10 tiny details you never noticed in Rob's office on The Dick Van Dyke Show

See what Rob's workplace has to do with Van Gogh, brand-new toys, and series errors.

The Dick Van Dyke Show was one of the earliest sitcoms set in a workspace. The series split time between Rob and Laurie Petrie's mod home and Rob's office. As a writer on the fictional Alan Brady Show, Rob spent much of his day brainstorming with his coworkers Buddy and Sally.

The level of detail in the office made the comedy all the more real. This looked like a real space where creative minds worked. You can thank the set decorators for that.

We also have to give "props" (pun intended) to the Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book Facebook page, a treasury of information on this brilliant series.

1. This is a Van Gogh painting.

The writers of The Alan Brady Show had sophisticated tastes — when they weren't throwing darts or putting. Behind Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) here you can see a painting. It is Häuser in Auvers (1890) by Vincent Van Gogh. We assume it is not an original. The real one hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Another Van Gogh, Fritillaires, couronne impériale dans un vase de cuivre (1887), appears in "Fifty-Two, Forty-Five or Work."

2. 'The Alan Brady Show' is misspelled on the door in an early episode.

In "My Blonde-Haired Brunette," the second episode of the series (not counting the pilot, Head of the Family), pay close attention to the office door. It reads "The Allen Brady Show"! Fortunately, it was corrected (or changed?) and the lettering was upgraded.

3. Carl Reiner was the "voice" of the water cooler.

Speaking of Alan Brady, series creator did more than portray the star of the fictional show-within-the-show. In the later episode "Uhny Uftz," noises disturb an edgy Rob as he works alone in the office. The water cooler glugs. Indeed, Carl Reiner himself provided the "Glug! Glug!" noises.

4. There's a meaning to the name "A. Smedley."

In the hallway outside the office door, a building directory hangs on the wall. You can sometimes spot an "A. Smedley" occupying suite 612. Oddly, that same name later appears in the episode "Fifty-Two, Forty-Five or Work," as the name of a clerk in the unemployment office. Urban Dictionary claims "Smedley" to be Marines slang for a gofer. The names on the directory change throughout the series. They include Barrs & Dike; Bin, Q. Andrew or Binshama, Q. Andrew; Chulay; Cox, R.; Cress & Bixel; Curley, Bill; Cvrley, S.; Dante, D.L.; Fannon, WM, PHD; Glazer, A. F.; Haight, C.; Hedget, A.; Hist, I.; Karr; Kitt, H.H.; MacQuarrie, G.; Medley, A. T., Mooch, W. A.; Moore, R.; Q. H. Vout & Son; Rock, I.; Sanchez; Smith, I; Stevenson; Swartz, K.; Thomas, Raymond; Voss, Glenns; Votson, A.; Widget; and Zurley, Mastel. The most commonly seen name, however, is Glenn Ross — he was the property master on the show!

5. This woman in "The Dairy Maids" was on "The Battle of the Sexes"

One of the most notable objects in the office is the framed music sheet for The Dairymaids, a 1907 Broadway musical. Fun facts: Charles Frohman, the producer behind J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, produced this show. He died on the Lusitania not long after when the ship was hit in an infamous U-boat attack. Julia Sanderson is the actress in the hat often seen hanging behind Rob Petrie. She would go on to co-host a radio program called The Battle of the Sexes, which ran for 13 years beginning in 1930.

6. The dartboard changes.

The dartboard is a familiar fixture in the office. We even learn Rob is left-handed early in the series as he tosses darts. That board is rather rudimentary, however. The writers eventually upgraded the board with more professional models — even if they didn't always hit the target.

7. Magic 8-Balls were relatively new.

Magic 8-Balls were first produced in 1950, originally commissioned by Chicago's Brunswick Billiards, ten years before The Dick Van Dyke Show hit airwaves. The novelty gift was likely inspired by The Three Stooges — a billiard ball is used as a fortune-telling device in "You Nazty Spy!" (1940). Rob's desk decoration recently sold at auction.

8. That's Enrico Caruso in the picture left of the window.

Above the file cabinets you might spot what looks like a matador. Actually, it is legendary tenor Enrico Caruso, posing for a production of The Girl of the Golden West.

9. Rob kept encyclopedia sets behind his desk.

Ever wonder what people did before the internet, kids? Take a look at the leather-bound books behind Rob's desk. Here, you can see a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica from the 1960s.

