Thursday, April 2, 2015

Myth Debunked: Bass Reeves was NOT The Lone Ranger

The historical figure Bass Reeves.
I would like to debunk a myth that is falling prey to tens of thousands of internet browsers who are quick to jump in on what sounds like a conspiracy. Bass Reeves, an African American Deputy U.S. Marshal, and subject to more folktales than Paul Bunyon, was not the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger. The life of Bass Reeves has been documented greatly on folklore, oral stories told by people who brushed the legendary gunman. Reeves supposedly apprehended 8,000 plus felons. (Do the math, that is one fellow every day for 21 years. Really?) He was never wounded, despite the statement that he has his hat and belt buckle shot off on separate occasions. And when a biography was published in 2008, the author claimed "uncanny similarities," including (and I am quoting the author here), "Reeves may have ridden a white horse during one period of his career." Also quoting the author: "I doubt we would be able to prove conclusively that Reeves is the inspiration for The Lone Ranger," the author remarked. "We can, however, say unequivocally that Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger..."

Comparing a real-life historical figure to a fictional character might be of amusement, but not for historical value. With the internet an open book for anyone with a Facebook account, or a blog or website inviting comments, fanboys discuss their reactions to literary works and pop culture informally. Presently, the lion's share of pop culture analyzing in published format is McFarland Publishing, inviting more critical analysis from authors than historical documentation. What used to be restricted to college classrooms, professional journals, and fanzines is now an open forum on the internet. And sadly, when promotion for The Lone Ranger 2013 motion-picture picked up momentum in the summer of that year, the "suggestion" that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger circulated quicker than wildfire. All of this started in 2008 when Art Black wrote a biography about Bass Reeves and soon after attempted shameless promotion for his book by riding on the coattails of the big screen movie. CNN, BBC, This Land Press, and many other respectable websites fell victim to the story. "Suggestion" became fact and once something is put to print, 90 percent of the readership accepts this as the gospel. (Remember the television commercial where the young lady met a Frenchman on the internet and said "If it's on the internet, then it must be true"?)

Myth Debunked
The origin of The Lone Ranger has been documented for decades; for the most part with accuracy. In early 2018, the completion of a thorough and extensive chronology of The Lone Ranger's genesis will be published. 800 pages with scanned documents from archives across the country to back up each and every fact. Not only was Bass Reeves not the inspiration of the Masked Man, but as those documents will verify, there is little comparison between the two.

George W. Trendle
While George W. Trendle was credited as the creator of both The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, historians today continue to debate who should take sole credit. The fact remains that three men were equally responsible, with Fran Striker and his pen making a major contribution under the controlling oversight of George W. Trendle. James Jewell, the dramatic director at radio station WXYZ, in Detroit, also had a hand in the development of The Lone Ranger. Each creating a different trademark that would ultimately become The Lone Ranger we know today. In short, as Fran Striker, Jr. later remarked, "The Lone Ranger was never created, each aspect of the legendary cowboy developed over time out of dramatic necessity." In fact, The Lone Ranger of the early 1930s is dramatically different from the one we are all familiar with today. This is because the first five years of the radio program was never recorded. Only copies of the radio scripts are known to exist. These scripts have revealed surprises that even the most dedicated of all Lone Ranger fans would be shocked and surprised.

After George W. Trendle sold all rights to The Lone Ranger to Jack Wrather in August of 1954, he devoted much of his "retirement" trying to convince TV stations and sponsors to broadcast a new television series, The Green Hornet, based on his popular radio program. He produced a pilot in 1952 but failed to sell the series because the pilot was so cheaply produced, it failed to sell. By the sixties, Trendle spent much of his time typing letters to journalists who, in his opinion, were not getting the facts correct. No magazine or newspaper columnist was immune to Trendle's wrath. After reviewing his archive of correspondence, it can be verified that not a week went by that Trendle didn't write at least two letters seeking rectification. In September of 1962, Trendle wrote to the editor of Time magazine, after reading the obituary for Fran Striker. (Click the link here to read the obit, now archived online from Time.)

"The format for The Lone Ranger was conceived by me in Detroit in 1932 and before Mr. Striker ever thought of the story, or knew anything about it," Trendle wrote to Time. "There was no question at that time, nor is there now, as to who created the program. Mr. Striker never owned the show; had nothing to sell; never sold anything; wrote the scripts on a contract basis for The Lone Ranger, Inc., of which I was President."

The above statement, however, contradicts a number of reference guides, magazine and newspaper articles that state otherwise. In 1981, Dick Osgood wrote a wonderful book titled Wyxie Wonderland: An Unauthorized 50-Year Diary of WXYZ Detroit (Bowling Green University Popular Press). To compile the facts, Osgood sought out everyone still alive at the time and interviewed them. He also did his research. And thanks to an archive I have access to, the scans below verify just who did create The Lone Ranger. And Trendle's statement to Time magazine was incorrect.

