The Queen’s Messenger: The beginning of television

While widespread adoption of television did not occur in the United States until the post-war era, America’s first television program was broadcast much earlier. In fact, the first broadcast television program in the United States, The Queen’s Messenger, was aired even before “talkies” became commonplace.

The Queen’s Messenger, a 40-minute program (with sound) based upon a play written by Hartley Manners, an Irish playwright, was released in Schenectady, New York 1928. It was not reported to be a success, but the program offered a window into the burgeoning technology in an era dominated by radio.

Filming was a tedious task due to the small television screens available at the time. These televisions were typically only fourteen inches high (the screens themselves were only three inches), and featured a bizarre octogon-shaped screen. These factors necessitated a large technical crew, one which outnumbered the cast members for the program.

Signals for the program were picked up largely by New York City, but may have reached as far as the West Coast. Few were likely to have realized the revolutionary nature of the program when it first aired, but we enjoy its fruits each time we turn on the television.