The "cover girl" of the 1954 General Electric catalog is the three-scene electronic switchboard recently installed at the 8200-seat Jones Beach Marine Theatre on Long Island's south shore. The brightly lit spectacular is Michael Todd's "A Night in Venice" which opened the house in '52 and played two consecutive summers, the moat loaded with scenery and singers on barges. Season-long musicals played Jones Beach until 1981 when the venue was downgraded to concert usage. Below, the fader Preset Panel and the Master Control Panel desk (left photo) and the quasi-aqua super-deluxe house complete with "anterior lagoon" on the right.
The switchboard "one of the world's largest" controlled a front light bank of 120 (soon to be 280) 3K Kliegl DynaBeam follow spots converted to hanging units (but lacking shutters), as well as a slew of massive onstage instruments. From Kleigl's Bulletin No. 55 Famous Outdoor Theatres (1952):
What is oddly omitted from the 1954 GE catalog is their magnum opus, the 1932 five-scene 328-dimmer switchboard at Radio City Music Hall. One of the very first electronic boards, it remained in four-a-day service for seventy years. For a detailed description, click here. Roxy's Music Hall Lighting Director (and board designer) Eugene Braun is shown here on the phones at the controller located in a magical pocket downstage of the orchestra pit lift.
By the date of this catalog, GE had merged their electronic stage switchboard division with the stage board section of Trumbull Electric, a division of GE since 1914, and all of the non-electronic boards shown in the 1954 GE book are Trumbull. The 1927 and 1937 Trumbull catalogs can be seen by clicking here.
GE's cover letter which accompanied the catalog explains the enclosed photograph of a new composite board with Luxtrol dimmers.
If the 1960 Century catalog is a textbook of professional lighting design, the 1954 GE Catalog is a wonderfully-written primer on the history of switchboards and how they work.
Catalog courtesy John Chappell
Kliegl Brothers catalog shot courtesy KlieglBros.com
Jones Beach booth shot from Life Magazine