50th Anniversary of A Tour of the White House

Fifty years ago today, on Wednesday, February 12th, 1962, CBS and NBC broadcast an hour-long documentary titled “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy” from 10-11PM. The special took viewers on an in-depth tour of the White House, emphasizing the restoration efforts spearheaded by Jacqueline Kennedy, and was capped by a brief interview with President Kennedy. Produced by CBS News and featuring correspondent Charles Collingwood, the special was offered to the other networks at the behest of the White House [1].

Both ABC and NBC agreed to carry the special and share production costs (it was not sponsored) [2]. NBC decided to air the special at the same time as CBS [3]. ABC, on the other hand, announced its broadcast would take place on Friday, February 16th from 7:30-8:30PM [4]. Later, however, ABC backed out due to the unexpected cost of covering the oft-delayed Mercury-Atlas 6 spaceflight [3]. According to Broadcasting, Arbitron figures estimated that the special was seen in 24.5 million households, drawing a combined 73.9 share of the audience [4].

Thanks to NBC News and Hulu.com, “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy” can be viewed in its entirety online:

Read more about “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy” and its impact and influence on television at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Yesterday, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum announced that the first portion of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis papers, which include material relating to he White House restoration and the television special, are now accessible to researchers. Read the official press release here.

Works Cited:

1 “Both CBS-TV, NBC-TV to ‘tour’ White House.” Broadcasting. 15 Jan. 1962: 9.
2 “Special Favors For Gifts Denied.” Associated Press. Tri City Herald [Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, Washington]. 14 Feb. 1962: 3.
3 “ABC-TV also to carry White House special.” Broadcasting. 22 Jan. 1962: 9.
4 “Man-shoot delays hit networks financially.” Broadcasting. 5 Feb. 1962: 44.
5 “24.5 million homes see White House ‘tour’.” Broadcasting. 19 Feb. 1962: 10.

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One Reply to “50th Anniversary of A Tour of the White House”

  1. Ironic that advertising appears on the Hulu edition of this special, when NONE appeared during the original telecast. Even broadcast networks don’t believe in “sustaining” programs anymore (execpt for the occasional religious documentary on early Sunday mornings, or a “special report”).

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