This is an archived website which has not been updated since 2002.
Some information may be inaccurate or out of date.
The following is excerpted from Tom O'Neil's EMMYS, a book about the history of the Emmy Awards and the Academy (Penguin Books, 1992):
The original Academy of Television Arts and Sciences was founded in 1946 by Syd Cassyd, who was then working as reporter for a TV trade magazine while also moonlighting as a grip on Paramount's back lot. As he watched the new broadcast medium grow, it occurred to him one day that just what it needed was an organisation similar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Similar, that is, but not exactly the same. Cassyd actually wanted his group to be much more academic in nature. He foresaw a professional forum equivalent to the French Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Science in Washington where ideas could be openly discussed and debated and position papers exchanged between members.
After preliminary meetings with Klaus Landsberg, Paramount's TV engineer, and Professor Paul Sheets of U.C.L.A. (who was also president of the Audio-Visual Educational Association of America), Cassyd gathered together seven associates in an exploratory meeting held in the offices of S. R. Rabinoff, an FCC attorney who ran a TV school and other operations behind the 20th Century-Fox studios on Sunset Boulevard. In order to achieve their mission, the group decided they needed a big name behind them, and Cassyd, who had been designated the group's first chairman, went after one of the biggest in show business. As a result, on January 7, 1947, famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen was elected the new academy's first president and one year later the organisation was formally incorporated as a non-profit organisation with its chief aim being to promote the cultural, educational, and research aims of television.
The incorporation papers were filed by Bergen, Ray Monfort (of The Los Angeles Time's TV operations), and Donn Tatum, who was to become chairman of the board of Walt Disney Studios. Emmy Awards were first presented in 1949 for the 1948 broadcast year and were named by the president of the Society of Television Engineers Harry Lubcke who would later serve as the academy's third president.
Originally, the Emmys were called Ikes, a short form for the television iconscope tube, but the nickname had problems, particularly the fact that it was associated in the public mind with a certain past war hero (and future U.S. President). Lubcke then volunteered his successful alternative, a feminization of Immy, a term commonly used for the early image orthicon camera tube.
The design for the prize's statue was chosen from the last of 48 entries submitted by industry contestants. The winner was Louis McManus, an engineer at Culver City's Cascade Pictures, who used his wife, Dorothy, to model the form of the winged woman triumphantly holding up the universal symbol of the electron.
When the TV academy was born, the TV industry was still in its infancy and most programming was still generated locally. The country would not be linked with a coast-to-coast hookup via microwave transmission until AT&T did so in 1951, and so therefore the earliest Emmys were bestowed mostly to local heroes. The first one ever awarded went to Shirley Dinsdale, a young ventriloquist with a popular L.A. puppet show.
Back to Information index