- Hastings and the Baird of Mechanical Television -
The Early Dawn of the Television Era - The origins of today's popular Peepshow

Some Great Trivia on Vintage Televison History - See at a Distance with Spinning Discs and Mirrors
Don't waste your time, read this page instead of watching television
Tonight Betty Bolton on your Televisor
January 7, 1906 - April 2, 2005
Died 99 years old
  Betty Bolton documentary and her voice on You Tube   More information on Betty Bolton at TVdawn.com

... the biggest time-waster of all time

... makes interesting history

Cinema and Television have something in common. Not only 'moving images' but also the complexity of the story preceding their respective inventions and their many claimed inventors by various countries.

No matter which definition we use to describe both media, claiming that the
brothers Lumière & John Logie Baird invented, respectively, film and television is doing wrong to two of the most fascinating historical chapters of what became the most popular and widespread new audio-visual media of today. A new 'peepshow' into the world!

Since the 'history of the invention of television' is both complex and technical, this page will never unveil the full history of the development of 'seeing by wireless'. Rather, this page will present some of my favorite trivia which took place in the early period of the medium television.

No matter Isaac Shoenberg
* was right when he said in 1934, Well, Gentlemen, you have now invented the biggest time-waster of all time. Use it well, researching this history is very time-consuming indeed, but in proportion equally interesting.
(*) head of the Marconi-EMI electronic TV camera tube development team.

This page is devoted to mechanical television (based on experiments by Paul Nipkow, patented in 1884) used during the first period of wireless BBC broadcasting from 1929 until electronic television took over in 1936.
The magazine 'TELEVISION' was published in the same year both in the UK (March) and shortly after in the USA (November). The cover of the initial first numbers depicts the same scene in a slightly different version. The UK version measures 8-1/2" x 11", and the USA version is 9" x 12" in size. Click the link to compare both cover versions of this FIRST television Journal in the world. Click HERE and select a year to see more collectable pre-1935 television related magazines.

- The page is limited to Pre-World-War II Mechanical Television Sets -
The commercialization of the electronic television systems, starting from 1936, leads to wonderfully designed late 'Art-Deco' television furniture which took place during the Interbellum period. The latter however are excluded from this dawn of television page

  Hefang Street - The Peepshow in Hangzhou, China - The peepshow view tradition
Mr. Hewel looking into his Televisor.

Television started in the 1920s as a Peepshow device. This means, the images could only be seen by one viewer gazing into a narrow opening. The quality of these early, 30 lines, television sets, with tiny vertical screens, was very poor. However, the images where there and received in a large part of Europe via the 'short wave', also used for radio.

The receiving of the audio sound, accompanying the early television images, was a separate short wave radio broadcast. Especially radio and television amateurs, such as Mr. Hewel of Berlin, where very keen on building there own experimental television receiver.

In Michael Bennett-Levy's book, 'TV is KING', the author warns that "All pre-world-war II and many early post-world-war II television sets operate at very high mains voltages and have live chassis.

Handled wrongly with the backs open they are lethal and can kill instantly. Never test a television by plugging it into the mains and switching it on.

Never try to repair early televisons unless you are a skilled television engineer and understand the dangers
A Baird Dual Exhibition Television Receiver
The first television pictures

Many early television sets where housed in huge Art-Deco cabinets, often wonderful examples of furniture design. Even these large, pre 1936, cabinets only displayed a tiny 30 lines television screen.

The image on the left shows a Baird Dual Exhibition Receiver. The cabinet contains two wireless receiving sets, one for speech and one for vision. A Baird automatic synchronizing apparatus is responsible for 'registering' sound with vision.

Television in the 20s. and early 30s. was experimental and continually developing. However, the BBC started their first experimental broadcast of mechanical television as early in 1929.

This is 6 years after John Logie Baird went to Hasting to experiment, with the help of others, on his dream of 'seeing by wireless'. It was here that Baird produced, most likely, some of the first successful television images round 1925.

Starting from March 1928, the experimental magazine 'TELEVISION', as depicted above, was the first television journal in the world, communicating these fascinating developments of the new medium.
For the BBC's first experimental broadcast, at night after radio programs stopped, Baird used the character of Stookie Bill, a ventriloquist dummy.
Visit the Earliest Television Recordings.
The first commercial television sets came on the market in 1930 by the Baird Television Development Company LTD. These sets however where expensive and housed in a cast iron cabinet of beautiful design. Beside this 'plug and play' product, the Baird company issued Baird Televisor Kits on the market. In TELEVISION, vol.3 May 1930 No. 27, William Richardson published the article: 'Assembling and Working a Baird Kit of Components'.
.Announcing the first television play (1930)
The Baird 'Televisor' Receiver without cover.
National Museums of Scotland - NMS collection
Daily Express Television Kit

Any form of reproduction, transmission, performance, display, rental, lending or storage in any retrieval system without written consent of the NMS copyright holders is prohibited. Downloading of NMS images for use by third parties and end users is strictly prohibited, except for private study.

