There’s a small museum in a small town that is home to an invention that some would deem to be one of the most important of the last century, at least those of us doing this job feel that way, it’s the invention of television.
Even with the years of scientific and legal proof there are still some who doubt the validity of Philo T. Farnsworth’s title of the inventor of television and the story of how he came to develop his invention begins in an Idaho farm field.
It may seem like the last place you’d expect to find the invention of television, but along with the pioneer artifacts, animal trophies, and even a flag that flew on the moon, is Rigby, Idaho’s pioneer and the Philo T. Farnsworth Television Museum. It has the tubes, transmitters, patents, and papers that tell the history of how TV came to be. And curator Cleave Reddick enjoys passing the stories along.
“One day I had a guy come in and he says, ‘There ain’t no way somebody from this two bit town invented television,’ and the next fellow that came through the door had saved all of his life from Britain and he says it was like Mecca he had wanted to see it and I said, you two have got to talk, explains Reddik.
It was while Philo T. Farnsworth was a teenager working in a farm field in Rigby that he developed the concept of television by seeing the lines of the fields and then transferring that idea to photos and lights.
“We’ve got some of the early prototypes, says Reddick, “we’ve got a lot of the early manufacturing here. We’ve got a few of his personal items. We’ve got some of the really early picture tubes with actual engineers’ explanations of how they work. Most of the time with Farnsworth is shown in a statue or a photograph he’s holding a tube. Most people coming in here think he invented the TV that sits in their living room but it’s the tube he’s holding in all those poses is a camera tube. He thought that was the breakthrough.”
The museum explains the timeline of his invention and shows the numerous early era models of what we know as television today. And while TV may have been what made Farnsworth famous, it was just one of his many inventions.
“The amount of inventions varied greatly anywhere from wood kilns to the television to work on radar and when he died he was working on cold fusion. I think he just had one of those brains you don’t shut off very often,” says Reddick.
And while Farnsworth wasn’t actually born in Idaho, he was adamant to give Rigby the title of “Birthplace of Television.” Something the museum is happy to preserve.
It’s a great deal of fun working here. It’s kind of an odd thing that it was invented here, says Reddick, “so, it’s fun.”
The museum is open most weekdays and on Saturdays, but its run completely by volunteers, so it’s a good idea to call and make plans before you go.
If you would like to know more about the museum, click here.