Stan Lee and Esther Broza papers
Held at: Philadelphia History Museum [Contact Us]15 South 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia History Museum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Stanley Alexander Broza (1897-1970), better known as Stan Lee Broza, was a pioneer in radio and television broadcasting and programming. He is best known for creating and hosting the radio show "The Children's Hour," which was sponsored by Horn and Hardart automat and aired on WCAU-AM (now WPHT) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1927 to 1958. Broza served on the Board of Directors for the Philadelphia Stage Door Canteen during World War II and was the first president of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia from 1962 to 1963.
Born in Philadelphia at the end of the 19th century, Broza followed his father into the chemical manufacturing business and worked as an advertising manager before becoming a soap salesman. In 1924, Broza convinced Isaac and Leon Levy to purchase the Philadelphia radio station WCAU-AM and he was appointed vice president of the station in charge of programs. Broza was known for pioneering new ideas in broadcasting such as a series of live broadcasts from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Broza also sold commercial time for the station. His first sale was to Samuel Paley, who owned a cigar business in Philadelphia, and whose son, William S. Paley (1901-1990), would go on to establish the CBS broadcast network.
In 1927, a new shopping center at 69th Street in Upper Darby (Delaware County, Pennsylvania) wanted to sponsor a radio show that would promote the shopping center to women as child-friendly. They approached Broza, the program director of WCAU. Broza toured the shopping center and was inspired by the nursery area, where mothers could drop off their children while they shopped. He suggested creating a children's radio program that would consist of children singing, dancing, and performing in skits that would be broadcast live from the nursery area. Initially conceived as a short-term promotional show, the shopping center dropped the show after thirteen weeks. Shortly after, it was picked up by Horn and Hardart and began airing as "The Children's Hour" on October 31, 1927 on WCAU-AM with Broza as the program's host. It was the station's first children's program and would remain on air until 1958. When the show started, Broza couldn't find a show runner that he liked, and he temporarily brought his wife, Esther, on as the show's producer, director, and writer. Esther continued in this capacity until the show ended. "The Children's Hour" also aired concurrently on television (WCAU-TV) as a simulcast with the radio show from 1948 to 1958. Both the radio show and television show aired in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s with a different host. Several well-known celebrities worked on "The Children's Hour" before they became famous including Frankie Avalon, Rosemary Clooney, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis, Bernadette Peters, Ann Sheridan, and others.
Esther Malis (1898-1990) was born and raised in Philadelphia. She attended the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University) and studied playwriting at the University of Pennsylvania. She was well known among amateur theater circles by the early 1920s, acting in performances at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia and for various army cantonments during World War I with the Garrick Players. During World War II, Esther was the Chairman of Entertainment for the Philadelphia Stage Door Canteen. She was a member of Beth Israel Synagogue (now Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel). Esther married Stanley Broza in 1922. They had two children, Elliot Lawrence (born in 1925) and Stanley Alexander Broza Jr. (born in 1928). Elliot was a well-known bandleader and jazz pianist in the 1940s and 1950s, forming his first band at the age of 12. He changed his name from Elliot Lawrence Broza to Elliot Lawrence to avoid trading on his family's name while seeking work for his band on television. After the 1950s, Elliot moved from jazz to composing and arranging music for movies, television, and theater. Eventually, he became a musical director and conductor on Broadway in New York City. As of 2014, Elliot is the musical director for the Tony Awards and has been nominated for an Emmy in this role. Stanley Broza Jr. graduated from Yale University in 1950 and became an investment broker.
Berg, Charles and Samuel Hughes. "From the Band Busters to Bebop, Bye Bye Birdie, and Beyond." The Pennsylvania Gazette. July-August, 2009. Accessed October 6, 2014. http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0709/pro05.html.
Cipriano, Ralph. "Esther Broza, 92; Was Children's Show Host." Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1990. Accessed October 6, 2014. http://articles.philly.com/1990-06-06/news/25912030_1_show-performers-auditions.
Wilkinson, Gerry. "Stan Lee Broza." Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. 2007. Accessed October 6, 2014. http://www.broadcastpioneers.com/childrens.html.
This collection consists primarily of photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings documenting the careers of Stan Lee and Esther Broza, particularly their work on "The Children's Hour" radio and television program. Other materials in the collection relate to the Brozas' children, Elliot Lawrence and Stanley Broza Jr., and various members of Esther's family.
Materials that pertain to "The Children's Hour" include publicity photographs and newspaper clippings, photographs and biographies of adult and child entertainers who appeared on the show, four scrapbooks with photographs and clippings (circa 1930s-1950s), an audio reel with a recording of the show's opening, sheet music, correspondence relating to the show's discontinuation and 30th anniversary, radio and television scripts, Horn and Hardart (the show's sponsor) publicity materials, and other documents. There is also a tray of hand painted tiles depicting a broadcast scene from "The Children's Hour."
Biographies, newspaper clippings, photographs, and obituaries of both Stan Lee Broza and his wife, Esther Malis Broza, are present in the collection, as well as materials relating to awards they received from various organizations, correspondence relating to Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia honors, and letters to the Brozas from a number of celebrities and other influential individuals. A small amount of Esther's personal papers are in the collection. These materials mostly consist of letters and cards, but also include programs and ephemera; documents relating to the Brozas' homes; health insurance paraphernalia; and some materials relating to family and friends (including Esther's niece and actress, Irene Broza; the Rolontz family (one of Esther's sisters, Rose, married David Rolontz); opera singer and voice teacher Leonard del Ferro; and others).
Additionally, the collection includes personal memorabilia of Stanley Broza Jr., and items relating to Elliot Lawrence such as photographs, newspaper clippings, and a biographical sketch. An LP record and a book can also be found in the collection.
An additional description of this collection is available on-site.
Gift of Broza family, circa 1991 (accession 91.79.1)
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Philadelphia History Museum directly for more information.
- Children's radio programs
- Children's television programs
- Radio broadcasting
- Radio programs
- Television programs
- Variety shows (Radio programs)
- Variety shows (Television programs)
- Women radio producers and directors
- Women radio writers
- Women television writers
- Philadelphia History Museum
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
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