History and Context for WSJV

The history of a television news station can be told from many perspectives. Some histories may frame a discussion around the context of national news media, others may focus on a station’s affiliation and ownership, and others still may hone in on a broadcast technology perspective. WSJV’s story should be told through all these lenses. This post will address WSJV’s chain of ownership, network affiliations, and changing production technologies. We can explore these topics through WSJV’s countdowns. These are different from the countdown you might see on film leader. These video countdowns appear as 5-10 second clips between news production segments on WSJV library tapes. They generally provide a WSJV logo, affiliate logo, date, and countdown on top of a background image. The bulk of videotapes in the WSJV News Collection have these countdowns between each news production component. An interesting question is: how can we track the developments of WSJV through these media artifacts? What information do they tell us–or not?

The WSJV News Collection contains videotapes dated as far back as 1981, but the WSJV station began in the 1950s. In March 1954, WSJV started broadcasting as an ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate station in Elkhart, Indiana. When the South Bend-based WNDU signed on in 1955, it took the NBC affiliation and WSJV transitioned into a primary ABC affiliate. An “affiliate station” is a local station that signs a special agreement with a major broadcasting network. The local station receives a quota of major network programming (for example, a popular sitcom) in exchange for certain agreements such as revenue sharing. These affiliation agreements were hugely important in the 1950’s as American broadcast media transitioned unevenly from radio to television. Local stations could gain viewers through popular programming (ABC, for instance, brought with it American Bandstand and Disney programs like The Mickey Mouse Club). In response, higher viewership brought increased revenue to the station and the major network. This network/station affiliate relationship remained central to WSJV’s operation until its closing.

An example of a monitor image provided to WSJV by ABC. This image would have appeared on production studio monitors when they weren’t playing other broadcast components (live reporting, sound bytes to be cued up, etc.). Image shows ABC logo on black screen.
Screen grab showing an example of a monitor image provided to WSJV by ABC. This image would have appeared on production studio monitors when they weren’t playing other broadcast components (live reporting, sound bytes to be cued up, etc.). July 6-16, 1982.

WSJV likely used a range of media in broadcast production before the dates of the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) collection. Before videotape, stations could only record broadcasts using film kinescopes. Kinescope technology allowed stations to record broadcasts for reference or re-airing, similar to a later videotape library. The WSJV News Collection does include some taped kinescope recordings. These are from the station’s coverage of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes, that killed 50 people in Elkhart County alone. WSJV taped this footage for later re-use, including a station retrospective in the early 2000’s.

Screen grabs of a DVC tape copy of WSJV’s 1965 broadcast after the Palm Sunday Tornados.

The Palm Sunday coverage came less than a year before WSJV transitioned to color broadcasts. In 1966 the station started airing ABC packages in color, and by 1968 WSJV aired all of its local programming in color too. Throughout the 1960s WSJV probably transitioned fully from using film to videotape during broadcast production. We are not sure what video formats–2 inch helical scans, ½ inch open reel, etc.–WSJV used during this time. By the early 1970’s, however, most television news was produced using videotape rather than film.

The 1970s was a decade of growth for WSJV–in part due to ratings growth for ABC as well. In 1970 WSJV built a new 1,050 foot tower and transmitter, increasing the station’s signal strength 19 times over and making it one of the most powerful UHF stations in the country. In 1972, the station moved to its most current location on Oakland Avenue in Elkhart. The building still stands today. In 1974, WSJV got a new owner: Quincy Media. This was due to changing FCC regulations (WSJV’s original owner, Truth Publishing, had to divest because it also owned the local newspaper The Elkhart Truth), and Quincy’s huge television expansion in the 1970’s. All these details go to show:

  • The consequential role large corporations have in local television stations
  • The rapid business and technology changes involved in local television news production

These themes are evident in the countdown footage from the WSJV News Collection. The countdowns appear across different videotape formats. WSJV didn’t use one specific tape format at a time, so there is chronological overlap between the Umatics, VHS, and DVC tapes.

Here is the first example, from a March 1982 Umatic tape:

This example is pretty basic. It includes a credit line for WSJV and its channel number (28), a location line for Elkhart/South Bend, and an animated numerical counter. The Umatic tapes in the collection from the 1980s do not ubiquitously contain countdowns between production segments, but the countdowns represented are of this simple iteration.

