Carnegie Corporation Salutes 40 years of Sesame Street

Grantees in this story

New York, NY, November 5, 2009 - Carnegie Corporation of New York joins all children, past and present, in wishing Sesame Street a Happy 40th Birthday.

In 1967 the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, funded by Carnegie Corporation, produced a landmark report that led to the creation of the Public Broadcasting System, thereby enlisting the relatively youthful technology of television for educational purposes.

Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian recalls that when it was published in 1967, the Commission's report was addressed "to the American people." The landmark report, said Gregorian, concluded that the American people urgently needed--indeed, deserved--a high-quality educational television system free of commercial economic constraints that would serve audiences "ranging from the tens of thousands to the occasional tens of millions." The report's recommendations were adopted into the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

Among other initiatives the foundation supported in this young medium, Carnegie Corporation was a study by Joan Ganz Cooney that led to the creation of the Children's Television Workshop (now known as Sesame Workshop)--and its most renowned program, Sesame Street.

In transcripts and videotaped interviews from the Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project, Joan Ganz Cooney tells of Sesame Street's origins at "a little dinner party" in 1966 with her then-husband Tim Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett (Vice President of Carnegie Corporation) and his wife Mary.

At the time, Carnegie Corporation had been researching children's education; Morrisett was inspired by the medium of television and believed that it had not been properly tapped to educate children.

Morrisett called Cooney over to the foundation's offices a few days after their dinner party. During the meeting, Morrisett decided to create a study by Channel Thirteen, to investigate children's educational television programming.

Morrisett did not believe that Cooney would be interested in such a project, yet she recalls yelling back "Oh yes, I would!"

Read more about the Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project.