Will Rogers appeared in 71 motion pictures, most of them silent, although 21 were talkies. President Dwight Eisenhower was one of seven sons, six of whom survived to adulthood. Mark Twain’s real-life boyhood friends inspired his novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” When former President Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he would walk into a local bar in his sneakers and shades and start playing sax with whomever was on stage.
Throughout America’s Crossroads, these cities show off the best of their celebrities, politicians and hometown heroes.
Cowboy, movie star, radio personality, entertainer, journalist. It’s difficult to give Rogers a single title because he did so much in his lifetime.
“Will Rogers was one of the biggest superstars in American history and probably the first international superstar,” said Tad Jones, executive director of Will Rogers Memorial Museums.
Rogers was born on a ranch in what is now Oologah, Oklahoma, where he learned his trademark roping, but he claimed Claremore as his hometown. The museum was built in 1938 and sits on land that Rogers and his wife, Betty, bought early in their marriage.
Rogers’ success as an entertainer launched him into other fields. He had the highest-rated radio broadcast on Sunday nights and wrote a newspaper column that reached 40 million readers each week.
The museum showcases a large collection of artifacts donated by his family, including original movie posters, and plays one of his “talking” movies every day. The museum also runs four documentaries about Rogers’ life throughout the day.
Visitors enjoy Rogers’ collection of saddles from around the world and touch the shoes on the statue of him for good luck.
In the “The Final Journey” exhibit, guests will find items Rogers had with him in the plane crash that killed him August 15, 1935, including a pocket watch, a suit and the typewriter he used to type his daily newspaper column “from 1926 until the day he died,” Jones said.
Guided tours are available of both the museum and Rogers’ birthplace ranch, 12 miles away. There, groups can tour his family’s two-story white house, including the room where he was born, and see an Amish barn, peacocks and Longhorn cattle.