Fred Rogers—creator, producer and host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”—was an important part of children’s television programs for 30 years. The informal sweater was Fred’s trademark, fitting in with his low-keyed exploration of matters of interest to 3 to 8 year-old children.
Rogers, who was liked by children because he liked them just the way they are, said he wore a sweater “to make it seem like a comfortable time. It’s a symbol of staying a while, of settling down for some quiet time together.”
After initial work in commercial television in 1951, Fred Rogers joined WQED-TV in Pittsburgh to develop and produce a series of programs that included the “Children’s Corner” in 1953, an award-winning program that ran seven years.
In 1963, Rogers moved to Toronto where he created “Misterogers,” (sic) the children’s series he brought back to Pittsburgh in 1965 as “Misterogers’ Neighborhood.” In 1968 the program was available to 200 stations affiliated with the Public Broadcasting Service. The conventional spelling change to “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” occurred in 1969 for the benefit of young readers.
Rogers—a student of child development and an ordained minister—received honorary degrees from more than 35 colleges and universities. He and his program received major awards in the fields of television, education, communications and child development.
The red sweater, knitted by his late mother, was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History by Fred Rogers on Nov. 20, 1984. It is on display on the third floor of the Museum along with other television memorabilia, including Oscar the Grouch, Archie Bunker’s chair, a Howdy Doody puppet, and Fonzie’s jacket.