little orphan annie

Based on Harold Gray’s famous comic strip, Little Orphan Annie was one of radio’s first juvenile serial dramas, aimed at a young audience and starring an equally young protagonist.

The show debuted on WGN/Chicago in 1930 and became a national sensation when it moved to NBC’s Blue Network in 1931. In the tradition of the comic strip, Annie, her dog Sandy and her pal Joe Corntassel often traveled to exotic locations, battling gangsters, pirates and smugglers, receiving occasional assistance from business magnate Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks and his sidekick Punjab. When they weren’t traveling the globe, Annie, Sandy and Joe lived in the fictional town of Simmons Corners with the rustic Mr. and Mrs. Silo.

As the show’s longtime sponsor, Ovaltine cultivated Annie’s fan base by offering special premiums, including secret decoders, shake-up mugs for drinking Ovaltine and rings for members of the Little Orphan Annie secret society. Announcer Pierre Andre’s exuberant pitches for Ovaltine and the many premiums were an integral part of the show.

Little Orphan Annie aired until 1942. For most of the show’s run, Chicago actress Shirley Bell played Annie.

Shirley Bell Cole died on January 12, 2010.

Little Orphan Annie was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1990.