Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, played by Harold Peary, began as a supporting character on the Fibber McGee and Molly show, during the days when it was produced in Chicago. In those early appearances, Gildersleeve's personal life was somewhat hazily defined, but his bombastic attitude meshed well with Jim Jordan's McGee.
When the company moved to Hollywood, Peary went along, and soon was spun off into his own NBC show. This is believed to be the first spin-off of a character in a series. Kraft sponsored the new show, and Gildy moved to the town of Summerfield, where he, along with his housekeeper, Birdie, became the guardian of his niece and nephew. At the time of the move, Gildersleeve was the owner of a girdle company, but he soon made a career change, becoming the town's water commissioner. Gildy made a few new friends - Judge Hooker, Peavy the pharmacist, and Floyd Munson the barber (played by Arthur Q. Bryan). These, along with a series of girlfriends for Gildersleeve, were the main characters for most of the run.
Everything went swimmingly until the CBS talent raids in the late '40s. Peary was persuaded to
jump ship, as Jack Benny and others had, and signed a contract with CBS. However, Kraft
Foods, the sponsor, wasn't interested in moving. This led to the hiring of a new Gildersleeve,
Willard Waterman, a friend of Peary's from the old Chicago days. Waterman's Gildy
was very similar to Peary's, with the exception that Waterman refused to imitate
Peary's distinctive laugh.