** Television Shows: Quiz Kids (1949-56)

American Television Shows: Quiz Kids (1949-56)

Figure 2.--The younger boy, Gerard, appears to be wearing a black short pants Eton suit with an Eton collar. Mother has, however, selected patterned knee socks for him--not usually worn with a conservative Eton suit. Short pnts and knickers ar the time were not as prevalent as suggsted by the image. Click on the image to see the whole group.

The Quiz Show was a popular show which appeared on American television in the early era of television. It featured emacuately dressed children answering difficult questions. The original Quiz Kids program, a natinal institution on radio and television in the 1940s and early 50s survives only in record and tape libraries and in the memories of millions.

The Series

The Quiz Kids was produced in NBC's Merchandise Mart studios from 1940 to 1953, generally under the sponsorship of Miles Laboratories, makers of Alka-Seltzer. It was a radio show from 1940 through 1949. The show's quizmaster, as clueless as the kids were bright, was Joe Kelley, a veteran of the NBC's National Barn Dance.

The Quiz Kids were first broadcast on television in 1949 and run until 1956. The program began on radio during 1940 and then brought to television as a local program by WNBQ, Chicago in January 1949. It took NBC only a few months to network it. The TV version of Quiz Kids proved only a modest success, never catching on the way the radio show had. It then ran through 1956. First by NBC and beginning in 1953 by CBS. The emcees were Joe Kelly (1948-53) and then Clifton Fadiman (1953-56). Interestingly, the first emcee, Joe Kelly, had only a third-grade education. The show's first quizmaster, as clueless as the kids were bright, was Joe Kelley, a veteran of the NBC's National Barn Dance. [After the demise of the Quiz Kids, Joe Kelley served for a number of years as the host of the Totem Club, a kids' show that aired on WTTW, Chicago's 'educational' (and later PBS) television station.] A syndicated version of Quiz Kids was produced in 1978 with Jim McKreil as emcee.

Scheduling varied. It appeared in both prime-time and the afternoon. Remenver that in the early 1950s there was no morning television. A tet pattern was all that you goy until about 4:00 pm when Howdy Doody came on for the kids coming home from school.


The format was quite simple. A pannel of four to five youngsters, chosen by an elaborate battery of tests, answered difficult questions. The questions required both general ans specific knowledge. The clothes the boys wore were a good reflection of childrens' fashions. They were almost always formally dressed in suits. The show was designed so as not to be as competitive as adult quiz shows. One child might be a math expert another might be knowledgeable about music or art.

Celberity guests sometimes appeared. Periodic comtests were held for viewers. Children were invited to nominate the "Teacher of the Year". Viewers submitted questions and received prized if the aprticipants failed to answer them correctly.

The Participants

The youngest child was 6 years old. Participamts could remain on the panndel as long as they did a good job of answering questiions or reached 16 years of age.

The most famous child appearing on the show was probably Robert Strom whi became a regular in early 1956 at 9 years of age. This was just the time when the big money adult quiz shows were taking off. He subsequently appeared on the $64,000 Question and $64,000 Challenge. His specialty was astronomym but his geberal knowledge of physis and math led to bug pay offs on those shows.

Merchandise: Game

Quiz Kids Radio Question Bee Game (1941) Based on the popular radio program, this game is basically a "Trivial Pursuit" of the 40s. It consists of thirty-six cards and an instruction/answer sheet. Made by Whitman Publishing Co. Here's a sample: What kind of hair have the following song characters? (a) Jeannie (b) Sylvia (c) Orphan Annie (d) Sweetheart of Sigma Chi Answers: (a) light brown hair, (b) like the night, (c) red, (d) gold.

Children's Clothes

The children participating on the show were almost always dressed nicely. Parents clearly believed in dressing their children more formaly than is the case today. Generally the boys wore suits. On early show the boys often wore short pants suits, although knicker suits were also occasionally seen. This trend can also be observed in the "Peanut Gallery" of Howdy Doody. Some boy characters in early TV shows also wore short pants.

By the mid 1950s, long pants suits were beconing more common. Two of the boys (11 and 13 year olds) in the post card pictured here wear below the knee knicker suits. One boy wears a dark knicker suit, possibly with long stockings rather than kneesocks. The other boy wears kneesocks with his knickers. HBC is a little surprosed that two biys in 1949-50 were wearing knickers, causing me to question the date of the post card. However, the card indicates that it was a Wednesday evening network airing. This would mean sometime between June-September 1949. Kinickers were still worn at this time, but not nearly as common as was the case earlier. They were much less common than this postcard suggests. I don't for example, remember seeing any boys dressed in knickers in 1949-50.

The third boy (8 years old) wears an Eton short pants suit with an Eton collar and black kneesocks. This was the classic conservative suit for a younger boy. It was probably worn with amatching peaked cap.


Feldman, Ruth Duskin, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE QUIZ KIDS? PERILS AND PROFITS OF GROWING UP GIFTED, (Chicago Review Press: Chicago, 1982) 1st ed, B&W photos, 375pp, v , (Order No: 6217 ), $15.00


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Created: June 4, 2000
Last updated: June 4, 2000