Television History - Charles Jenkins

Charles Jenkins invented a mechanical television system he called radiovision.

Charles Jenkins - Ad for Radiovision
Charles Jenkins - Ad for Radiovision. LOC

What John Logie Baird did towards the development and promotion of mechanical television in Great Britain, Charles Jenkins did for the advancement of mechanical television in North America.

Charles Jenkins - Who Was He?

Charles Jenkins, an inventor from Dayton, Ohio, invented a mechanical television system called radiovision and claimed to have transmitted the earliest moving silhouette images on June 14, 1923. Charles Jenkins publicly performed his first television broadcast transmission, from Anacosta, Virginia to Washington in June 1925.

Charles Jenkins had been promoting and researching mechanical television since 1894, when he published an article in the "Electrical Engineer", describing a method of electrically transmitting pictures.

In 1920, at a meeting of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, Charles Jenkins introduced his prismatic rings, a device that replaced the shutter on a film projector and an important invention that Charles Jenkins would later use in his radiovision system.

Charles Jenkins - Radiovision

Radiovisors were mechanical scanning-drum devices manufactured by the Jenkins Television Corporation, as part of their radiovision system. Founded in 1928, the Jenkins Television Corporation sold several thousand sets to the public that cost between $85 and $135. The radiovisor was a multitube radio set that had a special attachment for receiving pictures, a cloudy 40 to 48 line image projected onto a six-inch square mirror. Charles Jenkins preferred the names radiovisor and radiovision over television.

Charles Jenkins also opened and operated North America's first television station, W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland. The short-wave radio station began transmitting across the Eastern U.S. in 1928, regularly scheduled telecasts of radiomovies produced by Jenkins Laboratories Incorporated.

It was said that watching a radiomovie required the viewer to constantly re-tune in the broadcast, but at the time watching the blurry moving image was considered an exciting miracle.