In the years since its premiere in 1974, Little House on the Prairie can still fill our hearts with homespun charm every time an episode comes across our screen. The classic series told the story of a pioneering family, based on author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real life experiences. The show did stray from her original books, but they always kept the same uplifting spirit of family, faith, and community.
Even if you’ve seen every episode multiple times, there’s a good chance you don’t remember everything about the cast and the characters they portrayed. We certainly came across plenty of fun tidbits that we never knew about while reading the episode guides on the official Little House on the Prairie website. With nine seasons of episodes, it’s no wonder most of us can’t keep track of all the trivia found on screen and behind the scenes. Take a look below to quiz yourself on how much you remember about Little House on the Prairie and share the fascinating facts with your friends!
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Which cast member had to change their name after auditioning?
Karen Grassle (who played Caroline Ingalls) was going by a stage name when she auditioned for the maternal role: Gabriel Tree.
She managed to beat out more than 40 other women for the role, but Michael Landon and the rest of the production team requested that she go back to her birth name while portraying such a traditional, old-school character.
Whose hairstyle frequently caused filming delays?
You might think Nellie's perfectly round curls were to blame for taking too long in the hair and makeup department, but Alison Arngrim actually wore a (sometimes painful) wig throughout most of the series to make things easier. Instead, it was Michael Landon's DIY dye job that caused pauses in filming.
The actor had gone gray in his 20s and relied on a box hair dye to cover up the strands with the brunette color we all remember. However, that solution would backfire when long days filming in the sun caused the shade to fade into a lavender hue. The production staff was eventually able to convince Landon to seek a professional hairstylist to do the job with long-lasting dye.
Which young actress passed out on set?
The costumes were all carefully crafted to fit within the pioneering period the show was set in. For the female cast members, that meant wearing layers of wool. While filming her first episode, which was the second episode of the series, Alison Arngrim became so overheated under the hot California sun that she actually passed out on set.
She wasn't the only one, either — an assistant director who likely wasn't even wearing thick layers also fainted from the heat on that day.
Which actor wore 4-inch lifts?
Ernest Borgnine appeared as a mystical mountain man on the series, but you wouldn't have been able to tell that he and Michael Landon were actually the exact same height. At 5 feet and 9 inches tall and as the patriarch of the series, Landon never wanted to appear shorter than any of the other male actors.
He relied on lifts in his shoes to give him a boost. Of course, his impressive physique also made it easy to believe he could tower over every other man in Walnut Grove.
What were the names of the Ingalls' family dogs?
The shaggy dog who appeared in the first four seasons might not have matched the description of the bulldog Laura Ingalls Wilder detailed in her original writing, but it did share the same name: Jack. Apparently, Michael Landon instantly fell in love with the pup and didn't mind the lack of continuity with the books.
Later on after Jack passed away, the Ingalls got a new black and white dog whom they named Bandit.
Which cast members are surprisingly best friends in real life?
Although they played bitter enemies on screen as Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson, Alison Arngrim revealed in her autobiography that she and Melissa Gilbert were actually the best of friends when the cameras stopped rolling.
In her book, Confessions of a Prairie B*tch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated ($16.99, Amazon), Arngrim describes the pair as "partners in crime" when it came to pulling pranks on set. She and Gilbert remain close friends to this day.
What canned stew was used for the family meals?
Anytime the Ingalls sat down to eat a hearty stew served up by Ma, the actors were actually chowing down on Dinty Moore beef stew.
Whenever you saw them enjoying some fried chicken, that was provided by KFC. They also paid homage to the famous chicken franchise with an actor dressed up to look like Colonel Sanders in one of the episodes.
What was Laura's favorite perfume?
You might think the lemon verbena scent Laura received as a gift as an adult came from her husband Manly, but it was actually provided by the Ingalls' family friend, Mr. Edwards.
He gave her the same sweet smelling perfume earlier on in the series when the character was still a young girl, too.
Which couple shared a lot less love behind the scenes?
It wasn't that there was any real animosity between Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler (who played Manly), but there were several years between them when their characters got married in the show.
The real Laura Ingalls Wilder was 17 when she married her real Almanzo Wilder, but Gilbert was just 15 when she said "I do" on screen with Butler, who was 23. He tried to ease the tension with jokes and singing silly songs, but that only made Gilbert all the more shy. She eventually asked Michael Landon to restrict the couples' displays of affection to hugs and pecks on the cheek.
What was Nellie's full name?
By the end of the series, Nellie is going by her full married name: Nellie Oleson Dalton.
However, if you assumed her first name was just a play on her dad Nels' name, you're apparently mistaken — Nellie was actually a cute nickname for Danielle.
Which young cast members were siblings in real life?
Aside from the twin girls who shared the role of Carrie Ingalls, there were two other sets of siblings in the show's cast: Melissa Gilbert as Laura and her adopted brother Jonathan as Willie Oleson, plus Matthew Labyorteaux as Albert Ingalls and his adopted brother Patrick as Andrew Garvey.
What was the name of Charles' rarely seen sister?
In a flashback scene to Charles' childhood in the season four episode "I Remember I Remember," we meet his sister: Polly.
The brief appearance is the only time we see or even hear her name mentioned throughout the series.