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Original MTV T-shirt now is part of history: University of Akron grad donates shirt to Smithsonian

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By Jim Carney from Beacon Journal

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An M-TV T shirt was donated to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, for the American Enterprise Exhibition that opens July 4, 2015. The T shirt was donated by University of Akron grad Connie Cordaro of Broadview Heights. (Smithsonian Institution)

It turns out the Smithsonian wants a Northeast Ohio woman’s MTV.

Connie Cordaro found herself working at the all-music cable network when it launched in August 1981.

She worked selling advertising on the fledgling cable channel in New York City.

Fast forward more than three decades later and Cordaro, now 65, of Broadview Heights, decided to sell some of her original MTV items on eBay.

She sold an MTV duffel bag, but a blue original MTV T-shirt went unsold for about a year. Then she heard from someone interested in the shirt.

Kathleen Franz, a research associate at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, saw the T-shirt on eBay and contacted Cordaro to see if she would donate the shirt to the museum.

Cordaro, who received both her undergraduate and master’s degree in communication at the University of Akron, agreed to make the donation.

The shirt will be part of a 20-year exhibit on the history of business in the United States called the American Enterprise Exhibition. It will open on July 4, 2015.

Franz said Cordaro’s T-shirt is an important part of the upcoming exhibit.

It is not the only item in the new collection with an Akron connection.

The painting, Men of Progress, by 19th century artist Christian Schussele, will be on display.

One of the people shown in the painting is Charles Goodyear, the man who invented vulcanized rubber and whose name was used by Frank Seiberling to name his company, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

”MTV is important because it really changed the look of advertising in the early 1980s,” Franz said. ”It is very directly connected to the growth of cable television networks in the early ’80s.”

The shirt, she said, ”gives some life to all of the MTV stuff we have” and on top of the shirt Cordaro has a great story about being part of the early days of the network.

”I struck gold,” she said of finding Cordaro and her shirt.

Cordaro, who now works as a career counselor for Ratliff & Taylor in Independence, said it was not easy selling advertising for MTV.

”We were sailing into uncharted waters,” she said.

Selling advertising on MTV, she said, was problematic at the time because ”there were no measured ratings.”

”Media buyers wanted ratings numbers, the typical industry guide to advertising prices, but none of the cable channels at the time – CNN and ESPN among them – had any measured ratings,” she explained.

Cordaro worked at MTV for about 18 months.

Franz said the MTV shirt will be on display for between three and six months then will be taken down for six months and then put back on display

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