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Pegeen Fitzgerald papers

 Collection 0008-MMC-LAB
Pegeen Fitzgerald (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.

Dates

  • 1938-1988 and undated
  • Majority of material found within 1960-1984

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.

Extent

3.5 Linear Feet

25 Tape Reels

Scope and Content of Collection

The Pegeen Fitzgerald papers spans the years 1947 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.

Biography

Pegeen Fitzgerald (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, Oregon 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 eventually settled in New York where Mr. Fitzgerald pursued a career in radio, before finally securing a job with NY station WOR around 1936. During this time, Mrs. Fitzgerald worked 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 station'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.

Arrangement

Organized as six series:
Series 1
Correspondence and Clippigns
Series 2
Personal Documents
Series 3
Program Notes
Series 4
Photos
Series 5
Artifacts and Paintings
Series 6
Audio Materials

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Pegeen Fitzgerald papers were 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.
Title
Guide to the Pegeen Fitzgerald papers
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Cary O'Dell
Date
2004-01-01
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 for 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