The greeting "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" has become synonymous with Fred Rogers, the host of the children's show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
Born Fred McFeely Rogers on March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Fred Rogers made his onscreen debut in 1962 through the Canadian production of his show then entitled Misterogers. It was the first time he appeared in front of the television camera dividing his time between talking to the camera and putting on a puppet show called Land of Make Believe.
In 1964 Fred Rogers went back to Pittsburgh, taking the rights to Misterogers with him. In 1965, he began to develop and produce a 30-minute children's show called Misterogers' Neighborhood, which aired through the Eastern Educational Television Network. The Sears-Roebuck Foundation eventually provided the funding to broadcast the show across the entire country and it premiered nationwide on PBS on February 19, 1968.
Before becoming a television personality Fred Rogers planned to become a pastor. While studying in the seminary Rogers worked closely with Margaret McFarland, a prominent child psychologist who co-founded the Arsenal Family and Children's Center with Erik Erikson and Benjamin Spock. He met with McFarland weekly to discuss how his program's content would affect young viewers, and she remained an informal consultant to the show until her death in 1988.
In addition to hosting his show, Rogers also put out several recordings for children and in the 1970s he began to write books for children that explored the topics he covered in his program.
It has been said that Rogers's offscreen personality was no different than the one on television. He neither smoked, drank, or went to bed late, and he was also a vegetarian. He rose early and swam a quarter-mile a day, which helped him stay in shape and maintain the same weight since high school. His mother knitted all the cardigans he wore on the show until her death in 1981.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ran for 895 episodes total. PBS aired the final new episodes of the show in 2001. By this time, Rogers had been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Emmys.
Rogers died from complications of stomach cancer on February 27, 2003. With the holiday season in full swing there's a new biopic out about his life and work in theaters featuring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers. Check out these books and DVDs to learn more.