President Eisenhower Becomes First U.S. President Broadcast in Color on Television

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NBC News
David Brinkley/Carlton Smith
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Video Speech
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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President Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks at the opening ceremony of NBC's network and WRC-TV television studios in Washington, D.C., making it the first time a color videotaped recording is made of a U.S. President. "General" David Sarnoff, RCA executive and founder of NBC, also comments on this historic moment for broadcast television, beginning at 4:14.



"President Eisenhower Becomes First U.S. President Broadcast in Color on Television." Carlton Smith, correspondent. NBC News. NBCUniversal Media. 22 May 1958. NBC Learn. Web. 17 January 2015.


Smith, C. (Reporter), & Brinkley, D. (Anchor). (1958, May 22). President Eisenhower Becomes First U.S. President Broadcast in Color on Television. [Television series episode]. NBC News. Retrieved from


"President Eisenhower Becomes First U.S. President Broadcast in Color on Television" NBC News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 05/22/1958. Accessed Sat Jan 17 2015 from NBC Learn:


President Eisenhower Becomes First U.S. President Broadcast in Color on Television

DAVID BRINKLEY, reporting:

Mr. President, Mr. Sarnoff, president of NBC and Mr. Smith, the vice-president and general manager of the two stations here, have just come in from their exploration trip downstairs. Now down to the platform.

CARLTON SMITH (NBC): Mr. President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. To each and every one of you, it gives me great pleasure to extend on behalf of WRC-TV and WRC our warmest welcome. We are honored you have joined with us this afternoon in inaugurating our new broadcasting center. An event of such consequence to ourselves and the community is best consummated in the presence of friends. And your being here reflects the sentiments we’ve always held concerning our role in the nation’s capital. Like yourselves, we consider ourselves in integral part of the capital family and just as the District of Columbia is the home of our government, it is as we are dedicated to the service of the country as a whole, so are we uniquely privileged.

As the Washington outlet of the network of stations that comprise the National Broadcasting Company, we too have a larger obligation, an obligation to the community of states that is the United States. Our roots in Washington go back as far as 1923, when many person listened to WRC through earphones attached to crystal sets. From that simple beginning, in a single studio, to this moment of dedication of a modern, efficient, multipurpose, color television and radio facility, we have been guided by one principle: devotion to the service of our country and its people. If what is past is prologue, we expect the years ahead to be filled with exciting opportunities to serve you, whether as a member of our Washington area audience or of our national audience. I should now like to present to you the president of the National Broadcasting Company whose personal interests has helped immeasurably to bring this dedication day to such happy fulfillment. Mr. Robert W. Sarnoff.

ROBERT W. SARNOFF (President, NBC): Mr. President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. During the past ten years, the NBC cameras in Washington have focused upon many of the individuals in our audience. But seldom have we been able with a single sweep of the lens to show America so many of the faces of the men who govern it. The presence here of so many ranking members of the government is a persuasive reminder of our role in interpreting the Washington scene to the 97 percent of Americans within reach or our sight or sound signals. With the superb facilities available in this new station, it is a role we hope to fulfill with increasing skill in the future.

In the brief history of American broadcasting, our chief executives have contributed many important chapter headings. President Wilson was the first to test radio in returning from the Versailles peace conference, President Harding the first to speak over a network of three stations, President Coolidge the first to broadcast from the White House, and President Roosevelt the first to use the technique of the fireside chat. And you, Mr. President, have added many significant firsts to our history, in opening up your news conferences to radio and television coverage. In permitting our cameras the freedom of the White House, you have enabled us to give the public an understanding of your high office and its occupant that is unparalleled in American history. Through your presence here today, you are contributing to another broadcasting milestone.

The cameras you see before you are color cameras. They are now transmitting a black and white picture. By pressing this button, which I now do, the cameras are transmitting a live color picture. When you step before them, you will be making your first appearance on color television from Washington. Three thousand miles away in our studios in Burbank, California, this entire program is being recorded on electronic tape. The picture, the color, the sound are being captured for posterity through this recording system which NBC began using on a full-scale basis only last month to change to daylight time. It will permit us, sir, to re-telecast this program to many sections of the United States several hours later today and with such true fidelity that millions of Americans will see this ceremony as though it were being enacted at that time.

