Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Post 16

First, let's welcome the Raulanders to the readership of the Zenith Book Weblog.
The Raulanders are a group of former employees (Hey!--we're all "former" employees, for there are none left of the employees of the original Zenith. Let's try that again--) 
 The Raulanders are a group of those who were employed by the Rauland Corporation--the television picture tube manufacturing plant located in Melrose Park, Illinois. The plant is pictured in the photo farther down on these pages as "Rauland Plant 1."  The Raulanders get together  to  fraternize at occasional meetings and to maintain old friendships.  
    Welcome once again to the Raulanders!  

Now, here follows  the Second Installment of Zenith's First War, the war that Zenith won for its own survival,  and for the survival of all the America's television manufacturers-- and  for the continued employment of 800,000 American workers.
(Note:  If you want to freshen your memory as to what's in the First Installment, or, if you are a late-comer to the weblog, just scroll down these Post 16 pages to Post 15,which immediately follows this Post 16, and read the first installment there. )

                                                           * * * * * *  * *
At the close of the First Installment of the First War, we left Zenith lawyers Phil Curtis and Frank Crotty in that "fleabag" room in New York City, sorting through the useless documents  that RCA had provided to obfuscate Zenith's search for documents needed to prove its case against the RCA patent cartel.  Now, the affair began to turn in favor of Zenith.

Zenith's lawyers  reported the matter to Chicago's Judge Michel Igoe, who immediately order RCA's lawyers to produce the needed documents that proved the existence of the RCA patent cartel.

 Europe was another consideration.  The patent pools of European co-conspirators were counterparts to the RCA patent pool in the United States.  It was thought that English, French, Dutch, German and Scandinavian patent pools had files on the overall conspiracy.  Zenith requested that letters rogatory (A letter rogatory, “or letter of request,”  is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance. --Wikipedia) be issued to the appropriate courts in the countries cited so that Zenith could pursue its pretrial discoveries in Europe; in short, to enable Zenith to examine the participants and the documents relating to the patent pools of the conspirators.

   Judge Igoe issued the order to the High Court of Justice in London and the appropriate courts in the countries cited.  To proceed before the High Court in London, Zenith attorneys had to hire a British solicitor and a British barrister to present its case.  Wright, McConnell, and Curtis arrived in London to find that, before they even started, their efforts had been violently opposed in the High Court by the RCA patent cartel and the English companies which were members of the cartel.

The trial was called, and the Zenith lawyers went to attend the court, probably at the Old Bailey in London.   Curtis's initial reaction:  “When the judges assembled in their wigs and robes and were seated, we could look up at them, it seemed, as if we were in an orchestra pit staring up at a stage high above us where a collection of impressively robed and white-wigged, seemingly supernatural jurists sat in divine judgment on our cause.”

