Sunday, September 11, 2011

Will Rogers

from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Will Rogers was born in Oklahoma on November 4, 1879 and died in a plane crash with pilot Wiley Post in Alaska on August 15, 1935.  He was an actor, author, columnist, cowboy, humorist, and radio personality.  He was best known as an entertainer, humorist and philosopher. 

Will Rogers was one quarter Cherokee.   His ethnicity influenced his values which he derived from his native American culture.  "He always thought of himself as first a caring member of the human race, American, then a Cherokee Indian; a faithful husband and a father" (2).  He was taught to use the lariat by a freed slave on the Dog Iron Ranch (3).  He said "I am a Cherokee and it's the proudest little possession I ever hope to have." He was proud of his culture and enjoyed socializing with fellow Cherokees.  Several times Will and his wife hosted a Cherokee women's club called the Pocahontas club in their home(4). 

Will was a staunch Democrat and political commentator who saw the depression as a paradox of starving Americans in the land of plenty.  Much of his philosopher was derived from Jeffersonian and Populism (5).  He used the art of media to entertain audiences with jokes about politicians.  He would say "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke" (6).  With his rope tricks he gave his spin on politics, gangsters, and prohibition and people identified with folksy demeanor and frontier values as he raised the conscience and spirits of the American people. 

Major Activities
His major contributions in the 1930's were his radio broadcasts for Gulf Oil Company and his newspaper column in the New York Times.  He starred in 71feature films including A Connecticut Yankee in King Author's Court, State Fair, Steamboat 'Round the Bend, David Harum, Judge Priest and The County Chairman (7).

Will Rogers was a popular success and got his start as a trick roper in Texas Jack's Wild West Circus.  Here he learned how to be a showman and gain the appeal of an audience.  While in New York at the Madison Square Gardens, he roped a rogue steer  that broke out of the arena and was heading into the audience.  The story made the newspaper, and people wanted to see more of what he could do.  He was offered an act in Vaudeville and went on to star in Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic where he had a monologue where he developed the line "all I know is what I read in the newspapers"(8).  Then he stared in Ziegfeld's Follies where he did a variety show and a wild west show with riding and roping tricks.  It was at one of these performances that President Woodrow Wilson appeared in the audience, and he improvised a roast and found his niche. 

Best Sound Bite by this Figure
One of Will Rogers' most famous sayings was, "I have never yet met a man that I didn't like," came from a longer quotation in reference to Leon Trotsky, a Russian Marxist  revolutionary and theorist:  "I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn't like. When you meet people, no matter what opinion you might have formed about them beforehand, why, after you meet them and see their angle and their personality, why, you can see a lot of good in all of them" (9).

Will Rogers acted in Hollywood studios making movies, and he supported the Democratic party. 

World Traveler
Though he resided in New York and later in California, he and his family went home to Oklahoma in the summers.  He traveled around the world three times doing lecture tours flying coast to coast with pilots delivering mail.  He made a trip to the orient and to Central and South America.  He did a global tour in a play called "Ah, Wilderness" in 1934 (10). 

Major Works
  • Day, Donald.  The Autobiography of Will Rogers, 1948.
  • The Illiterate Digest convention Articles, Kessinger Publishing (1924).
  • Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat to his President (1926). Joseph A. Stout. ed. Stillwater: Oklahoma State University Press.
  • The Cowboy Philosopher on the Peace Conference (1919)
  • He Chews to Run, Will Roger's Life magazine articles 1928.  Stillwater:  Oklahoma State University Press
  • There's Not a Bathing Suit in Russia & Other Bare Facts (1927). 
  • Day, Donald.  The Autobiography of Will Rogers, 1948.
  • He Chews to Run.  The Will Rogers Memorial Commission and Oklahoma State University,1982.
  • Rogers, Will.  The Illiterate Digest.  Oklahoma State University Press, Stillwater Oklahoma, 1974.
Interesting Facts
  • Will Rogers was a goodwill ambassador to Mexico, and was briefly the Mayor of Beverly Hills. 
  • He launched a mock anti-bunk presidential campaign in 1928 in the pages of Life magazine promising to resign if elected. 
  • Bob Hope modeled his career after Will Rogers.
  • His son Bill became a member of congress.
  • His favorite horse was Soapsuds
  • His favorite activities were reading, polo, and flying.
Primary Research
Letters of correspondence 
Books by Will Rogers
Newspaper articles
Radio Broadcasts

Major Influences
  • His father, Clement Rogers was a farmer, business man and influential politician. 
  • His race, agricultural roots and political views influenced his humanitarian efforts and strong beliefs in natural resources.
  • Texas Jack taught him showmanship and to know when to leave the stage.
4. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
5. Yagoda, p. 234; Saturday Evening Post, November 6, 1926
Rogers, Will.  The Illiterate Digest.  Oklahoma State University Press, Stillwater Oklahoma, 1974.
9. www://

Connections with other parlor figures

a.  friends, people who work together, people in the same circle:
Will Rogers and Helen Keller were both traveling lecturers and famous authors who had similar views.  Orson Welles and Will Rogers were huge radio personalities and movie actors.

b.  political or artistic allies
Will Rogers was a huge supporter of Roosevelt and one of his favorite characters was Huey Long.  One of his artistic allies was John Steinbeck in that they were both writers with similar views and in California during this time period.  Will and Woody Guthrie were fellow Okies.  Will and Granville Hicks were considered communist intellectuals of their time. 

c.  political or artistic opponents
Will Rogers often attacked Andrew Mellon who had been Secretary of Treasury. 

d.  other connections
He was a voice of the people during the great depression, he had respect for natural resources and knew the farm problem was due to overproduction.

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