Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA262 January 1, 1928
MEXICO AND OKLAHOMA
All I know is just what I read in the papers. And say, maby it don’t seem good to get where you can read the papers! Down in Mexico they have some mighty fine newspapers, but unless I could find the word chili, or tamales, or bueno, or mananana, or some of the usual American vocabulary, why I just wasn’t doing any reading that day. Course they print one page in English, but it is mostly of a local nature and it dident give all the little scandal that was going on like our papers do here. So when I crossed the line the first thing I did was grab a paper at Brownsville and read it in the aeroplane that took me to San Antonio.
It was just after Lindy had gone to the bull fight and a lot of space was devoted to that. Now where in the world does anybody come in to tell that boy what to do? If we have any person in America that knows what to do it is him. He don’t require any advice at any time. Now he had never seen one and like all normal minded people they like to see something that they have heard of all their lives, so why shouldent he go?
Now I left the afternoon of the day he went, and dident get to see him after he come back, and I will bet that he would say, he enjoyed parts of it, but that he dident really care for them. So you see the best way to condemn a thing is to know something about it, so when he speaks about it in the future he will do so with some authority. He can explain why he don’t like ’em. It’s their sport, and he is a guest of their country and him staying away wouldent help out the cause of a single thing. But by going and then saying he dident like one would mean something. They are slowly dying out, there is not the big crowds that you hear so much about. Baseball, and soccer, football and boxing is slowly replacing it. The young people all play other games. Tennis has a tremendous hold down there and golf and polo.
I myself even received wires asking me to please ask him not to go to a bull fight. That was even before he got into the country, and it was those same demands that made him decide to go. You know that kid has quite a bit of determination. I have noticed little things about him that shows that he has a will of his own. Well when I got back they was also right in the midst of the scandal over all the accusations that had been published against some of our Senators receiving money from Mexico. Well I don’t believe anybody believed that. You know we joke about ’em and all but down in our hearts we feel that they are doing the best they can, and we just don’t believe they are dishonest. For instance if they were why are not more of ’em rich? Those that are made it before they got in there. No that stuff dident set well with us, and besides they picked out the very ones we had the most faith in. Down in Mexico you don’t hear much about it. They say that some of the things may have a foundation of truth in them. For they were on the opposite side from us in the Nicaraguan question, and they wasent any great
amount of brotherly love between us and them, so that maybe everything they did was not exactly in our favor. But there was no reason why it should have been. But they think that most of these are an exaggeration over what really happened.
This fellow Morrow is a bear.1
He is going to get on fine. He is a mighty fine little fellow and a good head on him. They like his style, and they are not turning his head by any flattery. They know he is a hard-headed business man and they have to deal with him in a business way. But they also feel that he is sympathetic with them and wants to be friends and that all he asks is justice and a fair guarantee that things will be let alone. Things are looking better down there now than at any time in years for the friendship of the two countries.
If they could just get this religious issue straightened out there would be practically no great question bothering them, and it looks favorable to some kind of settlement on that in the near future. Lindy’s visit of course they just went plum cuckoo, that was a great stroke of diplomacy him going down there. You know the feeling and respect for that man among people, well it just ain’t human, it’s sorter divine. There has never been anything like it in the history of the world. That whole city waited from 5, 6 and 7 o’clock in the morning till almost 3 in the afternoon with actual prayer waiting for that boy. They wouldent have had anything happen to him in their country for the world. Each one kinder felt personally responsible for him in their country, and then when he come, and as he was there a few days and got to going around to various places and they saw him more why their admiration seemed to even increase if that was possible. Then his mother coming, that was a marvelous thing.2
He sat there in the Embassy the other night figuring and doping out his maps. He is going to try and make all the
countries of Central America, and all the ones on the north fringe of South America, coming back home by the way of Cuba. One or two countries
hadent invited him yet, so he says to the Ambassador, “Maby I better not figure on them yet.” Then Mr. Morrow told him that they hadent had time, that they would as soon as they knew he was going, so he says “Well I will mark them in temporarily then.”
Now he don’t know if some of them have landing fields or what they have, but he says, “I’ll find something. You know I can get this ship down
in pretty small space.” Well let’s hope the kid makes his rounds in good shape, for it’s going to be a tough trip.
But never mind Mexico. What’s been going on up in Cuckooland all these weeks? Congress met. I was afraid they would. If it hadent been for
Mellon saving up that money I don’t believe they would have met.3
Just think dividing up four hundred million. This will be one of the biggest sessions they have ever had. Cal wants to pay some of it on the national debt but the boys want to pay it out on next year’s elections. They think the future generations should pay for the war, and the present generation should keep them in office.
And did you hear about my state? Kansas used to be comedy relief of the great constellation of states, but Oklahoma went by it like it was standing still.4
I never heard of as much scandal in one office as they have had with their Governors. I believe I would just stop and get me what the towns call a Commission form of government. They are claiming now that a woman is the dominating factor. Well I never heard of a place that she wasent. They claim that it is an outside woman and not his wife. Well that’s not exactly a novelty either. For if I remember right history has something about some outside females that pulled some national committee men stuff themselves. Course there is two sides to it.
She claims she is trying to keep the crooks out and trying to have the office run without political patronage. Well if that’s the case no woman in the world is strong enough for that. Not in Oklahoma anyway. Those boys don’t vote for you for nothing down there. But I kinder hate to see my state feeling like it had to contribute nothing but comedy to the rest of the Union.
1For Dwight W. Morrow see WA 254:N 2.
2Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh, Detroit schoolteacher; mother of Charles Lindbergh.
3For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 231:N 3.
4Governor Henry Simpson Johnston of Oklahoma clashed with the state legislature in 1927 over his reputed inaccessibility to lawmakers because of the actions of his private secretary, Mrs. O. O. Hammonds. The state house eventually voted eleven charges of impeachment,
and after a lengthy senate trial Johnston was ousted in 1929 for “general incompetency.”
WA263 January 8, 1928
POLITICALLY CHRISTMAS WAS BUM
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Course with Xmas and New Year’s and this guy Hickman, and rains, all coming at once there hasent been much to read about.1
First we will take the Presidential candidates as they comprise the majority of our population. Nothing new showed up during the holidays in the way of a man that could be nominated.
New candidates made their appearance but like all the rest none of them that could by any stretch of the imagination be taken as being able to be nominated, it would have been a wonderful Xmas if we had had delivered into our socks a real man that the country could all kinder settle on then we could have notified Kansas City that they would not have to go the disgrace of holding the convention after all and as the Democrats havent picked any place and it is doubtful in many minds if they will, as no town has bid on it, they are out now trying to find some town that is unknown enough to take on the convention.
Hoover instead of making any move to further his cause from the political angle just went to his office and tended to his business, which will naturally kill all chances he has with the politicians. If a man is going to tend to his business all the time and not spend his term of office making political appointments why he will never get very far with the politicians.
Then Dawes, another man that is just right next door to free rent, why his Xmas cards dident have any platform on ’em.2
I kinder looked for him to sorter hint what his plan would be for America. He had one for Europe, and I thought maby he would lay out a schedule for us. There is a lot of Dawes presidential talk, and it is not Dawes that is doing it either. Dawes did hate the Senate there for awhile, but then so did everybody else; but the people and Dawes too felt like giving them another chance, so I believe that the Senate would kinder be for Charley for they know in their own hearts that he had the real low down on them when he made that war talk about ’em. Even the ones that are against him, would figure if he was President that he couldent be Vice President, and if he wasent Vice President why he wouldent be ruling over them.
So as I say nothing happened during the holidays to change anything in regard to these two most likely candidates; Dawes is a rich man and could have sent everybody a Xmas present and that would have done more to further him than ability would. But he dident and I don’t look for much from him in the way of Easter greetings so it just don’t look like he wants the office bad enough to buy it, which leads me to believe that he is not following the usual Republican procedure.
You know just a little ten or twenty spot nestling in the folds of a well worded Xmas card would have made his Yuletide greetings mighty welcome to most of us. I think it would have even made the Democrats forget the Jeffersonian principles long enough to shy a ballot his way, course he could have worded it in such a way that no Senatorial committee could have found evidence enough to convict on. He could have also charged it off on his income tax as legitimate advertising. And if he had lost the Presidency he could have charged it “loss through wildcat investment,” so it looks like Dawes is going to try and win the nomination on the level, which puts him in the class with Hoover, as being NON political.
Lowden, I just don’t know how he weathered the holidays; he was awful strong with the farmers, but the farmers got a good crop, so I guess they forgot about him.3
Rain was with Cal instead of McNary-Haugen this last fall, and its awful hard to beat for a farmers’ “relief” measure.4
You give me rain whenever I want it, and give my opponent arguments and figures on his side, and I will clean him nine out of ten. Rain at the right time has got more to do with a full wheat bin, than all the protective tariffs you can shock up in one pile.
