Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Library 2015 - First Televised Church Sevice

Classic Television: The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at Grace Episcopal Church, 1946

According to some sources, the very first televised church service was broadcast December 24th, 1946 from the Grace Episcopal Church at the intersection of 10th and Broadway in New York, NY. Like virtually all pre-1950 programs this landmark broadcast cannot be seen today, but that Christmas  candlelight service was a tiny beginning to the use of television for ministry (like a tiny seed).  Nearly 70 years later, millions of church services have aired around the world reaching millions who ponder about the truth of the Gospel and where they can go to worship.

The Grace Episcopal Church Candlelight service was lead by the church rector, Rev. Dr. Louis W. Pitt, and the choir of 50 boys was director by the church organist and choir director, Ernest Campbell.  The broadcast filmed by WABD, could be seed by audiences in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D. C. via a network arranged by the United States Rubber Company. The program was especially designed to reach hospitalized war veterans.

Until the next entry from The Christmas Library.... Merry Christmas!


Service to be telecast : Christmas eve service at grace church 1st to be carried. New York Times. (1946, Dec. 22) p. 17.

Christmas Library 2015 - Brightest Night (1952)

Brightest Night is a 1952 short film produced by Church-Craft Pictures, Inc. under the ministry of the Rev. Paul G. Kiehl. Church-Craft was a multimedia ministry based in St. Louis, Missouri that produced films strips, for homes, churches and schools.  Their "Storiview" items, similar to the Viewmaster toys, are still collected around the world. In Brightest Night, a mother and father explain to their children the story of the birth of Christ, which is re-enacted with colorful miniatures. Church-Craft would use this technique several times in their film strip productions.

Very little is known about the production of this film, and one wonders if the family are really related and if so who were they.  The film began to resurface on DVD and Youtube within the last decade.


For more about the history of Church-Craft's Storiview products: LINK

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Library 2015 - "A Book About Jesus"


"A Book About Jesus". Exterior front and back cover
"A Book About Jesus" Nine-Year Pupil: Book Two was published by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1959. It has beautiful text and illustrations of not only the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but all stories of his death and resurrection which give a young child a whole appreciation of his birth, and giving the child a real Christmas.

The editor of this text was Robbie Trent (1894-1988) author of numerous Christian children's books who I hope to write more about in the coming months. The illustrations are credited to John White and Dorothy Teichman. Ms. Teichman was also an illustrator of numerous Bible-based children's books.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Classic Radio: Unshackled - Happy 65th Anniversary


9/23/1950 - present. Syndicated.  
Production: Pacific Garden Missions, Chicago, Illinois
The Longest Running Broadcast Drama In History!
Official website:

It was 65 years ago this week that Unshackled debuted over WGN in Chicago with the dramatization of the life of evangelist Billy Sunday.

Above: One of the earliest press articles on "Unshackled" from Broadcasting, March 24, 1952.
Click on the image to read in context of the original magazine.

This broadcast series tells the true stories of countless individuals whose lives were "unshackled" by salvation in Jesus Christ.  Probably none of the original cast and crew members could have ever imagined that radio drama would soon cease on the major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, Mutual,) and only Unshackled would go on to have an audience who would tune in more than a half century later for any of the 7,000 times it is broadcast a week, to listen in 15 languages in over 140 nations.

Unshackled holds a special place in my heart. As a teenager, I was an old-time radio collector and an usher in the church who secretly struggled with an addiction to pornography.  One day as I was fiddling with my radio I was startled to hear a radio drama on a random AM station and the program was telling the story of an alcoholic whose life was transformed and renewed by Jesus Christ.

This program was Unshackled, and I wanted to hear more.  My amazement was from so much more than hearing a current radio drama. This was the first time in my life that I truly understood that not only did Jesus want me free from this addiction, but that he was still with me and if he could do it for that man whose story I heard on the radio, then he could do it for me too. The stories on Unshackled have ministered to me countless times and I have partly created this blog so that more people can learn about the dynamic media ministries like Pacific Garden Missions Unshackled, whom God has ordained to preach the gospel to the world.

I hope that Unshackled will stay on the air for many more years. Unlike 99% of broadcast dramas on radio or television, Unshackled has as its fuel, a theme that will never end.........lives transformed by the Gospels and redeemed by the love of Jesus Christ.

Internet resources for the history of Unshackled:

For a Chicago Tribune Article recognizing the series 65 years:

For a more complete history of Unshackled please visit their official history page:

For biographical information on one of the series earliest scriptwriters, producers and directors, Eugenia Price (1916-1996)

Also seek out these texts from used bookstores and libraries:

Bailey, F. C., & Unshackled (Radio program). (1962). These, too, were unshackled: 15 dramatic stories from the Pacific Garden Mission. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House.

