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Will Rogers, The Cherokee Kid

Wild West Travels

Young Will Rogers had an itch to travel and experience the old west. At age 19 he left school to work on a cattle drive in Texas. Later his desire to see the world led him and a friend to travel to Argentina in search of work. Work was hard to find, and he ended up working at a horse ranch in South Africa in 1902.

  • In South Africa, he joined Texas Jack's Great Wild West Show and Circus and later, in 1903, he became known as, “The Cherokee Kid.”

  • In late 1903, he left Texas Jack's and joined Wirth Brothers Circus for a tour of Australia before returning to the United States in 1904.

  • In 1904, he joined Zack Mulhall's "Cowboy Carnival" where he worked with Tom Mix and Jim Minnick.

  • In 1905, still with the Mulhall crew, he was part of incident in which a steer jumped into the crowded stands at Madison Square Gardens. According to various accounts, Will either roped it or ran it back onto the arena floor. This event vaulted Will Rogers into the New York City spotlight.

Vaudevillian

​Will Rogers used his skills as a cowboy to perform in Wild West Shows where he was known as “The Cherokee Kid.” Wild West shows paved the way for Will to the Vaudeville. Will hit the vaudeville stages in the mid- 1900s; at first, it was a silent act with rope tricks. When he missed a trick, Will's occasional comments would cause audiences to laugh and he was encouraged to begin speaking during his act.

  • Will perfected his act for years on a series of vaudeville circuits, in theaters across the globe.

  • He performed alongside other famous vaudevillians like Eddie Cantor, Blanche Ring, and Ernest Hogan.

  • Will signed with showman Florenz Ziegfeld in 1915. By 1918, Will Rogers was a certified Broadway star, earning $1,000 a week in the famous Ziegfeld Follies.

  • He performed alongside Follies stars like Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, and W. C. Fields.

  • He was a favorite of the Follies girls, known for his respectful treatment of the girls and reputation as a family man.

 

 

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