Course I don’t know just how long Cal is going to have the Lord pulling his way with him. That’s what makes me kinder doubtful about the Democratic chances sometimes. I kinder doubt if they would have any divine cooperation if they got in. Their style of living has never led me to hope for much along that line, course I may be all wrong. We all know what the good book says, “The Lord loveth the poor and down and out.” But at the same time it looks like the poor don’t get much besides love. They are being loved all the time, but they are also being poor all the time. Now the Lord might just be that way with the Democrats, for they sure come under the heading, “Poor and down and out.” But they are going to need something more material than just love.
Now Cal and the Republicans don’t come under the heading of “poor and down and out.” But till they draw the rains, the Lord may not “love ’em”
but He does assist ’em. And this is an age of material things. Mass production is the constant howl. Love and good fellowship don’t seem to be paying dividends. There has been more beautiful verses written about the poor and needy. If everybody instead of writing a poem about ’em would have sent a dollar instead, there would have been no poor and needy. So I am just wondering if the Democrats get in whether they will be loved by the Almighty, or whether He will do as much for them physically as he has for Calvin’s gang. So that’s what makes Mr. Lowden’s position kinder hard to dope out.
Of course if the farmers get a poor year next year why Lowden will be the Red Grange of the Corn belt.5
So it looks to me like Lowden is just at the mercy of the elements. If the Lord sticks with Cal another year, Mr. Lowden is static. If he don’t Lowden will be the loud speaker with thousands trying to get their head in the mouth of the horn.
That brings us down to Mr. Hughes.6
There is a man along all these other three that I have a tremendous admiration for. He is one of the nicest and friendliest men when you know him of any man you ever met. They say he said he was too old. Where does he get that stuff. Why you got to be an old man before you have any sense nowadays. Now I wanted to get down to the Democrats in this but I just havent the paper and the space to make it. But they dident do anything during Xmas to further their cause any more than the Republicans did. Politically it was just a bum Xmas.
I still hope we could all find and settle on some man and do away with both conventions. It would be such a good joke on the Delegates. For there is nothing as useless as a delegate to a political convention. Unless it is the man that he is a delegate for.
1William Hickman was charged with the kidnapping and murder of a twelve-year old Los Angeles girl. His two-week trial, replete with sensational newspaper headlines and pictures, ended in a conviction on February 9. Hickman was later executed.
2For Charles G. Dawes see WA 221:N 2.
3Frank Orren Lowden, attorney and Republican politician. A former Illinois congressman and governor, Lowden was a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920 and 1924.
4The McNary-Haugen farm relief bill was designed to ease a post-World War I depression in agriculture by providing such federal assistance as the control of surpluses and the stabilization of prices. Coolidge twice vetoed the legislation.
5For Red Grange see WA 228:N 4.
6For Charles Evans Hughes see WA 253:N 6.
WA264 January 15, 1928
WILL ADVISES EVERYBODY TO RUN
Dear Al Smith, Governor of New York:1
Al, it just looks like I can’t find anybody to write to but you and Cal. Neither one of you ever answer me, but I just don’t seem to get discouraged. I just keep on writing.
A good while ago I wrote you advising you to lay off the big race till 1932, when you would have a cinch instead of a race. Well, at that time I thought Coolidge would run and I didn’t think you could beat him with the present condition of the country continuing.
Well, everybody tells me I am all wet, that he is not going to run. Well, I still say he is. That’s what he wants and what he will have to do for the party sake is two different things. I claim he will have to in order to assure a Republican victory.
Well, that’s neither here nor there. I have learned that you must never advise a man in politics to do anything but run. If you advise him not too, you just lose his friendship. So it’s always best to advise him the way he wants to be advised.
So from now on I am advising everybody to run. In that way I will be friends to the world. But it’s not of that that I am writing you in this letter, Al, it’s something more than mere politics. It’s something that if you did it would be the biggest single work one man had ever done. Now I just come out of Mexico and I don’t need to tell you they got some pretty big problems down there and it looks like we are going to get a lot of them solved. Cause we got a mighty good man down there.2
This fellow is doing something besides just delivering the notes that is sent down to hand the Mexican Government. In fact he makes his own notes.
He hasent received one from Washington since he had been there. All Washington sends is his check, and I don’t think he has ever cashed that. He is going to settle a lot of things between us.
Now there is some things down there that I don’t just know how a Government would go about settling. No matter how good a man they had. And
that’s this religious issue. Don’t let anybody tell you it ain’t a big thing. It is a big thing. Anything that affects the lives and habits and customs of a majority of its people is a big thing.
It’s mighty hard for a country or a duly accredited Representative of a country to tell or even advise another country how to conduct their religious affairs. That’s about the touchiest business we got in any man’s country to be monkeying with is religion. It’s the one thing that no matter be he Professor or Heathern, they think, and they have right to think, that it’s theirs and they have a right to do with it as they see fit, as long as they don’t bother anyone else.
Now I am not going to try and tell you anything about the situation down there with the church. I can’t tell you, and I don’t think even smart people that are down there and have lived there could tell you. That is why they could not give you a real unbiased record of all the facts in the whole case. It has dragged on so long and has become so complicated that people that want to be unbiased have naturally a leaning to one side or the other.
Not just because I happened to be thrown and associated a good deal while there with the President and his particular crowd, but I stirred around and tried to meet and talk to every faction. (And believe me there is a many a one, that’s what kept me so long!) Now here is the only conclusion that I think anybody could come too. Both sides must have some right and must have some wrong on their side. Neither one can possibly be entirely in the right. Now like all long drawn out fights they have both got kinder hard headed and don’t want to give in. Each one feels that the other side has it in for them, and they both distrust each other. Now when you figure it out it don’t seem there is enough difference between them that it couldent be fixed up.
Now here is where you come in, Al. You have qualifications that make you the ideal man to settle this question. In the first place you are a Catholic, and they would be willing to place their case in your hands. They couldn’t possibly do that with a non-Catholic, no matter of how much ability and integrity they considered he possessed. They would naturally figure that he didn’t understand their angle. Now on the other hand you understand government. You handle almost as many people in your state as they are called on to handle in their whole country.
You have a strong Catholic clientele in your state, a large Protestant one, a large Jewish one. All of these you handle with no possible friction as to government. Now they know that down there. Now they know that you know how to run a government without church, and they know that you know how to let a church be run without a government. I defy anyone to pick a man that is more ideally suited to bring these two factions to peace. You wouldn’t need a Commission and a lot of red tape. You could go there and talk it over with both sides, and kinder give and take, and I bet anything that I possess that you could settle it in a week. They want to get it settled, both sides do. They both
realize that in the handling the whole thing that they have both in the heat of battle made mistakes.
But Mexico don’t want to fight. They have had fifteen years of it, and they are tired and want to be let alone in peace and to pursue their worship according to the dictates of their own heart. The men in the Government are not such bandits that they want to be fighting all the time. They want to see everything settled and quiet and they know that with that prosperity is bound to come to all.
This fellow Calles is a strong fellow.3
He is a kind you don’t ordinarily meet in politics. He makes no play for gallery. But I do know that he will listen to reason, when it is backed by facts. Morrow’s association with him has proven that; the thing has simply evolved itself into a strike between the Government and the Church, and like all strikes that deal in a commodity, it’s hurting nobody but the people that use and want that commodity.
The Government can afford to carry on the fight, the Church can afford to carry on the fight. They could each fight for fifty years and never hold services in a single church in the Republic in that time. But it’s the people who would be the sufferers. Calles would like to see it settled in some way that would be best for the whole country for all time. He would be the most popular man in Mexico if it was settled, for he has done some other very remarkable things for the country. Obregon would like to have it settled.4
The Church we know wants to see their people receive services. So you see while it’s a big question, it wouldent take much at that, to bring them together.
This is not a thing for a comedian to be advising a statesman on. But I went to the country of my own free will and accord without any special invitation from anybody. I just wanted to see what it was like, meet its people, and have a good time. I went, was treated fine, not only by the Government and the ruling classes, but by everyone. Went into Vaqueros’ or cowpunchers’ houses and received the same courtesy and unbounded hospitality that I did with the President. Mexicans are fine people. They don’t do everything our way or like we do. But why should they? Maybe their way is best, who knows? And if I ever was serious in my life I am serious in all I am saying to you. I honestly believe you are the best equipped and the most logical person in the world today to settle this great question. You are the only man that I know of that could speak with authority from both sides of the question. You would not only be doing Mexico a great favor, but the world. And as for us
and our relations with Mexico, it would mean everything. And most of all it be giving those poor peons down there something, that through no fault of theirs they are now denied. You know most of the population down there are poor, and they work hard, and they don’t get a whole lot, and their church services and their fiesta days is about all they get out of it. That and to be let alone is all they ask. Now that ain’t much to ask of a country of whom you are a citizen, is it?
To be allowed to have his spiritual guidance is not an unjust wage to demand for his toil. So it just looks to a mere comedian (with a fair amount of love and liberty for his fellow men) that it is a disgrace for any great church, and any government of any great Republic to have to publically admit that they can’t get together in some way and give their poor people what little they ask, when it is so little they do ask. And it’s to you, Mr. Smith, that I honestly believe that if you offered your services that they would be accepted by both parties. And I am sure the result would be the greatest gratification of all the things of your entire useful public career.
