Archive for the ‘Carlisle Indian School’ Category

Jim Thorpe’s Biographer is Interviewed

August 19, 2018

Back in May, I reported on the Jim Thorpe movie that is being made with the involvement of Angelina Jolie and others. Because, to a great extent, the film in development is based on his definitive biography of Thorpe, Bob Wheeler is being interviewed about Thorpe, his research and the movie. Here are links to videos of some of his recent interviews:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1gaK7rdZgpEcstHfye0buBCWt7aTANU16

The Big Biz Show: https://vimeo.com/281652412/002da7695e

BizTalk Discovery: https://vimeo.com/281653077/23660f3772

Wheeler’s odyssey in tracking down Thorpe’s contemporaries while they were still alive is a story in itself. Hitchhiking cross-country when it was possible but frowned upon by some, including President Eisenhower, was the only way a grad student with no money could travel to all the places he had to go to conduct his research.

Even getting an oral history approved as a valid project was a challenge at that time. It’s better I stop and let Bob tell his own story.

Wheeler's book

 

 

 

 

 

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The Tebow Thorpe Intersection

July 30, 2018

Earlier this summer you read about my ill-fated attempt to see Tim Tebow play minor league baseball against the Harrisburg Senators at City Island. Since that time, I’ve thought about who else played at that island in the Susquehanna River over a century ago.

Called Hargest’s Island in 1902, a crude baseball field there was home turf for Harrisburg Athletic Club for whom Carlisle Indian School grad and Dickinson College student Charles Albert Bender pitched one summer. The future hall-of-famer even hurled a game against the visiting Chicago Cubs. Chief Bender lost but acquitted himself well. So well, that by season’s end he had been signed by Connie Mack to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics. The rest, as they say, is history.

Baseball wasn’t the only sport in which Carlisle Indians competed on Hargest’s Island. In 1908, 8,000 people attended the first annual statewide track and field meet sponsored by the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Carlisle Indians defeated ten colleges to take first place honors. Several Carlisle athletes performed well. Among them was Jim Thorpe, rounding out his first season of competition. He came in second in the 220-yard hurdles and 16-pound shotput, and first in the high jump. Not bad for someone new to the sport.

Jim Thorpe on Hargest's Island

Jim Thorpe runs the high hurdles in the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Meet on Hargest’s Island

The 1912 event was the source of an often-heard legend about the Carlisle Indians. Their team did not run 20 miles to a game, defeat their opponents and run home. Lewis Tewanima and Jim Thorpe were training for the Olympic Games to be held in Stockholm that year and did not compete as members of the team. As part of his training regime, distance running Hopi Tewanima ran from Carlisle to Hargest’s Island, waved to his friends, circled the track, and ran back to Carlisle.

Jim Thorpe returned in 1915 to compete there as a member of the Harrisburg Islanders minor league baseball team. A parallel of Thorpe and Tebow is that that both competed on City Island in baseball, not either’s first sport. Both camein to prominence for their exploits in college football. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner and Thorpe would have been had that award existed in 1911 and 1912. His prominent position in the College Football Hall of Fame attests to that.

Jim Thorpe Movie

May 8, 2018

For years—decades actually—film makers and wannabe film makers have flowed through Cumberland County Historical Society on an almost monthly basis to learn more about Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians. They leave convinced more than ample material exists for a feature film, surely enough for a TV movie. But little tangible has resulted. Many of them visit Wardecker’s Menswear, formerly Blumenthal’s, where Freddie Wardecker gives them a tour through the artifacts in his store, regales them with stories about the Carlisle players and teams, and shows them the log in which each player’s name is recorded, under which a list of his purchases follows. Invariably, he suggests they contact Robert W. Wheeler, author of the definitive Jim Thorpe biography.

I sometimes get contacted by these folks, often wanting answers to questions they have on the teams and players. Often, they require some research on my part to answer. Recently, I’ve received questions about Thorpe’s time with the New York football Giants. (He played for them in 1925.) The reason why those questions were coming now was answered last night, when a press release announced that a biopic about Jim Thorpe was to be made and one of the backers was the Giants’ owner.

Variety reported that Angelina Jolie, in partnership with Escape Artists Productions’ Todd Black and Steve Tisch, would be producing Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story. This production will break new ground by having a Native American actor play a Native American title character in a major motion picture. Martin Sensmeier, whose parents are Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan, is perhaps best known for his role in The Magnificent Seven remake alongside Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

With backing this film has, it seems certain, as certain as anything is in Hollywood, this film will actually be produced.

Variety article: http://variety.com/2018/film/news/angelina-jolie-escape-artists-producing-native-american-athlete-jim-thorpe-1202801404/

The Love Hermit?

