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Originally a CBS radio show which debuted in 1948, Strike It Rich tugged on America’s heartstrings, turning a sympathetic ear to the plight of contestants facing hard times.
Contestants picked up money, offers of food, clothing and even jobs from listeners who phoned in to the show via the “Heart Line”.
Host Warren Hull moved with the show to television in 1951, first as a daytime show before moving to the evening.
After telling their sad stories to Hull, contestants could participate in a simple quiz to win money put up by the sponsor, Colgate-Palmolive, that almost guaranteed they would be winners.
Hubert Miller, a 94-year-old mining prospector, hitch-hiked more than 3,000 miles from California to NY because he wanted an operation to remove a cataract on his eye which prevented him from working. He got his eye operation because a nurse at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary saw him on the show.
12-year-old Pat Barry went on the show because he wanted a shower installed in his home so he and his brothers and sisters could stop using a washtub to bathe in; 71-year-old Quinnie Stanley won enough money to get electric lights and a refrigerator installed in her log cabin in Fayetteville, Georgia; and Mrs Edward Mortensen of San Fernando, California, came on the show to say she needed $500 for medical treatment for her triple-amputee husband and got all the medical treatment free, plus an artificial arm and two legs for him from the Heart Line.
The show was criticised by the press and public authorities in New York as welfare officials charged that the show was luring penniless people to New York where they became public charges.
Welfare Commissioner Henry McCarthy formally accused the show and emcee Warren Hull of violating New York City’s law against soliciting funds without a licence. The charges were thrown out of court.
Warren Hull died in Waterbury, Connecticut, in September 1974 of congestive heart failure. He was 71.