Curtis Describes the High Court Proceedings
 Zenith’s British barrister briefly presented its case, and the impressive and eminent barrister for the opposition, Sir Hartley Shawcross, rose and presented the RCA-GE case.  He declared that British companies were being attached by a “Chicago company” and their “Chicago lawyers,” and declared that the pretrial discovery process was entirely foreign to the British system of justice.  Curtis noted that Capone wasn’t mentioned, but it wasn’t necessary to make his point, and observed:
     “As I looked up at the judges, their faces wrinkled by years of judicial service, they appeared to be pained and horrified by the revelations of our opponent’s barrister.  With saddened eyes, the judges seemed to be staring down at us as if we were Chicago gangsters boldly intent on attacking the cream of Britain’s peerage in the very capitol of the Empire.  Tom McConnell facetiously whispered to Wright and me, ‘We’ll be lucky if we escape from here without being put in a dungeon at the Tower in chains’.”
     But if recourse to British justice had failed, RCA executives in London were still subject to the authority of the Chicago court under Judge Igoe.  RCA’s European representative, Cornelius Mayer, was summoned for examination conducted by Tom McConnell.  The result was 244 pages of “arrogant, evasive testimony’; in other words, RCA’s minion was stonewalling.  McConnell suspended the deposition until Mayer’s files could be examined.
     But Mayer had transferred his records from RCA offices in London to a newly formed subsidiary in Switzerland where RCA thought that under Swiss law as in British law, the records would be immune from examination.  The flagrant attempt to hid the Mayer files was brought before Judge Igoe, who ruled that the files must be returned to London forthwith.  After a clumsy attempt by RCA to withhold the files and to conceal those harmful to RCA’s case, Zenith attorneys were able to examine them.  What the found was evidence of a patent pool in gross violation of U.S. antitrust laws.
     Mayer was again examined.  This time he was faced with the actual documents which clearly showed RCA’s involvement in the attempt to bar Zenith from the European market.  Further evidence was obtained that showed the cartel had blocked Zenith’s efforts to export to Norway, Denmark and Sweden as well as the entire European continent. [Tom McConnell’s examination of Mayer is set forth in Appendix III of the Curtis book, and it is where “Bulldog” McConnell really showed his teeth.]
     Alarmed by Zenith’s progress in discovery, RCA tried to get Judge Igoe removed from the case on the basis that he had displayed “personal bias and prejudice” toward the defendants.  The obvious intent was to get another judge who would rule in favor of RCA – in short, another Judge Leahy.  Judge Igoe refused, and the federal appeals court supported the refusal.  So desperate was the RCA cartel to avoid the antitrust charges that it even appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied the appeal.
     [Note:  RCA’s attempt to replace a judge that is providing unfavorable rulings is a classic tactic in court practice. Zenith’s case was saved when Judge Igoe refused to step down.  But Zenith was not so fortunate in the Zenith Second War, as we shall see.]

Zenith Wins!
     The Zenith case against RCA and the cartel was scheduled for trial in September of 1957.  RCA however avoided trial by agreeing to settle out of court, paying Zenith $10 million in damages; also, Zenith was awarded a worldwide, five-year, royalty-free license under all the patents in the cartel’s pool. (Note that RCA avoided trial because it didn't want to have its "dirty linen" washed in  public, where it would have adversely affected its product sales.)
     However, Zenith  intended to hold RCA’s feet to the fire by insisting that the courts address the antitrust issue.  A New York federal grand jury indicted RCA for criminal violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Slippery as ever, RCA avoided a criminal trial by not contesting the case.  A fine of $100,000 was imposed – the tiniest slap on the wrist considering the hundreds of millions of dollars the RCA cartel had reaped in the 30 years it had imposed its criminal cartel, and the American companies it had destroyed. The fine  should have been more like $10 million or even a $100 million.
 ---and by that decision, Zenith and all American television and electronics-related  companies were freed from the grasp of the criminal cartel, and would no longer have to pay the crippling royalties. 

    In closing, Curtis noted that “we were grateful that the government did not fight us on behalf of the conspirators.”  That statement proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for--as incredible as it may seem--the U.S. government did just that in the second war, a war in which Zenith and hundreds and thousands of American workers were the tragic losers.

    So the First War ended in a triumph for Zenith. But that triumph was short-lived, for a more formidable cartel had been formed--the RCA-Japanese cartel.  The story of the Second War will be told in three forthcoming Posts comprising three installments.

(McDonald's daughter, Marianne, wrote that if you mentioned David Sarnoff's name to her father, you would get instant anger. And it is said that the name "Zenith" was was never allowed to be heard  in the offices of RCA.)
                                                                   * * * * *
A Tribute!  A tribute to Michael Lambert Igoe! He was a federal judge to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He served as a federal judge from 1939 to 1965.   He ensured that Zenith got justice in its suit against RCA.  

Two questions:   If I may venture to ask:  How many of you wonderful readers knew the story of the Zenith's two wars?  How many of you have read the Curtis book?  
    Commenting as an author:  If it turns out that only a few of you knew about the Curtis book and its contents, it is an incentive for The Author to write a "popular" edition of the book, for it is a story that should be told for its implications both then and now--especially now in view of the fact that the U.S. government  seems to get ever more powerful, and hence more dangerous to our civil liberties. What it did to Zenith with regard to the Second War  is  inexcusable, and the crime should be revealed to posterity by means of a special  book written for that purpose. 