10. Danny Thomas was more than an alien on the show.

Sitcom star Danny Thomas was one of the most memorable guest stars on The Dick Van Dyke Show, playing the alien Kolak in "It May Look Like a Walnut," the episode that would years later inspire Mork from Ork on Happy Days. Well, Danny Thomas had more of a regular presence on the show. His name appears on the marquee of the Sands Hotel and Casino in this photo behind Rob.

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55 Comments

Whoknew 14 months ago
I've always liked the Dick Van Dyke Show (DVD) but it caused me a lot of confusion. I wonder how many others, who were kids at the time, had the same experience.

I grew up in New Rochelle (NR). I'm a couple of years younger than Larry Mathews who is my older brother's age. Although the DVD show wasn't filmed in NR, there are obvious references to the city throughout. And while not always identical, the life they depicted was pretty much spot on.

My own father commuted by train to and from the city. If he fell asleep on the way home he'd ended up in CT. (sound familiar?). But Rob got back and forth to the city a lot faster than my own father. Laura popped into the city office during the day far more than most moms would have-although they'd go to the city for theatre at night, The trek to Grand Central Station (long island RR) was nearly 45 minutes unless you got the express. The petri's neighborhood, was much more 1950's ish than the one I grew up in I think their house was in the newer Pinebrook Blvd section whereas I’d gown up in an area developed in the 1920’s. Otherwise, yeah, very close.

It wasn't the only show that depicted or mentioned New Rochelle and some neighboring towns. There were production/recording studios in New Rochelle. I think Heckle and Jeckle were born there as was Mighty Mouse (although I don't know that NR was mentioned in those cartoons). Buffalo Bob Smith (Howdy Doodie) didn’t help the situation as he owned a liquor store in a local shopping center (Wykagyl) and his brother ran a shoe store across the street-right next to Shopwell. {as an aside, I have very early memories of Vic Smith giving me a pretty little pocketbook when I was probably about 4). Name dropping went both ways. New Rochelle was mentioned in shows; dads of the kids in my school were often in the entertainment business. None of the kids seemed the least bit like what we now read about the children of famous people. Everyone lived much more like Rickie and the Petri’s than, say, Paris Hilton. Sometimes kids in my school were actually on TV; often with their parents.

So it isn't all DVD or Reiner's fault. They were just the biggest contributors to my misperceptions. Until I was embarrassingly old, I thought that each city had its own docket of local shows. So if you lived near Boston, for instance, your shows took place in your suburb. While they would obviously not be identical to shows produced for NR, people in a Boston suburb would watch some version of a show featuring a father who took the train from his home in Newton to Boston where he worked as a writer for a Boston based TV show featuring Newton. Kids in Newton would occasionally see their peers on TV with their parents who were involved with their local shows.{I think Romper Room was like this-with different Romper Rooms filmed in different cities.}

Then, as a teen I spent the summer in a different country with a bunch of kids who were all from a girl’s school in Nashville. During the first few days of an amazing summer, when we exchanged the “where’re you from”’ questions, every single girl responded to my answer of New Rochelle New York with “Oh wow, The Dyke Van Dike Show.” Every single one knew New Rochelle from that show. I was simply amazed. Only then did it dawn on me that the DVDshow and others were national shows that the rest of the counry also watched. Since those relatively early days of TV, there are now many shows about different cites. Much of the country learned a lot about Boston from Cheers, for example. But to this day, I don’t think any show has had such an impact on familiarizing the country with a bedroom community as the DVD Show had for New Rochelle.
GirlNumber3 21 months ago
I just want to know why they had so much oddly placed furnitured in the main room
ClassicTVnut 23 months ago
I started reading this after I Googled the Dairymaids poster behind Rob's desk.
JohnFinnJr 25 months ago
Great post. Finally some Dick Van Dyke Show information that I did not know. Thanks!
STTOS 48 months ago
Hi again everyone. Sorry for reposting this but it's been 10 day and I was hoping someone would have responded by now. I promise I won't post it a third time. :)

