News / 8.17.16

Throwback Thursday – National Video Corporation

A plant that produced nearly 10% of all picture tubes required in the United States

This week's Epstein Throwback Thursday project is the National Video Corporation Office and Manufacturing Facility located at 4300 W. 47th Street in Chicago. Completed in March of 1953 and located within the Crawford Tract of Chicago's Central Manufacturing District (the nation's first planned industrial park) this National Video plant produced nearly 10% of all picture tubes required in the United States.

For an 8 year period running from 1952 – 1960 Epstein provided design and engineering services for National Video at this location. During that time we helped deliver the original 112,000 square foot building as well as two 50,000 square foot additions making the National Video Corporation the largest independent manufacturer of television tubes in the United States.

This original plant was designed to be the most modern cathode-ray tube plant in the world and featured a production process involving a series of cutting-edge manufacturing techniques. These processes included molding glass and wires together in a series of heating operations to produce a part of the electron gun, which was the most important part of the picture tube, as well as a pretty sophisticated Deionizing procedure which purified the water used in the production of the these tubes by replacing soluble impurities in the water through a chemical reaction.

The most sophisticated manufacturing portion of the this facility was the 'Screening Room' which was more or less sealed off from the rest of the facility and only allowed for a conveyor belt that carried picture tubes to enter and exit. This 'Screening Room' featured electric eyes that opened and closed the doors and the air in this wing was also pressurized so that only clean air from air cleaners was allowed to enter. In addition a chemical 'cocktail' comprised of nitrates, silicates, fluorescent powders and water were used which ultimately creates the screen on the inside of the viewing surface of the picture tube.

(This is a construction photo from September 9, 1952. How many OSHA violations can you name? BTW - if you were curious, we did not build National Video)

After experiencing tremendous growth in the 50s and early 60s, National Video Corporation fell victim to competition from larger manufacturers and in 1968 filed for bankruptcy. Although that wasn't the end for this building which now is the home for Allied Displays; a company that manufactures custom retail displays, store fixtures, and kiosk merchandising pieces out of this facility.