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Pegeen Fitzgerald Collection

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1489

Abstract

Title:
Pegeen Fitzgerald Collection
Author/Creator:
Fitzgerald, Pegeen
Collection number:
LAB 97-25
Size:
6.00 linear feet
Bulk dates:
1960-1984
Inclusive dates:
1938-1988 and undated
Collection Area:
Mass Media and Culture
Repository:
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email: askhornbake@umd.edu
Abstract:

Pegeen Fitzgerald (c. 1911-1989) was a beloved New York broadcaster who, with her husband Edward, pioneered the "husband-and-wife-at-home" genre of radio talk. Their show was heard daily over the NYC airwaves for over 40 years. The collection mainly documents Ms. Fitzgerald's long radio career and her animal rights advocacy.

Important Information for Users of the Collection

Restrictions:

This collection is open for research use.

Preferred citation:

Pegeen Fitzgerald Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials page for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Status:

This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Pegeen Fitzgerald (circa 1911-1989) was an American radio broadcaster, often referred to as the "First Lady of Radio Chatter." She co-hosted with her husband Edward a daily New York City-based program, broadcast directly from their home for over 40 years.

Born Margaret Worrall in Norcatur, Kansas, her family would later move to Portland, Oregan where Margaret would graduate high school at age 15 in 1926.

In 1930, she married Edward Fitzgerald, a former child actor, then working as a newspaper reporter and movie publicist. The couple would eventually settle in New York where Mr. Fitzgerald pursued a career in radio, before finally securing a job with NY station WOR around 1936. Meanwhile, Mrs. Fitzgerald went to work for a department store.

Legend has it that at a dinner with a WOR executive, the executive said to Mrs. Fitzgerald, "I wish we knew someone who talks the way you talk to do a woman's program for us." Pegeen's first radio program, "Pegeen Prefers," was broadcast daily during her department store lunch hour.

A few years later, around 1940, when Pegeen came down with pneumonia and needed to convalesce, the station panicked about the potential loss of sponsors. To prevent this, the station arranged for Peg to broadcast from her sick bed at home. Because she did not want the program's announcer to see her in her bathrobe, she asked if her husband could fill in.

Thus was born Ed and Pegeen's daily show of chit-chat and self-described "ramblings." A wholly original format for radio, in that it was not derived from theatre or vaudeville, the husband-and-wife radio program genre would soon catch on and spawn imitators like "Tex and Jinx," starring Tex McCrary and his wife Jinx Falkenberg (1945-1961), and other programs with the likes of Dorothy Kilgallen and Dick Kollmar.

The Fitzgeralds broadcast daily from their 16th floor apartment over looking Central Park. Everything in the lives of the Fitzgerald's was fodder for radio, from paying that month's bills to the various doings of friends and family to current events. Nothing (except the show's commercials) was ever scripted and the couple worked with no pre-show preparation. "Do you prepare for a conversation with a friend?," Pegeen once asked rhetorically, about her and her husband's on-air style.

Ample airtime was also devoted to Mr. Fitzgerald's love of books and Mrs. Fitzgerald's love of cats and her advocacy for the humane treatment of animals. Sometimes the couple even bickered on the air. Once, quite famously, Peg angered Edward, who got up from the table, left the microphone and went back to bed, forcing his wife to carry on without him.

The daily Fitzgerald show became a New York institution and the duo would carry on with it, over various Big Apple stations (and for a brief time on television) until 1982 when Edward died after a long bout with cancer.

After her husband's death, Pegeen continued on alone for about one year before she was terminated suddenly by WOR who wanted to pursue a more "youthful" demographic.

The firing of Pegeen Fitzgerald became something of a cause celebre in New York as trade magazines, loyal listeners, and fellow broadcasters rallied to her defense and denounced the station's dismissal of her.

Only a few weeks after the firing, however, Pegeen joined WNYC, New York's public radio station, filling two hours of that stations's "Senior Edition" program.

Besides her lengthy radio career, Mrs. Fitzgerald was also known as a talented painter, a collector of toy antique fire engines, and a devoted, outspoken animal rights advocate.

Pegeen Fitzgerald died of breast cancer on January 30, 1989. She was 78 years old.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Pegeen Fitzgerald Collection spans the years 1947 (approx.) to 1988, and includes correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, negatives, reel-to-reel tapes, unframed original paintings, an original hard-bound book written by Mrs. Fitzgerald, and other printed material.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Pegeen Fitzgerald Collection was donated to the Library of American Broadcasting, University of Maryland Libraries by David Bolton, a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald's, in the Fall of 1996.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Cary O'Dell, 2004.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Cary O'Dell. Markup checked and verified by Karen E. King, July 2005

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1958-1988 and undated (1 folder)

This series contains a small collection (about 19 items) of letters, most sent in sympathy to Mrs. Fitzgerald in 1982 upon the death of her husband. The remaining letters in this series are mostly fan letters. This series also contains a letter of invitation from Ted Mack regarding an upcoming benefit luncheon, as well as a handful of notes and letters from Mrs. Fitzgerald, including one to WOR management upon her termination from the station in 1983. All items arranged by date.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, 1958-1988 series 1box 1folder 1

Series 2: Clippings, 1947-1988 and undated (3 folders)

