1946-1949 "TV Forecast"
Telling the Public About What's On the Air
In the early days of TV, the program schedules were mailed to customer's
homes, placed in newspapers, or handed out for free by radio and television
dealers. There were only a few hours of television per
day, and one or two channels per city, so the schedules were short. This
page gives the history of early program guides, prior to today's national
The FIRST Program Guide - Issued June 30 to
July 5th, 1941
The first two TV stations licensed for commercial broadcasting
were New York’s WNBT (which later became WNBC) and WCBW. They were both
licensed on July 1, 1941. Earlier broadcasting was considered
Just prior to the official 'first day' of FCC-approved commercial
broadcasting, television station WNBT mailed "Program Cards" to New
York area set owners. At that time, there were less than 7,000 television
sets in operation nationwide. Mr. Robert Fendrich's father (Leo) received
one of these 5-3/4" x 10" cards. The top line of the card
says: "No. 1 -- Television Program --
Preserve for Posterity". Leo kept this card as
suggested. We are now at the 60th anniversary of this historic event.
WNBT apparently started to broadcast 1 day early - the official start date
was July 1st, but they began their programming on Monday, June 30th. The first
(and only) program for that day was 2 hours of amateur boxing at the Jamaica
Arena. Here are scans of this Program Guide:
(187K file size)
WNBT Program Guide - June 30, 1941
This Opinion Card is attached to the bottom of the guide -- NBC asked owners
to fill this out and drop it in a mailbox (postage pre-paid). This card
was not mailed, so we thankfully have an example to post here.
THE WAR YEARS
At the onset of World War-II, worldwide television broadcasting was curtailed
or halted completely. The country most drastically affected was England,
whose TV broadcasting was shut down from noon, September 1, 1939 until June 7,
1946. Approximately 19,000 TV sets were operating in the London area at
In the United States, commercial broadcasting was unaffected until 1942.
At that time, virtually all stations went dark with the exception of DuMont's
WABD, in New York, who broadcast (with a reduced schedule) throughout the war.
Less than 20 stations were in operation nationwide, in the pre-war period. TV was used (among other things) to
entertain the troops, provide updates on the war, and to teach the public
civil defense and demonstrate emergency first-aid procedures.
Not much survives about the day-to-day programming, but we do have some
examples of Program Postcards that were mailed to the approximately 2,000 owners
of television sets in the New York area. A few examples from this time
period are shown below.
(50K) -- Week of January 28th, 1945 -- DuMont television station WABD -- Channel
4 -- Program Postcard. Notice that programming was limited to three days
per week, about 1 or 2 evening hours on each day. Also interesting
is that a "test pattern will be on one half-hour before each show time .."
This was to allow set owners time to make the necessary adjustments for good
reception! Times sure have changed!
Note: The original DuMont cards were dark green ink
on light-beige card stock. The color has been electronically
removed in these examples to enhance readability on the website. The scan
on the right-hand side shows true coloration of the program postcard. (25K
(72K) -- Typical wartime Program evaluation card. Viewers that were kind
enough to mail this card back to the station helped provide feedback as to which
shows the TV-owners enjoyed most.
This WNBT card was mailed
to set owners on April 20, 1945, announcing the impending
coverage of V-E day.
(100K) -- Here is a later DuMont card,
(now Channel 5), for the week of January 6th, 1947. Program postcards were
used until about 1948-49 in the United States. Notice that by 1947
programming was Monday through Friday for DuMont.
Program Leaflet of the 1940s
One example of a program leaflet is this October 1947 guide called
"On The Air" for KTLA (Channel 5) and W6XAO (Channel 2) for the Los
Angeles area. This particular guide was
primarily for radio programs, with a 1/2 page devoted to TV. The front
cover says these were updated once a month!
Note: W6XAO was the first TV Station in Los Angeles. It later became KNXT,
and is now known as KCBS.
