Food ‘Sesame Street’ turns 50 this year. Here’s 15 photos that show how the program has evolved over the years.

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  • The pioneering children’s show “Sesame Street” is celebrating its 50 th anniversary on November 10. 
  • The show first premiered in 1969, and while the general concept of catchy songs and educational clips has stayed the same, its themes have evolved with the times. 
  • In its 50 years, the program, which is the longest-running children’s show ever, has broadcast in more than 100 countries, and won dozens of Grammy and Emmy awards.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
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“Sesame Street,” the pioneering children’s TV show loved across the world, premiered 50 years ago on November 10.

The show has taught generations of children how to count and say their ABCs, offered helpful lessons in diversity and mental health, and continues to be a role model for kids’ TV shows everywhere.

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“Sesame Street,” as an idea, started with a question. In the midst of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, founders Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morris asked themselves: How can we help disadvantaged youth prepare for school through a television program?

The group then hired puppeteer and Muppet creator Jim Henson, who helped the team create a cast of characters to live on “Sesame Street.” 

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The show first premiered in 1969 on the National Educational Television network, an entity that later became the Public Broadcasting Service. The episode featured catchy songs, celebrity guests, and goofy and thoughtful Muppet characters, including Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch. 

By the end of its first season, “Sesame Street” had reached millions of preschoolers. Fifty years later, it has broadcast in more than 100 countries, and won dozens of Grammy and Emmy awards.

More Muppets were added as time went on, like Count von Count in the 1970s, and more recently, Julia, the first Muppet with autism, and Lily, the first Muppet to experience homelessness. 

On the show’s 50th anniversary, Insider’s taking a look back at how the show has evolved over the years.

Food Puppeteer Caroll Spinney played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch in the show’s first episode.

Food Sesame Street

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney in his ‘Big Bird’ costume has an adjustment made during rehearsals for an episode of Sesame Street at Reeves TeleTape Studio in 1970 in New York City, New York.
David Attie/Getty Images

He continued performing the roles for 49 years.

Food Celebrity guests are a longstanding tradition on “Sesame Street.” More than 400 celebrities have appeared on the show.

Food Sesame Street's Big Bird and Joe Namath

Joe Namath, quarterback for the New York Jets, chats with Big Bird during taping of the children’s television show “Sesame Street” in New York studio Monday, Sept. 25, 1972.
AP Photo/Harry Harris

Source: Mental Floss

Food In the 1970s, Grover and Count von Count were added to the “Sesame Street” cast.

Food Sesame Street publicity photo

A publicity still of the Sesame Street Muppets taken to promote their record album, “Sesame Country,” in1981. Included are Oscar the Grouch, Bert (holding washboard), Ernie (harmonica), the Count (bass), Cookie Monster (banjo), Grover (violin), and Big Bird (far right).
Children’s Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images

Food Elmo was a background Muppet on “Sesame Street” for years, but he made his first appearance as a main cast member in 1984.

Food Sarah Jessica Parker and Elmo during TNT Presents   A Gift of Song   New York   January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Elmo are pictured above during TNT’s “A Gift of Song” in 1997.

Food For years adults on “Sesame Street” thought Mr. Snuffleupagus was Big Bird’s imaginary friend. In 1985, the show made him a real character.

Food Mr. Snuffleupagus sesame street

Mr. Snuffleupagus is pictured above with Big Bird
Sesame Street/Facebook

Mr. Snuffleupagus was made into a real character in 1985, in the wake of a series of high-profile child abuse cases in the United States.

Showrunners said Mr. Snuffleupagus, who was long believed to be Big Bird’s imaginary friend, was made real to show children that adults would believe them if the told them something.

According to a history of the show provided by Sesame Workshop, “By acknowledging that Big Bird was right about Snuffy all along, ‘Sesame Street’ validated children’s feelings, encouraging them to share important things with their parents and caregivers.”

Food “Sesame Street” developed a curriculum on AIDS and HIV in 2000, and created Kami, an HIV-positive Muppet from South Africa.

Food Whoopi Goldberg and Kami, the HIV positive muppet from the South Africa production of Sesame Street, kiss during a town hall meeting in observance of World AIDS Day at the United Nations November 26, 2002 in New York City.

Whoopi Goldberg and Kami, the HIV positive Muppet from the South Africa production of Sesame Street, kiss during a town hall meeting in observance of World AIDS Day at the United Nations November 26, 2002 in New York City.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Food “Sesame Street” introduced Lily in 2011 as a character who experienced food insecurity. She was re-introduced in 2018 as the first character to experience homelessness.

Food Lily pictured with Elmo

Lily, left, pictured with Elmo.

Sesame Street/YouTube


Food Celebrities continue to make appearances on “Sesame Street” to this day. Janelle Monáe stopped by in 2014 to teach the cast about persevering.

Food janelle monae sesame street

Janelle Monáe spoke to Abby Cadabby (left) and other Muppets about the power of persevering.


Food “Sesame Street” introduced its first Afghan Muppet in 2016. She appeared on the Afghanistan production of the program.

Food Zari Sesame Street

A sassy, fun 6-year-old Afghan puppet girl called Zari takes part in a recording session ahead of her television debut on Afghanistan’s local production of the show in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zari — whose name means “shimmering” in Afghanistan’s two official languages, Dari and Pashtu — made her debut on the fifth season of Afghanistan’s local production of the show called Baghch-e-Simsim, which translates as Sesame Garden.
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Food “Sesame Street” introduced Julia, the first character with autism, in 2017. The show went on to create an initiative to help educate viewers on autism.

Food Julia Sesame Street

Julia, left, was the first “Sesame Street” character with autism.

Sesame Street,

Food “Sesame Street” now airs in 150 countries and is showing no signs of stopping. The show is now broadcast on both HBO and PBS, and in 2019, New York officially created a “Sesame Street” in the city.

Food sesame street



Sesame Street

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