "Empire State" model. In both models the picture was viewed on a translucent screen and
so could be seen by a number of viewers at once, as compared with the "peep-hole" pictures of previous
television sets. The lenses projected the light from a special "Crater" lamp developed by Garner. The tiny but
intense light source produced a fairly bright picture on the screen, which was several inches square. The radio
receivers used in these sets were made by the Echophone Radio Mfg. Co. in Waukegan, Ill. A couple of
hundred of the new sets were made. In February 1932 Garner and I delivered a dozen table models to First
National Television, a trade school in Kansas City run by Jerry Taylor. They operated television station W9X?
using Western Television scanners. Their transmitter was located in the tower of the Power and Light Building.
The brightness of the projected picture may be appreciated by the fact that life-sized images of faces were
successfully shown (on larger screens) to audiences of several hundred people in an auditorium! Although the
pictures were hardly "brilliant" they were recognizable. In one case, television was being demonstrated
before a distinguished gathering of engineers at their annual meeting, held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in
Chicago. I was the guest speaker and the show went well in spite of some last-minute problems at the
WIBO-W9XAO studios. On another occasion, nearly a thousand people in the auditorium of a Milwaukee
library, saw a direct-wire demonstration.
I had an interesting experience with one of the new receivers on New Years Eve of 1931. I had been working
hard on the new scanner and took the set home to show the family. I tuned-in a beautiful picture, except that
the synchronization was poor. The picture would move slightly side to side--just the problem I had been
working on. Thinking I had tuned in W9XAP in Chicago, I was disappointed and turned off the set. I later
learned that W9XAP was not on the air that night and that I was getting Kansas City instead! The scanner
was working fine but the different power systems were not locked in perfect synchronism. I was already
aware of the power network synchronism problem, having written an article, "The Synchronization of Power
Networks is Necessary for Television", which appeared in the October 1930 issue of Radio Industries,
published in Chicago
In the spring of 1932, I helped install Western Television equipment at the State University of Iowa where the
Electrical Engineering Dept., under the direction of Prof. E. B. Kurtz operated television station W9XK. The
aural portion of many of the programs was transmitted over WSUI, operated by Carl Mentzer for the
university. The emphasis was on educational programs and regular schedules were maintained until 1939 ---
long after most mechanical television stations had ceased operations. Prof. Kurtz discusses the W9XK
operation in considerable detail in his book, "Pioneering in Educational Television" published in 1959 by the
Ford Foundation. The television equipment used at W9XK is now at the Smithsonian Institution in
Experimental television transmissions were also carried on over a long period by The Milwaukee Journal,
which operates broadcast station WTMJ. As early as 1930 they operated W9XD on the VHF band. I remember
helping take a field-strength survey for the original transmitter, located in a garage. The measured
field-strength was greatly increased by cutting in half, the length of the vertical antenna used! The original
antenna was a full wavelength long, so that the radiation from one half nearly canceled that from the other
as measured in the horizontal plane. The transmitter was later moved to the top floor of Hotel Schrader,
where I spent some time installing Western Television scanners and helping tune the transmitter. This
pioneering work was under the direction of Dan Gelerup, Chief Engineer of station WTMJ. Mechanical
television was continued until April 1938, when the Milwaukee Journal started with electronic television
Western Television equipment was also sold to CKAC in Toronto, Canada and a number of other stations. One
set of equipment was shipped to Mexico City, but for some reason was never paid for! This helped Western
Television cease operations. Sales of corporate stock were also difficult. Also, WIBO was forced to stop
broadcasting in MAY 1933 and the new owners of WMAQ, W9XAP and NBC stopped broadcasting mechanical
television in favor of electronic television on March 31, 1933.
Western Television Research Corp. was then formed with L. P. Garner as President. Armondo Conto Treas.,
and W. N. Parker as Secretary. Tools and some of the equipment were moved from the 6312 Broadway
location to space in an industrial building on the near North Side of Chicago. The building was shared with
United Transformer Co. and several others. One interesting project undertaken there was a display for the
1933-1934 Chicago Worlds Fair. Television scanning was demonstrated by having the scanner slowly start
and then gradually come up to speed. The moving spot would thus turn into a field of bright lines, due to the
persistence of vision of the human eye. I also spent a couple of weeks demonstrating television in schools
and department stores with a group from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. They presented shows in
various High schools in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois each year. The shows included up to 100 experiments
to demonstrate electrical phenomena for popular audiences. One spectacular experiment produced an
artificial lightning discharge several feet in length!
Two other television exhibits at the 1933-1934 Fair were a large-screen demonstration by Sanabria and Mel
Hayes (I think), and a " picture-phone " by some other group. With the Fair under way, both the Contos and
ourselves took off for Europe for 3 months --- and thus ended my "career" mechanical television in Chicago!
In early February 1934 1 was asked to come to Laredo, Texas to tune-up the big 65,000 watt broadcast
station, XENT. The transmitter and studios were located in Mexico about 10 miles from the border. A huge
Diesel engine supplied the electrical power. Carl Mentor of WISE had built the transmitter and had
recommended me for the job. Mentor had to return to Iowa before the transmitter installation was completed.
