In 1965, Admiral’s  15” and 17” portable black and white
televisions had rabbit ears and flat-faced
square picture tubes

This was the television age before cable or satellite or fibre: this was an age when rabbit ears were the aerial on portable sets and were often attached to the large furniture-sized sets that dominated living rooms across the country.

This half-page advertisement for Admiral’s portable televisions from Life Magazine, July 23, 1965,  describes these models as light enough for easy carrying, big enough for easy viewing with a big speaker and strong fringe-area reception.

The fringe-area claim is a hint to the quality of the image.

This was the television age before cable or satellite or fibre: this was an age when rabbit ears were the aerial on portable sets and were often attached to the large furniture-sized sets that dominated living rooms across the country.

The rabbit ears are visible on these Admiral portable TVs in this advertisement

Rabbit ears were two telescoping swivel-based antennae mounted on the back of portable sets or connected with wires to larger sets.

You could pull them out to full extension or not. You could pull them apart, or not. Point them to the front; to the side; to the back; to the ceiling; to the floor. Point then differently for every channel in frustrating attempts to improve reception of any station other than local television.

Viewers in large cities had multiple channels from which to choose and the reception was reasonably clear but, for viewers living in rural communities, the channel selection was limited.

Tuning to signals from channels outside the immediate local area, i.e. beyond 20-30 miles, was challenging with rabbit ears.

Those were the decades when outdoor antennas —complicated collections of metal spokes—sprouted above the roof tops. Viewers did, however, get better reception from those outdoor  towers attached to their houses.

Portable and furniture-sized television sets were advertised in Sears Christmas Catalogue, 1965. Their new instant-sound transistorized portable with an 11-inch picture featured “a picture- improving attenuator switch…press it and signal adjusts for sharpest picture.” It also had a “keyed automatic gain-control for picture stability.”   It was listed at $134.88, and the rechargeable battery cost an additional $26.88. The average weekly wage in 1965 was $104.95.

Picture your family sitting in a living room watching a 9 inch television!  You can live the experience by simply setting a  small computer tablet in the far corner of your living room.

Put the 9 inch computer tablet into a console that includes one or maybe more speakers, a radio and a phonograph i.e. a record player. Include storage space in the cabinet for LP vinyl records.

That was how the family enjoyed home entertainment in 1949. Admiral advertised one of those furniture-sized television sets in this advertisement from Saturday Evening Post. It featured a “Magic Mirror Television, an FM-AM dynamagic radio, and a record player”.

The reference to four hours of continuous recorded music probably means that the record player featured a changer that could carry multiple records.

The list price is $399.95. The average wage in the United States that year was $60 per week.

You can read a very detailed account of the establishment and growth of the Admiral Corporation on the website of the the “Made in Chicago Museum”

Ross Siragusa founded the Admiral Corp. during the Depression and transformed it from a small radio and phonograph company into one of the leading makers of televisions, audio products and home appliances.

Within just a year and a half of entering the TV fray, Admiral was producing 15,000 sets a day (at multiple facilities across the country) and claiming nearly a quarter share of the entire industry’s production. According to Siragusa, they were also paying for 25% of the TV related advertising in the country, mostly in newspapers. 

As the TV era exploded in the 1950s, workers at the Cortland Street plant—and an ever increasing network of satellite facilities—literally couldn’t keep up with the demand, particularly as the sets became more affordable, better functioning, and increasingly rich in programming content. Radios were useful and all, but the television was the new centerpiece of the home.

In 1964 only 3.1 percent of television households in the U.S. had color television. In 1965, over half of all network prime-time programming in the U.S. was broadcast in color. All three broadcast networks aired full-color prime-time schedules in the 1966–67 broadcast season, and ABC aired its last new black-and-white daytime programming in December 1967.