Will Rogers

Will Rogers
Cowboy performer Will Rogers, surveying modern civilization with a comforting, down-home humor, became one of the most popular voices of the emerging media. Rogers parlayed his wisecracking vaudeville act into a career that encompassed the Broadway stage, movies, syndicated columns, magazine articles, books, and radio broadcasts. No one had a surer understanding of how to capture an audience. "Us birds that try to keep before and interest the public have various ways of doing it," he wrote. "The more you do anything that don't look like advertising the better advertising it is."

Rogers's Native American and cowboy roots had special appeal in an era that loved wild-west shows, dime-novel westerns, and frontier films. Miguel Covarrubias satirized Rogers not as a performer but as the author of a recent bestseller—an urban "drugstore cowboy" in a showy ten-gallon hat, who hangs around the street corner making wisecracks at passersby.

Will Rogers 1879-1935
Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957)
Ink and wash on paper for The John Riddell Murder Case, 1930
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

NEXT portrait

BACK to "Personality, Celebrity and the Press"

Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home