In the picture of the writers' office at the top of this article, does anyone know the identity or significance of the gentleman in the picture on the wall above the lamp, to the right of the dart board and to the left of Enrico Caruso? That picture also shows up in a frame on an end table in the DVD episode "Will You Two Be My Wife", as Rob's former fiancé's new love interest and also on the wall of Sheldon Leonard's office on The Danny Thomas Show episode "The Four Angels". I know that both shows shared production credits so this type of thing was not uncommon. But who is this guy? Anyone know? Thanks...again.
Cathy 48 months ago
Love DVD!! Is there a floor plan of the Petrie's house? That would be cool.
Diz 48 months ago
I was always fascinated with the odd layout of the house, with Rob and Laura's bedroom off the living room and the other rooms on the other side of the house. Trying to recall if there was ever an episode that showed the outside of the house.
townhall05446 Diz 46 months ago
There is a book called 'TV Sets' by Mark Bennett which you would probably really like. He was always fascinated with the houses of the old TV families and devoted tons of time to figuring the layouts. He would count peoples' steps across the room to gauge the measurements. He's got floor plans with furniture and other details in his book for the Petrie house, both the first and second Leave it to Beaver houses and My Three Sons houses, Andy Taylor's house in Mayberry, and many many others. It's a great book - you can get a good copy on Amazon or Ebay for $10 give or take.

I don't recall ever seen any scenes where you could see the outside of the Petrie house. We also saw almost no glimpse ever inside the Helper home next door but I believe it was stated that the homes were mirror-images of each other.

From Mark Bennett's book - well worth buying, even has the Brady Bunch house and many others:
Diz townhall05446 45 months ago
Thanks! I'm definitely going to get a copy.
STTOS 48 months ago
Does anyone know the identity or significance of the gentleman in the picture above the lamp, to the left of Enrico Caruso? That picture also shows up in a frame on an end table in the DVD episode "Will You Two Be My Wife", as Rob's former fiancé's new love interest and also on the wall of Sheldon Leonard's office on The Danny Thomas Show episode "The Four Angels". I know that both shows shared production credits so this type of thing was not uncommon. But who is this guy? Anyone know? Thanks.
obectionoverruled 48 months ago
DVD was a terrible alcoholic back in those days. I wonder how his drinking affected his performance, production schedules, other performers, etc?
To be fair, Dick was what is known as a "Weekend Alcoholic". He never allowed it to interfere
with his onscreen work. You want to see a alcoholic, check out Desi Arnaz in the last or one of the last episodes of the hour long I Love Lucys(titled Lucy Desi Comedy Hour or some such).
He was stone drunk. When he appeared on The Virginian, he was so drunk the producers should be ashamed they didn't replace him, out of respect for the real genius behind I Love Lucy.
I remember that watching the last season or two of the Luci / Desi show or whatever I.L.L. had morphed into, that when Ricky yelled at Lucy he didn't just raise his voice, he practically screamed at her. Maybe he was plastered. But while they were I think already divorced at that time, they remained close friends for the rest of their lives.
mightyronnie 48 months ago
That's great.give me more behind the scenes, info
Rick 48 months ago
The office also doubled as dentist/neighbor Jerry Helper's office in an episode.
Diane62 48 months ago
That's actually not a full set of encyclopedias in picture #9 because if you look at the numbers on the bottom of the edge of the books, they're not in order and many are missing.
terrycomo 48 months ago
Nora, In one of the first or second episodes when he and Laura were just married, he calls her Laurie, I know as I have always noticed it and wondered why. Anyone ever else notice it?
Catman terrycomo 48 months ago
I believe Laurie is a common diminutive of Laura.
Jeffrey terrycomo 48 months ago
and her last name was Meeker or Meehan - go figure
Jeffrey terrycomo 48 months ago
also am kinda sure her smile changed too - maybe a lot of time at Jerrys office - but that was another quandary - he would go in to NYC on the train for work (he talked to the same shrink about Rob's backache) but had his dental office at home
Jon Jeffrey 48 months ago
Laura's last name was only Meeker in the first flashback episode. It was MTM's first married name, so after she divorced her husband early in 1962, Laura's maiden name was Meehan from then on.
Jeffrey Jon 48 months ago
Hate to say it - Laura/Laurie wasnt married in the old days of the DVD show. I swear there were 3 shows in the old days where laurie/laura was meehan or meeker
Lacey Jeffrey 48 months ago
I just noticed that last night. Jerry was spotted with a tall blond in New York by Rob & Laura and he says he has an office in the city, however, the rest of the show he works from home.
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