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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, June 30, 2018 1:00 am

Book on Magnavox history enters 2nd printing

Charlotte Stefanski | The Journal Gazette

Because of several ownership changes and operations spanning from California to Virginia, many people had no idea the scope of what Magnavox did.

That's why, 10 years ago, James Smith, former president of Magnavox's Fort Wayne Division, thought having a book to document the company's history would be worthwhile.

Today, the book, “Magnavox Government and Industrial Electronics Company, 1951-1991: A Legacy of Pride and Excellence,” is on to its second printing.

After eight years of research, authors Daniel Aldred and David Peterson wrote the 330-page hardcover book, which was first released in November 2017. Smith died in 2014.

The decision to reprint the book came from growing inquiries about what Magnavox did, former Vice President-Treasurer Tony Hausfeld said.

Most of the curiosity came from the family of former employees who wanted to know more about the role their relatives had in the company. 

“Anybody from Fort Wayne, you could say, 'You know anybody from Magnavox?' and they'll go, 'Oh yeah. I know so-and-so,'” Hausfeld said.

More than 200 books have been sold so far. The project is not-for-profit, and all revenue will be donated to the History Center.

Written with an engineer emphasis, the book shares the company's history chronologically, but mostly provides information on various types of products and projects, which range from commercial and agricultural to medical and military.

Magnavox relocated to Fort Wayne from California in 1932. The company, which originally manufactured loudspeakers, made the move to be closer to the city's copper mills, according to the book.

By the 1940s, Fort Wayne's Magnavox division began working alongside the Department of Defense, creating often-classified military systems and devices for both the department and NATO countries.

Magnavox's annual sales exceeded $650 million and the company employed more than 7,000 people during its 40-year legacy.

Not only known for military systems, the company had success with products including the fax machine and global positioning systems.

Gathering information for the book was no small task. Both Hausfeld and Peterson said co-author Daniel Aldred spent a lot of time digging through archives at the History Center.

The authors also contacted many people within different departments of the company to help write different sections of the book.

Halfway through the research, Peterson said Aldred almost gave up, as he didn't want to accidentally publish any classified information.

However, an office at the Pentagon reviewed their work and gave them the green light.

“It was an unbelievable task these guys did,” Hausfeld said.

“Interviewing, calling people, and trying to get people to do something, and that's the thing I admire about these guys. They put something together that's unbelievable,” he added.

Both authors, now retired from the company, still live in Fort Wayne. With the book, Aldred, Peterson and Hausfeld hope to keep the Magnavox legacy alive.

“They were such a big part of this community, I mean, you're talking about 7,000 employees,” Hausfeld said. “We want to maintain the legacy, to the extent that people can still enjoy what happened back then, and remember their jobs as engineers.”

The book costs $48 and can be purchased or reviewed at the History Center and its website www.fwhistorycenter.com/wordpress. You can also email magnavoxlegacy@gmail.com for an order form.

The Allen County Public Library has two copies available to check out.

cstefanski@jg.net