1For this and all further references to Al Smith see WA 221:N 7.
2For Dwight W. Morrow see WA 254:N 2.
3For Plutarco E. Calles see WA 223:N 1.
4Alvaro Obregón, Mexican soldier and political leader; president of Mexico from 1920 to 1924.
WA265 January 22, 1928
WHAT’S THE BIG QUESTION OF THE DAY?
I was sitting around home one day sunning my scar trying to get it the same color as the rest of my body, and I didn’t have a thing to write about. I said to myself, “What is the biggest news in America today?” I just says, “Will you owe it to your public to try and get the best.” They want to know something about the big questions, the burning issues, or in other words what is more in everybody’s mind right now than anyone subject? Was it among the following:
“Does CHOOSE mean won’t or will?” I knew that the meaning of that word had drove more people to Webster than “Overt” did during the war.
But it didn’t mean anything in anyone’s actual lives. They knew somebody would be President, but it would give neither personal joy or pain to
them. Then I got to thinking of the following problems:
“Will the farmers get relief, or will they be satisfied with a good crop?” “Can Al hold New York, and not lose Alabama?” “Is Hoover’s strength sentimental, or do they really think so little of him that they take him for a politician?” “Is Prohibition an issue or a drink?”
Now all these on paper look like pretty fair topics. But do you know nobody I talked with did they mean a thing to. Every fellow would say, “Oh, I don’t know whether he will run or not. I wonder when Ford’s new car will be ready for delivery.” The next fellow:
“Prohibition? Oh, I don’t guess either side will do much about it. I reckon everybody gets about all they want. Have you heard anything about how that new Ford stands up?” Ask another one:
“Do you think Congress will try and tinker with the tariff?” “Oh, I don’t know, nobody knows what those guys will ever do. I wonder if they really are as fast as Ford says?”
Well, it finally commenced to percolate through my old thick-head that here I was unconsciously finding out what was in everybody’s mind without asking them what was the burning question. Here was America with billions of dollars invested in what the professors like to have it known as higher education, or colleges; here we are teaching ’em Sciences, Languages (including English), Law, Medicine, and even Golf, and yet with all their education, what they were interested in was a Ford car. Mexico had worked out a new economic system of eliminating Presidential candidates. Now if there is one that America should be interested in, it should be some scheme for eliminating Presidential candidates. But do you think we even noticed to see if the system worked down there or not? We did not. We wanted to know, can we
get it on time, and what will he allow for the old Lizzie?
Well, I have always been a slave for my readers, so I just get me on the train, (the balance wheel was with me, so I couldn’t take an aeroplane) and I sent a wire to Mr. Ford that I was headed his way, and nothing short of a personal demonstration in America’s latest dissipation would satisfy your news sleuth.
Well when I finally did get there, Mr. Liebold, his genial secretary, ’phoned and said come out and have lunch with Mr. Ford.1
Mr. Ford showed me the car, and told me all about it. In fact I found that he was as bad as all the other people that I had talked to. All HE was interested in was the new Ford car. I asked him who he thought would be the next Republican candidate for President. “I would just like to get some other car out on the road to race with me, I have had it up to seventy.” I told him I was glad to hear that fellow was going to run, that I had always liked him too, and I thought he would make a good race. He did the last time, and I could see no reason why he wouldn’t do as well again. “Who do you think the Democrats will run?” He said: “It hasn’t got any one feature that is outstanding, but it has a hundred little
things, and I am not through putting them on yet.” Well, I was glad to hear that, for I always figured Smith would go into the convention with just about enough to nominate. It was only his ability at this time to beat this Republican that was worrying me. That’s why I advised him to wait four years and be sure of it. I then asked Mr. Ford if he thought Congress would do anything about the farmers, and he replied immediately: “We would have gotten it out sooner, but the windshield held us up. Did you notice you can’t get cut with it; it don’t shatter, you can run your fist through it. Eighty percent of all accidents are from windshields.” Well, you know being a farmer myself, I never
was as glad to hear him say what he did about them. For I myself had always felt that they had got a raw deal.
He had been so nice about giving me all this information on all the principal issues that I didn’t want to press him and be a pest. So he showed me his collection of all the old vehicles, and all the old time things he has gathered. Showed me his new planes. I went up in a small one, and they framed with the guy to loop the loop and do a roll. And I want to relate that the old comedian wasn’t comeding during this maneuver. He sent me to Chicago the next day in one of the big three-motored Ford ships. Before I left I got the specifications
of the new car. You see at that time it was not out. But he gave me the dope on it:
- Wheel Base
- 20 feet running and folds up to 3 feet when parked.
- There is a quartette, and like a quartette you can never tell how many are singing at once.
- Follow Through.
- Ten percent of advertised rate, and two percent of Chamber of Commerce figures.
- Rear Axle
- Will bend or break as occasion demands.
- Natural Mud.
- It will displace a buggy, wagon, or phaeton.
- Either off to left or right.
- Castor Oil.
- Just as good as rubber.
- Either wood or stucco.
- 38’s, 44’s, and 45’s, double action.
- Cooling System
- Base Burner.
- Rapid Demountable.
- We will once.
- That’s a big word, but it’s in there somewhere.
- Perfect 36.
- Poland China.
- One man, but he must be a MAN.
- Alto or Soprano.
Special Equipment includes wheels, engine, fenders, and seats, if you care to sit down.
1For Ernest G. Liebold see WA 259:N 2.
WA266 January 29, 1928
THAT RADIO TALK SCARED ME STIFF
I have received so many letters in the last couple of weeks asking different questions in regard to the broadcasting that I was a party of a while back.1
They all seem to want to know how it was done, and how it was that cues of each different station was taken up so quick, and there was no delay, and did I broadcast from my own home, and do I like talking over the radio, and a thousand other questions.
Now if you don’t mind and it will be any news to you I will try and tell you all I know about it, which is not much, but it’s what the men told me. Men worked at my home in Beverly Hills for at least 10 days before and the last three days some of them worked all night, rigging up lines, an electrical wire, and big apparatus. They had a complete broadcasting station, as complete as any, all right there in the home. In a kind of a den I have in the basement. (Well, pretty near any room we have in our house is a den, for when these Rogers animals get in any of them, they need a den.) Then the wires for the actual broadcasting was done from another room upstairs. Then our radio receiving set was in still another room, so that no one would interfere with the other. Now I spoke into an ordinary receiving microphone, and my voice was carried over a special leased wire into Chicago. In fact it went two ways, over two lines. One by way of Frisco and then east to Chicago, and the other south by the way of Yuma, Arizona, one in case the other had any hitch.
Chicago was made the headquarters of the whole hook up, for it was more central. Then they also had to have special leased telegraph wires. There was a full sending and receiving telegraph set right in the room with all this apparatus, and all their communications in regard to how things were going in all the various places was carried on by telegraph. For once the radio line went into operation, no outside questions or advice could be given over it, so that’s why they had the telegraph. All the time any of us were working, they were talking back and forth as to how it was coming in, and keeping time on the time of each stunt. It not only had to be figured out by the minute but by the second. You see just what I have said was at my home was at four other points. You see Johnson was working from New Orleans, and Whiteman from New York, and Mr. Wilmer from Detroit.2
Fred Stone was in Chicago, but they had to have all this for him as he was broadcasting from his dressing room at the New Erlanger Theatre, and everything had to work on the second for him, as he timed his between his appearances on the stage.3
Our voices left their various places, went direct to Chicago, then come back out to all the other 70 or 80 Stations on the hook-up. For instance, at home my family in the next room when they heard me it had been to Chicago and back, and it was all within the fraction of a second. We had head pieces on and could keep tab on the rest of the performance. But the way it all went so smooth was, we each had cues. That is, I was to finish my announcement on a definite cue. I might in my introduction use the name of Al Jolson a dozen times. But the cue for the finish was, “Mister Al Jolson in New Orleans,” or the same with “Mister Fred Stone in Chicago,” and “Mister Paul Whiteman in New York.” That “Mister” was their cue, and it meant the final words, and the second that I finished_______“of New Orleans,” I was off and Jolson line was on.
I could hear over the head phones, but I couldent have spoke to him. It really was a wonderful mechanical and systematically worked out affair. Sitting right by me during my little part was Graham McNamee, the great announcer of all the big things that are done over the radio.4
I have known him and been friendly with him for years. But I felt so nervous to be talking there in an amateurish way, while here sat the Daddy of all the talkers over the radio.
I am awfully glad it’s over, for I was as nervous as I ever was on a first night. You know a lot of people don’t realize it, but that radio is a tough thing, especially for a Comedian. It’s made to order for a singer, and a person making a straight forward speech, or talk explaining something. But to have to line up there and try to get some laughs, I want to tell you it’s the toughest test a Comedian has. You don’t know what kind of material to use. If you are in a Theatre, you know about the type and class of people that you will face, and kinder frame up your act accordingly. But on the radio, you got every known specie in the world, and here is the hard part that very few have figured. On
the stage when you tell anything and it gets a laugh why naturally you kinder wait till the laugh is over, and then go on. Well that little microphone that you are talking into, it’s not going to laugh, so you don’t know when you tell anything whether to wait for your laugh, or just go right on. You might wait for it, and there would be nobody in your party that was listening in laugh at it, then it would seem like a dead wait. So you dare not wait for any of what you think might be laughs, and so the consequence is, that anyone listening in can’t laugh as they would at the same joke in the theatre, for fear of missing the next line that you will pull. So that is what I would say is the principal
hardship on the comedy fellow doing his stuff over the air.
