Essex is a small unincorporated community in San Bernardino County, California. Essex lies on Old National Trails Highway – part of the old Route 66 – just south of Interstate 40 in the Mojave Desert.
Essex, a former oasis along historic Route 66 in California, was allegedly founded when a motorist suffered a flat tire only to discover there were no garages for miles. It also lies along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The town of Essex had no television reception until 1977. The signal from Los Angeles, 150 miles away, was too weak, and the signal from Las Vegas, 110 miles away, was blocked by hills. A device called a translator, costing several thousand dollars, could solve this problem, but the town voted against spending the money. Johnny Carson found the town's lack of television interesting, and invited the entire town's population (about 50 people at the time) to attend the taping of the March 25, 1977 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He talked to 5 different townspeople about what it was like and whether they missed it. All but one said they preferred it that way. Shortly after the Tonight Show appearance, executives at Electronics, Missiles and Communications (Emcee), which makes television transmitters, offered the town a translator at no cost.