Sometimes these countdowns can even tell us how the station operated. Here is an interesting example that shows how WSJV used their tape library:

This countdown is from a September-November 1990 Umatic tape. The countdown features a nighttime shot of the WSJV station building, a compound WSJV 28/ABC logo, a location line for Elkhart/South Bend, and an animated numerical counter.

On the same Umatic tape, there is a different countdown for September 19, 1990:

The countdown here is similar but not identical. The WSJV channel 28 logo appears before the ABC logo, and this countdown includes a specific date. Why would two different countdowns appear on the same tape? Although we are not yet certain exactly how WSJV employees assembled these library tapes, some clues indicate the answer. Take another look at the ABC Closed Circuit monitor image above. This image didn’t appear to viewers during WSJV news broadcasts, it was just a test image producers could use on studio monitors. It appears on a tape from the WSJV library because employees could record library tapes straight from these broadcast monitors. The same likely goes for these 1990 countdowns. They would have appeared on broadcast monitors in the studio between segments. The countdown allows the producer to cue up a segment exactly. These two countdowns probably played on different monitors in the production studio around the same time. It could be that certain monitors played certain countdowns, or it could be as simple as a producer incidentally created a second countdown for his or her immediate use.

The important thing here is to see how these countdowns can be understood as “internal documents” for WSJV. They give us an understanding of the studio’s self-image throughout time.

In 1995, WSJV entered an agreement that ended their ABC affiliation and established a new network affiliation with Fox. In the early 1990s, Fox received rights to broadcast NFL games and sought out new affiliations across the country. It is probable that the strong Chicago Bears fanbase in Michiana incentivized WSJV to make a Fox affiliation agreement. In October 1995, the station started broadcasts as a Fox affiliate station. Another Michiana television station, WBND, took the ABC affiliation. Let’s take a look at a countdown from WSJV’s early Fox days:

This example is from a VHS tape dated October 1995-January 1996. A few changes are immediately apparent. First, the production aesthetics have changed quite a bit from the early 1990’s examples above. The background image shows a busy production studio rather than the exterior of the building. The text and animation components take up a larger portion of the screen. The countdown animation appears twice: one that looks like a digital clock timer (bottom left) and a rotating number (top right). The overall effect is much “busier;” this countdown was definitely designed to evoke the rapid-paced image of 24-hour news networks.

Another key difference: WSJV has a reduced presence on this countdown. Rather than the large “28 WSJV” logo in the September 1990 example, here the main credit is given to “Fox 28.” WSJV receives a smaller credit line below and a location credit of South Bend (rather than Elkhart/South Bend). Even though the station was located in Elkhart, WSJV was strongly associated with simply the South Bend region during its Fox affiliation. South Bend is a more widely recognized city (home of Notre Dame) and is identified with a Chicago sports fan base. It’s worth considering here: what shifts are happening here? Can we trace a trajectory away from the “local-ness” of the station? How can we characterize the change in WSJV’s internal  image?

As we move into the 2000’s, we see fewer and fewer of these countdowns in the WSJV tape library. Fox logo usage gets more and more ubiquitous across the station’s imagery. Here is a logo that viewers saw during broadcasts from the local channel in 2009:

Any trace of location or local station name is gone here. Instead, we get the glossy intro animation we associate with major network news: quickly shifting bars of color and line behind a big network logo. Programming, too, has become closely tied with the network–most people now associate the informal “morning show” format with networks like Fox.

Although I hate to tell a story of decline, WSJV’s history ends with a loss. In 2016 Quincy Media transferred WSJV’s Fox affiliation to WSBT-TV in exchange for ABC and CW affiliations at a Peoria, Illinois station. The sixty-two year old local news station aired its last news broadcast July 29, 2016. WSJV staff all either transferred to other stations or were laid off.

Although the reasons for the station’s closure are complex, I hope that these historical details give you some context for the event. Local media is an important form of self-expression. I encourage you all to ask what happens to that expression when larger entities–such as major networks and owning companies–are so closely involved.

The following video is a supercut of these logos and countdowns. The countdowns are bracketed by the surrounding footage on each tape. The countdowns from the 1980’s and the first September 1990 countdown appear at the beginning of tapes, so other segment footage only follows the countdowns. The September 19, 1990 and October 31, 1995 countdowns are bracketed on both sides by other footage on the tapes. This gives you a sense of how the countdowns separate segments on the WSJV News Collection videotapes.

