WWW This site

Broadcasting in Chicago: 1921-1989 (and thereafter)

Hogan & Nicholas during taping of "Farewell to the Mart" and the Mart itself

With Special Emphasis on the NBC Studios in the Merchandise Mart

An On-line Museum of Chicago Broadcast History

NBC Chicago recording room
Streaming audio and video: Enjoy audio and video clips from some great NBC-Chicago broadcasts of the remote and not-too-distant past. You will also find programs from other Chicago stations, like a 2002 WTTW documentary on North Shore Civil Rights activists.

A decade ago: The election Barack Obama lost. Streaming video from March, 2000 of President-elect Barack Obama (then an Illinois state senator) on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" broadcast as he attempts to unseat Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois's 1st Congressional District.

Barack Obama on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" program

For connoisseurs of political corruption: Peruse the BlagoFlashBack page, a collection of videos dealing with the adventures of the former governor of Illinois in the criminal justice system.

Watch a biographical portrait of Jim Ryan that aired on WTTW in the fall of 2002 when Ryan was the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois (Rod Blagojevich was victorious in the November election).

Jim Ryan

Worth viewing: Streaming video of a tribute to Kukla, Fran and Ollie on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of their first broadcast.

For Pavarotti fans: Video of the Curator's 1977 encounter with the late Luciano Pavarotti. Featuring the legendary tenor, wife #1 Adua and daughters Lorenza, Cristina and Giuliana, I portrayed Pavarotti as, above all, a "family man". (Filmed by the legendary Amatore Mazzacano). (Thanks to Marjorie Fox who collaborated in this piece and who saved an off-air dub).
Luciano Pavarotti at O'Hare Airport, September, 1977


Welcome to the website of Rich Samuels (whom you may now follow on Twitter).

Presently featuring (among many other things):

A QuickTime introduction to this site (1.1 megabytes) featuring the NBC-Chicago Orchestra, the NBC chimes---and the curator of these pages standing in the rain in the WTTW parking lot (with special thanks to Michael Davis and Café Verité Motion Pictures).
Movie thumbnail

Meet Bob Deservi. He was the White House's Associate Director of Communications for Production. Learn how a former NBC-Chicago page became one of the President's men. Bob, as a field cameraman and editor, had one of the keenest eyes the Curator of this site has ever encountered. Bob's journey from the world of NBC to the camp of George W. Bush is worthy of note.
Bob DeServi at WMAQ-TV in 1976

The Mary Hartline collection. More than you would probably care to know about the blond bombshell star of ABC's "Super Circus"---one of Chicago's earliest contributions to network television. Video clips included.
Mary Hartline

And speaking of presidential bids, Don McNeill made his sixty years ago. It was a gag, of course---but now's the season to check out our tribute to Don McNeill and The Breakfast Club. It was one of the most successful and enduring programs in the history of radio. You can enjoy the 1942 Breakfast Club Family album and "Twenty Years of Corn", a look at the Breakfast Club's first twenty years. You can also listen to an hour-long Breakfast Club broadcast of 8 December, 1941, complete with news bulletins in the wake of the previous day's attack on Pearl Harbor. (You can also watch streaming video of a piece on the "Breakfast Club" the curator put together in 2004.
Don McNeill

Carol Marin: She (and producer Don Mosely) are back on WMAQ-TV, following an odyssey that took them to WBBM-TV and Sixty Minutes II. (Don't forget to read her columns in the Chicago Sun Times). And you'll be seeing her on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" show in 2006.
Carol Marin

Studs's Place: A look at a remarkable but short-lived show from the early days of television. You can download video of a complete broadcast from June 6th, 1950 featuring Studs Terkel, Beverly Younger, Win Stracke, Chet Roble and character actor John Barclay.

Studs's Place cast

The demise of WMAQ radio. A video visit to the WMAQ radio studios in the NBC Tower shortly before Infinity Broadcasting retired Chicago's oldest call letters. 44 staffers await their fates. Cameo appearances by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago legend Studs Terkel.
WMAQ newsroom

Visit "The Nineteenth Floor", the recollections of Kermit Slobb, veteran Blue Network engineer. He operated the board for many of Chicago's radio greats, including the guy standing over his shoulder (can you guess who he is?)
Tommy Bartlett and Kermit Slobb

WMAQ Radio: Gone but not forgotten. A look at the earliest (and also the palmiest) days of the station that signed off for good in August of 2000.
WMAQ 1950's logo

WMAQ-TV: 1948-1968. An online version of the commemorative booklet the late John Gibbs prepared for WMAQ-TV's 20th anniversary in 1968. Channel 5 celebrated its Golden Jubilee (with little fanfare) in 1998.
1968 thumbnail

Was it the golden age of local television news?. View video of a complete 10 pm WMAQ-TV broadcast from 23 February, 1967 featuring the late Floyd Kalber, Len O'Connor (also deceased) and Harry Volkman (still with us). No subsequent Chicago television show has matched Kalber's ratings of that year.
Floyd Kalber

