George W. Trendle started radio station WXYZ in Detroit in 1929 and needed to attract listeners. In 1932 he and one his writers, Fran Striker and producer Jim Jewell came up with the idea of a western drama aimed mainly at kids.
The drama was set in the wild west somewhere between 1865 and 1890. The story was set in Texas, despite the fact that the word "Kemosabe" ("faithful friend") that his helper Tonto called the Lone Ranger, comes from The Potowatomie Indians from the Michigan area. Kee-mo Sah-bee was also the name of a boys club in Cheboygan that Jim Jewell had attended as a boy.
When forming the ideas for the Lone Ranger drama, Trendle said that he wanted a hero that was a mixture of Zorro and Robin Hood. His studio staff suggested that the hero should have the mask and the white horse.
The first shows were written by Fran Striker and the very first script was based on an episode of an earlier radio series penned by Striker called Covered Wagon Days. This first episode of The Lone Ranger laid the foundation for all future episodes.
Six Texas Rangers go out in search of the outlawed Cavendish gang, but are ambushed at Bryant's Gap where they were all shot and left for dead. Tonto, a Mohawk Indian discovers the men and finds that one of them is still (barely) alive. He nurses the survivor back to health - this is the start of the famous friendship between Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Who was the Lone Ranger? The leader of the six rangers was Dan Reid and the Lone Ranger was his brother. In fact, the material for the Lone Ranger's mask was taken from Dan's vest. There is some controversy over his first name, so we can only say for certain that his name was Mr. Reid!
The first episode was aired on radio station WXYZ on 30th January 1933 and then on the Michigan Regional Network and later on WGN in Chicago and WOR in NY. These two stations later networked with WZYZ to become the Mutual Broadcasting Network. The show then was broadcast on the Don Lee Network in California.Some ingenious sponsorship initiatives then followed. Fans were enrolled in the Lone Ranger Safety Club that gently persuaded the kids to get their parents to buy certain products with the inducement of a Lone Ranger badge and other goodies.
In 1937 a few Saturday morning Lone Ranger matinee movies were made. These were distributed throughout the U.S. and overseas. By now the Lone Ranger brand was already very successful, spawning many spin-off products and comic books. In the 1940's fledgling TV beckoned.
The show was first broadcast on tv on 15th September 1949 and starred Clayton Moore in the title role, in an episode titled Enter the Lone Ranger. This episode ended with a classic cliff-hanger - the Lone Ranger hanging from a cliff! The Lone Ranger was the first network tv series to be shot on film, though, in common with other tv shows of its time, many of the outside scenes were shot indoors.