I finished the Jim Henson biography I mentioned in my last post this weekend, and I'm thankful to have picked it up. It's a well-written exploration of Henson's amazing story, and I highly recommend you give it a read.
Aside from the Wilkins coffee adds I showcased previously, Henson's other early claim to fame is the local program Sam and Friends. This was a five-minute program that aired on NBC affiliate WRC-TV in the Washington, DC market and was very popular with children and adults alike. The majority of skits performed involved the many Muppet characters of the program lip synching to novelty or pop records that were favorites of Henson's. The Muppet staff consisted of only two performers: Jim and his future wife Jane. It was on this program that Kermit originated, but he wasn't a frog at the time. Kermit was only an abstract being, as were most of the characters on the show, with the exception of the titular Sam, who was "human."
The show aired from the mid-1950s through early '60s, when the Muppets started to branch out into more commercials and guest appearances on national programs such as The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, among others.
Here are several fun clips from Sam and Friends. It gives you a good idea of the humble beginnings from which the Muppets started, but you can already see the magic and whimsy of Henson shine through. Enjoy!