circa 1985 portrait of childrens television personality fred rogers picture

Mr. Rogers’ Technicolor Dream Cardigans

Those famous sweaters (and the children's show they were featured on) turn 50.

Fotos International/Getty Images

Everyone’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, moved into the neighborhood 50 years ago, educating and entertaining generations of American children.

A Presbyterian minister and puppeteer, Rogers launched his television series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” nationwide on February 19, 1968, on National Educational Television, a PBS forebear. (Earlier iterations of the program aired in Canada under the name “Mister Rogers.”)

The series would go on to earn multiple Daytime Emmys and a prestigious Peabody Award — and, with nearly 900 episodes, was the longest-running kids show when it ended on August 31, 2001 (eventually unseated by “Sesame Street”). While the legacy of Rogers’ toot-tooting trolley and flock of felt friends certainly still endures, the program’s most iconic bit of ephemera has got to be Rogers’ colorful cardigans, which he donned at the beginning of each and every episode. And those warm fuzzies come with an awwww-inspiring origin story: Rogers’ mother, Nancy, knit a new one for him every year as a Christmas present.

Mr. Rogers died from stomach cancer in 2003, but we’ll always have those sweaters (and an upcoming film starring Tom Hanks) to remember him by. On the occasion of his show’s 50th anniversary, we mine his rainbow-colored closet. (Pictured: The yellow cardigan that was perhaps the most sedate of the bunch, but still boasts an ardent fan base.)

Trolley-Car Red Fotos International/Getty Images Trolley-Car Red No doubt the most famous zip-up of the collection, this fiery knit was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1984. ''You're welcome to a pair of sneakers,'' Rogers quipped at the ceremony. (Ironically, Rogers was said to be red-green color blind.)
King Friday’s Turret Teal Fotos International/Getty Images King Friday’s Turret Teal It’s the rare jewel-tone jumper in the collection. (In other greenish news, Rogers once visited the set of the “Incredible Hulk” TV show!) Mr. McFeely Blue CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images Mr. McFeely Blue Rogers smartly opted for a muted cornflower cardigan for his visit to the flashier Captain Kangaroo’s (Bob Keeshan) neighborhood, circa 1970. Pauline Purple Getty Images Pauline Purple Proving once again that sharing is caring, Rogers presented Apple co-creator Steve Wozniak with one of his violet zip-ups after winning the Legacy for Children Award from San Jose’s Children’s Discovery Museum in 1999.
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