  Daily Express Television Kit
Daily Express Television Kit Box.
Daily Express Television Kit

The depicted Television Kit, NMS collection, was a more
cheaper method for amateurs enabling them to build there
own televisor.

However as explained above, many 'amateurs' constructed their personal television receiver with the aid of the neccesary parts featured in various television magazines.

More info coming soon.

'copyright The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland'.
- collection National Museums of Scotland - NMS -
  Daily Express Television Assembled Kit & parts on mouse over    

'copyright The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland'.
Here we see the NMS Television Kit assembled.
Suchlike kits are rare and if found without a box not always recognized as a vintage television set.

More info coming soon.

  1930 Baird 'Televisor'    
On the right we see the 'Baird Televisor' used by kind permission of Tom Genova, webmaster of 'Television History - The First 75 Years'.

By the shape of the cast iron housing and presence of the viewing lens on the right it's easy to judge the position of the television parts inside the television apparatus.

The depicted Baird Televisor is manufactured by Plessey in 1930. It contains a spinning Nipkow disk with 30 holes arranged in a spiral.

A separate radio set was used in conjunction to receive the television audio signal broadcasted via the long wave.
Approximately thousand of the illustrated set were thought to have been produced during these early television era.

Further below on the right we see Frank Bingley tuning his Baird Televisor and radio receiver.

Nobelprize winner, Luigi Pirandello's, play about Death,

The Man with the Flower in his Mouth'
The First British Television Play to be Broadcast Live by the B.B.C. on 3.30 p.m. the 14th. July 1930

  First drama on British Television
The original cast of 'The Man with the Flower in his Mouth'.
Lance Sieveking (B.B.C.) and A. Mosely adapted Pirandello's short drama, 'The Man with the Flower in his Mouth' into the first British television play.

This one-act dialogue takes place between a man who is dying of an epithelioma and a traveling businessman who missed his train.
The story takes place on the pavement of an miserable outdoor café, late evening.

The original 1930' cast was Earle Grey (The Man), Lionel Millard (the customer) and Gladys Young (a woman).

The broadcast of the play was announced one month earlier in TELEVISION, vol.3 July 1930 No. 29. See cover above.

The first dramatic televison-play in the world, "The Queen's Messenger" was broadcasted on September 11, 1928 in the United States.
Read more about "Early Television" by James Hawes.
A 'fading board' proposed for the smoothly exchange of characters during a rehearsal of 'The Man with the Flower in his Mouth'....
The fading board
TELEVISION, volume 3
July 1930 No. 29
The fading board
Use of the 'fading board' by
Lance Sieveking

Seated in front of the
televison transmitter is
Val Gielgud
  Mouve mouse over image      
In TELEVISION, vol.3 August 1930 No. 30, two articles on this broadcast appeared. 'The Fourteenth of July, 1930' by Lance Sieveking and 'How the First Television Play was Received' by the Managing Editor of the magazine. Val Gielgud (brother of Sir John Gielgud) played a creative role in the production of the play.
Since the play was transmitted live, no records survive. However, in 1967 Bill Elliott engaged Sieveking, the original director, to produce a re-creation of this historical event. All images above and the decor scenes below are from the original 1930 period.
The '30 lines' reconstruction can be downloaded at TVDawn.com.
Dark street outside the café
The table at which the man is sitting
Three 'background - scenes'
painted for
'The Man with the Flower in his Mouth'
Mouve mouse over image
Dawn of a popular mass medium:
Chess-board fading accessorie / TELEVISION, volume 3 August 1930 No. 30

The Chess-board fading accessory seems to have the best relationship with the black & white television broadcast.

The above first suggested fading board, as described in the July number of TELEVISION, was not used.

'The Man with the Flower in his Mouth'.is recognized as one of the major events in early television history being the first play live broadcasted ever on television.

Further on this page, a few other interesting 'first's' will be shared with the visitors of Early Visual Media:

- 'The London Marionettes'
- 'Conjuring tricks on television'
- 'Physical Culture athletes'
- 'The first Television Stars'

The above themes suggest that Television, soon in his early experimental stage, became an important 'mass medium' for the spread of popular visual culture throughout the world.
Click on cover
Early Television documentaries today on CD & the Internet

The Dawn of Television Remembered

A documentary by Donald F. McLean

A most interesting double CD audio documentary can be ordered directly from the maker at
The Dawn of Television Remembered.
This generous audio source by Donald F. McLean provide historical interviews with comments. The supplementary enhanced CD also offers more than 8 hours of interviews and video files of the rare restored & reconstructed early television recordings.

The CD set provide a most thorough reconstruction on the invention of television and is accompanied by a book on the restoration of these early television images.

A lecture on the restoration of these 'Phonovision' discs by Donald F. McLean can be downloaded from TVDAWN-Lecture.
The CD set provide a most torough reconstruction on the invention of television.

Visit the Earliest Television Recordings.