The Humble Beginnings of "TV Guide"
Chicago TV Forecast - Philadelphia TV
Digest - New York TV Guide
(Courtesy of Mr. Bob Reed)
After the leaflet and postcard era, three local "television guide books" began
their existence on different dates in the year 1948. They were Chicago's Television
Forecast, Philadelphia's Local Televiser, and New York's Television
Guide. Each has a unique story on how they got started. The
three little magazines eventually became the national TV Guide, with the
first issue released on April 3, 1953, showing Desi Arnez IV (Lucy's Baby) on
First Issue of the National Edition TV Guide
April 3, 1953
(One recently sold on ebay for $500)
Chicago - Television Forecast
The first continuously published "TV Guide" type magazine, in
the United States was launched in Chicago, on May 9, 1948. It was called
"Television Forecast". There were 18,500 TV sets in Chicago, and about
300,000 sets in the whole USA. The owners were Mr. Les Viahon and three
other ex-GI buddies. Each chipped in $250 and started publishing the
magazine in the basement classroom of Abbot Hall on the Northwestern University
Campus. They were so broke that they bound their first issue with staplers
borrowed from the professors upstairs!
The group managed to obtain (from a TV dealer's association or such) a
mailing address list of everyone in the Windy City who had purchased a TV
set, and then for several months mailed the publication free, as a
"programming service". On August 8th, they began charging $3.00
per year (Charter members $2.00 per year). The first issue distribution
was 16,000 booklets. Later
press runs were in the tens to hundreds of thousands, but nearly all the copies were tossed
out, once the next week's issue became available.
May 6-12, 1950 -- Shows early publication quantities & history.
Here are the 'official government audit publication figures' -
the numbers represent the "average" print quantities from the previous
year (weekly quantities summed together and divided by 52). The date in
the parenthesis is simply the specific week that the report appeared in
the magazine. The 1948 report did not appear until the May 6-12 issue, 1950,
Chicago TV Forecast
16,000 (May 6-12, 1950)
(Oct 15-21, 1949)
(Oct 7-13, 1950)
(Oct 13-19, 1951)
(Oct 25-31, 1952)
Shown below are several issues from this first two years of this magazine,
including Issue One. Click
any image to enlarge. Use the browser's "Back" button to return
to this page.
May 9, 1948 Issue ONE
May 16, 1948 Issue TWO
Philadelphia TV Digest ("Local
A completely different story can be told about the Philadelphia TV
magazine. There were two brothers living in Philadelphia by the name of
the Irvin (b. 11-23-24) and Arthur Borowsky, who were in the commercial printing
business. Their business was called "North American Publishing
Company". In 1948, they dreamed up the idea of publishing a little
8-page TV program guide that could be used as a promotional piece to increase
The brothers received a commitment from local Philco television distributors
to pay half of the publishing costs, as well as provide them with TV ownership
lists, which were then prized, because owners were still such a novelty.
For a $3 subscription fee, the brothers mailed their guide to set owners,
printing on different-colored paper each week in an effort to appeal to
housewives. The first issue was launched on November 7, 1948.
Here are the 'official government audit publication figures' beginning with
the year 1949:
Philadelphia TV Digest
Quantity Report Date
6,911 (Oct 15-21, 1949)
50,186 (Oct 7-13, 1950)
112,443 (Oct 6-12, 1951)
147,025 (Oct 18-24, 1952)
The first issues of the publication were called: "The Local
Televiser" (not Televisor). Later the name was
changed to "TV Digest". Without a doubt, these early
magazines are the rarest of the three publications, and are nearly impossible to
find today. I am pleased that Mr. Bob Reed has written me and provided
copies of Volume One, #1, and Volume One #2. He is an advanced collector
of pre-national TV guides, who thru diligent research and persistent efforts,
located the still-living Mr. Irvin J. Borowsky. In a July 1998
communication, Mr. Borowsky had his secretary forward copies of these issues, to
Bob Reed, from the corporate records. They may very well be the only
copies remaining on earth.
(94K) Click here
to see the entire first issue!
Vol 1- #1
New York TV Guide
In New York, TV Guide (Pre-national) was founded in 1948 and published
by Mr. Lee Wagner, a lawyer who had been circulation director for several movie
magazines at the time. The earliest New York pre-national TV Guide
issues from 1948 are scarce, although they do occasionally appear in Internet
auctions. The first issue is dated June 14-20th, 1948.
Click here to
see some of the pre-national New York TV Guides.
Here are the 'official government audit publication figures':
New York TV Guide
8,557 (Oct 16-22, 1948)
42,972 (Oct 22-28, 1949)
157,461 (Oct 14-20, 1950)
292,341 (Oct 19-25, 1951)
359,297 (Oct 10-16, 1952)
To See a Timetable of the Pre-National TV-Magazine Launch
Dates, click here.
To learn more about these early pre-national TV guide books, click
here , then
type "1948" in the Search Box, and hit "FIND"
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