This small collection consists of three photographs of Will Rogers and Wiley Post.
No biographical information on Sidney R. Clarke, III, accompanied the gift. Since Will Rogers and Wiley Post are featured in the photographs, brief biographies for each of them are located here.
“Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. He now is a legend. Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was taught by a freed slave how to use a lasso as a tool to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch. As he grew older, Will Rogers’ roping skills developed so special that he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at once: One rope caught the running horse’s neck, the other would hoop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs.
Will Rogers’ unsurpassed lariat feats were recorded in the classic movie, “The Ropin’ Fool.” His hard-earned skills won him jobs trick roping in Wild West shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes. Quickly, his wise cracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping. He became recognized as being a very informed and smart philosopher–telling the truth in very simple words so that everyone could understand.
After the 10th grade, Will Rogers dropped out of school to become a cowboy in a cattle drive. He always regretted that he didn’t finish school, but he made sure that he never stopped learning–reading, thinking and talking to smart people. His hard work paid off.
Will Rogers was the star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s; a popular broadcaster; besides writing more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and befriending Presidents, Senators and Kings.
During his lifetime, he traveled around the globe three times– meeting people, covering wars, talking about peace and learning everything possible.
He wrote six books. In fact he published more than two million words. He was the first big time radio commentator, was a guest at the White House and his opinions were sought by the leaders of the world. Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. “I never met a man I didn’t like,” was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
At home, either on his ranch in Oklahoma or California, he always enjoyed riding horseback, roping steers or playing polo. He would scratch his head, grin and quip that he figured there was something wrong with anybody that didn’t like a horse.
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. Even though he was the top-paid star in Hollywood, he was a family man. Will Rogers was very close to his wife, Betty, and their four children.
Will Rogers Jr., 1911-1993, starred as his Father in two feature movies and was a war hero, a successful actor and a Congressman. Mary Rogers, 1913-1989, was a Broadway actress. Jim Rogers, 1915-2000, after starring in some cowboy movies as a young man, spent his life as a horse and cattle rancher. Betty and Will Rogers’s youngest son, Fred, died of diphtheria when he was two. There were eight children born to Will Rogers’ parents, but only four reached adulthood on the rugged frontier of 19th Century Indian Territory.
While a fast horse thrilled Will Rogers, he also loved flying. It was on a flight to Alaska in 1935 with a daring one-eyed Oklahoma pilot named Wiley Post that their plane crashed and both men lost their lives.
In mourning, the world reflected on Will Rogers’ words:
“Live your life so that whenever you lose, you’re ahead.”
“If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned.”
Wiley Post was born in Texas on November 22, 1898. Never much of a student, Wiley was interested in mechanical things. His family moved around a lot and when Wiley was 11, they settled in Garvin County, Oklahoma. He saw his first airplane at an air show in nearby Lawton County.
Post’s first job was with the US Army. He switched to work in the oil fields in 1919, but whether times were tough or Post was just wild, he stole a car in 1921. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years, but was paroled after one year. He lost his left eye in an oil field accident in the mid-1920s, and used the $1800 settlement to buy his first airplane. In 1925, he first met his fellow Oklahoman, Will Rogers. Rogers needed to get to a rodeo, and Post was pleased to fly the famous humorist there. He became the personal pilot of F.C. Hall, a wealthy Oklahoma oilman, and had use of Hall’s personal plane, an open cockpit Travel-Air biplane.
Later Hall bought a Lockheed Vega, largely for Post’s use, nicknamed Winnie Mae for the oilman’s daughter. The Depression intervened, and Hall sold the plane back to Lockheed. In 1930 Hall bought a later version of the Lockheed Vega, a model 5-C, again nicknamed Winnie Mae. This later aircraft is the one most often seen in photographs of Wiley Post. In addition to Wiley Post, two female aviators, Amelia Earhart and Ruth Nichols flew the planes.
Wiley Post first achieved national prominence in 1930 when he won the National Air Race Derby, flying from Los Angeles to Chicago. The side of the Winnie Mae’s fuselage was inscribed: “Los Angeles to Chicago 9 hrs. 9 min. 4 sec. Aug. 27, 1930.” The Winnie Mae is on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (NASM).
Around the World in Eight Days
In 1931, he flew around the world in the Winnie Mae with his navigator, Harold Gatty. On June 23, 1931, Post and Gatty left Roosevelt Field, New York. They made fourteen stops: first at Harbor Grace, Newfoundland; then Chester, England; Hanover and Berlin, Germany; Moscow, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Blagoveshchensk and Khabarovsk, all in the Soviet Union; Nome, Alaska; and Edmonton, Canada. They then flew to Cleveland, and back to New York on July 1, having traveled 15,474 miles.
In 1933, he repeated his round-the-world flight, but this time did it solo, with the aid of the auto-pilot and radio compass. He took off from New York’s Floyd Bennett Field on July 15, bound, non-stop, for Berlin. Despite bad weather over the Atlantic, he made it in 26 hours, setting a record for a New York-to-Berlin flight. After a couple false starts, he departed Germany, only to be forced down in Moscow by trouble with his auto-pilot. While more repairs were needed in Novosibirsk and Irkutsk, he reached Khabarovsk ten hours ahead of his previous record. While flying over Alaska the auto-pilot malfunctioned and he got lost. He also had problems landing and damaged the plane some, which was fixed soon by some local miners and parts replaced in Fairbanks. After repairs, he continued on to Edmonton (July 22), and then flew over 2000 miles non-stop to New York. 50,000 people greeted him when he landed back at Floyd Bennett Field at 11:50 PM, July 22, 1933. Only making eleven stops, despite some major mishaps, he had knocked 21 hours off his previous record, completing the solo flight in seven days, nineteen hours.
For a detailed account of the last flight Wiley Post ever flew, with Will Rogers as his passenger, go to this article, Wiley Post, Pilot of the Winnie Mae.
Scope & Content Note
This collection contains three photographs; Two of the photographs are of Will Rogers and one photograph of Wiley Post.
Winnie Mae (Airplane)
This collection was accessioned in 1989. The scope and content note was written by librarian Karen Spilman in March 2003. The current finding aid was written and updated online by archivist/librarian Laura Anne Heller in December 2009.
The Sidney R. Clarke, III, Collection is the property of the Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Literary right, including copyright, belongs to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, with the exception of copyrighted artwork images and published literary works, which are the property of the respective copyright holders. It is the responsibility of the researcher, and his/her publisher, to obtain publishing permission from individuals pictured, relevant copyright holders, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research. It is advisable for researchers to discuss their proposed research with staff prior to visiting the Center.
Sidney R. Clarke, III, Collection, Box ##, Folder ##, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
| Series 1: Sidney R. Clarke, III, Collection
Photographs have been cataloged in the Image Archive Database, but none have been scanned yet.
|Box/Folder #||Accession #||Folder Title/Description|
|1/16||1989.047 .1||Will Rogers & reception party consisting of J. Frank Buck, Dell Baker,L.E. Regan & Mrs. L.H. Luckett. 1920 ca. Published by the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce. Shawnee, OK. Photograph, b&w, 5×6.5 in.|
|1989.047 .2||Harrold Gatty Navigator,F.C. Hall owner and sponsor, Wiley Post Pilot. 1939. Washington, DC. Stone, photographer. Photograph, b&w, 7.5×9.5 in. Photograph has a hand written note from F. C. Hall.|
|1989.047 .3||Will Rogers. 1920 ca. Photographer unknown. Photograph, b&w, 5×4 in.|