Meet Chicago broadcast journalists Clifton and Frayn Utley (and view a video fragment of one of Clifton Utley's early television news broadcasts.) On the 19th floor of the Merchandise Mart the Utleys became to news what the Jordans (Marian and Jim) were to entertainment.
Clifton Utley

A remarkable paid political broadcast: Senator John F. Kennedy speaks coast-to-coast on the NBC television network with the Democratic Party of Cook County (Richard J. Daley, chairman) picking up the tab. Will Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards ever look this good on the tube?
Senator John F. Kennedy, 11/4/1960

Meet Val Press. The heart and soul of Channel 5 News passed away on September 11th, 2002. Learn about her remarkable career at NBC that spanned more than half a century. And view the Val Press video.
Val Press

"Amos 'n' Andy"---radio's first monster hit: an introduction to Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll and the characters they created. You can also listen to streaming audio documenting the show's earliest years in Chicago.
Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll

The world of Kukla and Ollie (which also includes Burr Tillstrom, their creator, and Fran Allison). (October 13th, 2007 marked the 60th anniversary of their first television appearance).
Kukla and Ollie

WLS: The Prairie Farmer Days: Visit the legendary WLS-Prairie Farmer studios at 1230 West Washington. Enjoy the pictures and text of the 1932 WLS Family Album, along with highlights from the WLS Family Albums of 1934, 1941 (featuring images by Fons Ianelli), and 1954 (when WLS turned 30). And you can Listen to the NBC Network portion of the National Barn Dance from October 2nd, 1943.
Prairie Farmer WLS logo

The "Chicago School" of television. Learn why television, Chicago-style, became the envy of New York and Hollywood in the early days of network video. And meet the principal exponents of the genre, including Burr Tillstrom, Dave Garroway and Studs Terkel.
Studio A thumbnail

Meet Dave Garroway, one of the great geniuses of Chicago broadcasting (before New York snatched him away). And download memorable moments from the "Garroway at Large" show, one of early network television's most creative efforts.
Dave Garroway and boom microphone

The Glenn Webster page. Glenn Webster, one of NBC-Chicago's first engineers, came to work at the NBC Merchandise Mart studios in 1931. He regularly ran the board for the Amos 'n' Andy and Vic and Sade broadcasts. Moreover, he was an amateur photographer who often carried his camera to work. His photos provide unique documentation of NBC's earliest days in the Merchandise Mart. (Glenn passed away on January 1st, 2007, at the age of 100).
Glen Webster

Read about Jack Eigen, host of WMAQ radio's "Chez Show". And learn how a televised kiss (on February 15th, 1954) cost him his job. Though Jack was a Brooklyn native and started his broadcast career in Manhattan, he was on the air in Chicago for the better part of twenty years.

The Best of Dick Kay: Dick Kay (born Richard Snodgrass) served as WMAQ-TV's political editor for the better part of his thirty-eight year career at Channel 5 (he's now an apologist for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich). Here you can view two of his earlier feature stories, the Johnston City pool hustlers and the demise of the Wabash Cannonball.
Dick Kay

Meet Johnny Erp, NBC-Chicago's legendary sportscaster and assignment editor. You can download video of Johnny dispatching film crews early in 1963. (Erp's own story is every bit as fascinating as the stories he covered in Chicago between 1938 and 1970.)
Johnny Erp

Chicago Television in 1930-1933: A look at W9XAP, WMAQ's experimental television station. And watch video of a newsreel shot in the W9XAP studios in the Daily News Building in 1931. (Rather interesting to ponder as you prepare for the HDTV era).
W9XAP experimental television

The "Today's Children" Family album and the origins of the soap opera. View an HTML version of a 1935 soap opera premium and learn how broadcasting's most enduring genre was created in Chicago.
Today's Children album

Meet Miss Frances of "Ding Dong School". From October, 1952 until December, 1964 Dr. Frances Horwich conducted commercial television's most significant effort to provide quality programming for pre-schoolers. "Miss Frances" passed away in July of 2001. You can watch a complete, half-hour "Ding Dong School" episode. And you can view some of her possessions that were put on the auction block in July of 2003. (This is a must for baby-boomers).
"Miss Frances" (Dr. Frances Horwich)

Channel 5 News more than a half-century ago. No film, no tape, no live shots, no consultants. Just Bill Ray, pioneer news director, and a staff that included Len O'Connor, Clifton Utley, Hugh Downs and John Chancellor.
Uyley, Hara, Ray,Chancellor

Marlin Perkins and "Zoo Parade". Best known as the host of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom", Marlin Perkins and the beasts of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo (some ferocious, others loveable) first hit the NBC television network in the spring of 1950---a weekly live remove every Sunday afternoon.
Marlin Perkins and chimp

"Camelot to Sandlot": The recollections of Roger Lee Miller, an NBC Chicago television director from 1964 to 1996. Read about his often wacky encounters with a wide range of personalities (from Jack Benny to Ron Hunter) who passed through the Mart during his tenure.
Roger Lee Miller

The World's Best Cup of Coffee and where you can find it (though some travel is required unless you live in Rome). The curator shares his subjective (but widely shared) opinion. Watch him drink it (or watch him drink it in a more pretentious video). Off the topic of this site, but near the core of the meaning of life.
Rich Samuels drinks coffee