Samples of the WSJV News Collection

Several years ago, as a graduate researcher at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, I kept having these vivid flashes of straight-up authenticity while examining news photographs. I was looking at Anthony Spina’s original prints of the 1967 “Twelfth Street riots” (largest urban uprising in U.S. history) for the Detroit Free Press. Something about handling these pre-published documentary photographs, that I had seen for years reproduced in hundreds of places, felt exceptionally raw and real. I grew up familiar with Detroit–it’s where my paternal roots are, and my dad and I visited family many times a year. This archival experience, though, provided me the most powerful connection I’ve ever felt with that city. Since then, I have understood how significant uncompromising self-representation and documentation is for communities.

A couple hundred miles south and a few years later, I was seeking out an internship with the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive as an MLS candidate in the Department of Information and Library Science. I developed a keen interest in videotape and television preservation in IULMIA archivist Andy Uhrich’s Moving Image Preservation seminar. Andy proposed that I work with a new accession of thousands of videotapes from a defunct broadcast television news station in Elkhart, Indiana. Very little was known about the collection, except that the contents were a seeming mish-mash of pre-broadcast news components. I jumped at the opportunity and have found that the WSJV News Collection presents some of the most exciting opportunities and deepest challenges for archives to fill a significant gap in the documentation of regional communities in an era of media globalization.

A screen grab of a WSJV segment on student demonstrations in South Bend, Indiana. July 26, 1995.
A screen grab of a WSJV segment on student demonstrations in South Bend, Indiana. July 26, 1995.

WSJV was a broadcast television news station with major network affiliations from 1954-2016. The station used a range of technological advancements in broadcast news production across the 20th century. This includes broadcast production transitioning from film (kinescope), to magnetic videotape, to born digital recordings. Like most other television stations, WSJV utilized different videotape formats for most of its history. Long running stations like WSJV found that keeping a tape library was quite useful for ongoing news production. The tapes could help producers find, for example, b-roll and sound bytes without having to go out and shoot in the field. This collection appears to contain WSJV’s entire videotape library from 1981-2011.

A screen grab of the opening animation for The Garden Club, a regular WSJV program featuring gardening advice with Mike Maloney. September 19, 1990.
A screen grab of the opening animation for The Garden Club, a regular WSJV program featuring gardening advice with Mike Maloney. September 19, 1990.

It’s somewhat rare for an archive to have and provide access to a broadcast news station videotape library. Archives and special collections across the United States do provide access to exceptional broadcast news collections. Some examples of these are endeavors initiated by the Association of Moving Image Archivists Local Television Project, including the Minnesota Historical Society/KSTP-TV Archive, Arkansas Educational Television Network Video Vault, and Boston TV News Digital Library. I’ll be talking about institutions and projects such as these in a later blog post. These collections largely provide access to documented whole broadcasts. Fewer institutions offer minimally curated (by the creating station) collections of news videotape libraries. The enormous richness of these objects is due both to their quantity and to their pre-broadcast, in-situ production use. The components on each tape (roughly 40 each) vary from “raw” in-the-field footage with no edits, to partially edited voiceover/sound byte segments, to more fully edited news story packages. Each tape has a chronological sequence of these components over a one- to six-month range. The effect while watching these is of a slice-of-life, informational sense of history. The raw connection you feel watching these tapes is akin to the experience I had several years ago at the Reuther. Rather than one city, though, WSJV documents an entire midwestern region.

Screen grab of a WSJV segment about the Bayer Corporation plant in Elkhart, Indiana. July 1983.
Screen grab of a WSJV segment about the Bayer Corporation plant in Elkhart, Indiana. July 1983. The plant closed in 2006.

WSJV was major broadcast television affiliate for the “Michiana” region (northwest Indiana and the southwest tip of Michigan) 1954-2016. Michiana was a unique television market because it was a “UHF island” bounded by metropolitan areas to the north (Grand Rapids, MI and Milwaukee, WI), east (Detroit), south (Indianapolis), and west (Chicago). In other words, WSJV provided broadcast television news coverage for consumers without access to major metropolitan stations. The history of the region in the 20th century combines themes relevant to the rust belt cities that surround Michiana and the Great Lakes, including massive deindustrialization, changing racial and ethnic populations and resulting civil rights struggles, and public health concerns. The stories represented in the WSJV collection are extenuations of this regional history.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be opening up this collection in a series of blog posts. I’ll explain the history of WSJV, show how the collection can be used to research a significant topic (the AIDS epidemic in Indiana and Ryan White’s story), and provoke some questions that this collection asks of the archival profession. Overall, I want to give you a general sense of how we can process a collection like this and what it offers. The following video is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the range of content the WSJV News Collection offers (in just a few short minutes!). This is a compilation of segments from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. The segments feature a range of broadcast news production formats, including voiceovers, sound bytes, raw b-roll footage, a full package, and a recorded broadcast.

