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Allen B. DuMont

AKA Allen Balcom DuMont

Born: 29-Jan-1901
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY
Died: 14-Nov-1965
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Illness
Remains: Buried, Mount Hebron Cemetery, Montclair, NJ

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Engineer, Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: TV picture tube and TV network

As a boy, Allen B. DuMont was stricken with polio and bedridden for a year. As he was recuperating, his father gave him a crystal radio set, and the boy became fascinated with disassembling and reassembling the device. By 13 he had constructed his own receiving and transmitting radio, and at 14 he was licensed as a ship's wireless operator, and began spending his summer vacations working on trans-Atlantic vessels. After training as an electrical engineer, he worked at Lee De Forest's radio manufacturing company, where he was involved in an early, failed attempt to broadcast images along with sound, using a spinning disk and electrical impulses to create moving pictures. DuMont proposed that cathode ray tubes (CRTs) were a more promising avenue for television research, but De Forest did not agree, so DuMont established his own Allen B. DuMont Laboratories in his garage in 1931.

Early CRTs had a lifespan of barely 24 hours, but DuMont was able to engineer a cheaper yet much longer-lasting tube, which had its first successful application in oscillographs. His best early customer was Ernest Lawrence, who used DuMont's CRTs in his atomic research. DuMont also invented what was called a "magic eye", a CRT-based radio tuning indicator, and he described the principles of what would later be called radar, but he was asked by the Army Signal Corps not to patent his findings, for reasons of national security. In 1938 his company became the first to manufacture television receivers, using CRTs as picture tubes, as he had proposed to De Forest. In 1940 DuMont was licensed to operate its first experimental television station, W2XWV in New York City, and in 1944 W2XWV became a commercial station under its founder's initials, WABD (now WNYW).

In 1946 DuMont's stations in New York and Washington DC began carrying the same program, Serving Through Science, and the following year DuMont Television Network was officially made a separate company. The network eventually gained affiliates in several large and mid-sized cities, but its production budget was minimal and most of the affiliates carried only part of the network's line-up. The network signed off in 1955, and DuMont's television holdings were spun off as Metropolitan Broadcasting (later Metromedia). The DuMont Network is best remembered for the early science fiction of Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet; the variety show Cavalcade of Stars, where Jackie Gleason performed his first "Honeymooners" sketches; Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour (which aired for just one year on DuMont before jumping to NBC in 1949), and the high-rated sermons of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen on Life Is Worth Living.

Father: William DuMont (executive, Waterbury Clock Co.)
Brother: Donald DuMont (ice cream truck operator)
Wife: Ethel Martha Steadman (m. 19-Oct-1926, two children)
Son: Allen Balcom DuMont, Jr. (Booz, Allen and Hamilton, b. 1929)
Daughter: Yvonne DuMont Godbey (b. 1937)

    High School: Montclair High School, Montclair, NJ (1919)
    University: BS Electrical Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1924)

    Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation Division Manager (1960-65)
    Allen B. DuMont Laboratories Founder & President (1931-60)
    De Forest Radio Co. Chief Engineer (1928-31)
    Westinghouse Engineer (1924-28)
    Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame
    French Legion of Honor 1952
    Risk Factors: Polio

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