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After incorporating the data gathered by the test pilot and other sources, the first ever episode of Sesame Street (Episode 0001) debuted. The actor who played Gordon in Episode 0001 was Matt Robinson, who held the role through season 3. In seasons four and five, Hal Miller took over; and since season six, Roscoe Orman has played the role. However the actor who played Gordon in the test pilot was uncredited and originally unknown (and awareness of his existence was first truly sparked following online posting and analysis of images from the test pilot).
In celebration of the show's 40th anniversary Sesame Workshop reported that "we went through rooms full of Sesame Street archives – everything from clips and stills to letters and pay stubs - and came up empty."
Sesame Workshop asked everyone they could think of (actors, producers and puppeteers who have been on the show since its inception, such as Joan Ganz Cooney, Bob McGrath, Loretta Long, and Caroll Spinney) but none were able to identify him.
The official anniversary book Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street, featured a photo of the original Gordon with a caption revealing that Sesame Workshop didn’t know who he was.
When Michael Davis wrote Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, he interviewed many people involved with the show and was given access to thousands of pages of documents; he too was unable to find out anything about the original Gordon. In the book, Davis quotes Jon Stone as saying, "At the last moment we cast an actor with whom no one was completely happy..." Later, Davis describes him as "a person in the neighborhood that children would run away from, not to."
In the fall of 2011, Sesame Workshop launched an Internet campaign via sesamestreet.org, entitled "The Case of the Missing Gordon", in an attempt to identify the original actor. The campaign, which launched on November 10, 2011 (the show's 42nd anniversary), asked for any clues, even if they were seemingly esoteric or mundane. Sesame Workshop shared the story across their social media accounts – including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. They also posted the story to Reddit, where it quickly made the site's front page. Within hours, people were making suggestions, and within days, the story traveled across the web and across media. The story even made several local television news shows, one of which helped solve the mystery.
The mystery was solved, identifying the actor as Garrett Hobart Saunders, an actor local to New York who, according to the Sesame Workshop report, "primarily performed in traveling theater." His nephew saw a news story about the search and contacted Saunders' two daughters. The latter quickly reached out to Sesame Workshop with the information about the mystery Gordon. Sesame Workshop shared the news on their social media sites on December 9, 2011 (a mere 29 days after their initial plea for help).
- The Case of the Missing Gordon at sesamestreet.org
- The Case of the Missing Gordon on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook
- We Found Gordon! on Tumblr
- The Secret Proto-Gordon THAT TIME FORGOT! at toughpigs.com
- The Search for the Proto Gordon Continues at toughpigs.com
- Sesame Street's Special Lesson in Crowdsourcing on jezebel.com