ULISES ARMAND SANABRIA
Sanabria was born in southern Chicago on September 5, 1906. His parents were American
and his grandparents were Spanish. He was raised and schooled in the Chicago area.
He often said of his ancestry that it was so extremely mixed that he could best
be described as "typically American". He was educated in the local Chicago
schools and his "heroes" were Ericsson, Eli Whitney, Robert Fulton,
Alexander Bell, Samuel Morse and most of all, Thomas Edison. He looked on Lee
deForest as his contemporary, who was a generation ahead. Most of all, he wanted
to be an inventor and do something big and important.
selected television, without the slightest idea of how he was going to go about
it. When he was 15 years old, he told his one and only girl friend of high school
days, that he was going to invent television. Two years later, he figured out
how to do it. Two more years later, at the age of 19, he demonstrated the first
television in Chicago. This was only four months after the first demonstration
in history by C. F. Jenkins. (Note, Mr. Sanabria's work was independent of C.
F. Jenkins). Mr. Sanabria was always very proud of the fact that he was one of
the first three to "invent" television. (The other was John Logie Baird)
his last six months in high school, his main benefactor was W. R. Hearst, of newspaper
fame. It seems that this was because television inventions had a special appeal
to the publishers technical advisers. In 1926 through 1936, Ulises Sanabria with
a budget of approximately $1,000,000, set up a laboratory in the Hearst building
in downtown Chicago and there he supervised developmental research projects in
television. He always felt that television could be a strong supplement to movies
in theaters. Much of the research activity was therefore related to large screen
Mr. Sanabria was self educated
in the field of television, radio and electronics. During the course of the development
work, he acquired a working knowledge of the tools for glass working, lens grinding,
accurate machine work, electric generators, automatic machinery for glass working
and became an expert trouble shooter in all types of electronic equipment.
was the first to produce television using interlaced scanning in January, 1926.
He used a unique triple interlace method that was especially effective in reducing
flicker in the picture. Later in that year, the Illinois Publishing & Printing
Company supported him in successfully demonstrating television to 200,000 people
attending the Chicago Radio Show from October 10th though 17th in the Chicago
Some of the items developed early
in the research work were, accurate mechanical scanning systems, large size potassium
hydride photo cells, Long column neon light valves, wide range DC amplifiers,
filtered arc light for elimination of commutator ripple in pictures, series modulation
of transmitting oscillators. In later years, Mr. Sanabria gave consideration to
increasing the number of lines to 48 and interlace 6 fields of 8 lines each. However,
this idea never went past the "thought" stage because of other important
improvements and advancements that would overshadow it.
Sanabria was the builder and engineer of WCFL, the first television station in
Chicago on June 12, 1928. By sending the sound signal to station WIBO and the
picture on WCFL, he was the first to transmit sound and picture simultaneously
on the same wave band. In May 19, 1929, he began building the television
transmitter for W9XAO located at 6312 Broadway, built near the main WIBO studio
on the second floor. A bank of forty-eight six inch diameter photo-electric cells
were mounted in one wall of the studio, with a square hole in the center to pass
the flying spot scanning beam.
was in operation in the summer of 1929 and by this time, Sanabria and his people
were operating as the "Western Television Corp." with Clem F. Wade as
president and Martin J. Wade as secretary. The Western Television Corp. was prepared
to build commercial television transmitters using their unique interlaced scanning
feature. Sanabria went on to supervise the construction of 24 television stations
using his system of scanning.
was the first company to produce and market a commercial television receiver (The
Visionette) in 1929 with a 17 inch scanning disk. It was
available as kit for $88.25 minus the Kinolamp and cabinet. The cabinet was an
extra $20.00. The Visionette cabinet contained only the scanning disk assembly.
Separate receivers for sight and sound were necessary to make up a complete television
receiver. A companion receiver and consolette table were available from Western
Television for an additional $85.00 and $20.00
scanning disk assembly of the kit, slightly reconfigured and with two 6 inch photocells
and a light source, was also sold as a camera.
1932, Western Television placed on the market their new table model 41 receiver
under the Echophone brand name. Although there was no receiver for sound, it did
include an eight tube superheterodyne receiver for the picture. The tuning range
was from 1400 to 2850 kilocycles. For the sound, the Echophone
model 14 or model 16 receivers were recommended. The television receiver featured
a new eight inch diameter, 45 hole lens disk and a new type of hot cathode crater
lamp developed by Lloyd P. Garner. When this receiver was available, there were
22 stations broadcasting the 45 line interlaced Sanabria signals. The model 41
sold for $85.00, complete with tubes.
very similar to the one in the model 41 was later used in the "Empire State"
television receiver. The picture size on the model 41 was approximately 4 1/2
whereas on the Empire state, it was 8 inches square. The larger cabinet also provided
space for a complete sound receiver and loudspeaker, mounted in the lower portion
of the cabinet.
Mr. Sanabria was also creating
interest in television amongst the public, by providing demonstrations of large
screen television in auditoriums and theaters throughout the United States and
Canada. Some of the places where these took place include: Macy's, New York,,,
Abraham & Strauss, Brooklyn,,, Bamberger's Newark, New Jersey,,, Hoschild-Kohn
& Co., Baltimore,,, Litt Bros., Philadelphia,,, Spear & Company, Pittsburg,,,
Edwards & Sons, Schenectady,,, Sears Roebuck, Rochester,,, Pizitz, Burmingham,
Alabama,,, May Company, Cleveland,,, O'Neil & Co., Akron, Ohio,,, R. H. Block,
Indianapolis,,, Sears Roebuck, Chicago,,, Marshall Field Co., Chicago,,,Boston
Store, Milwaukee,,, Golden Rule, St.Paul,,, Stix, Baer & Fuller, St. Louis,,,
Crowley-Milner, Detroit,,, Poeple's Outfitting Co., Detroit,,, May Company, Los
Angeles,,, Eporium, San Francisco,,, Meyer &Frank, Portland, Oregon,,, Brandels
& Co., Omaha,,, Gimbles, Miwaukee, Easton's Stores, Canada,,, Garrick Theater,
Chicago,,, The Century of Progress Exposition...
cities where demonstrations were given include:
and Hamilton, Ontario,,, Medicine Hat, Alberta and Vancouver,British Columbia,,,
Seattle, Washington, Des Moines, Holdridge and Lincoln, Nebraska,,,Witchita, Kansas.
