15 Interesting Mr. Rogers Facts

Fred_Rogers45 years ago today on February 19, 1968, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood made its national TV debut.  The show’s purpose, as put forth by Mr. Rogers, was to promote: good self esteem, self control, imagination, creativity, curiosity, appreciation of diversity, cooperation, patience, and persistence.

In homage to the great Fred Rogers, here are a few interesting Mr. Rogers facts you may not know:

1) Many of Mr. Rogers’ famous sweaters he wore on the show were made by his mother.

2) The reason Mr. Rogers started wearing sneakers on the show was because they made less noise than normal dress shoes when moving around behind the sets.

3) Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister.  In 1962, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree and was ordained as a minister in the United Presbyterian Church and charged with continuing his work on creating and contributing to wholesome children’s television programs, which was his passion.

4) Mr. Rogers got into TV because the first time he saw a TV show it had “something horrible on it with people throwing pies at one another…”  He stated,  “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.”

5) Mr. Rogers was a vegetarian.  He didn’t smoke or drink or seem to have any major vices.  He also stayed married to the same woman until his death; their marriage lasted 47 years.  About the only even slightly “scandalous” thing Mr. Rogers seemed to do, which he revealed in an interview, was that he swam laps completely in the buff nearly every morning of his adult life at various clubs that allowed nude swimming at certain times of the day.

6) Contrary to rumors spread about on the Internet, Mr. Rogers was never a sniper in the military nor was the reason he wore sweaters because he had tattoos all over his arms and body, one for each person he killed.  These, and other similar rumors, first started on the Internet around 1994 and saw a surge in popularity after his death.  Mr. Rogers never served in the military and was a pacifist.

7) Unlike on most children’s shows, Mr. Rogers played himself not just in name, but also in personality and mannerisms, changing nothing about how he acted off camera to how he acted on camera.  His reasons for this were that: “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.”

8) 895 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were filmed with the first episode broadcasting in 1968 and the last episode shot on December of 2000 and was subsequently aired in August of 2001.

9) Mr. Rogers famously didn’t mind if people recorded his show with a VCR, arguing for people’s right to do so in a 1979 case Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.  At the time, it was being argued by the opposition that this constituted a copyright infringement.  Mr. Rogers was one of the few involved in television that did not believe so and felt people should be allowed to record programs.  The Supreme Court noted that Mr. Rogers’ testimony was a significant piece of evidence that helped lead them to their  ultimate decision.

Specifically, Mr. Rogers’ stated:

Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the ‘Neighborhood’ at hours when some children cannot use it … I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the ‘Neighborhood’ off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the ‘Neighborhood’ because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.

10) Mr. Rogers once appeared as preacher, Reverend Thomas, on an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman called “Deal with the Devil”.

11) Mr. Rogers did the voices on the show for: King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Henrietta Pussycat, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchild and Larry Horse, among others.  He also composed most of the music on the show.

12) Mr. Rogers once appeared on the Soviet Union children’s show Spokoynoy Nochi, Malyshi (Good Night, Little Ones) and was the first foreign guest to do so.  That show has been on the air since 1964.

13) Mr. Rogers didn’t just try to teach children important life lessons and the like, but he also produced a series of specials intended for parents called “Mister Rogers Talks to Parents About X”, where X was whatever the topic of the day was.  These shows were meant to help parents be able to answer any questions their child might have after watching a particular Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode.

14) Mr. Rogers was red/green colorblind.

15) Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer at the age of 74 years old on February 27, 2003.

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  • You all hinted at, but left out details about one of the most interesting facts about Fred Rogers, which was that he knew ancient Greek from his theological studies. My best friend from undergraduate school had a poster signed by Mr. Rogers with a comment in ancient Greek.

  • Also during a break he was filmed laughing giving a rude gesture to the cameraman – but it was all in fun.

    • That is incorrect. What you are referring to is likely when Mr. Rogers was reciting a version of “Where is Thumbkin?” and held up his middle fingers (for the lyric “where is tall man?”).

      • Natalie Strickland

        Thankyou for clarifying that. Mr Roger’s would never flip someone off….and laugh about it.

  • Lol I got a shirt of him that says its all good in the hood

  • It is so refreshing to know that there are people, stars, who are the real deal…Mr. Rogers was genuine.

  • Mr rogers stood for all that was good in life. soft spoken all the time he was a blessed man that will be missed forever and its sad that tv has turned the way it is all this junk on tv and parents allow there kids to watch junk shows and wonder why they disrespect so bad.Only way to fix our future generation is to stop allowing them to bully,disrespect,and stop letting them watch the filth.Most important parents be parents and teach them respect and if you cant be a parent dont multiply…

  • Wonderful article! I love Mr.Rogers and he will always hold a special place in my heart. I watched him the whole time I was little and to think he was the same Mr.Rogers on set as he was off, is just amazing to me. Thanks again and I look forward to your newsletter every morning!

  • Watch the episodes of Mr Rogers, filmed in the days before photo-shop and other editing abilities – he goes swimming, proving he had nothing on his arms or anywhere else.

