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This page is dedicated to the restoration of my 1954 RCA Victor CT-100 color television.

The RCA Victor CT-100 color television was the second all-electronic color television to be sold in the United States, preceeded by the Westinghouse H840CK15 by only a few weeks. It was introduced on March 25th, 1954 at a cost of $1,000. Not exactly pocket change in 1954 dollars, adjusted for inflation that's $8,017.26 today! Ed Reitan, a noted collector and early TV historian, has a good page on the CT-100 on his website. Click the link below to view.


I acquired this set from another collector in late 2011. He informed me that it was the first color TV to arrive in the city of St. Joseph, Missouri, so it has some historical significance attached to it. He included an original newspaper: the August 20th, 1954 St. Joseph News-Press (VOL 77, NO 197), mentioning 'Color TV Being Tried Here' (on page 6). This is the set from the article. Some time after it arrived, it experienced a failure which took it out of operational status. So the original owner placed it in his store window, as a display piece. It sat in that very window for the following 40 years, which is how it got the moniker 'Merrill in a window'. As you might imagine, time took its toll on the cabinet and the finish was almost completely stripped off by the sun's rays. The wood at the top corner of the cabinet had also deformed, and needed repair. The previous owner then got it from the store, and carried out a chassis restoration on it. He found a filter capacitor in the power supply shorted out, which is likely what caused the set to become inoperable all those years ago. After replacing the failed capacitor and replacing all the original paper caps the chassis functioned, but the project was shelved for some years. In late 2011 he decided that the project was not going to proceed any farther, and put the 15GP22 picture tube up on Ebay. I saw the Ebay ad 20 minutes after coming home from work one day, and sent him a hopeful email. He said that the rest of the set was fine, and was willing to sell the whole thing to me! We completed a transfer of funds via Paypal, and just like that I was the third owner of the first color set to arrive in St. Joseph, Missouri. The set was shipped to me in Waukegan, IL, for completion of the restoration. I sent the cabinet to be refinished professionally in Milwaukee, WI, and carried out the remainder of the chassis work myself. I replaced a few bad peaking coils, installed a new convergence transformer (courtesy of John Folsom), and went through all the setup procedures. The set is now looking brand new, with a beautiful color picture. No doubt I will enjoy it for many years to come.

The cabinet, prior to refinishing
As you can see, the cabinet was in pretty rough shape when it arrived. It needs a complete overhaul, if it ever hopes to be presentable again. I dropped it off to a refinisher in Milwaukee, WI and crossed my fingers that he could bring it back to life.
What a comeback!
As you can see, the cabinet has made a dramatic transformation! The refinisher said that it actually wasn't as bad as it first appeared, just some seperated panels and faded stain. To repair the seperations he carefully cut small thin strips of poplar, inserted them into the gaps and trimmed to match the contours of the cabinet. Then since the original grain filler on the veneer panels had not been damaged, he simply sanded, stained and applied clear laquer and the job was complete. Not too shabby! I installed all the components, and it's a very handsome set indeed. Chassis CTC-2, serial number B8000728 'The Merrill' has been done justice at long last.
Off-screen shot of color bars
Sets using the 15GP22 picture tube are known for having very 'rich' colors, often described as being almost pastel or akin to the hues seen in old Technicolor films. They are indeed quite saturated when viewed with the naked eye, but because digital cameras and computer screens cannot accurately reproduce what the eye sees it's difficult to show these colors via the internet. This screenshot is as good as I can do with my Pentax K200D, to see the colors in real life is a thing of beauty. No modern set comes close to CT-100 colors.