I got a really interesting e-mail message last week from a reader of The Boy Who Invented Television telling the unlikely tale of the day William Randolph Hearst almost took an interest in Philo T. Farnsworth's little invention.
Craig Faulkner (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes:
My maternal grandfather, R.L. Litchfield, was a longtime employee and close personal friend of William Randolph Hearst. Among his ancillary duties as an executive in the Hearst newspaper empire, my ‘Pops’ would also assist with fielding and giving Mr. Hearst his opinion on the many requests which would regularly be submitted for financial backing of various and sundry enterprises. Pops traveled widely and saw much. In his later years he would sometimes invite my young son and me to sit at the end of his bed and he would tell us stories about the many interesting people and places he had known. Almost invariably my son would chime in with a request for his favorite: “Pops, tell us again about the man who invented the television.”
One day in the late 1920’s Mr. Hearst [or Randy, as Pops called him] rang him on the phone at the office with a request that he go check out an inventor who had a laboratory over on Green Street, there in San Francisco. The inventor, one Philo T. Farnsworth had an electrical device which, “he says can broadcast pictures through the air. He wants me to finance the further development and eventual commercial production of the thing. Litch,” [as Randy called my Pops] “go over there and take a look at this fellow and his gadget and tell me what you think, will you.”
So my grandfather rounded up one of his associates who knew a little something about electricity and off they went. After the brief formal greetings, Philo asked the one man to stand next to a black box with a hole in the side in front of some extremely bright lights while he took my Pops into an adjacent area. There, on a little tiny glass screen, was an image of the other man standing nearby. Pops said the two of them looked the apparatus over very carefully and determined that there were no wires connecting the two devices.