  • He was the salt of the earth..

  • I watched it daily they’ll never replace it

    • Shane McKiness

      But they did, with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood produced by the Fred Rogers company.

  • Diana McCullough

    No, They did not and could never replace Mr Rogers. I don’t understand why they don’t show reruns of Mr Rogers,Captain Kangaroo and Sky King!!. My grandkids would watch it!

  • The popularization of the idea of zombies as the walking dead can be traced back to Mr Rogers.

    He gave a college graduate, George Romero, his first filming job. He had him make various instructive shorts, including “Mr Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy”. Making that last film scared and horrified Mr Romero, and inspired him to later make the movie “The Night of the Living Dead”, which popularized the idea of the dead coming back to life and terrorizing communities. This was followed by many other films such as “Dawn of the Dead”, which he showed to Mr Rogers, who said he loved it, but, of course, wouldn’t recommend showing to children.

  • Under item 4, you said he did not have a tattoo for everyone he killed, but you did not directly answer the question as to whether he had tattoos (whatever the reason). So did he have tattoos on his arms–yes or no?

    • Joh DePue , They DID answer the question. Mr. Rogers appeared shirtless in at least one episode. There was not a single tattoo in sight… so NO, Mr. Rogers did NOT have any tattoos. (VERY smart man).

      They don’t make men like Mr. Rogers and Bob “the Painter” Ross anymore. I wish they had, and that I had found one 45 years ago..I’d have married him in a heartbeat.

  • I heard a story about Mr.Rogers’ car being stolen from the back parking lot of a tavern here was in and when the word had gone out about it being his car that was taken the theif(s) returned it. Anyone know of any truth of this story or not?

  • I have to say, the part in the video where Mr. Rogers told Francoise Clemmons that he had been talking to him for years, and that he had only heard him today was such a powerful statement. It really does embody exactly what Mr. Rogers stood for. I have even more respect for him after hearing that, which I didn’t know was possible.

    • Wait what are you referring to?

      • It might be from the episode where he invited Officer Clemons to cool his feet in the wading pool with him—and they had a wonderful conversation showing loving investment in the principle of equal rights and integration at a time when “pools” were segregated.

      • Look up “Officer Clemmons ” and watch/listen to the short video (2:55). Franchise Clemmons explains it himself at the end.

  • Years ago while I was in the US Naval Reserve, several of us were in South Korea during a combined military exercise. This was in March. There were evening security briefs and one night an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel stood up and announced it was Mr. Rogers birthday. Everyone in the room acknowledged and stated Happy Birthday to Mr Rogers.

  • I grew up in Latrobe Pennsylvania . I was 10 years younger than Fred . We lived one block from the Rogers family. I remember going to their house every year on Christmas Eve for the Rogers yearly party. Fred was only in his late 20’s but I remember being impressed at the time that he was a very special person. Latrobe Pennsylvania was a wonderful place to grow up. The Rogers family was wealthy but you would never know it. They were wonderful down to earth people. Fred Rodgers was a TV icon. He was special. He gave children the confidence to navigate a very complex world. I wish there were more Mr Rodgers in this world.

  • I just can’t read enough of mr roger I saw the tom hank movie of Mr Rogers I was heart broken when I learned he passed away from cancer. He could have lived maybe another 30 years, his wife was in her 9 0tys. I plan to see the movie again. The theare. Was full of people going in to see it.

  • We saw the movie today. My young grandson (13) didn’t get it, but my daughter (48) really did. Appropriate to watch on Thanksgiving Day… the scene in the restaurant where he asks the reporter to stop for a minute and think of those whose love made him what he was today. The whole restaurant and the theater were silent for that whole minute. Very powerful. We repeated the exercise around our Thanksgiving table.

    I also wondered if his holding his back (quite obvious in later scenes) and his banging his piano bass keys were indications of his dealing with pains from his cancer.

    Great man. Powerful movie, but probably more for adults than kids.

  • I went to see the Mr Rogers movie yesterday afternoon. The theater was packed. In the scene when Mr Rogers asked Lloyd to be quiet and reflect for one minute, the whole theater was silent. I found myself holding my breath! At the end everyone applauded. He was/is a gift to us all.

  • Fabulous man and a great movie. He really helped many deal with reality and life! I will most likely see it again. It’s a great movie for adults.

  • I would have been 18 in 1968, but I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and I also grew up on Fred Rogers. Before Mr; Rogers Neighborhood he was part of Josie Carey’s Children’s Corner and he appeared as himself along with many of the familiar characters like King Friday, X the Owl, Daniel the Tiger, Lady Elaine, Henrietta Pussycat etc. I belonged to the Tame Tiger Torganization (that is not a spelling error) along with my 6 years older sister. You would learn something new and color in one of the strips on a Tiger on paper. We used to have a book (paperback) with a lot of the songs/music in it and stories. I even remember going to WQED-TV’s studios and watched from above while they filmed the show. Since TV was in BW back then it was a shock to see that X the Owl was various shades of purple. Beautiful memories of children and many positive lessons learned.