Quiz show in which a panel of five children from the ages of 6 to 15 would answer questions sent in by listeners.
The Quiz Kids, a popular radio show of the 1940s and 1950s premiered with six young children, Gerard Darrow, Mary Ann Anderson, Joan Bishop, Cynthia Cline, Van Dyke Tiers and Charles Schwartz. Darrow, first of the Quiz Kids, was six years old and an expert on the great outdoors. The Quiz Kids was the kids’ version of Information, Please – except for the fact that the four panelists on Information, Please were referred to as intellects, while the kids were called geniuses.
Louis G. Cowan, a Chicago advertising and public relations expert, created the show and presented the idea to NBC. Alka-Seltzer was the original sponsor, and the series was first presented in Chicago on June 28th, 1940. The Quiz Kids series was originally meant as a summer replacement for Alec Templeton Time, but persisted for the next 13 years in both radio and television.
Joe Kelly originally hosted The Quiz Kids. Eliza Hickok researched the questions for the correct answers then Kelly presented the questions to the kids. A panel of five clever youngsters, chosen for their remarkably high IQs, attempted to answer the questions from listeners. Other panelists joined Gerard Darrow in the 1940s, including future Nobel Prize-winning biologist, James D. Watson.
Darrow was so popular on the show that when he was dismissed from the panel after his ninth show, listeners wrote in to demand that he return. One of the most famous Quiz Kids was Joel Kupperman, a math genius who joined the kids on the panel at a mere five years old. He and Richard Williams were equally competent in math, but Kupperman had extra charisma because of his lisp and his struggle to give the correct answer.
Once on the show, a visiting panel of professors from the University of Chicago challenged the Quiz Kids. The kids crushed the professors with a score of 275 to 140. Obviously, the adults didn’t learn their lesson – it happened again to a panel of University of Michigan professors with a score of 420 to 390.
The kids on the panel were chosen for their IQs, but could not be bratty or obnoxious. They also needed to have a good microphone presence and personality and poise. The kids weren’t coached, but quizmaster host, Joe Kelly could study the questions and answers in advance of the show. The Quiz Kids often revealed Kelly’s lack of education (he quit school at age 8 to enter show business) by answering a question correctly, but different than the answer in front of him. The Quiz Kids panelists were often rotated during the 1940s and were ineligible to participate after their 16th birthdays.
Some other notable panelist on The Quiz Kids are Smylla Brind who went on to become an actress under the name of Vanessa Brown, Harve Fischmann who went on to become a producer under the name of Harvey Bennett, and dialect coach, Robert Easton. Other Quiz Kids worthy of mention include Margaret Merrick, Geraldine Hamburg, Joan Alizier, Mary Clare McHugh, Claude Brenner, war refugee, Gunther Hollander and Ruth Duskin who went on to to become a housewife and journalist and wrote a book published in 1982 entitled Whatever Happened To The Quiz Kids?
Sadly, Gerard Darrow one of the first quiz kids spent his last years in poor health and on welfare – he died at age 47.