This week’s artifact: a Zenith black-and-white television set, 1950. The round viewing screen is 16 inches in diameter. The cabinet (or “chassis”) is mahogany veneer. 

This television was donated to the Historical Society in 1999 by J. Dorsey Howe of Germantown. According to Mr. Howe, it was “the first television delivered in Montgomery County.” While that point is perhaps debatable, it is certainly one of the oldest home television sets in the County, and was probably the first one purchased in Gaithersburg. The set was sent from a hardware distributing company in Frederick County to the Thomas Hardware Store in Gaithersburg, where it was purchased “almost immediately” by Garrison W. Bell, Sr., as a gift for his wife Janet. Later in her life Mrs. Bell lived with her daughter and son-in-law, the Howes, and brought the television with her.

Mr. Howe remembered this as happening in the early 1940s, but Zenith did not begin manufacturing black-and-white television sets for the home until 1948. The model number stamped on the back of the cabinet is a little smudged, but it probably reads G2441R. Some Google searching over the years (have I mentioned lately how much I love the internet?) showed that the G244-R series was produced in 1949-1950. (Mr. Bell died in September of 1950, which also narrows the timeframe.) This advertisement from 1950 shows a G2441R, the “Lexington,” which matches our tv almost exactly. The ad describes the Lexington as “a compact console television receiver with Zenith’s largest picture area – 165 sq inches! Beautifully crafted cabinet of genuine mahogany veneers, styled to complement any home.” It retailed for $419.95.

I thought our fabulous television, given by Mr. Bell (clearly a mid-century “early adopter” of technology) to his wife in 1950, would be a nice contrast to all the tiny music players and gigantic televisions given this holiday season. If your new flat-screen is giving you trouble, think about the Bells, who (according to Mr. Howe) had to call Thomas Hardware every eight months or so to fix their tv’s blown transformer.

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