november 14

Throwback Thursday: Naval Aviation First 1910

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Eugene Ely Image One
Photo Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

One hundred, nine years ago, today, aviator Eugene Ely made naval aviation history, taking off from a wooden platform secured to the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham. Captain Washington Chambers, USN, was tasked by the Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer to investigate uses for aviation in the Navy. Ely successfully took off in a Curtiss Pusher from the Birmingham, barely. The airplane rolled off the platform, plunged downward, skipping the water, which damaged the propeller but, he managed to stay airborne, landing two and a half miles away on Willoughby Spit. Two months later, on January 18, 1911, Ely landed his Curtiss Pusher airplane on a platform on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay.

Ely communicated with the United States Navy requesting employment but, United States naval aviation was not yet organized. Ely continued flying in exhibitions while Captain Chambers promised to “keep him in mind” if Navy flying stations were created.

On October 19, 1911, while flying at an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, his plane was late pulling out of a dive and crashed. Ely jumped clear of the wrecked aircraft but, his neck was broken and he died a few minutes later.

On February 16, 1933, Congress awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously to Ely, “for extraordinary achievement as a pioneer civilian aviator and for his significant contribution to the development of aviation in the United States Navy.”

Naval Aviation Hall of Fame

Eugene Ely Image Two
Photo Credit: airandspace.si.edu

Throwback Thursday: Hour Glass 1946

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Hour Glass Image One
Photo Credit: eyesofageneration.com

Seventy-three years, ago, today, the long forgotten variety show Hour Glass debuted on NBC. It was the first hour-long musical/skit/comedy in television history. Co-hosts were Helen Parrish and Eddie Mayehoff. Edgar Bergen appeared on November 14 performing his ventriloquism, a rare thing for radio personalities. He later became host of the program.

From Wikipedia

Hour Glass was sponsored by Standard Brands, promoting Chase and Sanborn Coffee and, Tenderleaf Tea. The program included comedians, musicians, entertaining films (such as a film of dance in South America) and a long, live commercial for the sponsor’s products. Such famous names as Doodles Weaver, Bert Lahr, Dennis Day, Jerry Colonna, Peggy Lee and Joe Besser appeared on the program.

The Columbia History of American Television attributed the program’s short life to its cost, saying, “Standard Brands invested $200,000 in this series over its ten-month tenure at a time when that level of investment just couldn’t be supported and sustained, leading to the Hour Glass’s abbreviated run.” Another factor was that James Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, forbade musicians from performing on television without an agreement between the AFM and the networks, thus, limiting directors, and performers, to use of recorded music.

Hour Glass Image Two
Photo Credit: eyesofageneration.com

From the Television Academy Foundation:

It is historically important, however, in that it exemplified the issues faced by networks, sponsors and advertising agencies in television’s formative years. The program was produced by the J. Walter Thompson agency […]. The lines of responsibility were not completely defined in those early years and the nine-month run of Hour Glass was punctuated by frequent squabbling among the principals. Each show was assembled by seven Thompson employees working in two teams, each putting together a show over two weeks in a frenzy of production. It must have been the curiosity factor that prompted some stars to appear on the show because they certainly were not paid much money. Hour Glass had a talent budget of only $350 a week, hardly more than scale for a handful of performers. Still, Standard Brands put an estimated $200,000 into the program’s nine-month run, by far the largest amount ever devoted to a sponsored show at that time. In February 1947, Standard Brands canceled Hour Glass. They were pleased with the show’s performance in terms of beverage sales and its overall quality, yet, were leery about continuing to pour money into a program that did not reach a large number of households (it is unclear if the show was broadcast anywhere other than NBC’s interconnected stations in New York and Philadelphia). The strain between NBC and Thompson played a role as well. Still, Hour Glass did provide Thompson with a valuable blueprint for the agency’s celebrated and long-running production, Kraft Television Theatre.

More information from Eyes of a Generation