You can always have better luck broadcasting at a dinner where the people listening can hear the people at the dinner laughing. Then of course you get the people who write in, and say “You knocked California, when you said we imported our roses.” Well, what has a rose got to do with the future of California? If they had as much invested in California as I have they might have a kick. Then if you joke about anybody, you get letters from their friends saying, “You knocked Graham McNamee.”
Honest, if you could just read the letters, you would wonder. Why do people listen to things they don’t like? The radio is the easiest thing in the world to switch from one to another. You don’t have to get up and leave the Theatre, and go and buy a ticket to another to hear a better show. All you have to do is to turn a dial and you are rid of what you don’t like. That’s what makes it great.
1On January 4, 1928, Rogers acted as the master of ceremonies for the “Dodge Victory Hour,” an innovation in radio programs that featured entertainers broadcasting on a three city “hook-up.” It was on this program that Rogers did an imitation of President Coolidge that
created considerable publicity.
2For Al Jolson see WA 260:N 5. Paul Whiteman, American bandleader who became famous in the 1920s for pioneering “sweet style” as opposed to traditional “classical” jazz. Edward George Wilmer, president and chairman of the board of Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company from 1926 to 1928.
3Fred Andrew Stone, well-known American stage and screen actor who in 1903 created the Scarecrow role in the theatrical production of The Wizard of Oz. Stone was one of Rogers’ dearest friends.
4Graham McNamee, popular radio announcer for National Broadcasting Corporation; covered presidential conventions, sporting events, and various news shows.
WA267 February 5, 1928
WRITES ON FEEDING DEMOCRATS
RAW ORATORY AT JACKSON DINNER
Well, all I know is just what I see in the papers, or what I hear as I sit behind the free lunch table and listen to the boys bark for their meals. Did I ever tell you about the time I broke bread with the Democrats in Washington? I passed myself off as a Democrat one night just to get a free meal.
I had watched the Republicans eat, but I never had seen them feed the Democrats, so I crawled in under the tent and watched ’em throw the good old raw Jeffersonian Oratory right into the cages with ’em. They call it a Jackson Day Dinner. I made the mistake of my life. I went there with a speech prepared about Jackson, telling how “He stood like a stone wall,” and here it wasn’t that Jackson that they were using as an alibi to give the dinner to.1
It was old “Andy” Jackson.
Well, to tell you the truth, I am not so sweet on old Andy. He is the one that run us Cherokees out of Georgia and North Carolina. I ate the dinner on him, but I didn’t enjoy it. I thought I was eating for Stonewall. Old Andy, every time he couldn’t find any one to jump on, would come back and pounce onto us Indians. Course he licked the English down in New Orleans, but he didn’t do it till the war had been over two weeks, so he really just fought them as an encore. Then he would go to Florida and shoot up the Seminoles. That was before there was a bathing suit in Palm Beach. Then he would have a row with the Government, and they would take his command and his liquor away from him, and he would come back and sick himself onto us Cherokees again.
He was the first one to think up the idea to promise everybody that if they will vote for you, why, you will give them an office when you get in, and the more times they vote for you the bigger the office you will give them. That was the real starting of the Democratic Party. It was called Democratic because you was supposed to get something for your vote. Then the Republicans come along and improved on the Democrats and Jackson’s idea by giving them money instead of promises of jobs. In that way you got paid whether your man was elected or not. So naturally that’s why more people are Republicans than Democrats. Nobody with any business sense wants to wait till after election to see if they get something. They liked the Republican idea of “Paying as you go.”
But old Andy made the White House. He got in before the Republicans got their scheme working. The Indians wanted him in there so he would let us alone for awhile. Andy stayed two terms, and was the first man that didn’t “choose” to run again. He had to get back to his regular business, which was shooting at the Indians. They were for a third term for Andy. They sent the Indians to Oklahoma. They had a treaty that said, “You shall have this land as long as grass grows and water flows.” It was not only a good rhyme but looked like a good treaty, and it was till they struck oil. Then the Government took it away from us again. They said the treaty only refers to “Water and Grass; it don’t say anything about oil.”
So the Indians lost another bet. The first one was to Andrew Jackson, and the second was to Rockefeller, Doheny, Sinclair and Socony.2
After the Cherokees went back and saw where they used to live in Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama, why, we always felt that Andy had unconsciously done us a favor. For Georgia never was heard of again till Ty Cobb.3
North Carolina was in a rut till Lucky Strikes and Camels pulled them out, and Alabama laid dormant till Tom Heflin made the first page for them.4
So we Cherokees can always kinder forgive old Andy for not knowing what he was doing. Got to give old Andy credit, he fought duels when duels was duels, and not just the inconvenience of getting up before sunrise.
Now we got an election coming along and us “Injuns” got an entry in the race. It’s Charley Curtis, who was smart enough to live in a Northern State, which is a physical hardship, but a political advantage.5
Charley has used awful good judgment in the Presidential ambitions. Al Smith and Jim Reed and Donahey and Ritchie all have splendid qualifications and have studied and acquired traits that will help them to the Presidency, but Indian Charley Curtis with one swoop embraced a requirement that will be of more advantage in a Presidential race than all the combined qualifications of the other I mentioned.6
He is a Republican. Of course that ain’t saying much. But it’s just
that little thing that is lacking in any of these others that will be their principal handicap. So if we get Charley in there we will see what he does for the Indians. I hope he don’t send us back.
I thought at the time of the dinner that the Democrats were going mighty far back to find some hero that they could worship. But I happened to be in Cuba when President Coolidge delivered his speech to the Latins, and the Republicans had to go even further back than the Democrats did for Jackson. He went back to Columbus. I had never known or even heard Columbus’s political faith discussed before. But he must have been a Republican, the way Cal was boosting for him. So you see neither party hasn’t got much when they have to reach back that far to find some one to boost.
The dinner started at 7 o’clock on Thursday and run till 3 a.m. on Friday the 13th. We didn’t eat that long. We only eat as long as they brought it. They run out of food about 8 p.m. From then on you had to subsist on “Prohibition, with or without a license,” and “Party Harmony.” Jim Reed closed the show with “Corruption” at exactly 3 A.M. the next morning and held ’em in their seats. You know the Democrats can just naturally stand more oratory than any other race.
But it was all mighty fine. The Democrat is just naturally a better orator than the Republican. The Democrats have the best side. They are always attacking and the Republicans have to defend. The Democrats always have things to attack, for the Republicans furnish them plenty, and on the other hand the Republicans haven’t got much to defend. Their only defense is, “We are in; try to get us out.” So if you ever get a chance don’t miss one of these Jackson Day Dinners; they only hold ’em on election years. They save up four years stuff to tell about the Republicans and it’s sure worth the money.
1Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, American army officer, remembered best for his gallant service with the Confederate forces during the Civil War.
2For John D. Rockefeller, Sr., see WA 259:N 1; for Edward L. Doheny and Harry F. Sinclair see WA 223:N 4. Socony, trade name for Standard Oil Company of New York.
3Tyrus Raymond “Ty” Cobb, star baseball player for the Detroit Tigers from 1904 to 1926 and the Philadelphia Athletics from 1926 to 1930; known as the “Georgia Peach.”
4For Tom Heflin see WA 221:N 3.
5Charles Curtis, Republican United States senator from Kansas from 1907 to 1913 and 1915 to 1929. Curtis, who claimed Kaw Indian ancestry, served as vice president in Hoover’s administration.
6For Jim Reed see WA 228:N 2. Alvin Victor Donahey, Democratic governor of Ohio from 1923 to 1929; prohibitionist and potential presidential candidate in 1928. Albert Cabell Ritchie, governor of Maryland from 1920 to 1935; frequent candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
WA268 February 12, 1928
POLITICS AND TRAVEL
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl hither and thither. The wife and I had a fine visit in Havana, Cuba. It’s the first time I had ever been there, although she had stopped there with our retinue of children one time when they come around through the canal. It sure is a pretty place, one of the cleanest cities I ever saw. They have got some new Chief of Police or somebody and they are a Nut on cleaning up and believe me they got the old town scrubbed and shining.
I will write you more about the Pan American Conference later, as they have only been there long enough now to get over their complimentary remarks, and will be calling each other by their right names as the thing gets hotter.1
Calvin made quite a hit down there. He dident say nothing much only the usual pleasantries. But they liked it. Or course when they held a clinic over the speech and took it apart, he had simply delivered a high school oration.
