Watch Portions of First Today Show from 1952

Courtesy of and the NBC News Time Capsule, those in the United States can watch portions of the very first episode of NBC’s Today (also known as The Today Show), originally broadcast on Monday, January 14th, 1952 from 7-9AM. Apparently, during its first few years on the air the show actually ran for three hours but only two were shown in any given time zone (currently, it can run for up to four hours and I believe it is only aired live in the Eastern and Central time zones). I believe this has been available since at least 2008.

According to a title card at the start of the video, only forty-five minutes of the two-hour premiere still exist:

The first half-hour and the final quarter-hour of Today’s debut are preserved on film, and are presented here in their entirety.

The first portion ends at roughly 7:29AM on the East Coast with a break and returns at 8:44AM. Host Dave Garroway signs off with the following:

I see it is time to say goodbye to our eastern zone listeners. And to sincerely, and I’ll stand up to say this because I mean it that way, thank you for being with us on our very first Today show. Like I say we’ve got lots of bugs but we’ll try to get them out and give you a smooth, interesting, musical, and informative and freedom making show on television in the morning. Thank you, goodbye and ’til tomorrow morning, peace.

The video then continues with a fifteen-minute segment from the January 14th, 1977 episode of Today in which Tom Brokaw speaks with guests Dave Garroway, Jack Lescoulie and Frank Blair (two early correspondents) as well as former NBC chief Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, who created Today. The video is dedicated to Weaver (who died in 2002) and Garroway (who died in 1982). Exactly when it was produced is a mystery to me.

Friday, February 12th, 2009 Update: ejp has noted in the comments that this is an updated version of an episode of an MSNBC program called Time And Again from 1997. I also wonder if the remaining portions of the first broadcast exist or any other early episodes. Does NBC have a large collection of Today shows?

The NBC News Time Capsule also contains footage from a variety of important events including the Apollo 11 Moon landing, the Summer of Love, Vietnam 1968, the Kennedy Inauguration, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and more.

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5 Replies to “Watch Portions of First Today Show from 1952”

  1. This would be an updated version of what NBC showed on the old MSNBC “Time And Again” series in 1997 which devoted a full program to the debut of “Today” featuring all of the footage that survived from the premiere, as well as showing parts of the 1977 anniversary program, though not as much as is now available.

    As one who habitually taped Time And Again in the late 90s, I can mention that NBC does *not* in fact have a large number of old Today Shows from the 50s in their archives. It’s basically a small number and most of them in partial segments only. In fact, the NBC News Archive database is available on-line for searching to see what they have, though their search engine can sometimes be problematic. Their address is:

    Among the vintage Today material that was shown on “Time And Again” was a 10 minute 1961 interview with Harpo Marx, plugging his book (Harpo stayed in character and did not talk) and saw “What’s My Line?” host John Daly subbing for Dave Garroway (this was after Daly had left ABC). A program on the quiz show scandals of the 1950s showed several minutes of Dave Garroway’s sorrowful remarks regarding Charles Van Doren’s confession that he had been fed answers (since Van Doren was by then a “Today” contributor and lost his job with the network when his cheating was exposed).

  2. Because there was no videotape- before NBC began utilizing it on a regular basis by 1957- “THE TODAY SHOW” was produced for THREE hours each weekday, the first two hours for the East [7-9am(et)], and a third for those stations carrying it in the Midwest [7-9am(ct)/8-10am(et), but the third hour was never seen in the East]. In all probability, the West Coast got their editions via kinescope. {When CBS telecast their own version, “GOOD MORNING!”, during 1956-’57 (just before “CAPTAIN KANGAROO” at 7am, which also produced two hours every day- one for the East, the second for the Midwest), there were TWO editions of the show: Will Rogers Jr. was host of the East and Midwest editions, while Red Rowe emceed the West Coast version, with little use for kinnies or videotape}.

    It’s a shame the entire two hours of the first “TODAY” aren’t available; MAYBE (and here I go saying this again, but I’ve got to…) some collector is “sitting” on them, or they don’t know it’s in their collection…

  3. ejp, thanks for the information about “Time and Again” and the origins of this video. I wonder what the earliest existing full episode of Today is. And I would assume that at some point NBC started saving everything, but did that start in the 1970s, 1980s or what?

  4. It’s hard to pinpoint when the networks started being conscientious about saving their news programming but with NBC it appears to have been about 1972 when they definitely started saving their evening newscasts and with “Today” it’s more likely they didn’t start until about then or no later than 74.

    The earliest complete Today I know of is from April 1, 1968 recorded off the Washington DC NBC station by the Johnson White House for the materials that became part of the Johnson Files in the National Archives. This is the program from the day after LBJ made his speech dropping out of the presidential race so the entire focus of the program is devoted to that event.

  5. Bryant Gumbel said on the 40th anniversary broadcast that many watched the entire first show, however, it couldn’t be broadcast, because the film was “smoky”.

    I believe “Today” is one of the earliest that NBC has a complete or near complete collection.

    This is based on what some of the hosts have mentioned over the years.

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