Broadcasting

In the 1950s, consumers made television the centerpiece of the home, fueling competition among broadcasters. Scrappy upstarts challenged established networks, innovated programming, and catered to under-served audiences. As television grew, Americans worried about its effect on children. A national conversation about television and the common good fostered public broadcasting.

Allen B. Du Mont

Du Mont earned the title “father of television” for pioneering the cathode-ray tubes that made TV possible, manufacturing sets, and starting a fourth network that challenged giants NBC, CBS, and newcomer ABC.

DuMont Revere television, 1947

Television sets mirrored popular furniture styles. DuMont’s Revere model wrapped modern technology in colonial revival cabinetry.

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DuMont 4-inch cathode-ray tube for Globe TV, 1940s

DuMont brochures, 1950s

DuMont brochures, 1950s

DuMont brochures, 1950s

DuMont brochures, 1950s

TV and Kids

Networks and program sponsors targeted children as consumers. Kids’ programming ran the gamut from westerns to variety shows, and was designed not only to entertain but to sell products.

Howdy Doody puppet, 1950s

Howdy Doody was one of many licensed products for sale. As a TV character, Howdy sold advertising sponsorships and pitched the sale of RCA color sets.

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The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW), creators of Sesame Street, blended early childhood education seamlessly into the show. CTW hoped to counter commercialism with programming that nurtured children’s minds, giving poor children preparation for pre-school and thus increasing equality of opportunity.

Sesame Street sign, 1979

Used on the set of Sesame Street that aired in 1969 on the newly-created Public Broadcasting Service.

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Cookie Monster sweater, 1970–1980s

Cookie Monster sweater, 1970–1980s

The Children’s Television Workshop began licensing products in the 1970s to pay for the cost of producing Sesame Street.

From War Production to Home Consumption

Many products developed for the military during World War II made the transition to American homes: power tools, insecticides, batteries, and candies. First sold to the military, M&Ms became an early adopter of television advertising, sponsoring children’s shows like Howdy Doody.

“Greetings from the American Red Cross” cellophane wrapper, 1940s

Mars air crew package, 1940s

Mars air crew package, 1940s

On loan from Mars, Incorporated

M&M production roller, about 1968

M&Ms display packaging, 1942

M&Ms display packaging, 1942

On loan from Mars, Incorporated

5 cent “um-m-m” labels, 1940s–1950s

M&Ms advertisement, 1954

M&Ms advertisement, 1954

Compliments of Mars, Inc.

Hackettstown Production, Printing of the M&Ms

Hackettstown Production, Printing of the M&Ms

Compliments of Mars, Inc.

Pan Room at Hackettstown

Pan Room at Hackettstown

Compliments of Mars, Inc.

Hackettstown Production Floor

Hackettstown Production Floor

Compliments of Mars, Inc.

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