Price, E. (1982). The burden is light: The autobiography of a transformed pagan who took God at his word. New York: Dial Press.

Price, E., & Bailey, F. C. (1953). Unshackled: Stories of transformed lives, adapted from "Unshackled" radio broadcasts: stories from Pacific Garden Mission. Chicago: Moody Press.

Classic Television : Story From The Book (A Story From The Book)

Story From The Book (A Story From The Book)  

Early Children's Television Series which used cutouts to tell Bible Stories.

(c. 1949-1950 WCAU, Philadelphia; 1950 - 1951, WPIX, New York). 

Philadelphia Inquirer television schedule from Sunday, November 27th, 1949 when "Story From The Book" aired at 4:15 pm.  When the series aired on WPIX in New York it tended to air earlier in the Sunday schedule.

For at least four years I have researched this program, one of the earliest Bible series made for children.  The surviving details are scarce but this was a series about "Bible stories told with cutouts"or Bible stories told with "miniatures scenes assembled as she talks" by a woman named Jean Seeley. Newspaper television schedules from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the New York Times show that this series moved from Philadelphia station WCAU to New York's WPIX in 1950 where it aired for a full year.  

Jean Seeley's series was praised in the International Journal of Religious Education and slightly criticized by New York Times television critic Jack Gould as being worthwhile for children, but that it could have used a better production.

Any information about Jean Seeley or her series is greatly welcomed.  She was briefly described in some sources as being an accomplished storyteller.  She would have lived in near Philadelphia in the late 1940s, and moved or commuted to New York from 1950 to 1951

Gould J. (1951, Mar 11). CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

Griswald C. T. (1952, January) TEACHING RELIGION THROUGH TELEVISION. International Journal of Religious Education

Monday, June 29, 2015

Classic Television : Bible Puppets

Bible Puppets

(nationally syndicated dramatized bible stories for children)
Syndicated: c. 1950 - mid 1960s
Production: Mabel Beaton, Les Beaton, Protestant Radio Commission, c. 1949 - 1950

This may have been the first "animated" (in one sense of the word, using puppets) Bible based series in television history and the first one geared towards children that was not produced live.  The root of all Christian puppet series to follow.

Portsmouth Times, Oct 7, 1950.
Mabel Beaton handling the puppet of Jesus Christ. Portsmouth Times, Oct 7, 1950.

This was a series of short films with Bible stories re-enacted by the expert puppeteers Mabel and Les Beaton and the Peningo Puppeteers. They were commissioned by the Rev. Everett C. Parker of the Protestant Film and Radio Commission to create these short films. The first short premiered at a Broadway theater in New York, and the shorts begin appearing on television in 1950. A few years later these shorts were made available to the home and church market by the Religious Film Association, Inc in both color and black & white copies. Examinations of New York state and regional newspaper television schedules show that these films were broadcast on Sunday morning schedules for children as late as 1964.

ABOVE: The Story of The Prodigal Son (1950), rediscovered by A/V Geeks around 2011, and perhaps the only one of these shorts to exist today.

There were 9 to 13 shorts produced, all reportedly in color. They were:

The Parables
The Good Samaritan (This may have been the first one produced, in 1949)
The Ten Talents
The Prodigal Son
The Lost Sheep

The Story of Joseph
Joseph And His Brethren
Joseph In Egypt

The Story of Moses
Moses in Egypt
Moses And His People
Moses And The Ten Commandments

Survival Status: A black and white print of one short, “Story of the Prodigal Son” was unearthed by A/V Geeks very recently, and is downloadable from and YouTube.  Other shorts; unknown, none are listed in World Cat, but copies may still survive in the hands of private collectors. Please check your church basement!!!

Below is one half of a color television special called "The Spirit Of Christmas" which tells the story of the Nativity and was sponsored the Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company. Made the same year as the Bible Puppets series by the Beatons, it is unknown if "The Nativity" was one of the Bible Puppets entries or a separate production.


Advertisement: Religious Film Association, Inc. (1952, November 1). Educational Screen, 385-385.

Advertisement: Religious Film Association, Inc. (1952, September 1). Educational Screen, 385-385

Erickson, H. (1989). Syndicated television: The first forty years, 1947-1987. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland.

Hess, B. A Brief History of Christian Films: 1918-2002.


Hello Guests,

If you are discovering this blog on purpose of by accident, I pray that you will be blessed by what I have to offer.  Researched histories of the Bible-based dramas and storytelling from across the history of media: radio, television, instructional films, magazines, comic strips and so much more.  I hope this blog will be an inspiration to generations of Sunday school teachers, ministers, instructional designers, multimedia ministries, parents and their children.   Come back to this blog learn about great teachers, and see, hear and read great examples from the past of what God can do with willing creative minds.

Again Welcome and Be Blessed,

James R. Stewart Jr.
Librarian, Researcher, and a Born Again Creator