Right: The illuminated map of the NBC network in the the old master control area (photographed in September, 1989).The map, created by a Rand-McNally artist in 1931, glowed on the 19th floor of Chicago's Merchandise Mart until NBC's departure from the building in the fall of 1989. Originally, different colored lights designated the stations of NBC's Red Network, Blue Network and Pacific Coast Network. After NBC's sale of the Blue Network in 1943, the map was modified accordingly. The space in which the map was displayed was originally the Master Control Room. With the coming of television in 1949, the room was redesignated 'Video Central'. The map has been preserved and one day---hopefully soon---will be on display at Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Illuminated map in Video Central

About this Location:

Marion and Jim Jordan, better known as "Fibber McGee and Molly"
This site is an on-line museum that deals with the history of radio and television over a period of almost sixty years. Its focus is the studio complex the National Broadcasting Company operated in Chicago's Merchandise Mart from 1930 to 1989.
You can presently take a virtual tour of these facilities as they appeared when the studios opened in the fall of 1930.
You can also take a similar tour of the facilities as they appeared in 1970---by which time they had been transformed into a major television production center.
(You will find many other links dealing with television at the Merchandise Mart.)
Finally, you will be able to see the Mart studios as they appeared in their last days, shortly before NBC moved from the Merchandise Mart at the end of September, 1989.
Along the way you will be able to meet many of the individuals who labored on-air and behind the scenes to create the unique 'Chicago Touch' that has always characterized broadcasting in the Windy City.
About the Merchandise Mart Studios:

The NBC Merchandise Mart studios at the time of their opening were, according to contemporary press accounts, the world's most techically advanced (thanks to the genius of O. B. Hanson) and---reflecting the Art Deco tastes of the day---most elegant.
They quickly transformed Chicago into a major network broadcast production center---an honor the city retained even after the advent of commercial television following the end of the Second World War.
Bernadine Flynn and Art Van Harvey as "Vic and Sade"


The King's Jesters
Scores of network broadcasts originated from NBC's Merchandise Mart studios----among them Amos 'n' Andy, The Empire Builders (featuring a young Don Ameche), The First Nighter, Lights Out, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Carnation Contented Hour, The Breakfast Club, The Quiz Kids---plus three to four hours of soap operas every day.
And shortly after the Mart studios opened, they became the home of two NBC owned-and-operated stations, WENR and WMAQ.
The Mart studios were among the busiest in the world. And the music---in the foreground or in the background---was, in all probability, live, thanks to the artistry of more than forty staff musicians.
Among the personalities who either began or enhanced their careers in the Merchandise Mart studios in the glory days of network radio were Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll, Marian and Jim Jordan, Don Ameche, MacDonald Carey, Les Tremayne, Olan Soule, Harold Peary (the first "Great Gildersleeve"), Willard Waterman (the second "Great Gildersleeve"), Harlow Wilcox, Don McNeill, Gary Moore, Percy Faith, Myron (now better known as "Mike") Wallace and Hugh Downs (a staff announcer during the 'forties and 'fifties).
Among the personalities who worked in the Mart studios in the television era were Dave Garroway, Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison (of Kukla, Fran & Ollie), Clifton Utley, Clint Youle (television's original weatherman), Studs Terkel (of Stud's Place, a hip precursor of Cheers), Dr. Frances Horwich (better known as "Miss Frances" of Ding Dong School), the members of the cast of television's pioneer soap Hawkins Falls, Wayne King (the "Waltz King"), Shelly Long, the late John Chancellor, John Palmer, Carole Simpson, Pat O'Brien (best known these days for his highly-publicized rehab and phone tapes), Jane Pauley, Maury Povich, Chuck Henry, the truly unforgettable Ron Hunter, Greg Gumbel and Deborah Norville.

One could easily argue that more broadcast history was made in the Merchandise Mart than in any other production facility, past or present. Old NBC logo

About the 1930 virtual tour of the Merchandise Mart studios:

1931 view of lady and RCA radio
Most of the photographs you will encounter on this tour were taken by the facility's architect (Graham, Anderson, Probst and White) shortly after construction was completed.
You will be presented with a floor plan---a clickable image map if your browser handles client-side image maps---and a menu of thumb nail graphics listing studio and technical areas you can visit. Text will describe the original interior design detail (most of the photographs, reflecting the technology of the day, will be black-and-white).
You will also be able to see additional photographs documenting the facility's expansion in the mid-1930's and 'modernization' thereafter. You can also follow the appropriate link to see the facility's transformation into a television broadcast center.
Take the tour:

Click here to begin your tour of the studios as they appeared in 1930. But proceed quietly. And please don't open any doors without first checking with one of the uniformed NBC pages. It's very likely that a network broadcast is originating from one or more of the studios!
Joe Gallicchio, NBC-Chicago Conductor
At this site you can also...

At other broadcast-related sites you can...

And finally you can...


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
Audio and video downloads
About the Curator

Comments or suggestions? click here to send them to Rich Samuels

Created by Rich Samuels (e-mail to