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July 29: Television in 1955

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The introduction of television in the fifties changed the way Americans spent time in their homes. While TV entertainment was a leap forward from the earlier fascination of radio, viewers were often familiar with personalities who had been successful on radio, or even earlier in vaudeville acts.

In 1955, the airwaves were a mix of programs familiar from radio and new programming just for TV, with many performers appearing on both mediums.

One hallmark of early television was commercial sponsorship. For example, on WDAY television in this week of 1955, entertainer Soupy Sales was sponsored by two popular brands -- Popsicle and Red Heart Dog Food.

The Lone Ranger, that had begun as a radio series, was sponsored by Cheerios.

The Best of Groucho Marx had DeSoto and Plymouth Automobiles.

And do you remember the flamboyant pianist Liberace? He was brought to us by Tidy House, with another of his shows sponsored by Manchester Biscuits.

Dragnet, that classic cops and robbers show, also started on radio and lasted for decades. It had the support of Chesterfield cigarettes.

As to the TV schedule, midday featured content for the at-home adult. There were soap operas such as Secret Storm, Art Linkletter’s House Party, and The Life of Riley comedy. As the children got home from school, there were shows like Superman, Kit Carson, and WDAY’s Captain Jim.

Another show advertised this week in 1955 included Ford Theatre, brought to the watcher “by your Ford Dealer.” It featured a series of different dramas.

And the radio still remained popular, with shows like Fibber Magee and Molly, Arthur Godfrey, and One Man’s Family.

Virtually all of the once popular radio shows are relics today, but older listeners may still wax nostalgic while thinking about their favorite shows from those bygone days.

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

Source: The Fargo Forum, July 14, 1955

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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