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Home Entertainment System

1949 Admiral home entertainment systemThe day an American family acquired its first television was a momentous event during the 1940s and '50s.  For the Rossers of Delia, it was especially memorable because theirs was the first set in town.

Frank and Minnie Rosser indulged in the latest technological innovation when they bought a 1949 Admiral Home Entertainment System at a store in nearby St. Marys, Kansas. It wasn't just a television, but a combination TV, record player, and radio. The Rossers bought their set during a nationwide boom in television sales between 1948 and 1949.  Two million had sold in the United States by August, 1949.

Admiral ad for this model, 1949; courtesy of Television History websiteThe manufacturer of this combination set was Chicago-based Admiral Corporation, an industry pioneer.  Owner Ross Siragusa had always been involved in the electronics business, previously operating a company called Continental Radio and Television that produced a signature combination radio/phonograph in a molded plastic cabinet. Successful sales of these inexpensive sets allowed Siragusa to later purchase the Admiral brand name.

Most manufacturers made high-priced, bulky models in the early years of television broadcasting.  Under Siragusa's leadership, Admiral transformed the industry by offering small, low-priced table models in a plastic cabinet similar to his earlier company's radio/phonograph combinations.  Admiral also sold the first TVs with Plexiglass screens.  In addition to manufacturing televisions, it was one of the first companies to sponsor TV shows, including "Show of Shows" and Notre Dame football games.

Admiral was a top-selling brand from 1948 to 1951, when the Rossers shopped for their set, and it was among the first companies to produce color TVs in 1965. After sales waned, the company focused on the manufacture of home appliances before it was sold in 1974. Amusingly, modern television brought attention back to Admiral's failure when the series "Mad Men" (set in 1963) depicted company executives seeking advertising assistance due to falling sales.

Admiral set with glass magnifier in front of TV screenAdvertised as "America's Smart Set," this Admiral Home Entertainment System had something for every member of the family. Frank Rosser (a high school principal) loved listening to the news on the radio. His daughter Marilyn played albums on the record player and watched several children’s programs on the 12-inch television, including "Captain Kangaroo," "Howdy Doody," and "The Cisco Kid." Marilyn also viewed many westerns, a genre that peaked in the 1950s and '60s. While getting ready for school in the mornings she enjoyed a homegrown Kansas program, The Pleasant Valley Gang, broadcast on WIBW-TV out of Topeka.

The Rosser's television came with a glass magnifier (right, bottom) to better enable the whole family to gather around its flickering screen, perhaps with neighbors who dropped by to check out the first TV set in Delia.

Marilyn Rosser Campbell donated her parents' Admiral combination to the Kansas Museum of History in 2010. View the set with closed doors.

Listen to the Admiral TV podcast  Play Audio Tour

Entry: Home Entertainment System

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: September 2010

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.