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It was 6:15 PM on Wednesday, September 1, 1948... after working hours for most Chicagoans, who were looking forward to the coming Labor Day weekend. The radio-TV pages of Chicago newspapers were heavy with radio programming such as WMAQ's "Mr. District Attorney" and "Marriage in Distress". TV programming listed that day totaled only 40 minutes for Chicago's two television stations, mostly interviews, baseball and wrestling.

Only the day before, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, president and publisher of the New York Times, had said to a publishers' meeting in Saranac Lake, N. Y., "Television and radio, as I see it, are primarily media of entertainment, and the newspaper, which gives information, is not threatened by them.'' So few Chicagoans who read the story in their newspapers that morning would have been impressed with what was happening on 42nd floor of the Kemper Building. After all, it was only an engineer pushing a button.

It was really that simple: engineer Walter Lanterman pushed a button---and a soundless test pattern appeared for the first time on television Channel 5. No blare of trumpets; no speeches. But I. B. (Chick) Showerman, Vice President of NBC's Central Division won a ten-dollar bet from Sales Manager Paul McClure. WNBQ NBC's newest television station, and sister station to WMAQ radio-had made its target air date.

Left: The original WNBQ test pattern
WNBQ test pattern

The signal went out to a total potential audience of less than 50,000 TV receivers. Still, 30 persons reported seeing the test pattern as far away as Valparaiso, Indiana-30 miles east of Chicago and Flgin, Illinois, a similar distance to the west. It was a novelty, that first 15-minute test pattern. It was worth talking about. But nobody seeing it that day in Valparaiso or Elgin could realize that in just twenty years, that brief test pattern would grow into Chicago's number one source for news, with 3 1/2hours of news programming every weekday.

Return to the Channel 5 20th anniversary booklet index

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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Created by Rich Samuels (e-mail to rich@richsamuels.com)