October 7, 2014

You can be sure if it's Westinghouse



I saw a billboard for Westinghouse the other day, on my way home.  For a minute I was probably more distracted than they recommend if you're behind the wheel; it's just that I was surprised.  I didn't even know that Westinghouse still existed, let alone that they were still advertising.  It interested me because the name Westinghouse has had a long and rich relationship with television, dating back almost to the beginning, when the company was known for making household appliances of all kinds.

The logo you see above is from Westinghouse Studio One, the Golden Age anthology the company sponsored on CBS from 1948 to 1958.  During those years, the show was recognized as one of the greats of early television, with adaptations of classic books such as Wuthering Heights and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and original teleplays that became movie hits, like Twelve Angry Men (starring Bob Cummings, which I actually prefer to the cinematic version with Henry Fonda).  Studio One also made a household name of a lesser-known actress named Betty Furness, who parlayed her gig as the company's live commercial spokeswoman into a career as a consumer advocate, presidential assistant, and newswoman.  Her commercials are charming and warm, always ending with the heartfelt tagline, "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse."


(Yup, over two minutes for a commercial.  Well, I guess you can do that if you sponsor the whole show and your name's in the title.)

Westinghouse also had a successful sponsorship relationship with Dezi Arnez' production Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, which in its two seasons (1958-1960) gave us two pilots for long-running shows: The Twilight Zone and The Untouchables.


Although those might have been the best-known examples, that wasn't the limit of Westinghouse's involvement with television.  One of the company's many divisions was Westinghouse Broadcasting, better known as Group W.  It began as Westinghouse Radio Stations before making the transition to television, and in addition to owning seven television stations, it produced two pretty successful series of its own, The Mike Douglas Show and PM Magazine.  Later on it would add a couple of subsidiaries, TelePromTer and Filmation.


There's a long and complex history regarding Group W's sometimes contentious relationship with the FCC, which we'll skip over because it's kind of dull.  Suffice it to say that the biggest move in television came in 1995, when the company bought CBS lock, stock and barrel, in the process changing the company's name from Westinghouse to CBS.  (Though at least initially, nothing much changed.)  Eventually, the network was folded into Viacom, and the company divested itself of almost all of its non-media assets.

So where does the new Westinghouse name come from?  Well, in fact it's Westinghouse Electric Company, which is controlled by another company with links to television, Toshiba, and it's a nuclear power company.  (I think, but I'm not sure, that they've licensed the name from CBS - as I said, it's complicated.)   And I think I can be forgiven for thinking that Westinghouse was simply a name from the past, since it's gotten so far afield from its original appliance manufacturing roots.  If you know more about it than I do feel free to chip in, because I can be sure of only one thing - it's a Westinghouse.

2 comments:

  1. Up until last year, my parents had a perfectly-functioning Westinghouse refrigerator in their basement. It had been my grandmother's and I believe it dates from the early 1960's, and had the very same logo as the one you posted. For the record, one of the circles is red, the inner one I think if memory serves. I was hoping to get it from them for use in my basement as a secondary refrigerator, but my dad went and sold it for $50 to one of those companies that hauls away "junk" before I could do so. I was so upset. That thing would have kept on running until Doomsday. Westinghouse certainly made great appliances (but then, so did practically everyone else in those days).

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  2. I have a friend whose mother worked at a Westinghouse facility, alongside the woman who coined "You Can Be SURE..." for a company contest, earning her a $50 prize.

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