Comments, anyone?

                                                          * * * * * * * *  
Now--about Zenith's Second War, the war which is yet to be told.  It is the war Zenith lost--a loss that was  not only Zenith's, but a loss  by the entire American consumer products industry by another criminal cartel.  And that loss includes radio and television companies such as Admiral, Sylvania,  Philco, Magnavox, and several others, which were driven  out of business by another  criminal cartel,  or were taken  over by a foreign company.    And jobs were lost!--about  800,000 American  jobs were lost to America. 

Chicago was  hit particularly hard:  Zenith had five big factories in Chicago that employed thousands of Chicagoans, mostly from the West Side.

Other Zenith plants not shown are  the  plants in Glenview, Illinois , the Wincharger plant in Sioux City, Iowa, and Zenith Radio Research Corporation in Canada.  And there were many others scattered though-out the country.  (Thanks to Robert Reichle for providing these images!)

The Plants are all gone, now. The properties are still there, of course,  but no longer owned by Zenith, for there is no Zenith anymore. 

What happened to Zenith, which has such a huge presence in the Chicago and the United States?

It is all the result of the loss of Zenith's Second War! 

But let's not tell the story of that Second War at this point in time.  It is a very controversial story, and I fear that it is so controversial that this blog will be attacked.  Attacked?  Yes! Shut down! Internet sites like this weblog are actually very vulnerable, and they can be wiped out, as those of you knowledgeable of the internet will know. Who would shut it down?--one of those described (and not named here) in connection with  Zenith's struggle to survive.

So, until a later time, let's hold off on telling about the Second War, and have the pleasure of telling about  many good years of Zenith.

An early Zenith logo
 Now for something completely different.  This is really different!  John Taylor, VP of public relations of LG Corporation (and the P.R .V.P.  for the original Zenith), received a letter from a Marco van Beek, with a request for information about his uncle, Pieter van Beek--a hero of the resistance in the last world war.  Pieter van Beek once worked for Zenith  and Marco wants to know what he did at Zenith.  Here is  an excerpt from  that letter--

Dear Mr Clarke,

Your contact details were passed on to me by John Taylor at Zenith. I have been researching the life of my uncle, Pieter van Beek, as a result of recently finding a half-written autobiographic account of his time during the second world war. I didn't really know him while he was alive. I spoke to him once on the phone, and we exchanged letters once or twice a year, since I was brought up in England and Spain.

I was wondering if you might be able to shed any light on his professional life at Zenith and Teco, Inc. From what I have been able to find on the Internet, he was heavily involved in setting up Pay TV, and John Taylor's response would lead me to believe he was a very influential person.

Any information you may have would be appreciated. In case it is of interest to you, Uncle Pieter was very involved in the Dutch underground resistance, initially helping downed aircrew, including American crew, as part of what was called the underground railway. It looks like his group were responsible for getting crews out of Holland and into France, from where they then passed to Switzerland or Portugal via Spain. One of those weird rules of war state that if you evade capture, a neutral country can repatriate you, but if you were an escapee, you had to be interned.

When the Gestapo identified him and his twin brother (although they did not realise there were two of them, apparently), they both escaped separately to Paris, where, by complete coincidence, they met going into the same bomb shelter nine months later. Pieter then became active in a Maquis group that was hindering the building of the Atlantic Wall. It appears that the group was uncovered, but Pieter managed to get to England. By now it was mid 1943, and I assume he came to the notice of the SOE, who trained him to be parachuted behind enemy lines in advance of the invasion, probably as part of the teams called "Jedburgs". The records are a little sketchy at this point, probably to protect those who still had family in occupied Europe. By early 1944 he had been sent out to Asia, presumably because the Gestapo had completely compromised the Dutch SOE operation by this point.

