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Housewives' Protective League collection

 Collection 0016-MMC-LAB
The Housewives' Protective League was daily CBS radio program that aired from 1948 to 1962, produced by such esteemed broadcasters as Allen Gray. During its run, the show explored a variety of issues from childrearing and health to more irreverent topics. Housewives was also the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" of the airwaves, regularly pre-testing all its sponsor's products. The majority of the collection are scripts for daily broadcasts of the radio show The Housewives' Protective League and its predecessor Coffee Break.

Dates

  • 1931-1985 and undated
  • Majority of material found in 1950s and 1960s

Conditions Governing Access

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.

Conditions Governing Use

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.

Extent

26.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Housewives' Protective League collection encompasses the dates 1931-1985 with the bulk from between the 1950s and early 1960s. Material in the collection pertains to both the radio series Housewives' Protective League (and its latter-day sister show Coffee Break) and to various other aspects of Mr. Gray's long broadcasting career. The collection contains scripts, photos, correspondence, promotional materials, clippings and other materials.

Administrative History

The Housewives' Protective League was a long-lasting daily radio feature which ran over the CBS radio network from 1948 to 1962. American broadcaster Allen Gray (1920- ) was one of the program's regional directors; he was affiliated with the show from 1950 until its demise.

Gray (nee Ernest Bundgaard, a.k.a. Ernie Allen) was born in 1921 in Iowa and, after graduating from Council Bluffs High School, attended the University of Iowa where he majored in speech and radio broadcasting and worked for WSUI, the University's radio station.

Mr. Gray's first professional radio jobs were at KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa and with KORN in Fremont, Nebraska. Mr. Gray enlisted into the service in 1943. He rose to the rank of 1st lieutenant before being honorably discharged in 1946.

Out of the army, Mr. Gray and his family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was employed as DJ, newscaster, announcer and assistant program director for the radio station KFAB. In 1950, Mr. Gray joined CBS radio in New York City.

In 1951, Mr. Gray was "farmed out" to CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis/St. Paul to assume the role of director and lead talent for that region's "Housewives' Protective League" series.

The Housewives' Protective League began in California, the creation of Fletcher Wiley, a one-time food broker turned radio broadcaster. Originally just a local program, the HPL concept and series soon caught on and satellite programs--around 12 total--featuring different hosts were soon being broadcast out of Chicago, St. Louis, New York and San Francisco, among other cities. In 1947, Wiley sold his idea and interest in the show to CBS Radio. HPL was radio's answer to the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval".

For the show, consumer products were tested and evaluated by various "testers" in the community. Satisfactory brands got endorsed and promoted by HPL both on air and via on-shelf, grocery store displays. As described by Mr. Gray:

"[HPL was] a consumer-oriented program which tested the advertised product before airing them [their commercials]. We each had a 'tester's bureau,' mine in Minnesota had 800 members. I never sent out less than 100 samples [of a product] and we demanded an 80% approval from our questionnaire which asked such questions as: Was the product what it claimed to be? Was the price fair?. . . We accepted no alcohol or tobacco advertising dollars, and armed with 80% (or better) approval, we approached grocery groups for (and got) distribution and displays. Our shelf talkers were everywhere. Ninety percent of our advertising dollars were grocery store related. The material we used was from some of the ablest writers in the industry. There were about 10 writers in all who were asked to provided 10 scripts each week, for which they were paid 10 dollars per story. It was dependable income for many seasoned writers."

Though much of the program was about selling, the daily broadcast themselves were not sales pitches. In fact, the program's scripts covered a stunningly wide gamut of subjects from human interest stories to parables to profiles of famous people to tracking down the origins of certain words and phrases to funny stories to information on everything from fashion to gardening to good health and child rearing.

According to Mr. Gray, as late as 1962, the series was still generating over 5 million dollars annually but nevertheless CBS radio (who wanted to move to an all-news format) chose to end the program.

After HPL came to an end, Mr. Gray undertook various activities--from having his own radio talk program/call-in show over WCBS to running his own food brokerage business, to running his own advertising agency and for a time running his own art gallery--before returning, full time, to broadcasting.

Gray began his daily, nationally heard Coffee Break program in 1964. According to one source, Coffee Break "could be about anything but couldn't be boring." Coffee Break was a daily series of five-minute vignettes similar in form to HPL "(in fact, Coffee Break often reutilized many old HPL scripts); it ran for 12 years.

Arrangement

This collection is organized as nine series.
Series 1
Correspondence
Series 2
Clippings
Series 3
Photos
Series 4
Business Records
Series 5
Promotion
Series 6
Radio Fodder
Series 7
Scripts
Series 8
Other Programs
Series 9
Miscellaneous

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to the Library of American Broadcasting in July of 2000 by Allen Gray.

Processing Information

This collection has been minimally processed. Aside from some rough groupings of similar material, the collection came to the Libraries in no particular order. The processing archivist loosely arranged files into separate series, however, there is overlap among the series. In most cases, materials have not been arranged chronologically or grouped by format.

Many of the original folders were replaced with acid-free folders. Unlabeled folders were assigned labels. The entire collection was re-boxed.
Title
Guide to the Housewives' Protective League collection
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Cary O'Dell, December 2003
Date
2004-04-04
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Sponsor
Funded in part by the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212