Man in chaps, black button-up shirt, white scarf around the neck, and hat, poses with a lasso in hand. Photo Credit Hennepin County Library

Photo Credit Hennepin County Library

Will Rogers

Cherokee vaudeville performer, actor and satirist

Excerpts from Will Rogers Memorial Museum, edited by Hennepin Theatre Trust:

Will Rogers used to say, “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat.” He was proud, “button-poppin’ proud,” of his Native American heritage.

William Penn Adair Rogers was born on election day, November 4, 1879, in a log-walled, seven-room house, known as “the White House on the Verdigris River,” in Indian Territory, Oklahoma. Clement Vann Rogers, Will’s father, was a Cherokee senator and a judge. Mary America Schrimsher Rogers, Will’s mother, descended from a Cherokee chief.

Hard-earned lariat skills won Will Rogers employment as a trick roper in Wild West shows and on the vaudeville stage. He formed his lessons of life, visions of humanity and kind spirit into wit, jokes and observations that bespoke great human dimensions. His humor and folksy observations were prized by audiences around the world who hailed him as a visionary philosopher and appreciated his ability to lay out his beliefs in plain words so all could understand.

In his time, Rogers was the foremost star of radio and film, the nation’s most sought-after public speaker and well-known newspaper columnist. He authored books, travelled the world, liberally donated to charities and is now known as one of the most beloved performers of all time.

Rogers died in 1935 at age 55 in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska.

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