Guide to the Kraft Television Theatre Oral History Project
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0464
Creators:
Blocki, Jim
Cook, Fielder
Durante, Al
Green, Chester
Courtice, Richard
Dougherty, Marion
Holland, Dorothy
Holland, Fran
Herlihy, Ed
Hill, George Roy
Myers, Farlan
Jeffrey, Tad
Kraft General Foods, Inc.
Pratt, Lee
Powell, Bob
Wiener, Tom
Dates:
1947-1992
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
4.3 Cubic feet
5 boxes
Repository:
Oral history interviews with fourteen former Kraft and J. Walter Thompson executives chart the evolution of Kraft's approach to television, from its pioneering efforts in the medium's infancy to the search to maintain identity in an increasingly competitive and fragmented media landscape. Casting, directing, and production of the live dramas and the commercials are discussed at length. Kraft's philosophy of advertising, its relationship with J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and NBC, and consumer outreach are also featured.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Oral history interviews with fourteen former Kraft and J. Walter Thompson executives chart the evolution of Kraft's approach to television, from its pioneering efforts in the medium's infancy to the search to maintain identity in an increasingly competitive and fragmented media landscape. Casting, directing, and production of the live dramas and the commercials are discussed at length. Kraft's philosophy of advertising, its relationship with J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and NBC, and consumer outreach are also featured.
Series 1, Research Files, 1947-1992 contains newspaper and magazine clippings, reports and scholarly articles about the history and development of Kraft, Kraft Radio Music Hall, and Kraft Television Theatre. Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject.
Series 2, Interviewee Files, 1992 contains the abstracts of the oral history interviews and additional information about the interviewee, such as resumes, publications and correspondence, when available. The files are arranged alphabetically by interviewees' last name. Each abstract begins with a brief biographical statement about the interviewee, and a note about the scope and content of the interview. The abstracts correspond to a timed message on track two of the research copy of each audiocassette tape. At the end of each abstract is an index to proper names (people, trade names, KTT episodes, etc.) and to some general themes addresses during the interview. A master index, located in the last folder of this series, combines these individual indices into a comprehensive listing. Complete transciprts are also available for most interviews.
Series 3, Oral History Interviews, 1992 is subdivided into three subseries, representing each of three audio formats: original masters, research copies, and reel-to reel preservation copes. The interviews are arranged alphabetically.
Series 4, Television Commercials, circa 1950 feature comemrcials for a variety of Kraft products. They aired on Kraft Television Theatre between 1947 and 1958.
Series 5, Administrative Files, circa 1950 - 1992 are files created by the Center for Advertising History. Included in this series are bibliographies , briefing books, project proposals and budget, files on project consultants, deeds of conveyance, publicity, and Center publications prepared for the project.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is divided into five series.
Series 1: Research Files, 1947-1992
Series 2: Interviewee Files, 1992
Series 3: Oral History Interviews, 1992
Subseries 3.1: Original Audio Tapes
Subseries 3.2: Researcher Copies
Subseries 3.3: Preservation Masters
Series 4, Television Commercials, circa 1950
Subseries 4.1: Master Copies
Subsieries 4.2: Researcher Copies
Series 5: Administrative Files, circa 1950 - 1992

