Today in 1951, the CBS network broadcast the first color television show. The variety show included Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore and Robert Alda with several others, and featured appearances by the chairman of the FCC and the chairman and president of CBS. Only special color-ready TVs could pick up the broadcast, which was sent out to Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore from the network’s New York studio; black-and-white sets couldn’t see the telecast at all.
While this was the first commercial broadcast with 16 sponsors, color television had been in development for a decade. CBS first demonstrated a color system in August 1940, and NBC was secretly developing their own color broadcasts. In fact, NBC supposedly set up a color broadcast from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1943 to Princeton, New Jersey. The show featured a young Jerry Lewis, famed dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Arlene Woods. The telecast went out to a single viewer, but he held more scientific clout than anyone else: Albert Einstein. After the show, the cast was driven to New Jersey to meet their lone audience member. Forget Twitter: this was the first immediate feedback for a television program.
While we don’t know what his reaction was, we do know that he and Lewis discussed the theory of relativity. That moment should have been the first color broadcast!