Emmy Award Beginnings

Arts & EntertainmentBooks & Music

  • Author Andy Mccarthy
  • Published March 4, 2011
  • Word count 552

In 1949, in the effort to build its image and public relations persona, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) awarded six trophies to honor notable achievements within the realm of television broadcasting in the Los Angeles area. At the Hollywood Athletic Club on January 25, 1949, the first Emmy in history was awarded to ventriloquist Shirley Dinsdale, who was honored as Most Outstanding Television Personality for her role as star of Judy Splinters, a children's program named after her puppet. The next year, in 1950, the ceremony expanded to award television broadcasts across the entire nation. Over time, the awards ceremony has come to incorporate the distribution of awards in hundreds of categories spanning artistic and technical achievements, and has developed several smaller supplemental ceremonies to honor technical and regional achievements as well. Each year, the show's broadcast rotates between ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox.

The Academy had been founded in 1946 by Syd Cassyd, whose experience in film and television production was extensive, and who aimed to establish a haven for discussing and encouraging the innovative advancement of the still new and fledgling television medium. When the idea for the television awards first surfaced, the Television Academy's founder felt that such awards would tarnish the organization's declared mission of uplifting television's goals of culture, education and research. Eventually, however, he came to understand the public relations opportunities that such a ceremony would present, thus boosting the Academy's support and chance of success with its mission, and finally reneged on his rejection of the idea. Sure enough, the awards, which came to be known as the Emmys, were responsible for the Academy's rise in stature throughout the 1950s. Since then, the Academy's mission and activities have grown from mere fundraising to the utilization of its resources to preserve the medium, celebrate its history, and educate those who aim to shape its future developments.

The name for the awards comes from the nickname, "immy" that referred to image orthicon tubes of early television cameras, a suggestion that came from Harry Lubcke, a notable television engineer who would later become the Academy's third president. Among other names that had been considered were "Ike," the nickname for the iconoscope tube in televisions, rejected due to the already well-known name's evocation of Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower, WWII war hero. The nickname was feminized to "Emmy," to be consistent with the statuette that had been designed as the trophy, of a winged woman (symbolizing the muse of art) holding an atom (symbolizing the electrons of science and technology of the television) in representation the Academy's goal of supporting, progressing, and celebrating the art and science of television.

The design - developed by TV engineer Louis McManus had come up with the design, modeling the winged woman after his wife - had been one of the very last ones considered in 1948, after 47 other designs had been rejected. Each year, the R.S. Owens Company in Chicago spends five and a half hours creating each of the approximately two hundred statuettes composed of copper, nickel, silver, and gold for the primetime ceremony, and about three hundred smaller versions for the regional ceremonies. Each trophy is carefully handled with white gloves to avoid leaving any fingerprints. Other industries from automotive to financial to non-profit can find similar prestigious crystal awards in the public marketplace.

Andy has over 10 years experience in the promotional product field, with a focus on crystal awards.

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