Profile of a Film Archivist: David Francis

I recently had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with British film archivist, David Francis. Over the course of his prolific career, Mr. Francis has served as the Curator of the UK’s National Television and Film Archive (a division of the British Film Institute) as well as the Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress, in addition to other positions. I asked David to comment on his background and these experiences in order to paint a picture of the field over time.

Background

Francis was introduced to the world of film early in life. As his parents were members of a 35mm Film Society, the family attended film viewings regularly. This interest was later renewed through programming work for the Film Society at the London School of Economics, where he eventually received a BSc in Economics with a specialization in International Relations. In 1959, he began working as the Television Acquisitions Officer at the National Television and Film Archive, where he developed a television collection; a type of collection that had not existed in film archives until that point. He eventually worked his way up to the Curator position in 1974 where he remained until 1989, working on projects such as the J. Paul Getty, Jnr. Conservation Centre and the Museum of the Moving Image in London. In 1990, he left the UK to accept a contract at the Library of Congress. This turned into a more permanent position as became Chief not long after this contract ended. Francis stayed with the LoC until 2001.

Shot of the (former) Museum of the Moving Image in London.
Shot of the (former) Museum of the Moving Image in London.

Advocating for Moving Image Preservation

I asked David to comment on some his experiences advocating for moving image preservation. While at the British National Film Archive, he established the 24 Year Nitrate Preservation Scheme which allowed the Archive to duplicate approximately five million feet of nitrate film every year through government funding. He also organized a FIAF Symposium entitled “Cinema 1900-1906.”

“Up till that time (1978), film archives had been mainly interested in collecting the classic European silent and sound films. They were not interested in their national cinema…or in cinema before the coming of the first feature films. I had, however, always been interested in the relationship between the screen experience before 1895 and its influence on the first 20 years of the cinema’s creative development. We had acquired many titles from the first decade of cinema but could not make many of them available because we did not have the resources. I asked my archival colleagues around the world to send me all the films they had from the period at the Archive’s expense. I would then make two duplicate negative and two positive copies in our laboratory and send the original, one safety negative and a positive back to the archives and keep the others in our collection. In the end we assembled over 600 titles and screened them to a small group of international scholars. They then chose the titles they thought most interesting and these were screened at the Symposium. I think it would not be unreasonable to say that this Symposium paved the way for the study of early cinema.”

At the Library of Congress, Francis successfully implemented new legislation for the National Film Registry, which required the Librarian of Congress to conduct a “Study on the Current State of Film Preservation.” However, his attempts to do the same for television did not come to fruition.

“Congress indicated very clearly that as far as they were concerned film and television were not separate entities and they would not be prepared to fund a National Television Registry. Actually the film and television industries, although intertwined, are jealous of each other and would never have agreed to collaborate on a joint film and television programme.”

Comparing and Contrasting the BFI and MBRS

Having worked in both British and U.S. archives, Francis holds a unique perspective in the field. When I asked him to compare and contrast these experiences, he explained that while the two archives were similar in size, they remained different in other ways, particularly regarding funding.

“The British Film Institute was a QUANGO—a quasi autonomous non-governmental organization. It received funds from the government through the Ministry of the Arts but was not directly accountable for the way in which the funds were used. The Library of Congress is funded directly by Congress and considered by Congress as its library. However unlike most other archives in the United States the Library received some governmental funding although it had to also raise private funds if it was to meet its responsibilities. The National Film Archive section of the British Film Institute relied on private donations to build its film collections. The National Film Archive section of the BFI relied on private donations to build its film collections. There is no Statutory deposit for films in the UK. The Library builds its current collections through copyright deposits but relies on donations to fill gaps. The National Film Archive was a relatively un-bureaucratic organization and as Curator I was given a lot of freedom to achieve the Archive’s goals. I appointed all my own staff and managed all our budgets. The Library of Congress was very bureaucratic with checks and balances at every level. One had to compete for funding and staff with other Divisions.”

Changes Over Time

Beginning his career in 1959, Francis has experienced many of the great changes in the field. One he notes specifically is the improving relationship with film producers and distributors.

