Posted by & filed under 1970s.

In honor of Super Bowl LI this Sunday, we flash back to January 1978 when the Dallas Cowboys met the Denver Broncos in New Orleans for Super Bowl XII. In the first ever Super Bowl broadcast in prime time, the Cowboys defeated the Broncos 27-10. In this clip, Texas News reporter Karen Parfitt reports on the “super sales” of Dallas Cowboys merchandise in the DFW area. This story aired at 10 PM on January 12, 1978.

[News Clip: Super Sales (Super Bowl)] on The Portal to Texas History.

This video was recently transferred from the original 3/4 inch magnetic media (also called Umatic tape) that was used to record this segment. Video in the KXAS collection from 1977-1986 is particularly at risk due to the fragile nature of the Umatic format and the obsolescence of the equipment needed for playback and digitization. In this video you will see that the picture quality has significantly degraded. Although there has been loss to the image quality, we were able to successfully save this video before it was too late. As more time passes however, it will be harder and harder to recover videos like this.

Posted by & filed under 1980s.

Yesterday UNT, along with other state institutions, observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law on Nov. 2, 1983. Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, stated upon the bill’s ratification that “This is not a black holiday; it is a people’s holiday.” Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was observed for the first time in the United States three years later on January 20, 1986. Many states, including Texas, did not initially observe the paid holiday in 1986. In fact, MLK Day was not observed by every U.S. state until the year 2000. Today some states observe the holiday under a different name (it’s known as “Human Rights Day” in Idaho and “Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights Day” in Arizona and New Hampshire) or combine the holiday with memorials for confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Virginia). A recent New York Times article proves that the holiday is still contested more than thirty years after its implementation.

On January 20, 1986, KXAS reporter Ramona Logan reported on Dallas-Forth Worth residents’ reactions to the day for the 6:00 news. Some Texas employees chose to take a vacation day in honor of Dr. King, while others chose to honor his memory through their vocations. Dallas schools closed for the day but Fort Worth schools remained open.

[News Clip: MLK Closings] on The Portal to Texas History.

This footage was rescued from a “U-matic” 3/4 tape. The characteristic image and sound degradation of an aged U-matic tape is apparent in the digital copy, which highlights why this format is a major preservation priority for archivists and librarians.

Further reading:

“A Brief History of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.” Time.

Posted by & filed under 1980s.

NBC5 reporter Brad Wright traveled to El Paso,Texas on January 4, 1981 to report on President-elect Ronald Reagan’s meeting with Mexico President Jose Lopez Portilla. This segment was digitized from the original 3/4 inch analog source tape, and shows many examples of tape degradation which interfere with the both the picture and sound quality. Footage recorded onto 3/4 tape, also called “U-matic” tape, often displays significant degradation, and is a major preservation priority for archivists and librarians.Although this footage is severely compromised, it was able to be saved before a total loss.

[News Clip: Reagan/ Portilla] on The Portal to Texas History.

Posted by & filed under 1950s.

Before the widespread adoption of TV in America many people had become accustomed to tuning into their radios for news in addition to the more traditional formats such as newspapers and magazines.In fact, the rise of broadcast television news in the 1940’s was a natural extension of the capabilities built during the war years by the major radio broadcast networks. Surveys conducted at the end of World War II revealed that radio had surpassed print journalism to become the main source of news for many Americans, and radio journalists such as Edward R. Murrow were well respected by the public. Of the four major networks at the time, NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) were the best situated to aggressively seek out local radio stations around the country who were moving into the new field of television to join them as affiliates. In 1946 publisher Amon G. Carter filed permits with the Federal Communications Commission for construction of a television station in Fort Worth, Texas. Carter, already a legend in the publishing world, had been successfully operating the Fort-Worth Star Telegram newspaper since 1909 and a major NBC affiliated radio station, WBAP, since 1922. His new television station, WBAP-TV, also NBC affiliated, aired its first broadcast on September 27, 1948. WBAP was the first television station in Texas and the only television station in the entire southwest region of the country at that time.


For over 65 years the station, which was was renamed NBC 5/KXAS in 1974 following its sale to LIN broadcasting, continued to broadcast programming from their original location in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2012 the station began construction of a new $16 million facility centrally located in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and in early 2014 the station began broadcasting from their new location. News programming at NBC 5/KXAS has grown over the years from a daily 15 minute news reel in the 1950’s to multiple daily news broadcasts by the 1970’s. The station continued to be a leader in local television news by becoming the first station in Texas to feature all-color news film in 1966, and was the first station in the country to produce a monthly “news magazine” featuring in-depth, documentary style reporting.