January 14, 2018
Lone Star - Oregonian

Photo of Lone Star Dietz that accompanied original 1918 article

The author of the article I referred to in the previous message, Jim Kerschner, forwarded a link to the entire article. The article, when read in full, provided me with more information than my question about his Vaudeville career. Perhaps a little background is needed for those unfamiliar with the multi-talented Mr. Dietz. Prior to arriving in the Pacific Northwest in September 1915, he had worked as an artist illustrating Macalaster College publications, creating a mural out of grains grown at Chilocco Indian School for the Model Government Indian School Exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair, played of football teams at Macalaster College, Friends University and Carlisle Indian School, competed on the indigenous people’s team in the Anthropology Days event tacked onto the 1904 Olympic Games held at the St. Louis World’s Fair. He sang solos at Friends University and performed a war dance at the School of Industrial Art of the Philadelphia Museum (today’s University of the Arts), after which he gave a talk in what the Philadelphia Record described as “excellent English style, which might put an ordinary Philadelphian to the blush.”

 

In addition to serving as an assistant coach to Pop Warner and teaching art at Carlisle, he illustrated their literary magazine and ephemera. He and his first wife, the noted Winnebago artist Angel DeCora, also raised prize-winning Russian Wolfhounds in a kennel behind their apartment on Carlisle Barracks.

At Washington State College, in addition to coaching the football team, Dietz arranged songs and sang baritone while touring the state with the college’s chorus. He also gave talks to classes on topics such as architecture. Prior to arriving in Pasadena for the 1916 Rose Bowl, he arranged for his team to portray the football team in Tom Brown at Harvard and for a small role in the picture for himself. When his team returned to Pullman after the victory, he stayed on in Hollywood to arrange more picture work for himself.

The article Mr. Kerschner referred to in his piece listed three films Dietz had been in, one of which I hadn’t heard of before, The Love Hermit. It also credited him with writing the story for Lonestar, but couldn’t appear in the movie because it was filmed during football season.

The article also provides some information about Dietz’s Vaudeville career: “The rapid progress that is being made by your company here in Spokane toward the production of motion pictures has made me willing to change from my previously announced plan to spend the coming year on the vaudeville circuit.” More research is required to uncover exactly which talents he would have employed in his act.

Now to figure out how to search News.Google.com for articles not on-line when I spent numerous hours hunched over microfilm reading machines.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=0klj8wIChNAC&dat=19180110&printsec=frontpage&hl=en page 6

Was Lone Star Dietz in Vaudeville?

January 10, 2018

I was very interested when Google Alert informed me of an article in The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington this afternoon. It acknowledges the 100th anniversary of Lone Star Dietz pursuing an acting career in that city: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/jan/10/100-years-ago-today-in-spokane-washington-states-f/ It is well known and covered in my biography of Dietz that he bought shares in the Washington Motion Picture Company, acted in Fool’s Gold and went broke when the studio folded. The film actually made a little money but not nearly enough to cover the operating costs of the fledgling production company.

What was news to me was the subhead “Gives Up Vaudeville.” I had no idea Dietz was in Vaudeville. I was aware of him acting in pictures in Hollywood and Spokane, but not of him being on the Vaudeville circuit. Unfortunately, the portion of the article that may have covered that issue wasn’t reproduced in today’s paper. Maybe Jim Kershner, the reporter who wrote today’s piece can send me a copy of the entire original.

Vaudeville was not always used in the way we think of it today. Sometimes it was used as a catch all for people performing in front of live audiences, including the lecture circuit. For example, Pop Warner referred to Frank Cayou as being in Vaudeville when he was giving talks on something akin to the Chautauqua Circuit.

19180110 Dietz Vaudeville Movies

 

 

 

 

Renewed Interest in the Oorang Indians

September 23, 2017

Oorang Indians Willis.jpg

Yesterday’s mail brought an unexpected pleasure. I opened a package that obviously contained a book. But I had no memory of ordering a book from anyone. The label said it was from Rowman & Littlefield in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. I knew some book publishers made their home in that town as the late John Kallmann had once worked for a publisher located there. I still had no idea what book it might be.

Opening the package, I found a copy of Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL’s Most Famous Traveling Team by Chris Willis. It was a book I knew was coming out because Chris and I had conversed about the topic and a question he had about Eagle Feather led to some serious investigation and a series of blog posts about this mysterious player.

Wanting to thank him for the book, I tried to send Chris an email, but couldn’t find his address. An inopportune computer crash in early August had wreaked havoc had lost numerous email messages and addresses. (Perhaps I should write about the fallacies of making backups using Microsoft’s utility.) I would appreciate it if someone would send me his email address.