Havana is just packed with Americans. All seem to be having a good time. The balance wheel is not so much on this flying personally, so we had to come home by train, about four or five days and nights of it. It’s a nice trip over on the boat from Havana to Key West, about six hours. Nice comfortable steamers. Then a drive around Key West, which is a pretty and unique little city. They have just opened up a highway up along the Keys to Miami.
Florida is picking up fine. All the towns are building, and they have got rid of all the ones who only come there to speculate. All the smart ones have just charged a certain amount off to loss, and started the whole thing in on a sensible basis. It’s a great winter resort. All the Real Estate panics in the world can’t take that away from it.
We come along the whole Gulf coast country. That’s the coming country, the whole thing that lays along the gulf of Mexico. New Orleans is going great. If they will ever do anything on that flood relief, it will go stronger than ever. You know if we should happen to have another flood next spring and cause another catastrophe like last spring, just think what Congress would have to answer for. Here it’s been nine months and not a single shovel full of dirt moved to prevent another one.
Went on over through Houston who put their hand in what they thought was a prize convention grab bag and come out with the Democratic one. Well, they seem to be all hopped up over it. You know they never had one before, and they are just as innocent about it. They don’t know what they are. I am glad they got it though. It will give some of these Northern Delegates a chance to get that old moss-back idea out of their heads about the South to have it down there, and it is especially a great thing for Texas. I have repeatedly said after being in each State of the Union for two consecutive years, that North Carolina has made the most progress in the last 5 years, and Texas is next. It seems a surprise to people who don’t travel around much to hear this. Perhaps they hadent heard of anything that either one of these two had done. But I want to be impartial, and I want to be fair, and that is what I absolutely believe. Course we got a lot of them that are humming. But like Oklahoma, and California, and Florida and a dozen others, they have been improving over a longer stretch of time. They have been great for quite a while. But North Carolina just looked like it popped up over night. They got everything. But Texas, that’s not a state, it’s a Dominion. Dan Moody’s got the biggest range of any Governor in the World, I reckon.2
This Houston wanted an Ocean and they dident have one, so they just dug one.3
One man, Jessie Jones, just pulled out his check book when the towns were bidding on the Convention, (nobody had given him any money, there had been no collection taken up before he left Houston) and wrote out his personal check for $200,000, and layed it on the barrel head, and I want to tell you those Democrats pounced on it like a Congressman on a Mellon hard-earned savings.4
It takes a game Guy in any man’s town to do what Jones did. Most towns would have to have Chamber of Commerce speeches and luncheons and drives for a year to dig that up. But that’s the way those Babies down there do things. So go to see the town, even if you are not interested in the Convention, and the State has dozens of ones like it, not all as big, but they all believe they are, and they will all surprise you.
They say the Railroads are going to cut off three hours, going east from California to Chicago. I don’t know why they don’t cut off 12 coming this way. There is not a road west of Chicago coming out here that couldent take off a full night, or day. When they get these Aeroplane lines going fine they will make these Railroad Birds step out here like the trains do east of Chicago. You won’t see ’em stopping at every little place. There is not a schedule out here that can’t let a train be 3 hours behind and then make it up in one division. They do it all the time.
The Hickman trial run Tom Heflin off the front page out here.5
Hoover has just been declared the Candidate of California. That means that Arizona will be against him. That’s the State I got my vote from last time. I hope that Delegate hasent died. Hoover is talking about resigning. That shows right there he is not a politician. He seems to think you can’t serve two masters.
Lowden is strong with the Farmers, but the East is sorter scared of him.6
The East thinks if he was elected he would give the Farmers relief, and if they ever got relief, they would charge ’em too much for their grub. Dawes is the Baby that’s just sitting back, listening to the Senate, but paying no attention to ’em at all.7
His mind is on Kansas City on a hot day. Curtis will be on the home grounds, and should Hoover and Dawes go into a huddle, that “Injun” is liable to come out of the scrimmage with the ball.8
But I still claim that if it looks like a tough race with Smith going to be nominated on the minority side, that Calvin will be rushed from the side lines to save the game. At least Hearst hasent won my money yet.9
1The sixth Pan-American Conference was held at Havana, Cuba, in January 1928.
2For Dan Moody see WA 249:N 4.
3The Houston ship channel, opening the inland city to ocean-going traffic, began operations in 1914.
4Jesse Holman Jones, Houston oilman, land developer, newspaper publisher, civic leader, and Democratic party booster. For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 231:N 3.
5For the Hickman murder trial see WA 263:N 1; for Tom Heflin see WA 221:N 3.
6For Frank O. Lowden see WA 263:N 3.
7For Charles G. Dawes see WA 221:N 2.
8For Charles Curtis see WA 267:N 5.
9For William Randolph Hearst see WA 240:N 2. Rogers reported that he had wagered $5,000 with Hearst that Coolidge would run for reelection.
WA269 February 19, 1928
LET’S OPEN WILL’S MAIL
All I know is just what I read in the letters. Now it has been a wonder to half the world “What the other half are doing?” Well I have found out what the other half are doing. THEY ARE WRITING LETTERS.
Now there is nobody in the world that likes to get letters any more than I do. In fact I think we all kinder alike in that respect, but there is lots of them that it is awful hard to answer. Now this morning for instance I started in on the mail and here is what I got into. I will just take ’em as they come. A fellow says, “The American-Russian Chamber of Commerce refuses to stop Russian propaganda coming into this Country. What should be done with the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce?”
What should be done with ’em? Why the same that should be done with all Chambers of Commerce’s. Let the Secretarys get some other job, and the Members go back to eating lunch at home with their own families.
Course there is a lot of the problems I can’t solve that easy. Here is a Calendar, that by reading it and studying it you can tell the hour of the day. That is, you can tell the hour of day that you started trying to find out the hour of the day. He wants to know what I think of it. Well, if I could understand that many figures, I wouldent have squandered 12 years of my life among the few that Ziegfeld had.1
This fellow had a great scheme, but we have a clock.
Here is one from Beaver Springs, Penna. “Reaching the Saturday Evening Post, my pride fell when I find you said you had had a forced landing among the good Pennsylvania Dutch at Beaver Falls, Pa. Why there are no Dutch there. It was with Mrs. O. G. Wagner of Beaver Springs that you ate and spoke of as such fine people. Study your geography.”
Say brother, if you felt like I did when we landed it wouldent have made much difference whether it was Beaver, possum, or even Polecat Springs. How was I going to see the town when I dident even see the ground till we hit it. As long as I got the State right, it did pretty well for me. Here is one from the Beverley Hills Chamber of Commerce, evidently a circular letter sent to all the Movie people: “It has probably never occurred to you, that a great deal of the fan mail is being mailed from Hollywood. Now all send your fan mail from Beverley, and put your home address on it and it would savor more of the personal, and not so much of the studio, and incidentally keep Beverley Hills name before the world.”
Now that’s a good idea, but means nothing to me, as nobody ever writes for my picture. If they do it’s somebody that can’t get anybody else, and wants ONE to win a bet, and as for autographs that’s a specie that should be exterminated, and the least encouragement they get the better. But it shows you old Beverley is right on the job.
Here is a bill from Culver Military Academy where young Bill is. He has bought four pairs of gloves at the supply store, as well as a lot of other stuff. I think he is doing a little retailing on the side. I believe it would be cheaper to increase his spending money. What are we to do with this younger generation? There was none of that when I was a boy. We dident know what a glove was.
“The Daily Princetonian wants an article on any subject that would be of interest to the growing Student.” So as soon as I get time I will write one on “Are College football players overpaid?” or “Do you think that learning will ever supplant education?” or “What will take Jin stains out of a coon-skin coat?” Here is a poor fellow that is blind and wants me to tell him how to work a cross word puzzle. Now I wish I could tell that poor fellow. But I could never work ’em with my eyes open. Come to think of it it’s a wonderful thing for blind people to have those in the raised letters and work them out. Now see if I hadent got that letter I would never have known there was such a thing.
Here is a fellow that is sending me a book, “The Looting of Nicaragua.” It’s in answer to, “Why are we in Nicaragua, and what in _ _ _ _ are we doing there? by Congressman at large Will Rogers.” Now when I asked that question, I dident expect some Guy to write a book answering it. But that’s the way with these book writers, it sure don’t take much provacation to get them to write one. You have to be awful careful, or the least little hint will get them started in on a book. If you will pardon another abrupt and rude question that I would like to here propound, “Books and why the _ _ _ _ do they write ’em.”
Here somebody sends an “Editorial from the Arizona Republican” who evidently took serious somebody jokingly proposing me for President. It doubts my qualifications. Now that breaks me all up. I thought I was ideally fitted. I knew I dident have sense of humor enough to be an Editor, but I did think I would make a good President.
Here is some beautiful post cards of the second Church built in Virginia at Hampton, Va. There is no letter with the cards, so there is nothing I can do about the Church, only just start an argument that “it is not the second Church in Virginia” which this will no doubt start. However, don’t write me about it. I am only starting the argument; not judging it.
