Monday, August 24, 2009

Capehart Radio

This is a tale of how the man that invented the jukebox and the man that invented television crossed paths.

In a 1954 issue of Life Magazine, I found an advertisement for Capehart-Farnsworth Radios and Phonographs. What immediately struck me is that their portable Phonograph was $75. A price that's trivial today, but if corrected for inflation works out to almost $600. This was not a introductory model. They were not marketing at teens, not in Life Magazine. Capehart was making some high-end hardware.

But Capeharthad almost ceased to exist before this ad ever made it to print. The company was founded in 1927 by Homer Earl Capehart in Ft. Wayne. In 1931 he invented the Jukebox and patented it. He sold that off to Wurlitzer. Capeharthad continued to make phonographs, and radios and survived the great depression. But in the late 30s they retailed some expensive, but faulty phonographs. In the wake of these poorly designed products he sold out to the Farnsworth Television & Radio Corp in 1938. In 1944 he became a U.S. Senator [R] and served until 1962. He retired to farming and died in 1979.

Farnsworth was founded by Philo T. Farnsworth, an inventor and radioman. Inventor? yes, he's the man that invented television. He conceived of it at the age of 15. By the age of 20 he'd successfully transmitted an image and by 21 he demonstrated it publicly. By 1938 he was mass producing them. After his purchase of Capehart, Farnsworth relocated from Philadelphia to Ft. Wayne and focused on manufacture. They continued to use the Capehart for some products (obviously) into the 1950s. In 1945 he purchased 1250 WGL-AM from Westinghouse. But he didn't stick with it for long. In 1949 he sold the manufacturing side to International telephone and telegraph (ITT) and WGL to the Fort Wayne Sentinel Newspaper. He spent much of the rest of his life fighting with RCA over his patents.