“In the 1960s one had to bribe producers and distributors to donate films. We organized a slap up party at Christmas and only invited staff from companies that participated. We invited the vault managers as well as the managing director because sometimes although we were refused donations officially, we received material unofficially from the vault manager. Another more dubious method of acquiring film was to bribe the driver of the Celluloid Products van who came to collect junk nitrate film for its silver value, to let us go through the films he already had on his van and substitute films of an equal or greater silver value. Even today, producers and distributors are still wary of film archives because they are concerned that they might screen copyrighted films without written permission. However they see the advantage of helping an organization that will store little used materials in ideal conditions free of charge.”

He also mentions the changing role and intentions of the film archive itself.

“When I started at the National Film Archive, the role of an archive was to collect films made by the classic European directors not to concentrate, as today, on the films made in one’s own country. Also scant attention was given to the films made in the first two decades of cinema history, short films, documentary subjects, newsreels or amateur film. These categories are now recognized as just as important as the feature film and, in fact, more important because they will not survive without the help of archives.”

Future Implications for Moving Image Archives

To overcome the challenges of digitization,

“Archives must be more like museums. Archives still control important information although even this position is threatened as more and more 20th century productions are digitized. The screening of a unique restored print in the archive cinema must be an experience to treasure and look forward to. I personally still feel that archives should use digital media to make films available widely, as long as it is still possible to see celluloid copies of the same titles projected in archive cinemas or other approved venues. The digital experience often appears to be technically superior but it is a different experience from watching a film in a darkened auditorium together.”

Furthermore, he voices his concern about the future of celluloid.

“Archives don’t have access to changing technology. When they preserve a film on celluloid they know they can store it in a controlled environment and it will retain its quality and accessibility. It will always be possible to build film projectors because they are mechanical not electronic. A digital master might need to be refreshed every five or so years and archives may not have access to the funds or equipment to do this on a regular basis. If they miss one refreshment stage, the digital master may become inaccessible. A lot of people will argue against this view and we will not know who was correct until we reach the 100 year mark but I believe archives must be conservative and never put the future of the moving image heritage at risk.”

My final question to David asked his opinion of the skills today’s archivists should possess.

“Archivists today have to be politicians, fund raisers and film historians who have the stage presence to make their knowledge exciting to the general public. Even although they must ensure that an archive is supported financially, policy must be based on what they believe should be done not on what others want them to do. Archives should only be big enough to achieve what can reasonably be done. An Archive can be too large as well as too small. If it is too large the head of the archive may not be able to devote enough time to determining policy, explaining it to staff and encouraging them to be part of the archive team.”

francis

 ~Susan Bogner

Shirley Thomas, Traveling Stars, and the world in Your Living Room

“Today’s travel has assumed a fourth dimension. We think not distance, but time” says Shirley Thomas, host of TV’s short-lived but fascinating series Traveling Stars, at the start of the show’s first episode in 1956. “By this equation, any place on Earth is only hours away” (you can watch this introduction below, but apologies for the quality; the video was shot with an iPhone pointed directly at the screen of a Steenbeck in the IU Libraries Film Archive). Thomas is speaking about plane travel, but the subtext transcends the literal here. For Thomas’s show brought many places on Earth to the home of the viewer, requiring them to not count the hours of a plane flight to an exotic location, but rather to assume the position in their living room at the appointed time tune their television sets.

Traveling at Home

The IU Libraries Film Archive (IULFA) holds the first — and perhaps only — episodes of Traveling Stars, including film elements. In fact, it is likely that IULFA is the only entity in the world that holds copies of this long-forgotten television show at all. An interesting fact, because Traveling Stars featured some very prominent Hollywood personalities over the course of its short run.

Shirley Thomas and Cecil B. DeMille
Shirley Thomas with Cecil B. Demille, discussing his then soon-to-be-released epic The Ten Commandments

The format is not unfamiliar to twenty-first century television viewers. Thomas, our host, introduces the subject of the show which, in every episode, is a city in a foreign country or a foreign country itself (save for Hawaii, a then fairly recent addition to the United States). Shirley then introduces her guests — the stars — who are familiar with the location and wish to share their stories about it. Generally the stars are promoting a film that was shot in the country in question. In each episode Thomas discusses architecture, the ways of the people, the food, and, often, the shopping associated with the location with the stars. She interviews them about their experiences in those places which are often illustrated by home movies or photographs shot by the stars themselves.

