Cinecraft Films Starring the Martha Stewart of Cleveland TV in the 1950s

Friday, March 19, 2021

Louise Winslow, a pioneer in sewing, cooking, and craft "how-to" programs on daytime television, is a largely forgotten figure today. Still, in parts of Ohio, she was the "Martha Stewart" of daytime television in the 1950s. The Cinecraft Productions collection at Hagley has at least ten films made for TV featuring Louise Winslow.

Winslow started her career in restaurant and retail management sometime in the late 1930s. As the training director at Harzfelds Department Store in Kansas City, she conducted employee classes in sales promotion. In 1942, she joined the Women's Army Auxilary Corps (WAAC) and served in Italy as the Commanding Officer of the Service Women's Club in Caserta.

After the war, she earned a Masters of Arts Degree at Columbia University, which led to a job as an instructor in home economics at Columbia and Brooklyn College. A natural teacher and entrepreneur, she was among the first to use television to teach sewing, cooking, and crafts for daytime audiences.

In 1948, she made her first television appearance on Through the Kitchen Window, a twice-weekly live cooking and home economics program sponsored by the Perfection Stove Company, Youngstown Kitchens, and East Ohio Gas. The show was based in Cleveland and broadcast throughout the region. In 1949 she starred in At Home and How, a live weekly half-hour show broadcast on ABC's Eastern network out of New York.

Food is Fun, a 1950 film found in the Cinecraft collection, was a cooking program featuring Winslow and sponsored by the American Gas Association. While not the first cooking show on TV, it was among the first. Cinecraft filmed Food is Fun using three cameras in their Cleveland studio. Editors then compiled footage from the three cameras to mimic the conventions of a live broadcast. This technique employed by Cinecraft received high praise in a 1950 article in trade magazine Printer's Ink.

The other Winslow films in the collection are a series of sponsored films for the Norwalk, Ohio-based Domestic Sewing Machine Co. called Adventures in Sewing. Winslow appears in the credits as "writer and conductor."  The thirteen thirty-minute programs aired on twenty-nine TV stations across America and made Winslow a national personality for a short time.

Winslow wrote and performed in home economics TV shows for Westinghouse, Alcoa, and Kroger Supermarket and a print ad campaign for Scotch cellophane tape. In the late 1950s, she could be heard on WERE radio in Cleveland on a show called Brunch Time. Most of her radio and TV work was broadcast live to Cleveland and local Ohio stations. Her last known TV appearance came in 1960 when she starred in the short-lived show called Louise Winslow for WEWS in Cleveland. 

The last newspaper article we could find related to Winslow's career came in 1963 with a report of her role leading a seminar in High Fashion Sewing at Halle's Department Store in Rocky River, Ohio. After that, she ostensibly disappears from the record. She died in 2001 at the age of 83.

Her television career lasted a little over ten years and her fame was mainly confined to the Cleveland metro area but she is an important but forgotten figure. We hope that the films and scripts now available in the Hagley Digital Archives will shed light on her place in television history. 

Below are two clips from Food is Fun and the ‘How to Make an Evening Bag’ episode of Adventures in Sewing:

Watch the full episode of Food is Fun in the Hagley Digital Archives. We digitized nine of the thirteen Adventures in Sewing episodes. We hope to uncover the full series as we continue to process the Cinecraft film collection. 

To see more Louise Winslow films and to read scripts of her work, click the following link to the Hagey Digital Archives. 

A special thanks to Jim Culley for sharing his research for this article

Kevin J. Martin is the Curator of Archives and the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual and Digital Collections at Hagley Museum and Library