The book had a feel different from others I’d felt. That it had no jacket because the jacket information was printed directly on the hard cover wasn’t new. What was new was the feel of it. Rather than having a hard, glossy finish, the cover had a matt finish that is soft to the touch.

Inside this beautiful book, I found an acknowledgement to me. An entire paragraph. WOW! Thank you, Chris.

Over the last couple of years, I had received questions from multiple persons about the Oorang Indians. Apparently, this most unusual NFL team had gathered renewed interest. Maybe the NFL needs to rejuvenate the team to attract fans. It needs to do something after tickets for Thursday’s Rams-49ers game went for $15!

 

Unknown Photos of Lone Star Dietz

May 14, 2017

One of the benefits of having done all that research necessary to write Lone Star Dietz’s biography is that people who come across artifacts related to him contact me. The most common things people ask about are paintings attributed to Dietz. Based on the number I’ve seen and know about, plus those people own and ask about, Lone Star must have been fairly prolific. The most unusual thing someone has inquired about was a button/pin for the 1923 Thanksgiving football game between the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Centenary College Gentlemen. The image of Lone Star Dietz, Louisiana Tech’s head football coach at the time, adorned the button.

This week, I was sent images of three undated photos of Lone Star Dietz. They appear to be early photos of him, probably the earliest in Indian regalia. I can’t identify the origin of this regalia because I don’t know how to discern the differences between the designs employed by the various tribes and nations. And what he wore was very different than the elaborate Sioux outfit that he was often photographed wearing. The earliest known photo of Dietz was as a member of the 1903 Macalester College football team. Whether these photos predate that one is an open question.

The earliest dated photo of Dietz in his Sioux headdress, war shirt and leggings was published in the January 26, 1908 St. Louis Globe-Democrat Sunday magazine. That photo was likely taken in late 1907 in Carlisle, PA or in St. Louis, when the Carlisle football team made train connections in St. Louis. Dietz had probably established a relationship with someone on the paper when he worked at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. The photos I was shown this week were very different from anything I had seen before. He was wearing a breechcloth, pipebag, simple leather headband with two feathers, and above-the-calf bells.

My guess was that, since one of the three poses in these photos, appeared to be one of a dancer, complete with bells, these photos were taken in or before late fall of 1907. Shortly after arriving at the Academy of Industrial Design in Philadelphia on his outing period, Lone Star put on a demonstration that included a dance. But the newspaper coverage of his dance described him as wearing a war bonnet, probably the headdress he commonly wore in photos. So, I have little to go on with regard to dating these photographs.

The photos are not shown here, nor is the name and location of the owner. That person wishes to remain anonymous due to the acrimonious treatment so often meted out by those people who oppose the use of Redskins for the name of the Washington NFL team.

Eagle Feather Mystery Solved

August 4, 2016

Sherman Pierce photos

Cathy Jimerson sent me two photos of Sherman Pierce, one as an older and another as a younger man in his Oorang Indians uniform.  Ms. Jimerson wrote:

I have been in contact with the family of Sherman Pierce and they have the very picture that you are questioning as to the identity of Eagle Feather.  I have included that plus a picture of him as a older man.

I don’t know Cathy Jimerson but am very much inclined to believe her.  Jimerson is a family name well known by Carlisle Indian School researchers. National Archives files include records for at least a dozen students named Jimerson, possibly more with misspellings. Jimersons are Senecas from upstate New York as are the Pierces. The likelihood of people from these families knowing each other and being friends is great.  Cathy’s husband’s great great grandfather Jacob Jimerson attended Carlisle in the 1910s. However, Carlisle listed him as Jacob Jamison. Yes, the same Jakey Jamison whose great play in the 1896 Yale game was erased by a bad call from an official. More on that in a later post.

I think Sherman Pierce is Eagle Feather based on this photo and draft card data. His age and physical attributes jibe but we already knew that. Sherman Pierce’s smile, shape of his face, and stance would lead me to believe he was Eagle Feather even if I didn’t know his family claimed he was. It seems highly unlikely Sherman Pierce’s family would still have a 1922 photograph of a football player from a team that hasn’t existed for 93 years if he hadn’t played on that team. So, I think we’ve found our man.

 

Important Info About Eagle Feather, Maybe

June 3, 2016

Eagle Feather Carlisle fullback 19221011

When my Eagle Feather research returned me to 1922, the Oorang Indians’ first year of operation, I took a second (or third) look at some newspaper articles I had previously collected. I was forced to search for an early article I for which had neglected to capture the date of and publication name. Mercifully, the easily recognizable article popped up early with the graphic at the top of the page. Rereading “Former Bulldogs Now Important Cogs In Jim Thorpe’s All-Indian Football Machine” brought me back to “Thorpe has unearthed a brilliant fullback in Eagle Feather, from Carlisle.” No new information there, I thought, “At least I know where this came from now.” My eye wandered to a piece immediately below the one I had sought, finding something I’d previously overlooked.