Oh my, here is a post card from the Express Co., saying car passed Algiers, La. containing Horse, on way to Los Angeles. I’ll bet that’s a little Cuban Pony that I liked over there belonging to an old Cow-puncher named
Champman, and he is sending it to the kids.2
Here is one. “I heard some time ago that you wanted a cat with three selected colors. Now I have one with four, white, black, yellow and gray. If interested please write.” I don’t mind a horse coming, but I don’t want any spotted cats. I don’t want any more cats, even if they aren’t spotted.
Here is a letter from General Bullard saying that any donation to the National Security League is deductible off the income tax.3
That’s good news to know that they are not going to charge us for the sake of giving to our own security.
Here is a letter from “the Woman’s Voters of America.” I hope its not some woman writing on “The Woman’s angle in Politics.” No, thank goodness, it’s not. It tells what they are doing with Child welfare. That’s great.
Here is a guy selling Bonds says he sold to Gene Tunney.4
Yes but he forgets that I havent a little Dempsey in my home.5
Here is an official looking letter with one of his Majesty’s crosses on it. I thought at first it was from the Prince of Wales, but its only from the Income tax department saying “There is a little matter in areas that should be attended to.”6
That’s not all, but that’s enough to finish on.
1For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 237:N 7.
3Robert Lee Bullard, American army officer who saw service in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine insurrection, the Mexican border conflict, and World War I. After his retirement in 1925, he served as president of the National Security League until his death in
4For Gene Tunney see WA 229:N 7.
5For Jack Dempsey see WA 241:N 6.
6For the Prince of Wales see WA 257:N 6.
WA270 February 26, 1928
NOT ON THE AGENDA
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. It’s going to be awful hard to keep Politics from creeping into the news from now on. We have various pestilences every once in awhile, and we have floods, but the only advertised and known calamity is our elections. We got one coming on and there is no use denying it. We just as well harden ourselves to it. It’s just like an operation. The anistetic (or whatever you call the gas they give you) why that is the worst part of it. An election without all the gasses wouldent be so bad, but it’s the weeks of slowly putting you under the influence that is the trying part of an election.
So we just might as well start steeling our systems to it. Hoover, who has for months wore his hat at a rakish angle, finally just took it off, took good aim at the middle of the ring and hit it the first throw. So now that uncertainty is over we can commence to get our bearings. Hoover had the jump on all the other Candidates for popular support and it would have been pretty tough to got all worked up about him and then he had said, “I don’t anticipate running,” or any one of those double-barrelled epigrams. But now that he has consented to, why that lifts a big load off the professional worriers.
But watch the politicians start gnashing their tusks. You know Hoover owes everything he is in life to the fact that he has never done one thing like a politician. In fact the records don’t show that he has ever even spoken to one. You see they want to get some old boy that has worked up from maybe State Legislature, then Senator, then Governor, or U. S. Senator. They figure that he knows where to hand out the offices where they will do “The Boys” the most good. But with “Herbert” he is just liable to appoint some capable man. You can’t tell what fool things like that he would do.
Say, young John D. Rockefeller kinder jarred the oil boys dident he?1
He has the idea that the business can be run at a profit and still keep it off the front pages, and out of the Senate investigation room. It seemed rather a novelty to have a man testifying before the Senate that would tell them what they wanted to know. I wouldent doubt that they would keep him as a regular testifier about everything, for all the others refuse to answer for fear it will be used against them later when they come to trial.
Well, we tried that fellow Hickman out here, and when we had him all tried and ready to convict, why the judge said “You the jury are to pass on his sanity, and not on his guilt,” so they went out and come back and said he was sane.2
So now they are going to try him again for killing some man. When they start to try him on that charge we may find at the finish that we were trying him on something else. I havent got sense enough to know whether our criminal court procedure is broken down, or lame, or limping or whatever they say of it or not, but something sure is cuckoo when it takes seven years to hang two fellows after they are convicted, and all this time to convict one after he has confessed.
It looks like after a person’s guilt in this country is established, why then the battle as to whether he should be punished is the real test of the Court. Of course if a fellow is never convicted and never confesses, why then they will hang him. But if he is lucky enough to get convicted or confess why he has a great chance of coming clear. At the Havana Pan American Conference some South American Nation suggests taking up something vital, and the American deligation arises and makes a very tactful speech in which they state that “That question was not on the agenda and shouldent be discussed here.” Then some one will suggest that “they all sign a pledge that they won’t ever invade each other’s country,” and poor Mr. Hughes will have to arise and diplomatically say, “I am sorry Gentlemen but that question is not on the Agenda.”3
Well the poor South Americans will disband and go back to their hotels and start thinking up something else to discuss, and when they drag it into the meeting they run afoul of the same countersign, “That question is not on the Agenda.” The poor devils are cuckoo trying to find something that is on the Agenda. They have been there eight weeks and they have done nothing but form Committees, and then that Committee would form a Sub Committee, and the sub Committee would form an advisory Committee, and they have just Committee’d their self to death. In years to come the question will be asked by some fond child of its Father who was a Delegate to the Havana Conference, “What did you do Father at the big Conference?” “Why I was the fellow that thought of all the different names of all the different Committees. If it hadent been for me, they wouldent have known what to call their Committees, and if they hadent had names for the Committees the Conference would have been a failure for forming Committees was the sole accomplishment of the Conference.”
The Argentine wants lower tarriff on beef. Mr. Hughes told him, “Why we can’t settle any tarriff question. Our Senate and Congress have been trying to agree on that for 150 years, so the best way for you to get your beef in is to smuggle it in. The people bringing in liquor seem to be doing all right. They have beat the tariff.”
Nicaragua, San Domingo and Hayti want to put a tariff on imported Marines. But what does anybody else’s tarriffs mean to us when we want to send something in? It’s on the Agenda if we are looking to do anything, but its NOT on the Agenda if they want to bring something in. But they are liable to work something out of it. Mr. Hughes is about the shrewdest hombre we have. He was born in the Chairman’s chair of a public gathering, weaned on Diplomatic discussions, and grew to a ripe old age attending International Conferences. So in the words of the famous Gene Buck, “give the kid a chance.”4
1John Davison Rockefeller, Jr., son and namesake of the Standard Oil Company magnate; specialized in managing the family philanthropies. The younger Rockefeller testified in February 1928 before a Senate committee investigating the Teapot Dome oil lease scandal.
2For the Hickman murder trial see WA 263:N 1.
3Charles Evans Hughes (see WA 253:N 6) was the chief United States delegate to the Pan-American Conference of 1928.
4Edward Eugene “Gene” Buck, American lyricist, comedy sketch writer, and director. Buck began to write for the Ziegfeld Follies in 1912; he later became Flo Ziegfeld’s assistant.
WA271 March 4, 1928
WHAT CAN HOOVER DO?
All I know is just what I read in the papers. I have been traveling so fast I dident get to read all the papers so I naturally turned to the old reliable Literary Digest and grabbed up what little snatches of news I needed to mend out a fairly informed week.
It tells about “Hoover entering the race.” Well, that was mighty informing, BUT Hoover had been in the race since the old days of “Save a lump of sugar a day and it will keep the Germans away.” He hadn’t anymore than fed his first Belgian than the women, who had dropped three stitches on what they thought was to be a sweater but which some soldier afterwards wore as a sock, and says, “There’s a man that ought to be President.”1
He grabbed the mothers by the heartstrings right away when he said, “Feed the soldiers first, and if there is any left throw the politicians a bone.” He was the first “Food Dictator.”
We had had all kinds of dictators. We had had political dictators that tells us how we should vote for them; we had literary critics and dictators who had told us what to read; and my Lilliputian friend Bill Hayes was to tell us what we were to have to look at while we were waiting for the news reel to come on.2
Hoover is the first one to take us off beefsteak and put us on calories. He grabbed off the Catholic vote right away by making the Baptist eat fish on Friday. He took white bread away from us and had us eating bran mash like a horse. Fed the wheat to the hogs and made the Jewish soldiers eat pork. Fed all the corn to the army mule so he could keep fat and kick a new recruit. Army mules crippled more soldiers than the Germans. He put a fixed price on wheat and sold steel and iron to the highest bidder. He had us sweetening our coffee with nothing but a slogan: “Drink it black and give the enemy a whack.” We buttered our bread with a slogan: “Spread it thin and we are bound to win.” “Why eat food when substitutes will fill you just as full?” He won the war, but he ruined our stomachs. He gave us freedom, but it took us three years to get used to eating meat again. He starved us into Liberty.
