For nearly 10 years, beginning in 1974 and ending in 1984, the Ingalls family of Little House on the Prairie personified all the wholesome charm of settlers surviving in the old American West.
Based on a series of children’s novels — authored by the real Laura Ingalls Wilder and inspired by her real life growing up as a young girl — viewers tuned in to enjoy a glimpse of simpler times filled with family values, farm living, and plot lines that could bring a tear to your eye, whether it be sadness or cheer.
The idyllic setting made discovering a few of these unbelievable behind the scenes secrets particularly unsettling, in contrast. But of course, there are other more heartwarming tidbits that line up with the show’s quaint reputation — like the real relationship behind the on screen nemeses, Laura and Nellie.
Scroll through below to see if there was something you never knew about the folks on this pioneer series and tell us if we missed your favorite lesser-known fact in the comments.
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1. Pa Was A Chainsmoker
While it was a nasty habit, the actor was able to impress his young fictional daughter on set by snuffing out his cigarettes in his leather gloves.
2. Ma Had To Change Her Name
Or the actress did, at least. At the time she was cast as Caroline Ingalls, Karen Grassle was going by stage name Gabriel Tree. Michael Landon and the producers didn’t think that moniker lined up with the homespun series, so they requested that she revert back to her given name, and she obliged.
3. The Ingalls Ate Well
When the family was shown dining on stew cooked up by Ma, they were actually chowing down on Dinty Moore beef stew, regardless of whether it was meant to be rabbit, squirrel, or other prairie meat fare.
For their lunch tins, on the other hand, the girls were given KFC chicken wings.
4. Colonel Sanders Made A Cameo
Though the timelines wouldn’t exactly match up with KFC, considering the restaurants opened in 1952, a character clearly resembling the iconic mascot asks Harriet Olsen if she would like her restaurant to become part of his franchise during an episode in season eight.
5. Fashion Led To Fainting
While filming the series at the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, CA, temperatures would often rise to triple digits, which occasionally caused members of the female cast — most notably, Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie — to pass out under their layers of cotton wardrobes and bonnets.
6. Nellie Wore A Wig
Though they tried to conform the actress’s natural locks into the iconic curls for the first few weeks of filming, they ultimately decided a wig would save time and money.
However, while the heated curling process was arduous and painful for Alison Arngrim, the wig wasn’t that much more comfortable, secured with pins that would often cause her scalp to bleed.
7. Pa Wore 4-Inch Lifts
At a perfectly respectable 5’9, Landon wanted to appear more looming as the father figure and used the height enhancements in every episode.
8. Carrie's Fall In The Intro Was An Accident
Three-year-old twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush (billed together on the series as Lindsay Sidney Green Bush/Greenbush) alternated playing the role of the youngest Ingalls sister. When the director called for a “fresh twin” while filming the show’s intro, Sidney was woken from her nap to take her turn and her mother accidentally put her shoes on the wrong feet.
Michael Landon was charmed by the toddler’s resulting tumble and decided to keep it in.
9. Laura And Nellie Were Actually Besties
The young actresses played nemeses on the show and even came to blows now and then on screen, but in real life they became almost instant best friends who enjoyed sleepovers and pranking their co-stars.
10. Laura And Manly Weren't So Romantic
As a shy 15-year-old, Melissa Gilbert found it difficult to summon the chemistry required for her in scenes with her fictional husband, played by Dean Butler, who was eight years her senior. His attempts to ease the tension with teasing only made things worse for her, and she asked Landon to keep the pair’s signs of affection to simple hugs and pecks on the cheek.
11. Pa Liked To Go Shirtless
Michael Landon’s pride in his physical fitness resulted in loosely buttoned tops or going completely shirtless whenever a scene would allow it, usually only injuring his ribs in farm mishaps rather than breaking a leg or an arm.
Did we miss your favorite fun fact about the classic series? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!