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McCrea, Joel (05 November 1905–20 October 1990), actor and rancher, was born Joel Albert McCrea in South Pasadena, California, the son of Thomas P. McCrea, an executive with the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Company, and Lou Whipple. When he was nine, his father moved the family to the rural community of Hollywood, California, where McCrea attended local schools. Education and work were both stressed in the McCrea household. During the school year Joel delivered the ...

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Tom Mix. In Mr. Logan, U. S. A., 1919. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92336).

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Mix, Tom (06 January 1880–12 October 1940), cowboy and motion picture star, was born Thomas Hezikiah Mix in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, the son of Edwin Elias Mix, a teamster in the lumber industry, and Elizabeth Smith. When Tom was eight, his father moved the family to DuBois, Pennsylvania, where the elder Mix took a job as stableman and chauffeur for the wealthy John E. DuBois family. It was in DuBois that Tom, who quit school after the fourth grade, developed an interest in his father’s work, especially the handling of horses. The locals would frequently comment that “Tom learned to ride anything that could walk.” This early experience laid the foundations for the trick riding and roping that was to become an integral part of Mix’s identity as a western film star....

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Will Rogers Left, with Will Hays, c. 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-83080).

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...