Then when he came back why they wanted to run him for President. But it was the Democrats that wanted to run him. Well, he had been away a long time and had been out of touch with political affairs, but he hadn’t been so much out of touch with them that he didn’t know about what the strength of a Democratic candidate would be in 1920. Course he had been working with President Wilson and naturally they took him for a Democrat.3
But if you remember that’s why they shouldn’t have taken him for a Democrat, for it was the Republicans that worked better with Mr. Wilson than the Democrats did. Well, the Republicans got in, and President Harding wanted to add enough respectable members to his cabinet to make it kinder balance, so he had to draft this Democrat, Hoover.4
Well, he dragged along in the cabinet there. There is mighty little nourishment belonging to a thing like that. It’s about like playing in the line in a football game. Unless you get the ball to run with you are there to do nothing but get run over, or try to make a hole for the “head man” to come through. Well, he couldn’t see any percentage of sitting in a chorus of ten voices, so when the 1924 handicap come on he was laying on a radio sounding board with his ears to the ground. Well that was a bad year for outsiders. Cal had been in two and a half years, and he wanted to run again on a vindication platform. He swore he could keep still four more years and not see or hear a thing. Well, that was just what the Republicans wanted. They said if somebody don’t watch us too close for the next four years why we will be willing to give what is left to the Democrats. So when all the scandal came along about the elections in Pennsylvania and Illinois, why, Calvin was looking out the window watching the sheep mow the White House lawn. (One of his economy measures.) But Jim Reed, the old Sherlock Holmes of the Democrats, he smelled graft, traced it down and sure enough his deductions were perfect.5
But I am getting ahead of my story. In ’24 they offered the Vice Presidency to Mr. Hoover. Well, that was just verging on an insult, especially when you knew the good care Mr. Coolidge took of himself. So he turned it down. They called up Lowden and offered it to him.6
When he heard what it was, he got so mad he said he would devote the rest of his life to some lost cause, so he took up Farm Relief. Dawes wanted to get a chance to tell the Senate what he thought of them so he went clear to the trouble of being Vice President just to do it.7
Well, Dawes saw he couldn’t do anything toward reforming the Senate, so he just got sore one day and went to sleep and left ’em.
Hoover stuck along with the cabinet, thinking something would show up, and it did. It was the Mississippi Flood. It was like old times to be doing something after being idle with the Government for so long. He did a wonderful bit of work and saved a lot of lives. But when they got ’em all dried off and looked at them they were Democrats. Well, he didn’t know whether to keep ’em or shove ’em back in again. But he was a humanitarian and he fed them and promised to take care of them until Congress would give them some flood relief. So it looks like he has them on his hands and the Red Cross’s hands for life. He is the only Republican (if he is a Republican) that ever saved a Democrat’s life, and if he ever gets to be President, I bet there will be times when he wishes he had pushed ’em back in again.
Now, if that Flood had been in the North and it had been Republicans he had saved, why, he wouldn’t have to charge it off to profit and loss. He could have wrung some votes out of it. But a Democrat voting for a Republican down South is just like throwing a hand full of gravel at a battleship. He will have their moral support, but their votes will go to a lost cause, as usual.
1Hoover was chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium from 1915 to 1919 and directed various economic programs in Europe during the Armistice.
2For Will H. Hays see WA 233:N 17.
3Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Democratic president of the United States from 1913 to 1921.
4Warren Gamaliel Harding, Republican president of the United States from 1921 until his death in 1923.
5For Jim Reed see WA 228:N 2.
6For Frank O. Lowden see WA 263:N 3.
7For Charles G. Dawes see WA 221:N 2. On one famous occasion while presiding over the Senate, Dawes left the Capitol, went to a nearby hotel, and took a nap, thus missing the opportunity to cast the deciding vote on a crucial bill.
WA272 March 11, 1928
WILL IS GOING TO THE
BLACK HILLS NEXT SUMMER
All I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl over the old tax-ridden commonwealth. I started out on my little tour at Chicago. I figured I will hit the toughest first, let the bullets fall where they may. Got out of there great, as the people were just switching from the machine guns to the “bombs,” so it was a kinder off day for casualties.
I don’t see how it is that people can afford to live in Chicago and afford to change with the times. Now they switched from pistols to Machine Guns, and now from Machine guns to Bombs. I can’t see how a poor man can afford it. The next jump I can think of that they make will be battleships and tanks. They can take that Chicago drainage canal and bring the battleships down it. Well anyway we had a fine bunch, and mighty appreciative audience. Chicago people are mighty fine when they live.
She was a dark and stormy night. But instead of taking the old train I went out to the airport and grabbed the air mail for Omaha. Had Pilot Myers, a good one.1
(They all are.) The Plane from New York was late on account of HEAD WINDS, and we was two hours late in getting out, there was so much snow on the ground it was hard taking off. We got stuck once.
They sent up a balloon to get the velocity of the wind and it blew the balloon back down, so Myers says, “We got a head wind before we start. If we can hold our own against it we will do well. The chances are when day light comes we will still be flying right over the hanger here, that is if we don’t lose distance and get blowed back. But I believe we can hold the distance we start with.”
But we did pretty good. We hit Iowa City about three hours after we had left Chicago, or about one in the morning. That’s where the University is located where all the Californians get their early training. They go there and learn how to get to Long Beach, Cal. It’s a kinder preparatory school for Stanford.
But Iowa is doing mighty fine. Hogs is low but spirits is high. They feel that on account of next year being a Presidential year that the Republicans will give them a fine crop. She is a great State is Iowa. I brought ’em all word from the relatives out in California. I told ’em “They all send love, and say it is lovely out there, the oranges are ripening, roses are in bloom, the sun is shining, so just keep on sending more money.” Played Des Moines, Waterloo, and Sioux City, hopped over into my old friend’s State, the Governor of South Dakota, Governor Buelow.2
He is the fellow that made such a hit at the Jackson day dinner in Washington. The furtherest North Democrat in the World.
For a Democrat to venture into South Dakota is almost like a Republican taking his life into his hands by entering South Carolina.
He is a great fellow. He told me all about the Coolidge fishing exploits up there in the Black Hills. They loaded the streams for him, or as the miners say they “salted ’em.” Everybody that caught a fish anywhere in the State six weeks before the President got there was supposed to bring it down there and turn it loose in this “Squaw creek.” They fed ’em liver, and had ’em all gentle, and had a fellow made up like Coolidge that would go there and feed ’em every day, so they would be used to him. He had ’em all named and could reach in the water and tickle ’em under the stomach and they would roll over on their back. They had the upper and lower end of the creek stopped up so they could keep this same troop in there all the time. They had lerned ’em to eat this liver off a line that was thrown in, but there was no hook on the line, so they was naturally used to going after bait on the end of a line.
Coolidge come pretty near losing out when he first got there by using worms. These fish dident know what worms were. They had been raised on liver. That’s why you remember you heard such a yell that come out in the paper about Coolidge fishing with worms. Well it was the Governor and people of South Dakota that did that, as they were doing it to get him to change his bait to Liver so he could catch these fish. When he used to throw his line in sometimes there would be so many trying to get at the bait that they would form a circle and none of them could get to it. When one would grab the bait why some other one would grab that fish, and then another would get this one by the tail, and in that way he used to catch a whole string of fish already strung. It looked like elephants that are in a parade when they hold to each other’s tails.
Then they got so they had to send some one fishing with the President for the other fish that he wasent catching at the time used to come out and steal his bait out of the can, and duck back in the water before he could see ’em. He couldent stoop over and bait his hook or they would jump up and grab the bait right out of his hands. He had to stand up and do it. Lots of times when he would quit fishing and start back to the Lodge to think up some new way of “relieving that farmer,” why there would be a whole bunch of fish that would be following him, begging for liver. He sent the State of South Dakota $10,000 the other day, pretty near all of it just for Liver.
The old Governor wants me to come up there next summer, as he figures that Cal won’t have to come west next year on account of not having to appeal to the farmers. The interest of the Farmers will be divided between 8 or 10 Candidates on each side next summer, so Calvin’s interest in him will be kinder casual. So he offered me the lodge and the same creek. But I am holding out for the State of South Dakota to furnish half the liver. I want living quarters and 50% of the liver furnished free. I am not going to fish for ’em like he did though. I am just going out on the porch and call ’em and cook the first ten that comes.
1Albert G. Myers, Chicago flier; pilot for Boeing Air Transport Company.
2William John Bulow, Democratic governor of South Dakota from 1927 to 1931. Bulow’s election in 1926 broke a quarter-century of Republican rule in South Dakota.
WA273 March 18, 1928
GROOMING DELEGATES FOR HOUSTON
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. Been an awful lot in the papers lately about just who and what is to compose the New York Deligation to the Democratic Convention at Houston. At first they thought well, we will just go ahead and have the regular Deligates like we always have. Then someone got to thinking, “Well they wouldent be the right kind to use down there.
The Kelly’s, O’briens, and Donovans and Murphys and Izensteins and Levys and Gumbles. We got to dig up a different gang. Well they started in trying to figure out what style and manner of person to send.
They got to inquiring around to find out. But none of Tammany’s Braves had ever been to Houston so they couldent speak with much authority on just what type of Politician Houston was most partial to. If they had just had some one who knew it would have been easy, for they have every style politician in the world. So they started in with the basic idea that we got to send people that use their knife only when there is really something to cut. “We got to kinder raid the social register and see if we can’t cull a bunch that will knock ’em off their seats in Houston with their social standing. Find people who have spent more time in a drawing room than they have in a caucus room. If a ward healer shows up and looks like he wants to go, knock him so unconscious he won’t come to till after the Deligation have gone.”
