By Susan Johnson
Will Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 in Oklahoma. He was born to a Cherokee Nation Family that was prominent during the time. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, he was a celebrity all around the world. Tragically, on August 15, 1935, Rogers was killed when the small airplane that him and aviator, Wiley Post were flying in, crashed in Alaska.
Will Rogers was eager to begin his life as a ranch hand and ended up leaving school in the tenth grade. When he wasn’t working, he was reading the New York Times. He traveled a bit, working for a few different ranches and eventually ended up doing a stint as a trick roper in a Wild West Circus. He then ended up moving to Australia to work in the Wirth Brothers Circus.
He returned to the United States in 1904 and began his rounds in the vaudeville circuits.When he was doing a show in New York City at Madison Square Garden, one of the wild steers ended up breaking out of the arena and going into the audience stands. Will Rogers roped the steer and the audience was thrilled by the rescue. This ended up on the front page of the newspapers and William Hammerstein saw the article and came to watch his vaudeville act. Hammerstein ended up signing him and for the next ten years, Will Rogers performed for him.
Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
In 1915, will Rogers started appearing in Ziegfield’s Midnight Frolic. He had honed his act and performed monologues each night about the news of the day. He would open his act with the lines, “Well, what shall I talk about? I ain’t got anything funny to say. All I know is what I read in the papers.”
He became more and more popular and finally made an appearance on the famous, Ziegfield Follies. During this era, people were enthralled with Cowboys and loved the image of freedom that they evoked. He used this image to his advantage and also noticed that many people loved his Oklahoma twang. Will had a off-the-cuff knack of delivering witty commentary about the news of the day.
A fool and his money are soon elected.
By 1916, he was one of the featured stars performing regularly in the Ziegfield’s Follies on Broadway. In 1918, he was offered a role in the silent movie, Laughing Bill Hyde. He signed a three-year contract then with Samuel Goldwyn and ended up moving to Santa Monica, California. He continued working in silent films for the next few years, although it wasn’t the best place to show off his skill at commentary. All total, he made 48 silent films.
Lettin’ the cat out of the bag is a lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
In 1929, when “talkies” were released, Will Rogers became a huge movie star. He was a workaholic and loved to work. He had a syndicated weekly newspaper column that he began in 1922 and published each week until his death in 1935. From 1925 until 1928, Will made his rounds on the lecture tour that traveled around the United States. He gave many speeches and was a guest speaker at many political and other popular events.
The income tax has made more liars out of Americans than golf.
When radio became popular in the the late 1920’s and 1930’s, Will recycled many of his newspaper commentaries and articles for the radio. He had his own show from 1930 to 1935, which was hugely popular and just talked about the news of the day.
Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
When aviation industry began, Will Rogers advocated for the development and advancement of it. He accompanied famed aviator, Wiley Post, who was looking for a good air-route for mail and passenger flights, on a trip across Alaska. The cargo that Post was carrying may have made the plane a bit nose heavy. They had to land in a lagoon because of bad weather. On take-off from the lagoon, the engine stalled and the plane flipped over into the lagoon, killing both men instantly.