Further 'Television trivia' linked on 'Early Visual Media' themes

A selection of famous artists seen on television during the month's of May - July 1930.
  Pioneer television Stars
TELEVISION vol. 3 - 1930
Pioneer television Stars.
Great Television Stars Of 1930

- Cecile Maule Caule -
- Dorothy Dickson -
- Reginald Stewart -
- Mercia Stotesbury -
- Ben Lawes -
- Madeline Carroll-
- Mary Brough -
- Gladys Merredew -
- Ruppert Harvey -
- Mabel Wilder -
- Elfrida Burgiss -
- Nancy Fraser -
- Ursula Hughes -
- Betty Bolton -




"Les Jambes Superbes" on television:  
Varvarova and Allison watching television.

Leaning on an early television receiver, 'Risque tele artists' Varvarova and Allison are looking at the vertical screen.
The standard screens where made vertical since this caused a minimum loss of wasted space when televising performers.

Popular cabaret and vaudeville dancers often appeared on these screens during the dawn of the television era. Above we see a selection of early famous television Stars round 1930.

By this as it may, television was able to bring the world of popular film actresses and cabaret performers to the living room of fortunate people. No matter what subject, the most attractive of these early television broadcast's was that there was something to see on television, and it was moving !!!

The most prolific cabaret performers in this early period where the 'Paramount Astoria Girls' since they where recorded on Phonovision (an early video system on gramophone discs) in 1933.

Another well known actress and singer,
Betty Bolton, was recorded on Phonovision round 1932 - 1935. Betty recently died in April 2005 at the age of 99.


Baird mirror-drum receiver.

Boxer Young Stribling
"Physical Culture" on television:
Boxer Phil Scott.
Not only the world of film actresses, singers and cabaret performers was shown on television, the world of 'La culture Physique', a 'high topic' at the turn of the century, appeared in the thirties on the narrow flickering screen.

Both, Young Stribling and Phil Scott, where promised by TELEVISION in July 1930 to be televised one week prior to their announced fight.

For popular sportsmen it was common to perform on the streets and fairs in the period 1895 - 1920.
(e.g. Apollon, the King of Strength)

With the advent of television they where also brought to the private rooms of early television enthusiast and amateur television technicians.



Magician Jack Stuart.
"Conjuring Arts" on television:

Perhaps even more surprising is the appearance of the conjuring arts on the new 'window to the world'. On the right we see magician Jack Stuart who has been inventing ingenious tricks especially adapted to be broadcasted on television. The 'Méliès of Seeing at a Distance' ?

Since sleight-of-hand tricks and conjuring performed for small groups of onlookers where suitable for close-up viewing, this art specialized in deceiving and illusion, was also adaptable for being televised.

Suchlike performances prove that the quality of the early television broadcasts, although highly inferior compared with today's high definition standards, was good enough to to amaze the 'early bird viewers'.

Indeed, to know how these early images really looked we have to rely on the subjects chosen and oral witnesses story's of the early public which are rapidly and literally disappearing from the earth as if by magic.



The London Marionettes
"Puppet theatre" on television:

The London Marionettes' appeared several times on the small 30 line screens during this pioneering television period. The photograph on the left unveils a glimpse of the studio stage.

Popular entertainment easily found his way towards the new medium. Suchlike broadcast where especially adapted to be 'televised'

Similar to the conjuring theme, the choice of this subject is an indication for the reasonable quality of the images in the early thirties.

Additionally it seems that the movement of these pioneer broadcast was equally convincing.

It also suggest that television was a near mature medium from the beginning experimenting with most of today's common subjects.
TELEVISION, vol.3 August 1930 No. 30



Unlike for the above Magician,
the true strength of the medium Television
lie up in

Lance Sieveking.




  What can and will be Televised?    
Café Del Diablo.

The subjects televised highly depended on the technical possibilities of the moment. These where however improving rapidly.

At the time of the broadcast of
'The Man with the Flower in his Mouth', 1930, the technical conditions where unable to televise a large scene. For this, the small decors where used and the characters in the play where televised in close-up.

In TELEVISION vol. VIII- 1935 the temporary technical equipment was able to televise a much larger scene as seen left in the decor of 'Café' Del Diablo' build in the Baird studio in 'Crystal Palace'.

  Francis Jenkins with his prismatic television machine
Frank Bingley tunes his televisor and a radio for sound.
- Baird's associate - between 1930-35.

round 1928



Francis Jenkins is one of America's television pioneers. His work in mechanical television paralleled the work of John Logie Baird in England.



Collecting Television Ephemera


Mosaic Television for the Home Zoom in on mouse over
Collecting Television Ephemera
Television Mosaic
Collection Mervyn Heard
Early Mechanical & pre World War II electronic televisions are rare. However, collecting Television ephemera is a most interesting field since it unveils a lot of it's history.

On the left we see a Magic Lantern slide prophecying the coming of Television in the home.
Television literally means 'Seeing at a distance'.

The subtitle of the slide writes:
'Reproduction In Color On Large Screen Of Event Actually Happening'

Several European and American journals specialized in bringing experimental news on television development at the time when it all happened.

Regularly these magazines provide instructions on how to build your own television apparatus.
See front cover of Vol 1 No.1 of Television on top of page featuring: 'How to make a Simple Televisor' and the two frontcovers below.

Hot News on Television

Collection Stephen Herbert




for the






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