When the Howdy Doody Show made its final broadcast on Saturday, September 24, 1960, it had been the longest-running show on TV at that time. It would also hold the record as the longest-running children’s program until it was eclipsed by former Howdy Doody cast member Bob Keeshan’s Captain Kangaroo. In its thirteen-year run, the Howdy Doody Show broadcast 2,343 episodes, most of them done live.
The Howdy Doody Show was also the first television show to be broadcast nationwide, the first to be regularly broadcast in color, and the first to use marionettes as cast members. In addition, the Howdy Doody Show had an accompanying radio show and was the first TV show to be franchised internationally. In the history of American television, Howdy Doody sits right up there with the other greats of the Golden Age of Television, like Milton Berle and Sid Caesar.
But for us “Baby Boomers,” it was the daily TV show that captured our young hearts; Monday thru Friday from 5:30 pm until 6 pm. And it was also Howdy Doody that we again turned to in the 1970s, to help us to recapture the innocence of our youth during those Vietnam War years.
In these twelve posts, I’ll take you on an amazing journey of discovering Howdy Doody. From its beginnings as Puppet Playhouse in 1947, through the Howdy Doody Show’s golden years of the 1950s, the post-show decade of the 1960s, the revival years of the 70s and 80s, the 1999 historic court battle for the custody of the original Howdy Doody marionette, all the way to his new home at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
When I first began writing this narrative on Howdy Doody, I had originally thought it would be one, maybe two posts. But the more I dug, the broader the story got, and the more post came about. With each post, I focus on different aspects of the history of Howdy Doody; like threads weaving a comfortable blanket. But most of all, my goal wasn’t just to tell facts, but rather to add a personal depth to all those cast and crew members that help to make the history of Howdy Doody.
So, from one Peanut to another, it’s Howdy Doody Time!