Howdy Doody puzzles106 years ago today, on November 27, 1917, Robert Emil Schmidt was born, who would grow up to create television’s first children’s idol, making today


Television’s first generation of kiddie viewers knew and loved Schmidt as Buffalo Bob Smith.

For 2,543 shows from 1947 to 1960, the creator, producer and host of “The Howdy Doody Show,”  provided a daily blast of loopy kid comedy starring the marionette Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob himself, and Clarabelle the Clown (“Captain Kangaroo” Bob Keshan got his start as the first Clarabelle), who communicated by horns, gestures and the occasional seltzer bottle spray, along with characters like Chief Thundercloud and an ensemble of marionettes.

And who can forget Captain Windy Scuttlebutt, Dilly Dally, Sandra the Witch, Inspector John J. Fadoozle, Mayor Phineas T. Bluster, Howdy’s sister Heidi Doody, Princess SummerFall WinterSpring and the bizarre Flub-a-Dub, a combination of 8 different animals?

The show was taped at NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City before a live audience of children sitting in the “Peanut Gallery” and often interacting with the performers.

Being the first nationally broadcast children’s show meant inventing the genre as you went along, and the show grew and evolved over its 14 seasons, but never lost its original loopy appeal, which always seemed like they made it up on the spot.

Buffalo Bob’s marionette was also the first TV character to translate into a merchandizing frenzy, selling millions of dollars worth of toys, costumes, and commemorative items, including actual working marionettes, which were fairly difficult to operate.

The Howdy Doody Show was also one of the first TV Shows to be broadcast in color, and the first to make a special farewell episode upon cancellation. On the last show, Clarabelle told Buffalo Bob that he really can speak, and uttered the only 2 words of his broadcast career: “Goodbye, kids.”

•Suggested Activities: Counting all 48 of Howdy’s freckles, one for each State of the Union.

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