in Chicago: 1921-1989 (and thereafter)
With Special Emphasis on the NBC Studios
in the Merchandise Mart
On-line Museum of Chicago Broadcast History
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.
connoisseurs of political corruption:
the BlagoFlashBack page, a collection of videos dealing
with the adventures of the former governor of Illinois in the
criminal justice system.
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).
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).
featuring (among many other things):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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?)
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.
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?
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
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.)
"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
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.
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
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.
About this Location:
the Merchandise Mart Studios:
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
which time they had been transformed into a major television production
(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.
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
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.
of network broadcasts
originated from NBC's Merchandise Mart studios----among them Amos
'n' Andy, The
Empire Builders (featuring a young Don Ameche),
First Nighter, Lights
McGee and Molly, The Carnation Contented Hour,
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
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
Among the personalities who either began or enhanced their careers
in the Merchandise Mart studios in the glory days of network radio
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
Tillstrom and Fran Allison (of Kukla, Fran & Ollie),
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
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
could easily argue that more broadcast history was made in the Merchandise
Mart than in any other production facility, past or present.
About the 1930 virtual tour of the Merchandise Mart
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.
this site you can also...
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
about KYW, Chicago's first broadcasting station (and perhaps
the first station in the nation to broadcast R-rated (if not
about WMAQ radio and meet Judith Waller, Chicago's "First
Lady of Radio".
WMAQ celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary on April 13th,
photos from the album of Glenn Webster, an NBC-Chicago engineer from 1931
to 1945. Great unpublished shots of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (Amos
'n' Andy), the cast of Vic and Sade, Hal Peary in his pre-Gildersleeve
days---and much more.
Nineteenth Floor"---the recollections of a Blue Network
engineer who rode gain on The Breakfast Club, Welcome
Travelers, Jack Armstrong, Tom Mix, Captain
Midnight and many other shows from radio's golden age.
about WLS in the 1930's. Visit the Prairie Farmer
station at 1230 West Washington and see your favorite artists
performing in the "Cornstalk Studio."
through a hypertext version of the 1935 edition of the "Today's
Children" Family Album and learn everything you
need to know about one of your granny's favorite soaps.
how the Merchandise Mart studios became a major production center
almost as soon as the doors were opened in the fall of 1930,
surpassing New York in the number of network program originations---and
scroll through the long list of network shows produced in the
Merchandise Mart studios in 1937.
about Chicago's unique brand of radio drama from Arch Oboler,
a master of the craft---and see how it influenced television
in the visual medium's early days.
about the art of sound effects
at NBC-Chicago in the early 1930's---and see the extraordinary
lengths technicians would go to as they devised their sonic
illusions (how would you simulate an automobile crash?)
about the endangered species of staff announcer, those gentlemen
with the mellifluous, resonant voices (and see Hugh Downs with
about Len O'Connor, the pioneer broadcast journalist from
whom all present-day street reporters are descended. (this is
a must-see if you're in the radio or television
about television at the Merchandise Mart. You'll meet personalities like
Dave Garroway and Burr Tillstrom
who defined the "Chicago School of Television" and made Chicago a major
network production center in the days of live television. You can take a guided
tour of the first station in the world to broadcast all its locally-produced programs
in color. And you can go behind the scenes at one of the nation's premier local
television news operations (where you will see some familiar faces from the past
Holmes "Daddy-O" Daylie, WMAQ radio's first African-American
behind the scenes at the 1996 Radio Hall of Fame Awards broadcast
a peek at the script.
the script for the 1997 Radio Hall of Fame awards broadcast.
about the departure of Carol Marin and Ron Magers from WMAQ-TV---and
about the era that ended at NBC-Chicago on May 1st, 1997.
about the curator
of these pages. And meet some of his present-day colleagues.
other broadcast-related sites you can...
finally you can...
Comments or suggestions?
here to send them to Rich Samuels
by Rich Samuels (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)