Imagine it's 1914, and you are in The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show touring Europe. You are from Oklahoma, completely dependent on the show for your meals, lodging and return ticket home. Now imagine war breaks out. Remember it's 1914 and you have no phones, no airplanes, no ATM's, no credit cards, all trans-Atlantic ships have ceased operations, and the banks are closed. And your Show troop, along with an estimated 120,000 Americans, are all trying to leave.
It happened. This is just one story of one group of stranded Americans. But it's a doozy! The book "Tante Daisy" has a great story about George White Eagle (pictured above left) who marries a Brit in London to be able to bring his new wife and her son back to America. Daisy helps organize an impromptu wedding reception Read how the other Americans got home here.
To learn more about The Miller Wild West Show story click "Read More"
The Troop was having great success in their London run before war broke out.
The Daily Mirror (London), May 27, 1914:
“... at Shepherd’s Bush is the performance which is being given twice daily in the Stadium by The 101 Ranch Real Wild West.’ This representation of life in the prairies is a wonderful spectacle and one which is wholly new to Londoners, and every one of the performers was born and reared on the 101 Ranch, from which the show takes its name."
The Daily Citizen (London), July 11, 1914:
“The Indians, who were gay with fresh paint—ready to take the “war-path” in the arena—aroused much interest, as did the cowboys, Mexicans, vaqueros, and bucking broncos, but the great attraction was the cowgirls from the western prairies.
Queen Alexandra yesterday afternoon paid a visit ... In four motor-cars her Majesty and the party by whom she was accompanied set out from Marlborough House shortly after three o’clock. In the first car were Queen Alexandra herself and the Empress Marie of Russia, ...her Majesty thoroughly enjoyed the performance. More than that, Queen Alexandra took so many snapshots during the entertainment that her camera had to be replenished with a fresh spool of films; ..."
And then... not a month later on August 4, war was declared. The show was forced to tender all the show livestock to Great Britain for war purposes. Following is a copy of the Order of the British Government:
National Emergency. Impressment Order under Section 115 of the Army Act.
To Zack T. Miller, 68 Holland Rd. W.
His Majesty, having declared that a national emergency has arisen, the horses and vehicles of the 101 Ranch Show are to be impressed for the public service, if found fit (in accordance with Section 115 of the Army Act), and will be paid for on the spot at the market value to be settled by the purchasing officer. Should you not accept the price paid as fair value, you have the right to appeal to the County Court (in Scotland the Sheriff’s Court), but you must not hinder the delivery of the horses and vehicles, etc. The purchasing officer may claim to purchase such harness and stable gear as he may require with the horse or vehicle.
Charles Carpenter, Sergt. [sic]
Place Shepherd’s Bush Exhibition
Date 7th August, 1914.
When the Millers' show toured in Germany, authorities arrested some of their Oglala Sioux performers on suspicion of being Serbian spies, they were never seen again. A frantic Zack Miller managed to get the rest of cast out of Germany via Norway, and then to England. Once in London, however, he had difficulty finding a steamship that would sell his people passage. Like everyone else in Europe!
Enter the American Relief Committee to the rescue. Now, despite the fact the "Wild West" as depicted in this show did not exist in 1914, or historically speaking ever outside of these shows, and leaving aside the narrow thinking of the time and egregious stereotypes, imagine you're Daisy or another ARC volunteer and someone dressed as an American Indian, and identifying himself as such, approaches your relief desk to get help to go home. Well, you get them home!
Once the cast returned to Oklahoma, the eldest brother Joe Miller refused to pay the Indian cast overtime. As a result, the entire Indian cast quit the show.
Herbert Hoover, head of the ARC at the time, corroborates Daisy's story in his memoirs, "And there was the Wild West show which worked its way from Poland. It appeared in the shape of twelve American Indians and ten American cowboys in full regalia together with a manager. They had abandoned everything—except their valuable costumes. The feathers and chaps made a great hit on the streets of every city. We had little worry over them, for they had resources at home; but pending the arrangement of their transportation to New York they adorned our headquarters and regaled our waiting-list with their experiences, which became daily more frightful. It seems they had a small zoo attachment. When the war struck them in Poland, there were neither customers nor transportation. The armies seized their ponies, their money ran out and they could not buy food for the animals. They said that they fed the orangutan to the tiger and the lion. In the end the innkeeper became so threatening that they walked out without notice in the middle of the night, leaving the tent, the elephant, the lion and the tiger to the innkeeper.
When they arrived in London they had with them an American twelve-year-old boy whom they had picked up in Hamburg. It appeared that he had been sent from America to visit his grandparents in Croatia. He landed in Hamburg at the crack of war, and finding no one to meet him was wandering the streets when he saw walking along this vision of real America with all its beads and feathers. He promptly attached himself to them and the Indians and cowboys adopted him. He had a little money and, observing that his hosts ate nothing, promptly tendered it to them to buy food. When they arrived in London their first concern was for a loan to repay the boy. He was in such good care that our ladies advised his mother by cable that he was being returned home under the charge of White Feather of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. He was a voluble youngster and had firmly decided that his career lay permanently in the show business, and with Indians."
I could not make this up. But I wish I could!
Some stories that couldn't make the book in full ... but need to be told! Editors welcomed - sign up below.