One of the greatest television specials of all time, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is celebrating its 50th birthday this year! Let's take a moment to recognize this essential piece of our childhoods and to pay homage to the man behind it all, Charles M. Schulz. The now-yearly tradition began on October 27, 1966, when CBS debuted the half-hour animated special -- the third such Peanuts show -- as part of its Thursday evening lineup. Here are a few newspaper ads from that day. Now as far as I can tell, the first reference to the Great Pumpkin appeared in the Peanuts comic strip almost exactly 7 years before the show, in October 1959. Here is that strip:
Several years before classic TV specials such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown secured the place of Charles Schulz's beloved Peanuts characters in the hearts of millions of Americans, Charlie Brown and his friends came to life to sell cars. In 1959, Ford Motor Company secured licensing rights to the Peanuts for use in a series of color TV commercials for its cars and the intros for Ford-sponsored The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. The first spots appeared in January 1960 and marked the first time that Schulz's creation had been animated. Here's one of those early show intros: While that show left the air in June 1961, the Peanuts' association with Ford was just getting started. The gang's most high-profile (and memorable assignment) was to he
Here's a very odd piece of political ephemera. It's a Halloween-themed jack-o-lantern door hanger used during the 1968 Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew presidential campaign. In big, block letters it announced "Even the Great Pumpkin Is Voting Nixon-Agnew." This bit of ephemera is a clear nod to the classic Peanuts TV special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The CBS animated special debuted in October 1966 and was no doubt fresh in the minds of American voters. Whether or not this door hanger was enough to tip the scales in favor of the GOP ticket is debatable, but Nixon and Agnew cruised to a sizable Electoral College victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey and running mate Edmund Muskie.