The Lost and Forgotten DuMont Television Network

The Lost and Forgotten DuMont Television Network


There is a lot of entertainment and television broadcasting history found in the often lost and forgotten fourth television network created by scientist and inventor Allen B. DuMont.

DuMont was an American electronics engineer, scientist and inventor best known for improvements to the cathode ray tube for use in television receivers.  DuMont Laboratories was the primary manufacturer of cathode-ray tubes in the United States in the 1930s and was fairly successful in the manufacturing of TV receivers.

To sell televisions, DuMont started the DuMont Television Network in 1946.  The television broadcasting division of DuMont separated from the manufacturing division in 1955. The DuMont Television Network ceased operations in 1956. The DuMont consumer products manufacturing division would be purchased by Emerson Electric Company in 1958.

The DuMont Television Network had a difficult time competing for big name stars and talent of the day. The big three networks were all spin offs from radio networks which provided financial support for their television divisions. Some folks attribute the failure of the DuMont Television Network on the lack of backing from a radio network.

Growing up, like many baby boomers in the United States, I remember the big three television networks in the 1960s were NBC, ABC, and CBS. Any reference to a fourth network might make me think of PBS.

When making the statement the forgotten fourth network, some people may think that is meant to be a joke about the current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company, rather than a reference to the DuMont Television Network, a functional on the air television network from 1946 to 1956.

Other Fourth Television Networks

Not long after the DuMont Television Network dissolved a part-time television network, NTA Film Network, was created. The NTA Film Network had over 100 affiliate stations and operated from 1956 until 1961.

Interesting that the NTA Film Network had the financial support of Twentieth Century-Fox, the sibling of current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company. The NTA Film Network broadcast television shows as well as movies, showing many Twentieth Century-Fox films of the late 1950s. The company name Twentieth Century-Fox comes from motion picture executive William Fox who founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915.

There were many other failed fourth television networks over the decades that followed. It wound not be until the launch of the Fox Broadcasting Company in 1986 that a fourth television network in the United States would challenge the the big three television networks as an equal in terms of power and market share.

The forgotten fourth network lives on

Although DuMont pre-dated videotape many programs were saved on kinescope films. The television show archives were stored in a warehouse until the 1970s when the stored kinescopes were loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay.

 A 1996 Hearing Before the Panel of the Library of Congress describes the details of the dumped archives that were destroyed during a legal dispute over who would store and control the recordings.
The forgotten DuMont Television Network lives on with many memories of Jackie Gleason and a sketch called "The Honeymooners." 

Jackie Gleason on Cavalcade of Stars

Jackie Gleason on Cavalcade of StarsCavalcade of Stars would become one of the most popular shows on The DuMont Television Network. The show would produce the most famous star of the DuMont Television Network with Jackie Gleason as host and performer.

The Cavalcade of Stars would also be responsible for birth of a well know classic TV show, as a sketch called "The Honeymooners" was first performed on the show. It would later be picked up by the CBS Network as part of the Jackie Gleason Show and become a television classic.

As a history lover, and someone always digging to learn more about the history of technology, I discovered the DuMont Television Network while doing some research on the Internet Archive. If you do a search on the DuMont Television Network at the Internet Archive you will find quite a bit of old videos of station IDs, commercials, and shows from this long lost network.  It is worth the watching and downloading just to see a treasure of television history videos. 

The video of Jackie Gleason on "Cavalcade of Stars" (1951) is a rare find for any history of television fan. The well known sitcom called "The Honeymooners" was based on a sketch first performed on Cavalcade of Stars.

Cavalcade of Stars

One other notable show was Captain Video and His Video Rangers as it was the first science fiction show on television. While by today's standards the series looks pretty primitive, it was quite groundbreaking for the time.

1949 episode of the TV series "Captain Video"

Additional resources to learn more

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization on a mission to build a digital library. Just like a visit to your favorite museum or traditional paper library, they provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public to digital files on a wide variety of topics.

The way of finding things on the Internet Archive can be more like exploring a museum, that searching a catalog at the library.  For example, I was looking for the link to my very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial starring 1960s rock band Paul Revere And The Raiders. I searched on Pontiac, and I searched on GTO, and I could not find it.  It was only by going to the link for Car Commercials 1966-1970 that I found the file I was looking for on a long list of files of car commercials.

Most of the files of commercials I found  simply by searching the site rather than using the indexes.  Once you find one type of file you like, you can see how it is tagged and search for similar files. I love cars of the 1950s and 1960s, so I searched and found commercials for the 1957 Edsel, the 1958 push button transmission Dodge, the 1960 Ford Thunderbird, and a very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial.

Car Commercials 1966-1970

From the Animation and  Cartoons section I have download numerous files of shows I watched on television back in my youth.  Of course my kids think it is all pretty silly, but I get a kick out of cartoon classics like Woody Woodpecker and Betty Boop. There are also some of the classic super hero cartoons like Superman. The quality of the files vary, but I enjoy downloading a bunch and creating my own mix of cartoon classics that I burn to DVD. 

Animation & Cartoons

Great digital library for fun and researching television history 

The Internet Archive is a great online library of video files. Thousands of files are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. Much like your favorite museum or traditional paper library,  If you love the history of technology, or the history of entertainment, what could be more fun than a vault full of old black and white movies, free for you to download or watch at your leisure.