We now know the Emmy Awards as the night when our favorite TV stars come together to drink a lot of champagne, but it wasn’t always this way. It was probably more whiskey-centric based on these historic photos.
Syd Cassyd, the founder of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, looked like this. He really knew how to work a smize.
For Cassyd, the creation of the Academy wasn’t about the glitz and glamour. In fact, he didn’t even want to hand out awards at the first ceremony. He wished “to promote the cultural, educational and research aim of television” instead, given that he was an academic at heart. Cassyd taught film at NYU-Washington Square College before World War II and wrote and narrated a radio series, Human Relations in Motion Pictures. During the war, he became a film editor under Frank Capra and moved to L.A. afterward to work as a grip at Paramount Studios. He later became an entertainment journalist at Film World,Box Office, and TV World.
Cassyd’s road to the staging the first Emmy Awards was nothing short of a few road blocks, beginning with trying to grow a group that promoted television during a time when television sets were sparse. Here’s how it all went down.
Fact #1: Only Five People Attended the Academy’s First Meeting
The first meeting of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was held on Nov. 14, 1946, when there were only approximately 4,000 homes with televisions in Los Angeles and only about 50,0000 homes with televisions across the United States. It was attended by five people, but by a week later, they had 25 members. By the fifth meeting, they had 250.
Fact #2: The Motion Pictures Bigwigs Were Shook and Scared by the Television Academy’s Presence
What kept the Emmys board from growing at the get-go? The fact that motion pictures studios and its producers felt threatened by the television industry and that they wouldn’t support them from the outright.
Fact #3: A Ventriloquist Kinda Saved Them
Two major keys of support for Cassyd came from radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (above) and a father of a famous actress, who eventually became the Academy’s first president.
Fact #4: The Emmy Award Was Not Always Named The Emmy
The academy first considered naming the Emmy statuette an “Ike” after the nickname for a television iconoscope tube, but it sounded too close to WWII hero General Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower. The third Emmy president pitched the name “Immy,” which was later feminized to the name “Emmy” since the statue’s body was modeled after a woman.
Fact #5: The Emmy’s Wings and Her Ball Actually Mean Something
Her wings represent the muse of art. The atom represents science and the technology of television.
Fact #6: The Emmy’s Body Is Very… Real
Forty-seven proposals were denied before a statuette whose body was modeled after a television engineer’s wife was accepted ahead of the first Emmy Awards on Jan. 25, 1949.
Fact #7: The First Emmy Awards Definitely Were Not Held at the Microsoft Theater
They were hosted at the Hollywood Athletic Club and hosted by an entertainer named Walter O’Keefe.
Fact #8: Tickets Were Dirt Cheap
They literally cost $5.00.
Fact #9: It Probably Had Poorer Ratings than the 2015 Emmys
It was broadcast on KTSL, a local TV station, to an audience of relatively no one given that televisions were still sparse across the United States.
Fact #10: Six Awards Were Handed Out to These People
You guessed it. More ventriloquy.
Most Outstanding Television Personality:Shirley Dinsdale, a 20-year-old ventriloquist from UCLA who starred in a show called Judy Splinters that was named after her talking puppet.
The Station Award for Outstanding Overall Achievement: KTLA, the first commercial TV station west of the Mississippi
The Technical Award: Engineer Charles Mesak of Don Lee Television for introducing TV camera technology
The Best Film Made for Television:The Necklace, a half-hour adaptation of Guy de Maupassant‘s classic short story
Most Popular Television Program:Pantomime Quiz
Plus, a Special Emmy was presented to Louis McManus for designing such a beautiful statue, with implied credit to his beautiful wife (see Fact #6)
Listen to our Celebuzz’d podcast episode with the Executive Chef of Culinary behind the Emmys Governors Ball in the SoundCloud player below. Catch our coverage of the 68th annual Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 18 beginning with the red carpet at 7 p.m. EST.