The real innovation of WBAP and later NBC 5/KXAS was in the high quality content of their news reporting. During the 1950’s and 1960’s most local affiliate stations focused on live entertainment programming featuring dancers or musical performers which did not require the expense of investment in costly film technology. Furthermore many local affiliates believed that they would only be duplicating the efforts of radio and newspaper journalists in creating news programming, so they simply replied on summaries of wire reports to provide viewers with the news. In contrast, WBAP featured news reporting from across the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area ranging from crime, politics and current events to public interest even novelty reporting. News film from WBAP was broadcast nightly as early as 1951 (and perhaps earlier, although no footage from the years 1948-1950 was retained) in a 15 minute program called, “The Texas News.” This early news format featured five to eight short news segments with live in-studio narration read from a prepared script. Most of the footage itself was silent, with sound on film occurring only for brief interviews.

By 1952 it is estimated that 32% of homes had a television set, which means that in a metroplex of over 1,100,000 people at that time, as many as 350,000 people could have been tuning in to watch the nightly local news. There is evidence which also suggests that new film produced by KXAS was selectively compiled and distributed as newsreels throughout the state. An example of a KXAS news reel located in the Library of Congress features several stories from November 1954 with narration and music added to the film which does not appear in the regular news broadcast.  


Unprocessed news film in the NBC5/KXAS Archive


Unprocessed news film in the NBC5/KXAS Archive

A typical 15 minute news reel from the earliest extant footage in the WBAP archive contains coverage reminiscent of what today might be called “hyperlocal” news. College and high school sports, meetings of fraternal and service organizations and city council meetings were events commonly included in news coverage. Public interest stories were covered as well– one memorable segment from 1951 included dramatic footage of a horse being lifted from an abandoned well. (The horse, named Major, was returned to pasture unharmed.) Although news coverage may have focused on local news events, it would be a mistake to assume that this coverage has no larger significance. In the decade following World War II the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex experienced tremendous population growth fueled by the thousands of jobs available in the area. This growth however, also placed strain on many of the communities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who suddenly felt the approach of “big city problems” into their small town lives. Secondly, as one of the largest metropolitan areas in the county, the experiences of people here are a microcosm of the issues which faced the nation at large including civil rights struggles of the 1950’s.This news segment from 1956, which features a story on the integration of an all-white Fort Worth neighborhood, is an example of the significant footage included in the collection.

[News Clip: Ft. Woth City Council ; No Negroes Enroll at Wichita Falls] on The Portal to Texas History.

Posted by & filed under 1970s.

In 1978, the Vann family invited KXAS reporter Bobbie Wygant into their Denton home to view their four Christmas trees with decorations inspired by the writings of Charles Dickens.The story aired on Christmas Day 1978.

Dr. J. Don Vann, a noted Dickens scholar who is active in Dickens fan communities, taught in the University of North Texas English department for over 30 years. In 1987, Dr. Vann and his wife Dolores founded a Denton branch of the Dickens Fellowship, an organization that began in London in 1902. Today there are forty-seven Dickens Fellowship branches in ten countries. After he retired from UNT, Dr. Vann and Dolores established the Vann Victorian Endowment to support the purchase of Victorian literature by UNT Special Collections. Over the years the Vanns have made many generous gifts to UNT Special Collections from their personal collection of Dickens works, as well as other Victorian-era authors. UNT Special Collections exhibited materials from the Vann Victorian Collection in Fall 2014. Some of the books seen in this video are now part of the Vann Victorian collection at UNT!

The Vanns have lived in their 1927 Georgian-style home on West Oak Street in Denton since 1967. The Vann’s home is believed to have been one of the first in Denton to have air-conditioning. The home’s original ductwork contained a space for a block of ice, allowing for the circulation of cool air by the furnace fan. This system was replaced with a more modern air-conditioning system in the 1950s. Dolores Vann was instrumental in establishing the Oak-Hickory Historic District after she and her neighbors witnessed threats to Denton’s historic homes in favor of proposed multifamily dwellings. July 27, 2014 was named “Dolores Vann Day” by Chris Watts, Denton Mayor, in appreciation of Mrs. Vann’s historic preservation efforts.

This video was recently transferred from the original 3/4 inch magnetic media (also called Umatic tape) used to record this segment. Video in the KXAS collection from the time period between 1977-1986 is particularly at risk due to the fragile nature of the video and the obsolescence of the equipment needed for playback and digitization. In this video you will see that the picture quality has significantly degraded and the top quarter of the viewing area is partially distorted. Although there has been loss to the image quality, we were successfully able to save this video before it was too late. As more time passes however, it will be harder and harder to recover videos like this.


This is a more recent image of Don and Dolores from 2014, as we prepared for the Vann Victorian exhibition.



Posted by & filed under 1950s.

This is a project update on the Broadcast Script Digitization Project.

