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Fran Harris Tuchman papers

 Collection 0013-MMC-LAB

Fran Harris Tuchman (1915-2013) began her broadcasting career in 1942 as a member of the pioneering all-female group known as the Women's Auxiliary Television Technical Staff (WATTS). The WATTS kept WBKB-TV (now WLS) in Chicago on the air for the duration of WWII, as the majority of the station's male staff were overseas. She wrote, directed, operated cameras, light, audio, and film equipment, and often served as program host.

At the end of the war, Harris founded and headed the first TV and motion picture department for one of Chicago's leading ad agencies. In 1950, she and her husband (Ralph G. Tuchman) founded their ad firm, Harris-Tuchman Productions, in Los Angeles. For client Mattel Toys, Harris co-created, directed, and produced the first TV ads "Barbie" in 1959, making her famous in the industry.

The collection spans 1946 to 1996 and contains clippings, photos, scripts, reports, minutes of meetings, and production elements, including slides, storyboards, and animation cells.


  • 1946-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1950s-1970s

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


32.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Fran Harris Tuchman Collection spans the years 1946 to 1996, with the bulk of the material encompassing the years 1950 up through the early 1970s. The collection contains clippings, photos, artifacts, media, scripts, directories, reports, minutes of meetings, and production elements (slides, animation cells, etc).


Fran Harris Tuchman (1915-2013 ) was an American writer, producer, and director of television and film.

Born in the Bronx, NY Fran had an early interest in theatre and performing, saying once, "Anything that would get me anywhere near performers I was going to have my nose in." Fran began working in radio while still in high school and after graduation, continued with her radio work and also toured with various WPA projects and with the organization that was the precursor to the USO.

In 1942, Fran, now living in Chicago, made her first foray into television when she answered a want ad from TV station W9XBK that appeared in a Windy City newspaper. The ad read: "WANTED: Telegenic talent girls for technical work in television studio. Mechanical experience unnecessary. Apply Box 151."

After an interview, Fran was hired and became a member of the Women's Auxiliary Television Technical Staff (WATTS).WATTS was a group of seven pioneering young women hired by W9XBK (later WBKB, now WLS) to "man" their experimental television station, due to the fact that their usual male staff were now all serving overseas.

For the next four years, the WATTS would write, produce, direct, and star in a wide assortment of programs broadcast to the Chicago area. Fran would remain a WATTS until 1945 when she left the station to found the TV and Business Film Department of Ruthraff & Ryan, Inc., a Chicago ad firm. As its head, she is believed to be the first woman to hold such a position. At R&R, Fran Harris, in her own words, "rode herd," over all of the agency's TV and film activities, not only for the Chicago headquarters but also for branch offices in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

In 1949, after her marriage to the Rev. Ralph G. Tuchman, Fran and her husband moved to the West coast. There, the couple would start their own company, Harris-Tuchman Productions, Inc. (HTP).

Active for the next 35 years, HTP would go on to produce over 5,000 TV commercials for such diverse clients as Star-Kist Foods, Inc.; British Airways; Dodge; Max Factor; Friskies Dog Food; Carnation; and Quaker Oats, among other companies. The company also produced, for Mattel, the very first TV ads for the Barbie doll.

In addition, Harris-Tuchman Productions also developed a large library of propriety in-service training films for use by hospitals and medical training schools. They also created and distributed audio-visual programs for use in high schools all over the county.

In 1950, Fran Harris Tuchman oversaw the production of the first micro-wave telecast which linked LA and San Francisco.

A member of the Church of Religious Science, Harris Tuchman has worked as a practitioner, workshop facilitator, and teacher for the Church. She has also served as a member of the board of directors for the United Church of Religious Science, Science of the Mind Foundation. Throughout her life, Harris Tuchman was also active in various professional, artistic and humanitarian causes including the Braille Institute Auxiliary, the LA Philharmonic, and the Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles. The latter organization, she and Tuchman helped found in conjunction with Roy Disney, Meredith Wilson, and Walter Kinglsey.

Harris Tuchman died at her home in California in March 2013.


This collection is divided into 10 series.

Series 1
Biographical Material
Series 2
Clippings, Press Releases, Publicity and Photos
Series 3
Ruthraff & Ryan
Series 4
Harris-Tuchman Production Company Info
Series 5
Series 6
Series 7
Series 8
Production Elements
Series 9
Series 10

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Harris Tuchman donated these materials to the Library of American Broadcasting, University of Maryland Libraries, in two installments, the first in 1998, the second in 1999.

Guide to the Fran Harris Tuchman papers
Cary O'Dell
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Funded in part by the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King
  • 2009-07-15: EAD revised by Karen E. King
  • 2018-01-04: Minor updates and revisions made post ArchivesSpace migration by Joanne Archer
  • 2021-08-27: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.
  • 2021-08-27: Sam O'Donnell updated gendered language.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742