‘Sesame Street’ celebrates 50 years

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 Debuting in 1969, this rare image depicts the full cast of the first season of Sesame Street and is signed by Carroll Spinney (Big Bird). Featured are Big Bird (rookie photo), Mr. Hooper (Will Lee), Gordon (Matt Robinson), Bob (Bob McGrath), and Susan Robinson (Bob’s wife). The rest of the Muppets include Cookie Monster, Grover, Ernie & Burt, and Oscar the Grouch. These were the only Muppets featured in the first season. The iconic “Sesame Street” sign can be seen in the upper right corner. Spinney signed this historic image in mint blue sharpie and added his trademarked red dot, $34. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Debuting in 1969, this rare image depicts the full cast of the first season of Sesame Street and is signed by Carroll Spinney (Big Bird). Featured are Big Bird (rookie photo), Mr. Hooper (Will Lee), Gordon (Matt Robinson), Bob (Bob McGrath), and Susan Robinson (Bob’s wife). The rest of the Muppets include Cookie Monster, Grover, Ernie & Burt, and Oscar the Grouch. These were the only Muppets featured in the first season. The iconic “Sesame Street” sign can be seen in the upper right corner. Spinney signed this historic image in mint blue sharpie and added his trademarked red dot, $34. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

As Count von Count would say, “The number of the day is 50. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!”

After debuting on Nov. 10, 1969, on public television, the landmark TV show, “Sesame Street,” is celebrating 50 years of teaching generations of children around the world the alphabet, how to count and read, and love to learn.

The first episode of the show introduced the world to a family of Muppets created by Jim Henson (1936-1990) and who are one of its most-loved aspects: giant yellow Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, a green (initially orange) Muppet who lives in a garbage can, Cookie Monster, the blue, furry monster who loves cookies, Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Elmo and so many more characters children fell in love with. Count von Count himself came along in 1972.

 Despite his grouchiness, Oscar the Grouch is a valued friend to the other characters on “Sesame Street” and demonstrates the importance of understanding, tolerance, and diversity. In the first episodes of the show, Oscar was orange, but by 1970, he became green. Oscar explained that this change was due to his vacation at Swamp Mushy Muddy, where it was so damp that he became covered in slime and mold.Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History

Despite his grouchiness, Oscar the Grouch is a valued friend to the other characters on “Sesame Street” and demonstrates the importance of understanding, tolerance, and diversity. In the first episodes of the show, Oscar was orange, but by 1970, he became green. Oscar explained that this change was due to his vacation at Swamp Mushy Muddy, where it was so damp that he became covered in slime and mold.Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History

The show was the brainchild of Joan Ganz Cooney, a former documentary producer for public television. Cooney’s goal was to create programming for preschoolers that was both entertaining and educational. She also wanted to use TV as a way to help underprivileged 3- to 5-year-olds prepare for kindergarten. “Sesame Street” was set in a fictional New York neighborhood and included ethnically diverse characters and positive social messages.

Beyond the songs and fun, “Sesame Street” has evolved with the times and does some serious work for those in need, providing special support and guidance for military families and addressing topics like autism, HIV and addition, most recently tackling the opioids crisis.

With its memorable theme song (“Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street”), “Sesame Street” has produced over 4,500 episodes, 35 TV specials, 200 home videos, and 180 albums. Its YouTube channel has almost 5 million subscribers. It was announced last month that first-run episodes will move to HBO Max beginning with its 51st season in 2020.

 Bob McGrath, one of the first hosts of “Sesame Street,” reads to some children, $19. Image is from the American Heritage Archives and courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Bob McGrath, one of the first hosts of “Sesame Street,” reads to some children, $19. Image is from the American Heritage Archives and courtesy of Heritage Auctions

 This is an original illustration by Rick Brown that was used on a cover of Sesame Street Magazine, which premiered in October 1970. On this cover from the 1970s/’80s, some Muppets have gathered to celebrate Big Bird’s birthday including Cookie Monster, The Count, Bert, Grover, and a rare appearance of Mr. Snuffleupagus, $1,140. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions

This is an original illustration by Rick Brown that was used on a cover of Sesame Street Magazine, which premiered in October 1970. On this cover from the 1970s/’80s, some Muppets have gathered to celebrate Big Bird’s birthday including Cookie Monster, The Count, Bert, Grover, and a rare appearance of Mr. Snuffleupagus, $1,140. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions