Greg and Tammy retrofit their vintage Admiral Tele-Bar to hold a 24″ flat screen TV

The Admiral Tele-Bar cost $895 in 1951
— the equivalent of $10,000 today.
Admiral-Tele-bar-photoDo you love the look of vintage TV sets, but actually want to watch be able to use them to watch the full range of programming available today? Greg and Tammy found a rare and wonderful 1951 Admiral Tele-Bar — and retrofitted the television portion to hold a 24″ flat screen TV. Now they can truly enjoy this amazing vintage television every single day. Read on for their story.

What could be more useful than a television, record player, bar cabinet and trash can all in one? Readers Greg and Tammy (of the fabulous 1953 Kelvinator refrigerator freezer) had been drooling over this vintage Admiral Tele-Bar — found at a local antique store — for about a year before they finally decided to pull the trigger and bring it home.

Greg and Tammy write:

Hi Pam,

Thought you would get a kick out of this. We recently bought what we discovered to be a 1951 Admiral Tele-Bar. It is a factory built entertainment center featuring a 21” black & White TV, AM-FM record player, 10″ speaker, complete with a built in lockable bar featuring 32 glasses, a serving tray and trash receptacle. It appears to have been made just one year. It cost a whopping $895 in ’51 when the average price of a new car was $1,800! Like spending $10K on a similar item today. Only about 23% of the U.S. population had TV’s in 1951. It interestingly has a socket for a color adapter!

We had been looking at it at an antique store in Ohio for around a year. We thought it was really cool, but didn’t know what we would do with it. We joked about the cool swinging couple who must have owned it. It has a sort of “Austin Powers” feel.

I really liked it, but wasn’t sure if we would put our modern 42” flat screen on it or? I didn’t want to make a fish bowl or something like that. I thought maybe I could get the old TV working, but we live out in the country in a deep river valley with NO antenna connection.

In the end, to make it a usable, practical 1950’s item (like our kitchen—remember our Kelvinator Foodarama, Tappan stove & custom built-in oven), I measured carefully and found a that a 24” flat screen would fit adequately. We were worried the screen would be “too small” after having big TV’s over the years, but it was one of the best decisions we ever made. It is our full time, everyday TV. I like looking at the Tele-Bar as much as the TV! Our 14-year-old son ended up with our 42” flat screen.

The Tele-Bar itself is in good shape. The original finish looks great except for some glass stains on the top. We may refinish that portion.  The bar is missing just two of the original glasses, supplemented with four period “girly glasses.”  The bottom “bar” portion serves as a perfect place for satellite receiver and DVD player. The trash receptacle serves as a DVD storage area.

Thought you might enjoy yet another 1950’s addition to our house. Now on the lookout for a mid century sectional!

Greg & Tammy

One of the Admiral Tele-Bar advertisements that Greg and Tammy pointed us to on the intertubes reads:

It’s here! The one and only Tele-Bar…Admiral’s new, exciting, unique, and revolutionary television-bar combination. Now…21″ TV, Dynamagic Radio, and the incomparable “Triple-Play” Phonograph…all combined in one great home entertainment ensemble for gracious living.

A Built-In Bar…Fully Equipped!

Tele-Bar enhances every occasion! Its exquisite, hand-rubbed, liquor-proof cabinet provides a stainless steel mixing tray, liquor-proof serving shelf, “empties” receptacle, and racks for 32 glasses. Lower compartment holds over 30 bottles. For those who entertain regularly…Tele-Bar is an indispensable aid and a practical investment. Glasses included at no extra charge.

I suppose this must have been the Rolls Royce of television sets back in 1951. Since it holds 30 bottles of liquor and 32 glasses — it would be easy to have all your neighbors over to watch TV. And as Greg and Tammy mention, since less than one-quarter of all Americans had a television in their home, those with a TV were immediately popular.

It is funny to note that the cabinet is described as “liquor proof” — even though it holds quite an amount. That must be in reference to the finish being impervious to water marks.

It was pretty ingenious to stick a flat screen TV behind the old frame — and using the liquor storage area for your cable box — perfect. Greg & Tammy — I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you find the perfect mid century sectional sofa to accompany your Tele-Bar soon — until then — thanks so much for sharing this fun story and photos with us.