Nashville, Tennessee,,, Reading and Scranton, Pennsyvania,,, Providence, Rhode
Island,,, Boston, Massachusetts,,, Cincinnati, Ohio.
and every demonstration of large screen television was attended by thousands of
people. Depending on the size of the room, the picture was either 6 1/2 feet or
10 feet square. The receiver equipment was generally placed on a eight foot high
stand. The scanning disk was 45
inches in diameter and two inches thick. It was made of cast aluminum and has
45 three inch diameter lenses located in three sectors. It weighed 120 pounds
and was put in place or removed using a block and tackle. On one occasion, after
a show in Baltimore, the rope broke as the disk was about to be removed. It fell
to the floor with a great crash and broke into pieces. Most of the 45 lenses were
broken also. The disk was useless and had to be replaced. The next show was in
2 days, in New York and the replacement disk was in Chicago. Needless to say;
for the next show, the equipment was ready. As they say, "the show must go
on"!---and it did!
By 1934, with further
improvements in his equipment, Ulises Sanabria was able to demonstrate pictures
that were 30 feet wide.
It is interesting
to note that with all of the Sanabria stations that were operating and his strong
interest in showing television pictures in existing movie theaters, he was never
able to show a movie film of any kind using the Sanabria triple interlace system.
Although one of his engineers, Armando Conto had in fact developed a means of
using motion picture films with the triple interlace system, It was totally impractical
because of its complexity and associated problems. For example, it required two
sets of identical films of the subject matter, operating in separate synchronized
projection systems, while both films were being scanned by a common scanning disk.
Only alternate frames on each film were actually scanned.
never presented even a cartoon film in any of his demonstrations and neither did
any of the other stations he had set up. At first this was not a serious problem,
but in later years it became one.
years before World War II, Mr. Sanabria formed and was the principal stockholder
and president of American Television. They set up and operated a very popular
four year national correspondence school and a four year residence school in Chicago,
Detroit and Los Angeles. Doctor Lee De Forest was a consultant to Mr. Sanabria
and the school. They were in the process of setting up another branch in New York
on Pearl Harbor Day. During the war years, 2000 of their students were recruited
by our armed forces. The school had 6000 men in four year training courses, in
which they were granted the first Bachelor of Science Degrees in Television.
the war, the Signal Corps appealed to Mr. Sanabria to make cathode ray tubes,
which they already were doing in a small way. As part of the training, the school
had the students building both cathode ray tubes and monoscopes which the students
used in their laboratory projects. Mr. Sanabria determined they could produce
about 50 tubes a day, as a start. In a short while this was stepped up to 1000
a day of all types and sizes. In December, 1948 production began on the 10 inch
round picture tubes, By May, 1949 they were producing 500 a day. The glass was
supplied by Corning Glass Works and half of the finished tubes went to Westinghouse,
the other half to Tung-sol. Tube sizes increased rapidly and by December, 1949
they were making their first 16 inch rectangular tubes.
1950, Mr. Sanabria went into the production of television sets under his name
and opened self-owned stores to sell them throughout the United States. He was
producing 1000 sets a week. He built the cabinets, the picture tubes and the entire
chassis. He also went into military research and development and was manufacturing
image storage tubes, hydrogen thyratrons and the test equipment to evaluate them.
activities were expanding all at once and no provision had been made for the proper
banking procedures, so all of the enterprises became co-mingled financially. This
resulted in prohibitive taxes and military refunds, so that even in his most successful
years through 1955, Mr. Sanabria ended up with overburdening liabilities to the
Excise Tax Division of the IRS and the Fiscal Divisions of the Armed Services.
He never recovered from these losses.
EARLY CHICAGO TELEVISION
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 enginner for the Western Televison Corporation. This is his story from a
letter that I received some years ago, included here just as I received it.
Wm. N. PARKER
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 Chicago television.
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."
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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 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!
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.
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, pushbuttons 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 tolerable.
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.
from both W9XAO and W9XAP were received at distances up to 400 or so miles thruout
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.
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 Daily News.
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 DeForest. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Washington,
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
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.
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!
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
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 "go-ahead!"
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.
"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 color television.
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
Wm. N. Parker
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)
I have just read with interest your bibliography of Ulysses
Aloysious Sanabria who I studied under and worked for soon after arriving in USA
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
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 forward with his rapier.
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
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 .
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
Do you by any chance know what became of John Sanabria ,
UA's brother, and his nephew Renaldo Sanabria?.
Thank you for providing
so much history of UA.
yours sincerely --------Malcolm L.Fox
then there is this item that appeared in another Email from Mr. 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.
also heard from U. A. Sanabria's granddaughter, Becky. Here is what she had to
A. Sanabria is my late grandfather and I am forever searching
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
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
personally...it is such a shame, really. I hear he was quite an
intelligent man-he even composed music (having had no formal
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
but I would very much appreciate any information about
him that you might
not have mentioned on your website.