Try and find ninety Democrats that sleep in pajamas. Be sure there is ninety tooth brushes leave with the Deligation. Watch their language and don’t a let a sign of a dialect creep in. Now you may not get ninety of the above type who are boni fide Democrats, but fill out with what dissatisfied Republicans you can find. They will be so far from home that no one down there will know how they ever voted before.
They started looking for ’em but they was having a tough time filling the bill. Well then the old boys that’s been doing all the voting for the Democratic Organization for years, why he heard of all this highbrow stuff, so he yelped, “Say Youze, Guys, What’s de big idea Cull? Us Birds was good enough to set all summer in Madison Square Garden and listen to the yapping of de Yokels! We voted ourselvs black in the face at every precinct for years for Al! So what’s the big idea we don’t get to make the tek down to de real noise? We Guys wants to see west of de Hudson jes as bad as you High Hat bloaks.”
Well, with all this percolating around, it kinder made a dent in the main Committee, and they started in to try and salve the “Regulars” over. But in the meantime the “Scouts” had come in and announced that they just couldent find ninety “Highbrows,” and that the Republicans that they approached all just through force of habit wanted too much of a fee. So it looked like the
high hat idea had fallen through. It looked bad for a typical Tuxedo Deligation.
So the Committee got off on another track, they conceived the idea of trying to get some wealth mixed up in it. When they saw that Intellect was kinder short handed, they made offers to every well-known wealthy man to loan his person to them for the duration of the Convention and make Al look like he was coming with the backing of “Big Business.”
But “Big Business” was doing so good under Cal that nothing Al could offer them would make them switch. Cal had handed them everything but the mint, and they saw no way that Al could improve on that. But the “Steering” Committee was still resourceful. “Well we have fell down on Intellectuals and Wealth. What would be the matter with sending some old time Southerns, that loved the South so much they just couldent stand to stay there and see it suffer, so they moved to New York? You know the South is great on names and tradition, so we can round up a bunch of these old Babies that have still got their long coat, black hat and string tie.”
The old Boys hadent been doing much since the Bar days closed, when they used to work off their Southern accent on poor suspecting visitors from south of the Montgomery and Ward line. They used to strike up an acquaintance, and before it ended the other fellow had paid for quite a snack of “Juleps.”
You see the Committee was bound to not be represented by the regular voters. Not only the votes of their ninety deligates, but the impression of the Deligates was what they wanted to get over. Houston couldent possibly be hostile to an old decendant of Lee, or Jefferson, all of which could very easily be arranged by a little coaching on history before the Deligation started. Of course these men hadent been allied with Tammany Hall, but for this their first trip to the dear old Southland in years, they could swallow their pride, along with anything else that showed up on the journey. Their names would loan distinction and prestige that would awe the boys from Arkansaw and Texas. When the New York Deligation was polled and the good old Southern names would follow each other in rotation with never a Hebraic or Gaelic tint to it, it would make the Baptist brethren start to open their eyes and realize that New York might have some good in it after all.
It will make the old Protestant boys realize that these are some of their own Countrymen after all, when they discover that they are not going to mass or Synagogue. “Why they are Christian folks, just like us; they don’t go to Church anywhere!”
Course this New York Deligation can only represent them while at the Convention, because they perhaps havent registered to vote in New York for years. But if they make the Deligation look like something for just the duration of the Convention, why the experiment will have worked out O.K. Lot of the old boys will have to brush up on their southern accent. It’s kinder rusty, and is a little overdrawn to what they will hear down south. But it’s a great idea, sending somebody who don’t represent Tammany Hall. I wish America could send somebody to our Conferences that dident represent us. We might not lose so much. They are going to have the Deligates introduced to Smith after they get back from the Convention. They got ’em busy now memorizing the name.
WA274 March 25, 1928
PROFESSOR ROGERS SCHOOL IN PUBLIC
TESTIFYING FOR PUBLIC MEN
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. All we have been able to read here lately is about somebody testifying before somebody else’s Committee, and I have been reading the testimony. They have called everybody but Calvin in this oil investigation. It started out as Oil, and now it has wound up as a bond investigation. Instead of carrying around buckets of oil, why everybody was being handed bundles of Liberty Bonds.
It seems they slipped Mellon fifty Thousand of them, and he let ’em lay around a couple of days before he noticed ’em.1
Fifty Thousand being discovered unexpectedly by him would be just like our eyes unexpectedly lighting on a new shiny Penny that someone had dropped. He did go to the trouble of sending them back to Bill Hays, and told Bill that he would give $50,000 but not of somebody else’s money.2
They asked Butler, the new Chairman of the Republican Party, if he had got any of the bonds.3
He replied with much regret and sadness that he had not. I would have liked to have seen ’em give Butler some. I believe they would have stayed put. Mellon told them on the stand that he had trouble enough with his own money without worrying about Sinclair’s.4
But all that is not what I want to talk to you about. I have an idea that I want to lay before you. Everybody is offering suggestions as to how to improve education. We are learning them all kinds of courses. We have courses in Business administration, Salesmanship, Public speaking, Etiquette, Banking, Dairying, Fertilizing, everything that a person can think of we have a course in it that you can take at some College. Now what I want to propose is a course in “Public Testifying.”
Most of our public men spend over half their time testifying on the stand, especially the Republicans. Now what has brought forth this idea of mine is the testimony that has been delivered on the stand. Did you ever in your life see men get as frustrated and tangled up as these fellows do on the stand? It looks like the smarter the man the bigger Sucker he is when he is being questioned. You know the greatest testimony in any case and about the only convincing testimony we have, is some Child’s testimony, or some old ignorant Farmer or Laborer. They are the ones that always make the hit on the stand. They can answer every question without flinching, and in a simple direct way. But the minute a witness has had any education, or thinks he knows something, why the less convincing he is on the stand.
I think of all the bunch on the witness stand that Lawyers are the worst. You never read a Lawyer’s testimony on the stand in any case in your life and could tell heads or tails of it. They think they are so smart that they have to hide something, and they are generally more scared than any other class of witness there is. The reason the child, or old Lady, or ignorant workman make such good witnesses is they only have one story, and the prosecuting Lawyer knows they only have one, so there is no chance of tying them up in cross examinations. But the smart fellow has so many different angles that he is trying to use a little of all of them, and winds up by making everybody believe that he dident tell half he knew, and dident know half he told.
So I am going to start a school of “Public Testimony.” Instead of being layed out like a School it will be layed out like a Court. Instead of teachers we will have ’em made up as Sheriffs, and Baileffs and Jurymen, and Judges. The minute a man is elected to office like Senator or Congressman, why we will have him come and spend a few weeks in the school and then when he goes on to his public office he will be all set for the first investigation. We will teach ’em not to be nervous, not to let the other fellow get ’em rattled, and have ’em all trained to tell where they got every dollar they used in their campaign and how much they paid for each vote. You see if they would keep all that straight, it’s just like the income tax, it’s merely a matter of records. If you can show the Committee where you received so much—and spent so much— and they both come out even, you need have no fear on the stand. So that’s what my school will teach. In other words it will persuade our big men to turn honest after elections and trust to the mercy of the Jury. And we will coach ’em to tell everything the first time. That will save having to spend your life on the stand. Even if it takes a little longer the first time you testify, why it will save time in the long run. If it takes a whole day to tell the thing, why my school will instruct you to go through with it. In other words, we are going to try and instill honesty into our Pupils, and get them to get used to telling nothing but what happened, and all that did happen.
Of course when some of my early pupils first start testifying they won’t be believed. It will be such a radical change from the usual testimony that the Committee will think that it is a clever fake. But as they grow used to my pupils they will begin to realize that they can depend on them. It’s really patriotic reasons that make me want to do this. For I am afraid that foreign Nations will read some of our papers and find the testimony of some of our men who are in the Cabinet and high in public office, and they will Judge them by that testimony. They will think they are no smarter than their testimony. Well that will leave a bad impression, and if I can change that and get them to make their testimonies as smart as the men really are, why then I will have performed a Public service.
I think I will open the school at Claremore, Oklahoma. That’s about the hub of everything. In fact I will do a little local State work there just to practice getting Politicians to testify correctly. I am going to have Jim Reed as my Prosecuting Attorney, and Senator Walsh as my Judge, and after you have gone through a course facing them, why you will never have to fear any other Investigation that you may be called on to face.4
Remember it opens next year, “Will Rogers School of Public Testifying, at Claremore, Oklahoma. After one term in my school you will welcome testifying, instead of fearing it.”
1For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 231:N 3.
2Hays (see WA 233:N 17), who served as Republican National Committee chairman from 1918 to 1921, testified on March 1 that oilman Harry Sinclair had given him $260,000 in bonds while he was party chairman, $75,000 of which was a personal contribution and the remainder
a “loan.” Hays returned $100,000 of the bonds to Sinclair and later claimed no knowledge of the certificates being part of the Teapot Dome payoff.
3William Morgan Butler, chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1924 to 1928; Boston manufacturer, presidential adviser, and former United States senator.
4For Jim Reed see WA 228:N 2. Thomas James Walsh, Democratic United States senator from Montana from 1913 to 1933. Walsh served as chairman of the Senate committee investigating the oil lease scandals.