First TV Broadcast to a Ship at Sea, 1931

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Jim Gettys

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First TV Broadcast to a Ship at Sea, 1931

PostSun Jun 21, 2015 3:56 am

I ran across several newspaper items about an experimental TV broadcast to a ship in the Atlantic, the SS Leviathan, in July 1931. This was reported to be "the first time in the history of television that such a program had been received by a ship at sea."

The hour-long broadcast started at 9PM on July 24th and originated in Boston, New York, and Washington. It was transmitted by Columbia's WBZ (W1XAV) in Boston. The program consisted of "vocal and instrumental music, as well as several skits and a detective story number", and more. It included Boston mayor James Curley, and the sturdy actor George Bancroft, who 8 years later was trying to get John Wayne safely to Lordsburg, so he could lock him up. This very early shore-to-ship TV experiment was deemed a success.

The Leviathan was on a special 4-day cruise (July 23-27) from New York to Halifax and back. It carried 1408 passengers, including Winsor McCay (c1867-1934), the pioneer cartoonist and animator, who created Little Nemo and Gertie the Dinosaur (1914).

I found the items in the NY Times and The Christian Science Monitor. The Boston papers might have deeper coverage.

Jim Gettys

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