Hollywood Globetrotters

Television was still a very young and seemingly very exciting medium for some of these stars, and they were more than happy to share their personal experiences. In episode #2, “The French Alps”, makeup artist Frank Westmore, fresh off of the set of The Mountainprovides home

Yvonne De Carlo poses in front of the sphinx during a fashion shoot while filming The Ten Commandments

movies that go behind the scenes to show the crew’s hotel, some of the location shots, and even star Robert Wagner goofing off a bit. Westmore, Claire Trevor, and blacklisted director Edward Dmytryk eat fondue, discuss the villagers, and show what gifts they brought back from France. In episode #3, “Egypt,” we see home footage of Yvonne De Carlo on a fashion shoot in front of the pyramids and the sphinx while enjoying some time away from the set of The Ten Commandments.

Some guests do not seem as excited. In one of the more tense episodes, a seemingly very intoxicated Dean Martin, just “divorced” from Jerry Lewis, and his co-star from the then-recently finished film Ten Thousand Bedrooms, Anna Marie Alberghetti, go on a trip to Rome with Thomas. Martin is consistently inappropriate and somewhat embarrassing, complaining

Anna Marie Alberghetti shows off a beautiful 1956 Vespa while Dean Martin and Shirley Thomas do their best to make it through an episode of Traveling Stars

about “terrible” European coffee, expressing his disinterest in going anywhere but one restaurant in Italy, sweating, smoking, and seeming very distracted. Alberghetti looks worried about Martin’s behavior and their mutual concerned glances seem to indicate something deeper — a bad on-set relationship? A torrid affair? Mutual dislike? Inappropriate like? And all the while Thomas handles it with the grace of a Hollywood reporter.

Two Kinds of Americans

In fact, Thomas was a red-carpet interviewer before her stint on Traveling Stars. Surely the origin of the show exists in someone’s papers (perhaps her own; she deposited both papers and films with the Lilly Library, yet her papers seem to be mostly notes about her later Men of Space project). It may be reasonable to assume that her experience as a red-carpet worker led her to this show, and also scored her her connections with these particular Hollywood elite. She is credited with “Readin’, Writin’, Research” so she was not simply the face of the program, she also provided all of the written content. And while the format of the show may seem a little old hat in 2012, I would argue that Shirley Thomas was actually ahead of her time.

Television watchers and film-goers in the post-war era were used to celebrity fetishism, and while the locations featured in the show were likely out of most Americans’ price-range as far as travel expenses go, Thomas never seems condescending when discussing these exotic places. Even the celebrities themselves are very humble about their travels, and very inclusive; at the end of the show one feels hopeful about going to these places rather than othered and excluded from them. In fact, Thomas ends the first episode by saying “There are two kinds of Americans: Those who are taking a trip, and those who are planning one.”

The Rise of Realism

Edward Dmytryk makes the case for realism on Traveling Stars

This post-war optimism typifies the era; anything was possible, even a trip to far-off Japan. Thomas succeeds in bringing not only Hollywood, but also the entire world, into the living rooms of those watching. It is likely that many of these television watchers had never seen such candid footage of these foreign places. Dmytryk points out that for years Hollywood had relied on “phony” sets to transport viewers, but that Hollywood could not “fool people anymore.” Traveling Stars, with it’s actors and directors as real people model and its amateur footage of far-off places was only helping in making realism an important Hollywood and television commodity.

Dean Martin, Anna Maria Alberghetti, and Shirley Thomas say “hello” to Rome from an “airplane cabin”

Woman of Space (and Time and Travel)

Shirley Thomas completed one season of Traveling Stars and, though she  remained somewhat active in show business, received her B.A. in 1960 and, subsequently, her PhD in Communications. Between 1960 and 1968 she authored an eight volume work about astronauts entitled Men of Space, the papers for which are now held at the Lilly Library.

The cover of Shirley Thomas’s Men of Space

This ambitious work shows that, for her, traveling was more than a mundane tourist activity; in fact, it was a way to understand the world, both on earth and off of it. Despite the show propagating some 1950s female stereotypes (it was sponsored by a “diet” cookie called Duets, meant to curb your appetite — see the link above for a complete ad), both it — and Shirley Thomas’s subsequent work — instead show the presence of a strong, independent citizen of the world, working within a media which was, at the time, largely run by white men. IULFA is proud to hold these works and we hope to make it more widely available as our preservation activities continue.

~Jason Evans Groth