This series contains ninety-two newspaper clippings documenting Mrs. Fitzgerald's radio career, as well as her various work on behalf of animals. (See also oversize storage box #4 for some additional articles.) This series also contains seventeen clippings from a daily newspaper feature, titled "Take Our Word for It," by the editors of Merriam-Webster, Inc. This feature discussed the origin of certain words and expressions, and their proper grammatical usage. These clippings were perhaps saved for use as fodder for radio discussion.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Clippings -- Dated, 1947-1988 series 2box 1folder 2
Clippings -- Undated, undated series 2box 1folder 3
Clippings -- "Take Our Word for It", undated series 2box 1folder 4

Series 3: Personal Documents, 1938-1986 and undated (3 folders)

This "catch-all" series of 38 total items includes: station-generated press releases, promotional material and programming guides; one of Mrs. Fitzgerald's business cards with a handwritten invitation on it; a single party invitation for a function thrown by Mrs. Fitzgerald; promotional piece for the animal rights film, "The Animals Films," executive produced by Ms. Fitzgerald; a 1957 passenger list from the S.S. America; an undated Christmas/New Year's Card sent by the Fitzgeralds (names are printed, not signed); a one-page handout titled "Where to Bury a Dog"; two sheets of Ms. Fitzgerald's personal note paper; two anti-vivisection pamphlets/newsletters (Spring, 1958 and Sept. 1968); a 1983 letter from Mayor Ed Koch to Alan Brock, president of the Westchester Animal Protection League; a copy of Mr. Fitzgerald's 1982 death certificate; a poem, "Matrimonial Stew" by Mabel Kelly; a copy of a local news commentary by Barry Garber, delivered in 1983, regarding Ms. Fitzgerald's firing from WOR; loose pages, a through 2, from an undated address book of Mrs. Fitzgerald's; loose pages from a 1960 date book, containing handwritten notes regarding upcoming social events, things to do, individuals to call, books reviewed on that day's radio show, quite a few animal-related items and other notations; and a small assortment of animal rights-oriented handouts. When possible, all items are arranged by date.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Personal documents, 1938-1986; undated series 3box 1folder 5

Series 4: Address Book, undated (1 folder)

Loose pages, A through W, from an undated address book of Mrs. Fitzgerald's.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Address Book, undated series 4box 1folder 6

Series 5: Date Book, 1960 (1 folder)

Loose pages from a 1960 date book, starting with March 21, 1960 and running, with some gaps, to December 23, 1960; 49 pages total. Contains handwritten notes regarding: upcoming social events, things to do, individuals to call, books reviewed on that day's radio show, quite a few animal-related items and other notations.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Date Book, 1960 series 5box 1folder 7

Series 6: Program Notes, 1960-1984 (1 folder)

Twenty-five pages of what seems to be handwritten program notes, such as. items to discuss on upcoming radio programs, such as interesting news items, facts, trivia, books, etc. Also contains a list of people and phone numbers.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Program notes, 1960-1984 series 6box 1folder 8

Series 7: Photos, undated (11 folders)

This series contains over 200 photographs, largely undated, and which feature Ms. Fitzgerald alone; pictured with her husband, Edward; her paintings; her pets; various candids; some slides and others.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Photographs -- Pegeen Fitzgerald -- Portraits/Alone, undated series 7box 1folder 9
Photographs -- Edward Fitzgerald -- Portraits/Alone, undated series 7box 1folder 10
Photographs -- Pegeen Fitzgerald w/ Edward Fitzgerald, undated series 7box 1folder 11
Photographs -- Pegeen Fitzgerald -- Paintings of, undated series 7box 1folder 12
Photographs -- Pets, undated series 7box 1folder 13
Photographs -- Miscellaneous -- "Art shots", undated series 7box 1folder 14
Photographs -- Miscellaneous -- Civil War reenactment, undated series 7box 1folder 15
Photographs -- Miscellaneous -- Candids, undated series 7box 1folder 16
Photographs -- Miscellaneous -- Candids, undated series 7box 1folder 17
Photographs -- Miscellaneous -- Candids, undated series 7box 1folder 18
Photographs -- Slides, undated series 7box 1folder 19
Photographs -- Negatives (oversize), undated series 7box 2folder 1
Photsgraphs (oversize), undated series 7box 3folder 1

Series 8: Artifacts and Paintings, 1968 and undated (1 box)

The Fitzgerald Collection also includes the following items:

--Nine unframed paintings of cats, approx. 8 1/2" x 11"

--Small pin/tie-tack, in the shape of a ship, silver and in its original plastic box

--Five-page scrapbook, 11"x 13", containing various photos of Pegeen and Edward Fitzgerald at an area cat show.

--Hardback book: "Meatless Cooking: Pegeen's Vegetarian Recipes" by Pegeen Fitzgerald, recipes arranged by Margaret Smith (New York: Gramercy, 1968).

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Artifacts (oversize), 1953-1985 series 8box 4folder 1

Series 9: Media, 1962-1981 and undated (20 items)

Includes three 7" tape reels of undated Fitzgeralds's shows; fourteen 12" tape reels of shows from 1962, 1968-1971, 1973, 1976, 1981 and undated; and seventeen tape reels of various sizes, presumably of Fitzgeralds's shows.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Media (oversize), 1962-1981 and undated series 9box 5folder 1

Related Material

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

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Subjects