evening of September 20, 1948, NBC opened its Midwest TV Network with a gala 3
hour program originating from KSD-TV, St. Louis. Beside WMAQ-TV, other stations
on the hookup were WTMJ-TV, Milwaukee; WSPD-TV, Toledo; WWJ-TV, Detroit and WBEN-TV,
Buffalo, N.Y. Segments of the program came from St. Louis, Detroit and Toledo.
The performers included singer Jane Pickens, impressionist Willy Howard and comic
On October 8, 1948, Chicago saw its first televised World Series, through special
permission obtained from the FCC. Three games were carried by cable that year
from Cleveland as the Indians met the Boston Braves. WMAQ-TV's Hugh Downs was
the commercial announcer.
Viewers reported seeing the World Series telecasts as far away as Neenah and Green
Bay, Wisconsin 190 miles north of Chicago.
By October 14th, WMAQ-TV had 14 employees, and was preparing for its first live
broadcast from its Merchandise Mart studios: the Presidential Election returns
on November 2nd.
At 7:00 PM on Sunday, October 27, WMAQ-TV presented its first commercial network
program. It was a kinescope film of "The Philco Hour". It starred Paul
Muni in a drama called "Counselor at Law".
On the evening of November 2, 1948, there was an atmosphere of excitement on the
19th floor of the Merchandise Mart. After months of preparation, everything was
ready for live production. Engineers set up field equipment in what is now the
WMAQ-FM radio studio for all-night coverage of the Presidential election.
The midwest was not yet connected to the east coast network by cable. Much of
the program came to Chicago by cable from NBC in Cleveland. Two of Chicago's most
distinguished and honored newsmen, Clifton
Utley and the late Jim Hurlbut, provided live local returns for five minutes
Reinald Werrenrath directed the Chicago segment of the telecast. He recalls that
the election staff went to bed shortly after ending the broadcast at 8 AM not
knowing who had won the Presidency. They weren't alone. An early edition of the
Chicago Tribune headlined: "Dewey Beats Truman".
In December, WMAQ-TV's growing staff moved from the 19th floor to temporary quarters
on the 11th floor of the Merchandise Mart. The transmitter log showed that Channel
5 ended 1948 with a total of 71 hours of program time. Twenty years later, WMAQ-TV
would air 100 times that much programming.