If you’re old enough, (or a Sesame Street aficionado) you know that the man above is actor Matt Robinson. He played the part of Gordon in the first episode of the PBS show and for its first three seasons. But were you aware there was an actor who played Gordon before Robinson in the un-aired pilot? Well there was but his identity had been lost to time. That is, until now.
Thanks in part to Reddit for spreading the original query, Original Gordon has been identified as Garrett Hobart Saunders. Under the username DanFromSesameStreet a Sesame Street representative (presumably named dan) brought the matter to Reddit’s attention, writing, “In 2009, we put together an anthology of Sesame Street’s then 40 year history. The end product of this anthology was a coffee table book, Sesame Street: A Celebration – 40 Years of Life on the Street. The book is extensive – a full color, 300-plus page masterpiece. The amount of research it took to produce the book? A years-long endeavor, involving multiple people digging through a seemingly endless trove of boxes and bins — all of which, collectively, promised to tell the complete story of Sesame Street’s history.”
But after all that research, they were still missing Original Gordon and published the book with mention of him but not his name. “On November 10, 2011 – our 42nd birthday – we decided to ask the Internet for help. And congratulations, Internet,” DanFromSesameStreet wrote, “You found Gordon.”
This picture of Saunders was taken eight years after his Sesame Street role in 1976. DanFromSesameStreet wrote that Saunders was “an actor local to New York who primarily performed in traveling theater.” Out of respect for his family, no other details about the man were given but he did share how the find was eventually made.
We posted our call for help everywhere we could think of, starting with SesameStreet.org. We shared it across our social media accounts – Facebook (even on Elmo’s and Cookie Monster’s pages), Twitter, and Tumblr as well. And we posted it to Reddit, where it quickly hit the front page. Within hours, people were making suggestions, and within days, the story travelled across the web and across mediums. It even made a few television news shows, one of which ended up being the big break. Mr. Saunders’ nephew saw a story of our search and immediately contacted his cousins – Garrett Saunders’ two daughters. Both women reached out to us later that day, providing us the photo above and the other information we needed. With their help, we were able to verify that Mr. Saunders was, in fact, the first Gordon.
“We’d like to thank everyone who helped us spread the word and ultimately, solve our mystery,” he finished saying, “And thank you, too, to Garrett Hobart Saunders, for being part of Sesame Street’s history.”