A young Mexican engineer, Nestor Cuesta, was the licensed operator. It seems that he had been selected to
set-up and operate the television equipment we had sent down the previous Spring, but was never given the
XENT went off the air temporarily in the summer of 1934 and I accepted a position with Philco in Philadelphia
to work on electronic television development. I was responsible for building the W3X3 transmitter and early
experimental television receivers. Much important pioneering work was done at Philco.
Technical "firsts" at Philco include the first transmission of 441 line television, first single sideband operation,
and use of a novel television modulation method (my first patent, U.S. #2,259,658). In addition to regular
studio programs and drama, remote pickups were made of football games, wrestling shows, the Ice Follies
and Ice Hockey. A special 300 Mc relay system was developed as well as special video cables. All of the
equipment was made at Philco, including the Iconoscopes, picture tubes and the phosphors for them. Notable
remote pickups included the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade and the 1940 Republican National Convention. I
resigned as manager in the fall of 1941 to work for the government, expediting the production of electronics
equipment for the war effort. Sanabria and Garner built a television system using a screen 10 or 12 feet
square and demonstrated it at large department stores across the country. The work was supported by a
subsidiary of the Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. Garner later joined me at Philco for a while before going with
RCA to develop high-power high-frequency vacuum tubes, working for Dr. Zworykin. Another associate at
Western Television, R. E. Waggener, later joined me at Philco. Sanabria operated a Television School in
Chicago and manufactured radar cathode ray tubes during the war, using the name American Television, Inc.
He also provided a private laboratory at his school for the use of Dr. Lee DeForest. I joined Garner at RCA,
Lancaster, Pa. in February 1943, in the development of Super-Power vacuum tubes. I retired from RCA in
1972. Kell was transferred from GE to RCA and was active at the Princeton Laboratories in the development of
During the summer of 1984 an effort was made to determine the status of the old W9XAP studio-- and the
whereabouts of the equipment. Phone calls to the Chief Engineers of the various Chicago stations indicated
that no trace seemed to exist in Chicago. However, it was found that the studios had been used for a time by
several different groups. A phone call to Marie Sanabria indicated that she is well. She seemed to enjoy
hearing from me and to discuss the "long ago". It could well be that Garner and myself are the only persons
left from the early Chicago television days.
Wm. N. Parker PY
I sometimes receive letters from readers, of their personal experiences with some of the subjects of this site. Here
are examples of some that I feel adds significantly to the information given here about Ulysses A. Sanabria. These
letters are reprinted with the permission of the writers. (2/10/01)
Dear Mr. Yanczer;
I have just read with interest your bibliography of Ulysses Aloysious Sanabria who I studied under and
worked for soon after arriving in USA in 1947.
U.A. had mentioned several of the items you included, but didn't dwell too much on the past. He was very
much into the future possibilities of TV and laid down design outlines for the development and ultimate
manufacture of the first TV receivers to have a unitized chassis with plug-in panels for easy servicing.
In his school division he had developed and demonstrated a 3 D electromechanical system which although
noisy, cumbersome and impractical, did give a very realistic demonstration of 3 D TV. possibilities. I recall
going to my class in the studio when this was being demonstrated, and flinching when a fencer lunged
American Television Inc. produced a large number of 27" rectangular picture tubes in their plant on Plymouth
Court in Chicago, and supplied them to other TV manufacturers including Muntz TV.
I was personally hired by UA when I graduated to design, built and operate a plant to manufacture 27" B&W
consolette receivers. I hired and trained all the personnel to do this and although our goal was 100 receivers
daily, we never made it, due to cash flow problems that kept us short of components.
UA's financial and marital problems were responsible for the end of his brilliant career and I will always be
grateful to him for helping me with mine.
UA gave me a wedding gift of a 27" receiver which I personally built, selecting the cabinet and picture tube
from their plants, and burning the set in very carefully. This set was in constant use until the 70's when I
reluctantly retired it for a colour set. I still have that receiver and intend to restore it .
Your page was brought to my attention by Richard Scovel, a friend and colleague from ATI. who went on to
become a well known TV engineer and cameraman with CBS for many years.
Do you by any chance know what became of John Sanabria , UA's brother, and his nephew Renaldo
Thank you for providing so much history of UA.
yours sincerely --------Malcolm L.Fox
"Perhaps you are not aware of another facet of UA Sanabria, that is not too well documented. He wrote the
campaign song for the first Eisenhower presidential campaign and I still have my 45 rpm record of this.
I also heard from U. A. Sanabria's granddaughter, Becky. Here is what she had to say.
Ulises A. Sanabria is my late grandfather and I am forever searching
for information about him. He was my mother's father. I am sure that
my extended family is unaware of all that might be available
regarding him and his life/career. I was wondering if you might be
able to tell me more about the information on him - where did you
find it, is there other information you might have? Perhaps there are
resources you could point me to? It is funny but sometimes the
relatives know the least...
I never knew him but hear about him every once in a while from the
family. It is so strange..I wish I could have known him
personally...it is such a shame, really. I hear he was quite an
intelligent man-he even composed music (having had no formal
education regarding composition, etc)! But he came from a long line
of musicians and singers.
I'm always affected by the information I do find about him. I always
hope to find out something new about him and his inventions. Pardon
my rambling, but I would very much appreciate any information about
him that you might not have mentioned on your website.