I have a strip of this new tape. I have asked our engineers to make two tape copies of this program. One will be sent, Mr. President, to the White House to your personal attention, the other will be presented to the Library of Congress so that its archives may permanently possess a visual record in color of this significant occasion. Now we have created one further remembrance. At my far left you see a replica of a plaque, which has been placed in the wall of the main lobby of this station. This plaque commemorates your participation in the dedication. It is intended as an enduring reminder to all who enter this building of the honor paid us on this day, and beyond that, of our obligation to continue strengthening the broadcasting bonds between Washington and the nation. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

President DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Thank you very much. President Sarnoff, distinguished guests, fellow Americans. I think all of us realize that in these fast moving times, it is highly important that our nation’s capital should be attached to every single citizen in this country by the very fastest, best kind of communications. Decisions of a nation, and of a government, that in one time could tolerate three or four weeks of study now demand almost instantaneous a reaction. So it is again apparent that unless our citizenry can be informed of the things that happen in the world and are reflected through the eyes of legislative and executive leaders in such a way that they may understand exactly what these things mean then United States cannot react as it should. Now, today, as I came through this building, which itself will make these communications better, more rapid, more comprehensive, I was completely overwhelmed by the technical complexities and problems that the broadcasting industry had been solving. I do not know whether the rest of you in this audience have been able to make that same tour but it is like nothing else so much in my mind as the radar room in a big battleship or some other complex thing that really is entirely beyond my comprehension but is still capable of exciting my wonderment. So I cannot fail to congratulate, to felicitate, the National Broadcasting Company for this particular step in the communication, in developing the communication industry of our country. I felicitate the officials of the company and I must say I congratulate every citizen whose understanding of this nation, of the world, will be made better, fuller, by this development. Thank you much sir, thank you all.

SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is fitting that we invite a response now from one who is responsible for the concept of network broadcasting. Thirty-five years ago he spoke at the dedication of WRC and four years later created NBC, giving the nation its first broadcasting network. He has devoted his entire life to nurturing the growth of our industry, serving not only to bring television to fruition, but also to endow his country with a multitude of benefits born of the science of communications. Ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the board of RCA, General David Sarnoff.

DAVID SARNOFF (RCA): Mr. President, distinguished guests, fellow workers, ladies and gentlemen. We are highly honored Mr. President by your presence here today and on behalf of my associates as well as myself I should like to express to you our most sincere thanks and appreciation for taking out of your busy day the time to honor us with your presence. Having had the privilege of serving under you both in war and in peace, I know firsthand how deep is your interest in all forms of communication. You expressed it very well in the remarks which you have just made. Gratified as we are by your presence here today, we consider it a tribute not alone to our company and to our people, but to the entire art and industry of communications whose developments and whose progress has always, as I know, excited your interest.

Perhaps there are some persons in the world who may not be very keen about being seen in their true and natural colors. Some of their pronouncements may on occasion bring a blush even to their own cheeks. And this camera, I assure you, sir, is relentless in its revelations. Happily however, this is not so in America. Here, we fear no revelations. We have nothing to hide. On the contrary, we want everyone in the world to see American in its true and natural colors. We want the people everywhere to see Americans at work and at play, to see our institutions in action, reflecting their ideals and the ideals of our nation, as well as our human imperfections. Here, we do not seek to be anything other than what we are. And what we are is not hidden by curtains nor what we say screened by censorship. And so, Mr. President, once more I should like to express to you our very deep appreciation of your presence here and to assure that we shall continue to do our very best, to make what contributions we may or can towards the objectives for which our nation and you as its leader stand. Objectives that may be very simply stated, the preservation of our freedom and security and the advancement of the cause of peace and prosperity for all people everywhere. Thank you.