“Most Of Jim’s Indians Are Carlisle And Haskell Men” grabbed my attention. Perusing the piece unveiled “Eagle Feather, fullback who weighs 230 stripped, is a cousin to Bemus Pearce [sic], famous as a tackle in the old Carlisle days. This could lead us to who Eagle Feather really was or it could have been wrong as are so many things in newspapers.

Since we have so little else to go on, let’s assume it is correct. Let’s accept that Eagle Feather was a cousin of Bemus Pierce and that he attended Carlisle. To make our lives as easy as possible, let’s assume (for now) that his last name was Pierce and research Carlisle and tribal records for a person from that family who would have been between 18 and 25 in 1922, based on his youthful appearance in the Oorang photo. I’d also scan Carlisle football files and photographs for a player weighing over 200 pounds (he might have put on a few after Carlisle closed in 1918).

If we come up dry, we’ll have to do some genealogy work to identify Bemus Pierce’s cousins who might fit the criteria. This research will likely require considerable assistance from the tribal librarian. It’s not exactly looking for a needle in a haystack but only by an order of magnitude or two.

Eagle Feather Bemus Pierce cousin 19221011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagle Feather, I Presume?

May 31, 2016

Wanting to find out exactly who the Eagle Feather who played fullback for the 1922 Oorang Indians football team, I spent several hours searching through old newspapers for clues as to who he was. I received a plethora of hits and quickly learned that Eagle Feather was not an uncommon name nor was it unique to a single tribe. Nor was the Eagle Feather who played football the only athlete of that name. Here they are in ascending order:

1904       A Cheyenne who played right field for a Sioux baseball team in

1908       An Otoe who played football for the Otoe School in Red Rock, OK.

1909       Chief Eagle Feather toured with 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

1910       Pitched for Fallsington M. E. church at Cadwalader Park in Trenton, NJ.

1911       Eagle feather aka Dr. Frank DeKay of Toledo, OH restored a woman’s vision by rubbing her head and conferencing with a mystical medicine man.

1911       Chief Eagle Feather was featured in Priscilla and the Pequot, touring with The Obrecht Family show.

1911       Father of baby born in Canton, OH to “a Sioux squaw traveling with the John Robinson circus.”

The next day, Chief Eagle Feather was assaulted by Bear Paw and struck in the head with a whisky bottle.

1914       Performed in Gray Eagle’s Last Stand at Lyric in Wellsville, NY.

1915       Eagle Feather’s daughter Princess Mary Eagle Feather performed in Miller Brothers and 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

1915       Chief Eagle Feather was a wealthy land owner in South Dakota.

1915       Chief Eagle Feather toured on Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits.

1915       Sherman Institute gala – couldn’t tell if Eagle Feather was a person or a character in a skit.

1915       Eagle Feather came in 2nd in the “Half-mile Indian Buck Race at the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

1919       In Winnipeg, old Chief Eagle Feather cranks his car in front of his farm house to drive his children to school.

1919       Winnebago Eagle Feather, aka John Smeade, operated and maintained the elevator at the Des Moines Club.

1919       In Chicago, Chief Eagle Feather’s wife, Princess Waunita, a full-blood Choctaw, assisted Vera Trepanier during her murder trial. Eagle Feather was reputed to be a Carlisle grad.

1920       Chief Eagle Feather’s mother was Geronimo’s oldest sister. He gave a talk on patriotism and Christian sentiment near Elkhart, IN. He also advertised for performers for his medicine show.

1920       Eagle Feather aka Jackson Barnett, who became rich when oil was found on his Oklahoma scrub land, gave his wife most of his money and sent her and the children to Los Angeles. He bought a horse and went back to the blanket.

1921       Chief Eagle Feather, Cherokee from Oklahoma, toured Indiana speaking in favor of granting Indians full citizenship.

1921       Chief Eagle Feather, 100 year-old Hopi, visited Ruston, LA.

1922       Big Chief Eagle Feather appeared in a medicine show at the Indiana State Fair.

1922       Local boxer Eagle Feather fought Bud Brown in a match held in Loraine, Ohio.

 

Investigating all of these various people named Eagle feather would be a considerable undertaking, so I first looked into the one I considered most likely to be him. The boxer, an athlete located in Ohio when the Oorang Indians were founded, looked promising until I noticed that the fighter weighed 125 pounds. To play fullback, he would have had to put on 100 pounds by the start of football season. Not likely. I continued looking and found something I didn’t think looked promising but might just be.