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The Kraft Television Theatre Oral History Project is the result of a year-long study undertaken by the former Center for Advertising History. The objective of the project was to create a collection of oral history interviews that documentated the history and development of Kraft Television Theater, especially the relationship between advertising and the origins of commercial sponsorship in the early days of television programming.
Oral history interviews with fourteen former Kraft and J Walter Thompson executives were conducted in 1992 by Tom Wiener, a free-lance writer and oral historian under contract to the former Center for Advertising History. Included were Ed Herlihy, the voice of many of Kraft's memorable commercials; James Blocki, Richard Courtice, Chester Green, and Robert Powell, the architects of Kraft's advertising and marketing strategies in the television era; directors George Roy Hill and Fielder Cook, who launched their successful careers at Kraft Television Theatre; Marion Dougherty, one of Hollywood's leading casting directors who also got her start on KTT; and Dorothy Holland, a veteran of Kraft's Consumer Affairs Department and the company's first female Vice President.
The oral history interviews chart the evolution of Kraft's approach to television, from its pioneering efforts in the mediums infancy to the search to maintain identity in an increasing competitive and fragmented media landscape. Casting, directing and production of the live dramas and the commercials are discussed at length. Kraft's philosophy of advertising, its relationship with J Walter Thompson advertising agency and NBC, and consumer outreach are also featured.
On May 7, 1947, at 7:30 p.m. in New York City, advertising made a first significant step into the television era with the debut of Kraft Television Theatre. The program, which became the first regularly scheduled dramatic series on network TV presented weekly live adaptations of plays featuring performers familiar to New York theater goers. Included in each week's installment were commercials for Kraft Cheese Company products.
Kraft's foray into a new advertising medium grew out of the company's progressive advertising policies and its long running association with its primary advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson. Kraft was founded by James Lewis Kraft, a Canadian-born entrepreneur who in 1903 began buying cheese from Chicago wholesalers and peddling it from a horse-drawn wagon. Through acquisitions of other companies and their established brands, as well as development of new products, Kraft's company steadily grew into a leader in the cheese and dairy products business.
As early as 1911, Kraft began advertising on Chicago elevated trains and billboards. In 1919, Kraft inaugurated a 70-year tradition of advertising in such national magazines as Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping. Fourteen years later, looking for a vehicle to promote its newest product, Miracle Whip Salad Dressing, Kraft entered the electronic era with The Kraft Program, hosted by popular bandleader Paul Whiteman on the NBC Radio Network.
Soon renamed The Kraft Music Hall, the show also acquired a new host, crooner Bing Crosby. Crosby's relaxed style was mirrored in the Music Hall's commercials. As written by J. Walter Thompson staffers, they possessed a relaxed, conversational tone, extolling the practical uses of Miracle Whip, Velveeta and other Kraft products.
The Music Hall continued on the air until 1949, but by that time, Kraft Television Theatre was into its third season, well established as the leading dramatic series on the air. Kraft Television Theatre provided a unique laboratory for both its sponsor and Thompson. As with the Music Hall, Thompson actually produced the program: its staffers adapted the dramas, directed them, and hired the casts. NBC provided only technical facilities and crew. Each week, in effect, was opening night for a play that was performed live in front of bulky cameras, under hot lights. Working with modest budgets, producer-directors Stanley Quinn, Maury Holland, and Harry Herrmann took an important first step toward exploiting the potential of television to inform and entertain.
For its part, Kraft drew on the tradition established in its radio ads. From the start, Kraft acted as if it were a guest in the viewer's home, which led to a remarkably effective means of presenting its products. No human face was ever seen, only a pair of hands demonstrating the uses of the product, as a reassuring voice explained the virtues of Cheez Whiz, Draft Cheddar, or any number of products from Draft's expanding line.
In 1958, after eleven years and over 600 programs, Kraft Television Theatre left the air. The show's ratings had slipped under increased competition from mystery and adventure shows filmed in Hollywood as well as quiz shows. Kraft's single sponsorship didn't end with the demise of the Television Theatre. It revived the Music Hall, quite successfully, with Perry Como, whose relaxed personality was a throwback to Bing Crosby. In later years, Kraft chose to be sole sponsor of several specials a year, including the Country Music Association Awards show. Although these programs were pre-recorded, Kraft continued to produce its commercials live through the 1960's, with those same hands and that same soothing voice. Kraft's place in both television and advertising history is secure. Kraft Television Theatre launched a decade of live televised drama that is still regarded as the cornerstone of TV's Golden Age. And the Kraft "hands" commercials are a reminder of the effectiveness of a low-key, low-tech approach to promoting products as humble as Velveeta and Miracle Whip.
As part of a program to document and study modern advertising, the former Center for Advertising History selected Kraft Television Theatre as the last in a series of case studies of significant American advertising campaigns.

Administration
Processing Information
Collection processed by Mimi Minnick, 1992.
Author
Mimi L. Minnick
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collection donated by Kraft General Foods, Inc., on April 16, 1993. Oral histories created by the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution in 1992.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Patrons may use researcher copies of audio and video cassettes. Two of the three videotapes of television commercials have been digitized and can be viewed in the Smithsonian Institution's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS).
Preferred Citation
Kraft Television Theatre Oral History Project, 1947-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright restrictions. Contact the Archives Center.

Related Materials
Materials at the Archives Center
N W Ayer Advertising Collection (AC0059)
Materials at Other Organizations
J. Walter Thompson Archives, Duke University
Kraft General Foods Archives, Glenview, Illinois
The Kraft General Foods Archives was established as an internal information resource for the comanpy. ARchives staff will assist outside researchers whenever time and resources permit by answering questions over the phone or through the mails. Requests for direct access to archival collections will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Source materials documenting Kraft's television advertising efforts include: film and videotape copies of Kraft Television Theatre, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Kraft Mystery Theatre, Kraft Music Hall, and other Kraft-sponsored shows. Videotape copies of these shows can be accessed through the Musuem of Broadcast Communication in Chicago, and through the NBC collection at the Library of Congress. Materials also include film and videotape copies of Kraft commercials, early 1950s-present; publications and magazine/newspaper articles about the various shows; company publications featuring articles about the various shows; NBC listings of production details about the shows (dates, producers, actors/actresses, etc.) Any requests for copies of pages from this listing must be cleared through NBC; photos of scenes from the shows as well as still photos of the actors/actresses who appeared in them; print ads supporting Kraft's televiison advertising efforts; casting lists for Kraft Television Theatre (incomplete); and musical scores for Kraft Television Theatre (incomplete).

Custodial History
Custodial History
Tom Wiener conducted interviews created by the National Museum of American History.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Copy writers Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Commercials Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Product demonstrations Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
advertising -- Food Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Broadcast advertising Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiovisual materials Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Television producers and directors Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Actors in the advertising industry Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Television advertising Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Broadcasting Company, Inc. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Thompson, J. Walter (advertising agency). Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives