On This Day: ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ Makes National Broadcast Debut in 1968

by Keeli Parkey

Feb. 19, 2021, is a beautiful day in the neighborhood! It is the 53rd anniversary of the broadcast debut of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

The premiere episode was the first in a very, very long run of shows that taught life lessons to countless children.

The man the world would come to know as Mister Rogers initially had a job creating personalities for puppets. Additionally, he also wrote music the program. Fred Rogers worked on “The Children’s Corner.” Josie Carey was the host of this show.

In addition to this work experience, the time he spent on “The Children’s Corner” allowed Rogers to create several of the puppets that would later become famous, according to WPXI.com. These included X the Owl, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Daniel Striped Tiger, and King Friday XIII.

Fred Rogers was hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to develop “Misterogers,” a new 15-minute television show during 1963. Rogers was also tasked with being its host, in addition to developing the program. “Misterogers” was filmed in Toronto before Rogers returned to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Luckily when he left Canada, Rogers took with him sets and props from his Canadian show, which was then taken over by National Education Television. This company was the precursor to what we know as PBS today.

First Episode of ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ Filmed in 1967

Filming for the first-ever episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” took place on Sept. 21, 1967. The episode was recorded at WQED. It would be a few months before it aired, but that time turned out to be worth the wait. Fortunately for so many children who grew up watching PBS, the show was a hit. It soon became a reliable friend and source of education to countless viewers.

According to WPXI, Fred Rogers would film “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” for 31 years. Those years would produce more than 900 episodes. In true “Mister Rogers” fashion, the show made a brief return during 2001 in order to provide comfort to American children in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Fred Rogers, the man so many new and loved as “Mister Rogers” died on Feb. 27, 2003. His cause of death was stomach cancer.

According to the website MisterRogers.org, the famous television host saw his job as a way to help others. He also saw the medium as a way to spread a positive message. He once said: “I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen – day and night!”

You can watch episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” here. You can show your children, or maybe even better, watch the show again just for the pure joy it provides.