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Fred Rogers: Creator of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"

Readmikenow is a freelance writer who enjoys researching music, movies, history, and more.

Everyone knows Fred Rogers and his show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

Everyone knows Fred Rogers and his show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

Fred Rogers: The Gentle Persona

Fred Rogers was a popular children's television icon on public television for more than three decades. His show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, provided viewers with a chance to experience his soft-spoken gentle persona. It created an instant connection between him and his audience. He was the show's creator, producer, head writer and more. Rogers was the host for each of the 895 episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He also composed hundreds of songs for the show and was its puppeteer. Fred Rogers created all 14 of the characters used in the show. He is credited with changing the way people think about young children and their inner lives.

Young Fred Rogers

Young Fred Rogers

Early Years

Fred McFeely Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1928. His mother was named Nancy. His father, James, was a very successful businessman. The McFeely Brick Company was one of the most successful and largest businesses in Latrobe. Nancy Rogers was known for knitting sweaters for soldiers from Pennsylvania who were serving in Europe. She was also a regular volunteer at the hospital in Latrobe. Fred Rogers has one adopted sister named Elaine. During most of his childhood Rogers spent time being alone. He also spent a lot of time with his grandfather as well as playing with puppets. At the age of five, Fred Rogers learned how to play the piano. His childhood was difficult as he was overweight and had to deal with having asthma. He struggled with being introverted, shy and often bullied.

Fred Rogers high school yearbook photo

Fred Rogers high school yearbook photo


Fred Rogers was able to overcome his shyness during the time he went to Latrobe High School. Things changed after he made a few friends. One of them was the head of the football team. During high school, Rogers was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the student council as well as the school's yearbook editor-in-chief. He graduated from Rollins College with a degree in music composition in 1951. He also attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In 1963, Fred Rogers was ordained as a minister of the United Presbyterian Church.

Josie Carey and Fred Rogers

Josie Carey and Fred Rogers

Broadcast Career

After Fred Rogers graduated from college, he went to New York City and worked at NBC. During this time he was the floor director for such shows as Gabby Hayes' Children's Show, The Kate Smith Hour and Your Hit Parade. He also worked on The Voice of Firestone show as an assistant producer. After returning to Pittsburgh in 1953, Fred Rogers started working as a program director at WQED, the local public television station. He worked with Josie Carey to create a children's program called The Children's Corner. Rogers worked off camera to develop characters, music as well as puppets for the show. Carey hosted the show. It was during this time when many of the famous characters of Mister Rogers Neighborhood were created. Daniel the Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, Henrietta, Lady Elaine and more were used during the show. The show won a Sylvania Award in 1955 for best locally produced children's show. It then started to be broadcast on NBC to a national audience.

Margaret McFarland and Fred Rogers

Margaret McFarland and Fred Rogers

Margaret McFarland

Fred Rogers attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. During this time, he started working with Margaret McFarland. She was a child psychologist. McFarland was an important collaborator as well as adviser for the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood show. She is credited for helping Fred Rogers develop an appreciation for children as well as shaping his ideas for the show. During the entire time Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was being broadcast, Margaret McFarland was a consultant for the songs and scripts used on the show.

Fred Rogers show broadcast in Canada

Fred Rogers show broadcast in Canada

First Time on Camera

The television network CBC in Toronto contacted Fred Rogers in 1963. He was asked to develop, as well as host, a children's television show that would be called Misterogers. The show started in 1963 and lasted until 1967. This would be the first time Fred Rogers was in front of a camera for a television show. The head of children's programming for CBC was impressed with Fred Rogers' work. During this show is when a tree, castle as well as a trolley were used by set designers.

Set of Mister Rogers Neighborhood

Set of Mister Rogers Neighborhood

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Fred Rogers created his own production company in 1971. It was called Family Communications and was founded to produce Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The show was an educational children's program that was half an hour long. Episodes of the show started being aired in 1968. The peak viewership for it occurred in 1985. At this time eight percent of all households in the United States watched the show. Each episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood had two sets. One of them was the inside set showing Mister Rogers home. The other was the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Each episode would have Mister Rogers singing the theme song Won't You Be My Neighbor, putting on sneakers and a cardigan sweater. Rogers would talk to the audience, speak with guests, take field trips or even watch a short film. Every episode would have a trip to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” This would involve a trolley chiming, a kingdom involving various citizens as well as a castle and more. Each episode of the show would cover a specific theme. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood would close with a song such as “Tomorrow” and others. Four Emmy Awards were given to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. In 1997, Fred Rogers was given the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Daytime Emmy Awards.

Fred Rogers and Officer Clemmons

Fred Rogers and Officer Clemmons

Complex Social Issues

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was known as a show that would address complex social issues. This involved divorce, racism as well as the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and more. During one well-known episode, Rogers soaks his feet during a hot day in a kiddie pool. Next to him is an African-American police officer named Officer Clemmons. This was done to discuss racial segregation in the United States.

Personal Life

In 1952, Fred Rogers married Sara Joanne Byrd. They remained married until Fred Rogers passed away in 2003. The couple had two sons named John and James. He was known as a faithful husband and devoted father.

Statute of Fred Rogers in Pittsburgh

Statute of Fred Rogers in Pittsburgh


In December 2002, Fred Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer. In January 2003, prior to having surgery, he was the grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. His co-hosts during the event were Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter. On February 27, 2003, Fred Rogers passed away from complications associated with stomach cancer. His wife was with him when he passed away. It was a month before his 75th birthday. The next day entire sections of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were dedicated to covering the life o Fred Rogers. A public memorial was held for Fred Rogers at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh and more than 2,600 people attended it.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on July 20, 2019:

Angel, thanks. He was a true legend in children's television.

Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on July 20, 2019:

I remember watching Mr. Rogers as a kid :)

Readmikenow (author) on July 14, 2019:

Glenn, thanks. A preschool teacher once told me he forever changed for the better children's television.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on July 14, 2019:

I grew up watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and never forgot him. I enjoyed learning Fred Roger's history from your article. You’ve done great research to write a very complete and wonderful tribute to him.

Readmikenow (author) on June 09, 2019:

FlourishAnyway, thanks. I agree. He was very dedicated to helping children.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 08, 2019:

He was such a genuine person. I recall watching the show when I was a kid. I wish more people could be like him.

Readmikenow (author) on June 08, 2019:

Liz, thanks. He is a legend among people who make shows for children.

Readmikenow (author) on June 08, 2019:

Peggy, thanks. I agree. He really set the standard for children's programming.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 08, 2019:

This is a lovely tribute to Fred Rogers. He sounds like a very talented and decent guy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 08, 2019:

I remember being aware of the show Mr. Roger's Neighborhood although I was past my childhood years when I might have watched it. He appeared to be a role model for many people and taught good values. It would be excellent if we had more people to emulate like him in today's world.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 08, 2019:

Hi, Readmike now, not Mike read, you're welcomed. Thanks.

Readmikenow (author) on June 08, 2019:

Pamela, thanks. I have many fond memories of watching his show.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 07, 2019:

I remember my boys watching this show. He always seemed like such a good man, and I appreciate your article where I could learn more about the family.

Readmikenow (author) on June 07, 2019:

Louise, thanks for reading my article. He is a real well-known children's show host in the U.S.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on June 07, 2019:

I don't know of Fred Rogers, but it sounds like he had a very interesting and long career.

Readmikenow (author) on June 07, 2019:

Miebakagh, thank you for reading my article. Fred Rogers is very well known in the United States.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 07, 2019:

Hi, ReadMike, I have not heard of Fred Rogers and his creations before. But I am glad he made is the mark for children. Thanks for sharing.