Above: Jim Henson, Jane Nebel, and the Muppets from “Sam and Friends.”
ON THIS DATE in 1955, eighteen-year-old Jim Henson and his future wife, Jane Nebel, introduced the Muppets on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. The show, called “Sam and Friends,” aired for five minutes at 6:25 p.m. and again at 11:25 p.m. There were a dozen of what Henson and Nebel called “Muppets,” including a bald, big-nosed creature named Sam and Kermit, who initially resembled a lizard more than a frog.
An instant hit, the Muppets began appearing in commercials in 1957, and “Sam and Friends” won a local Emmy in 1958. A decade later, Henson created a host of new characters, including Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and Bert and Ernie, for “Sesame Street.” “The Muppet Show” appeared on prime time from 1976 to 1981 and received five Emmy awards. A series of feature films followed, beginning with The Muppet Movie in 1979.