One of the major challenges in preservation of early news footage is that it was largely recorded without any soundtrack.The earliest news film in the NBC5/KXAS (WBAP) collection is completely silent, and was meant to be accompanied during a live broadcast by a news anchor reading from a prepared script. In many cases the scripts which originally accompanied the news film have been lost to time, any only the silent footage remains, completely lacking in any contextual information as to what event are taking place. Even the most basic information, such as the date or place the film was recorded, is gone forever. Footage out of context may be interesting, but can be challenging, if not impossible, to use for research.

Luckily, the NBC 5/KXAS Archive contains an almost comprehensive broadcast script library which matches the the daily news film recorded on 16 mm film. There are hundreds of thousands of pages of scripts in the collection which recorded dates, places, and most importantly, description of the events taking place on the mostly silent film. It is from these scripts that we are able to determine that a woman seen stepping off an airplane at Carter Field in Fort Worth is a survivor of Andrea Doria shipwreck in 1956, or that a particular reel of film which is labeled only with a date actually contains footage of desegregation protests in Dallas.

Since our understanding of the film portion of the collection is so dependent upon the information contained within the script library, for the past year archivists and librarians at UNT have been engaged in digitizing the entire script series.We consider this an important first step in the eventual digitization of the entire collection. You can follow along with our progress on the Script Digitization Project by viewing scripts which we have already made available on the Portal to Texas History. As of December 2016 we have nearly completed digitization of the first decade of scripts, raging in date from 1951-1960.

The earliest script in the collection dates from January 3, 1951, and provides a detailed overview of the 1951 Cotton Bowl match-up between the University of Texas and the University of Tennessee.

Primary view of object titled '[News Script: Bowl show]'.

Posted by & filed under 1950s.

The Statler Hilton Dallas Hotel, located at 1914 Commerce Street, was considered an iconic example of modernist design when it opened in 1956. It was the first hotel built in Dallas in over 30 years, and the largest conference facility in the South. When it opened the hotel had 1,001 guest rooms and a ball room which could accommodate 2,200 people. This historic hotel had many “firsts” in the hotel industry. It was the first hotel to feature elevator music and the first to include a television in each guest room. Celebrities, dignitaries and other VIPs visiting the hotel could also easily be accommodated by a heliport on the roof of the hotel which served as a shuttle to local airports.

The once opulent hotel entered a period of neglect in later years, and was closed permanently in 2001. In 2008 the building was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most endangered structures in the country. Inclusion on America’s Most Endangered Historic Places List indicates the significant status of the building, and in general “highlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage.”

This clip from the NBC5/KXAS Television News Archive features exterior and interior shots of the Statler from the first year of its operation in 1956. The short segment, which aired August 12, 1956, covers an address by Vice-President Richard Nixon to an annual meeting of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Association. Although the images of the Statler are tantalizing brief, they do provide a great example of this historic building in action during its heyday.

Main entrance to the hotel (still image from film):

Statler Hilton, Dallas, 1956


Conference attendees near the entrance to the Embassy Room inside the hotel (still image from film):



Bellman carrying luggage into the hotel (still image from film):



Original broadcast script from the August 12, 1956 news segment:

Primary view of object titled '[News Script: Nixon]'.


Full digitized news segment:

As one of the premier hotels in Dallas for several decades, the Statler Hilton is featured in many news segments which have yet to be digitized. In fact, coverage of the hotel began in 1953 during the groundbreaking of the hotel and continued for decades as celebrities visited and major events took place at the hotel. News footage like this can support historic preservation efforts in many ways– both by documenting the history of a structure and its importance to the community it served. However, unlike other types of historical sources of information, only film footage like this can show you the ways in the ways in which everyday people moved, interacted and enjoyed these structures, and it provides a whole different perspective than a newspaper report or even a still image.

This footage was digitized from the original 16mm news film and is made accessible to the public through the Portal to Texas History.

Posted by & filed under 1990s.

One of the most interesting aspects of a local news collection is that the coverage provides a regional perspective for national news events. On December 2, 1999 the Mars Polar Lander was quickly approaching the Martian atmosphere in preparation for a landing which would send significant scientific information back to Earth. Scientists hoped that data gathered from the lander would tell us more about the red planet, and maybe even help us to understand if Mars could one day support human life.

This news event was covered nationally and internationally, however, local coverage in the KXAS collection makes a connection between this far away news event to something much closer to home. On December 2, KXAS reporters went to Fort Worth’s Noble Planetarium and talked with Assistant Director Linda Krause. Krause explained that the Mars Lander, much like the planetarium itself, led to many people’s interest in space. First opened in 1955 as a part of the Fort Worth Children’s Museum, the Noble Planetarium was the first public planetarium in the DFW region.

Unfortunately contact with the Lander was lost shortly after it touched down on Mars. As a follow up story, KXAS broadcast a short package featuring animations from NASA as well as short sound bites from NASA administrative officials and the White House. In contrast to the local coverage provided four days earlier, this package featured voice over and stand-up from a NBC Washington correspondent Steve Handelsman, and no specific local coverage was provided.