  1. nina462 says:

    It’s worth asking that Lone Tv Repairman. I know I was very pleased when I asked my guy. Even stopped by his store…what a throw back in time 🙂
    So, go ahead & ask.

  2. Rick says:

    That is beautiful! And yes, in ’51 that would have been the uber ultimate! Glad it’s gone to an appreciative and imaginative home. I keep hoping I’ll find a working round tube color TV; even one from just before the switch to rectangular tube.

  3. nina462 says:

    check out estate sales. I scored my hifi system along with my 1960 motorola for $60 each. They were in great condition! They had another tv as well that I almost bought.

  4. Scott says:

    Although I have to admit my TV is the lone item in my living room that screams out “I’m not mid-century” and sort of bugs me to death I have very mixed feelings about altering vintage TV sets, especially a super rare piece like this.

    Fortunately you can enjoy the best of both worlds with many vintage console stereos. Play the radio or turntable just like back in the day with no alternations OR if you find one with an auxiliary RCA jack you can plug in your reel-to-reel stereo OR connect your iPod with an adapter you can buy for about $10 bucks at Radio Shack! 🙂

    I found my 1968 Zenith X-90 at an antique mall not too long ago for $75.00. For that price I never dreamed it would be working, but it was, even the needle was good. The 1964 model of this stereo with the speaker louvers is the one you see in Don’s office from time to time on Mad Men.

  5. Greg says:

    Thanks for the comments on our Tele Bar! We love it. As I describe in Pam’s post, I puzzled on what to do with it, but had to have it! Nothing was cut; the original components were un-hooked, slid out & a 24″ LG went right behind the original outer screen. Remote control works right through the original glass. The adjustable aspect ratio allows for picture adjustment.(Original components are stored save & sound). When we pickup period pieces, we use them; This is our main, everyday TV. It looks great even with nothing on the TV!

  6. Jen says:

    Oh, that’s great….and I’m pretty sure Hubby and I saw the same Admiral and nearly snapped it up ourselves. We stood drooling over it for a while (I have pictures, of course). Happily for Greg & Tammy, I had surgery in a week and we thought that was kinda more important! 😉

  7. nina462 says:

    Hulu tv, antenna tv, me tv, …there are a ton of new tv stations that play the old tv shows. Just wish they’d have the old commercials, instead they have commercials for hearing devices & wheelchairs!

    I do have a dvd set of old tv commercials that I play once in a while to get in the retro mood.

  8. maude says:

    I love this and I love the fact that you’ve taken something obsolete and dragged it into the present day.. Very cool:)

  9. lauren says:

    hi greg & tammy! i’m the girl who sold you a bowling shirt earlier today 🙂 this is amazing, i’m super jealous! my boyfriend put a fish tank inside a 50’s tv cabinet for me, but i wasn’t able to save the curved glass on the front of mine. i’ve actually thought about putting a flat screen in there in the future when i get tired of cleaning fish tanks, haha.

    also i’ve seen (and loved!) your kitchen and fridge before, just didn’t realize it until i googled! i’ll let you know if i we come across any 50s sectionals 🙂 so nice to meet you both!

  10. Greg says:

    Hi Lauren,

    It was great to meet you to! So cool to see a local retro shop with people who love mid-century. Let me know if you need help with anything. Be cool to have a local newsletter/get-together for retro-crazed people!

    Lauren and her mom have a great shop, “Finds & Designs” in Huntington, WV located in the historic Heritage Station area. They have a great selection of vintage clothing and other antiques. It is very well organized and the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

    Thanks Lauren! 🙂

  11. Thomas says:

    So…the original TV portion just slid out in one piece? I have a 1963 Sears Silvertone radio/TV/record player combo that I want to retrofit, but deep seated fear has prevented me from even removing the back panel…

  12. Greg says:

    You guys have pretty much answered your own questions, but;

    As TV’s are no longer square, the 24″ flat screen’s “letterbox” shape is a bit of a compromise, but it has adjustable aspect ratios that can give a square, albeit smaller screen.

    We have to use two remotes with the satellite. The TV remote works through the original glass screen, use to turn on & off and volume. Use satellite remote to change channels.

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