The Magnavox Historical Preservation Association
The Magnavox Historical Preservation Association was formed in 2010. Its mission is to collect and preserve the history and artifacts of The Magnavox Company of Tennessee. In addition, it seeks to use the collection for the education of present and future generations and give “voice” once again to the “Great Voice” – Magnavox.
The roots of the Magnavox story date back to 1911 with the formation of the Commercial Wireless and Development Co. in Napa, California. In 1930, Magnavox moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and in 1947 opened a plant in Greeneville, Tennessee. The primary focus of the Association is on the period after 1947, when Magnavox was to Greeneville what automobiles were to Detroit. Greeneville became the center of the Consumer Electronics Group with related operations in Morristown, Jefferson City, and Johnson City, Tenn.; Arden, Andrews, and Bryson City, NC; Flora, Miss.; and even Barking, England. Although we focus on Consumer Electronics, the other important component of Magnavox was the Government and Industrial Group based in Ft. Wayne.
During its relatively short history, the Association has developed a gallery at the Greeneville/Greene County History Museum, mounted a six month exhibit in the General Morgan Inn and developed a large exhibit with related public programming at the Carroll B. Reece Museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. It has also conducted oral histories, published several articles, presented numerous power-point discussions, developed a web-site, and collected an array of artifacts. The ultimate goal is to have a museum in Greeneville.
The collection represents a story of a community’s pride and hopes, and the mutual benefits that the company and town found in each other. At its high point, almost 5,000 people worked in Greeneville. Along and with other plants, Magnavox was the fifth largest employer in the state. The fact that a small town in East Tennessee became a center point for one of the largest and most respected electronics companies in the world is little known outside the region. The closure of the company in 1996 had a major impact on the economic and social fabric of the community.
The items found in the MHPA collection were once the centerpieces of American households. Today they bring to life the time and places they played witness to. Defining moments of modern history – Dewey vs. Truman, the postwar boom, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy Assassination, Vietnam, the Moon Landing, the Beatles – played out across the screens or over the speakers sitting silent today. The collection is also a window into American culture and style, and the role technology has played in that culture since the Second World War.
The Association is indebted to Scott Niswonger and the late Brumley Greene, whose vision led to our preservation and educational efforts. Numerous donors have given freely of their family treasures and information to help fulfill the mission. To this end, we are also grateful to Dan Aldred of Ft. Wayne whose knowledge and research has added immensely to our efforts.
Magnavox TVs in Inventory
Years in Greeneville History
GEORGE COLLINS, Curator
George Collins saw his first Magnavox in 1955, when his father purchased a Hi-Fi for the family. Through that unit, which became a part of the family, he was introduced to his father’s Big Band music and his sister’s Broadway show tunes. Little did he realize that 59 years later he would be helping to collect artifacts of “Magnificent Magnavox.”
In 2010, he was asked to help bring together artifacts of the Magnavox Company in Greeneville, Tennessee. He continues to serve in that role and has developed two exhibits, given numerous Power Point presentations, written articles on the company, and worked on developing this website.
George has worked in a variety of positions in the museum profession for over 44 years at sites including Colonial Williamsburg, New York State Historical Association, Genessee Country Village & Museum, and as Director of Museum Program and Studies at Tusculum College.
“It has been a very rewarding experience to help preserve the memory of Magnavox. In addition to seeing to the preservation of units and materials, I have met many people who worked for Magnavox and continue to be proud of their role in producing a product of quality. Pride and craftsmanship are two things that come through loud and clear.”