A couple of days after the Japanese surrender he commanded one of 48 (or possibly 52) RAPWI (Repatriation of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees) teams parachuted in to Sumatra and Indonesia. After a 12 hour trip in a stripped out Liberator bomber he and 3 others parachuted into Pedang, where for the next 6 weeks he was responsible for the well-being of around 9000 POW and civilian internees. Accounts from one of the other teams indicates that each RAPWI team probably saved 1000 lives.

One of the first civilians he met when the arrived at the main town was a female American war correspondent called Emilia Wilson, who had been captured in Singapore. That person became his wife, and that's why he came to live in the States.

Anyway, anything you might be able to tell me about him would be gratefully received.


Marco van Beek.

It is believed that Pieter van Beek worked in Zenith’s  Phonevision Group.  He may have been one of the Dutch engineers recruited by Bob Adler.  If you recall Pieter and what he did for Zenith, please forward your information  to the author of this weblog at the email address  ducord@gmail.com The  information will be sent to John Taylor for retransmission to Marco van Beek.
But--what a thrilling story!  Zenith employee Pieter van Beek was obviously a hero of the resistance in the war in Europe, and later, a hero in the war in the Far East--the war with Japan. Many of those whom van Beek  rescued  in the Far East were newly-freed American prisoners of the Japanese.  They were probably in a bad way because the Japanese did not follow the Geneva Convention for fair  treatment of prisoners. For example, do you recall the Death March of Bataan, in which American GI's captured in the Philippines by the Japanese were forced to march  175 miles from the coast to distant CampDouglas, and  march without food or water?  Those who fell out from exhaustion and lack of food and water were shot. And those who were compelled by ravaging thirst to drink  from the stagnant water that bordered the road, died of dysentery. But that is another story.

And there is a another war-related story, one involving a Zenith employee, Helmut Cermak.  Cermak  is pictured on the cover page of the first edition of ServiceWorld magazine. (Note: ServiceWorld magazine is described in Post 3.)

Here is Helmut playing the role of a Zenith television serviceman on the cover of ServiceWorld magazine. Note the truck in the background decorated with Zenith insignia and the Zenith name.  It was borrowed from a Zenith distributor for this photograph. (One of my better photos, by the way) --
 Helmut Cermak was  originally a citizen of CzechoSlovakia, which at that time was an "Iron Curtain" county.  Russia had denied Iron Curtain country citizens  escape from  their countries. Cermak, along with  other Czechs,  was riding in an airplane to a city within CzechoSlovakia, and  escaped from the country by hijacking the airplane and flying it to freedom to country outside the Iron Curtain--the first hijacker in history to do so! So Zenith could boast of having had the very first airplane hijacker in its employment!

And that is the end of Post 16. 

Now for a correction, please.  These postings have been called blog.  That name sounds like a deposit left  by a naughty dog--"Fido left a blog on the floor." The term blog is  a corruption  of weblog-- a log carried by the web, or internet The term log by itself is a kind of a record, like a "ships log,"--a record of its voyages.  So let's cast aside "blog" and call the Zenith Book "weblog"  from now on.

     And below is how Google  indicates  a problem.  This little fellow is often a visitor to these web pages.

--Ralph Clarke




  1. How lucky we are to have these gems of rapidly disappearing knowledge showcased here in this informative weblog. Grateful for your keen grasp of history Ralph Clarke, these writings are a treasure for anyone interested in the history of communications, electronics, and television. I was not aware of the previous scholarship you cite above and encourage you to keep piecing together fragments of these fascinating stories. - Bridget McDonald

    1. Thank you, Bridget! That sums it up very well,

  2. I had researched Mr. Curtis' book many years ago. I had the Schaumburg library get a copy from the U of I library on an inter-library loan. I remember his book as being very complete but it was written by a lawyer so it was very wordy. It needed a simplification for the casual historian.

  3. Thanks, Bill: I am going to publish a précis of the Curtis book. He was a superb lawyer and actually wrote and indictment of the case against the cartel that won the war. I will condense his words.