Cousin Steve and the Luminescent TV Screen

My immediate family is quite small, although my Nana used to talk about “all” of my cousins. Today, I know that these cousins were once or twice removed-type cousins, but we were indeed related.

One of these cousins, who I actually knew, was Steve. He was one of the cousins living in California when I was growing up in Passaic, New Jersey. However, Steve had lived in Passaic when he was a young boy and eventually got a job working for DuMont Laboratories, which in turn owned one of the first television stations in the United States, DuMont Television.

Cousin Steve

DuMont originally broadcast right from Passaic, but in the late 1940s moved to New York City. It was Channel 5 and a major station right along with Channel 4 (NBC) and Channel 2 (CBS). DuMont was where Jackie Gleason became a household name. The Arthur Murray Dance show, Captain Video and Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour were also DuMont shows. It didn’t fare well against the competition, however, and shut down operations in 1956. I am just old enough to remember Channel 5 and DuMont TV.

One of the family stories I had heard growing up was that Steve had “invented” some type of improved television tube – those things that we all dreaded burning out so the picture disappeared.

I can’t say my interest in how televisions worked has ever been very great, but I am very curious about how much of this story is true. Google now has images of many U.S. patent records, so I searched for Steve in that database.

What I discovered is that the family story is really true. On 6 July 1945, right at the close of World War II, Steve and another man working for DuMont Laboratories in Passaic, filed for a patent. It was published on 19 October 1948 and involved an improved method of creating luminescent screens. Apparently this material was also used in the old-time TV tubes:

This invention relates to improvements in depositing luminescent material on a solid surface to form a luminescent screen and to the method of forming such screens. In carrying out the invention, particles of luminescent material are settled through a colloidal medium such as silicic acid in a solution containing an ionizable salt so that it is an electrolyte. . . . . Also, the time necessary to settle a luminescent screen in either a blown-face blank or a flat-face blank of the cathode-ray tube variety is decreased. . . . .

The patent entry is quite long and, to be honest, it is way too technical and a bit boring to read through, so I won’t post the rest of it here.

I researched many types of records through the years to prove or disprove family details. This is the first time, though, that I have used U.S. patent records.



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