Fred Rogers: Creator of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Updated on June 7, 2019
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers

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 as well as being 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

Education

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

Death

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Readmikenow

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      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        2 months ago

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

      • Angel Guzman profile image

        Angel Guzman 

        2 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

        I remember watching Mr. Rogers as a kid :)

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        3 months ago

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

      • Glenn Stok profile image

        Glenn Stok 

        3 months ago from Long Island, NY

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        4 months ago

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

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 months ago from USA

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        4 months ago

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

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        4 months ago

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

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 months ago from UK

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

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        4 months ago from Houston, Texas

        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.

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        4 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

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

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        4 months ago

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

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        4 months ago from Sunny Florida

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        4 months ago

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

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        4 months ago from Norfolk, England

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

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        4 months ago

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

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        4 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        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.

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