Time magazine's response to Trendle's letter.
Trendle's response to Time magazine.
Trendle cited an article that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1939 as proof that he was the creator of The Lone Ranger.  The material in the Post article was supplied by Trendle himself, who years later would repeatedly cite that article as "proof" of his claim. Regrettably, that magazine article was in error, proving that you cannot simply go by what you read in a magazine or newspaper, just because it is in print. On October 25, Trendle sent another letter to Marie Cisneros pressing the matter and on November 2, told him "there is nothing more we can add to our letter of October 3 about The Lone Ranger. As we wrote you then, we did out best to check the matter out and feel that we can pursue it no further at this time."

Whoa, did Trendle make a mistake in his letter to Marie Cisneros? Apparently so.

The development of The Lone Ranger began on December 28, 1932, when radio director James Jewell at radio station WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan, wrote a letter to Striker proposing he write up “three or four wild west thrillers” using a lone cowboy as the central figure. As a former theatre owner, Trendle knew Westerns were always popular movies and certainly the most profitable. Jewell created a western of his own, but it failed to impress the boss and lasted only a short time before he contacted Striker.

Jewell was under salary to produce, direct and write dramatic radio programs. In 1932 the majority of radio broadcasts consisted of music and news commentary. The majority of what little drama was broadcast over radio stations across the country were performed by repertory companies. At WXYZ, Jewell was in charge of that company. With a failed first attempt at a Western, Jewell approached Striker who was at the time still scripting Warner Lester, Manhunter. Just two years prior Striker wrote a short-lived radio program, Covered Wagon Days, and proposed this to Jewell. No dice. So Striker pulled out one of the radio scripts, episode ten, involving a wagon train subjected to Indians and marauders and a mysterious masked man. As an aside fan of pulp fiction, Striker loved the masked vigilante genre. The masked man was nothing more than a vigilante of the plains helping assist wagon trains reach their destination. This radio script was reprinted in Dave Holland's excellent From Out of the Past: A Pictorial History of The Lone Ranger (1989). Recycling this concept Striker created The Lone Ranger and Jewell loved the proposal. Multiple letters were exchanged (Striker lived in Buffalo, New York at the time) fleshing out minor details to "brand" this masked vigilante from other masked vigilante. All cowboys rode horses, shot from six-guns and serenaded Señoritas. This is why the majority of the radio dramas centered on the protagonists and their conflict -- The Lone Ranger was merely a recurring character on the sidelines waiting for his moment to ride in and save the day.

Brace Beemer at the mike.
Striker, meanwhile, continued writing radio scripts for numerous radio stations across the country. He discovered that if he placed carbon paper between the sheets, and hammered the keys on the typewriter very hard, he could type three, four and five copies of the same script at the same time. Striker sold scripts to radio stations in Chicago, Oklahoma City, Buffalo and Michigan. Instead of making two dollars for a single script, he was able to sell the same script to four different stations and make $8 a script. According to author Dick Osgood, the Western program was inspired by President Hoover's proclamation, "The Congress, by unanimous vote, has authorized the commemoration of the heroism of the fathers and mothers who traversed the Oregon Trail to the Far West."

Striker sent a copy of that script to Trendle and director Jim Jewell at WXYZ on January 6, 1933, and the cover letter from Striker advised, "I plan to establish him (the Ranger) as the one that is hunted by the law, yet loved by the oppressed." The same letter also expressed the possibility of a Lone Ranger Boys Club, wherein kids would write in for membership. That suggestion would be taken seriously a few years later, in 1935, with the introduction of the Lone Ranger Safety Club.

Archival document from December 1932.  (sarcasm) Yeah, this shouts "Bass Reeves."

More letters were exchanged about the new series -- more scripts were submitted, changes were made, and finally on January 21, 1933, a letter from WXYZ advised Strike that the new series would start the following Monday, January 30. The same letter made a few suggestions before concluding, "I hope the above suggestions won't cramp your style. I realize they have changed the character you have created... but only in a minor way..." (The January 30 date would later be changed to January 31.)

In a letter dated January 21, 1933, from WXYZ to Striker: "Continue to use the silver bullet and silver horse shoe gag -- it's good." As verified through hundreds of letters and correspondence, Striker created the silver horseshoes on the great horse Silver, the silver bullets and the trademark departure as the masked man rode away.

Jewell's letter to Striker in early February 1933.

Tonto was brought into the series beginning with episode eleven of The Lone Ranger. He was born out of theatrical necessity. With just the singular hero and his horse, the narrator was required to play too big a role in explaining things to the listening audience. Trundle asked Striker to do something about it. In a letter dated February 20, 1933, Striker wrote: "You will notice the birth of Tonto... carrying a certain mysterious back-ground. I have tried to work into this script the suggestions you sent. By the way, the name Tonto may not be as good as some other name so if you rechristen him I'll try and catch it on the air." Striker picked up the name out of an atlas, after Tonto Basin, Arizona.

The character of Tonto was, for the first three years of the radio program, short, shriveled, described as an "old wrinkled fellow" who rode a wagon and jackass. Tonto believed killing was true justice and multiple times encouraged The Lone Ranger to shoot and kill. In one episode Tonto knifed a villain to death to save the life of a woman. It is a known fact that numerous bounty hunters and U.S. Marshals would hire an Indian guide, who knew the territory better than the white man, when venturing into unknown territory. Art Black's theory that Bass Reeves had an Indian ride along with him does not support his claim that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

After learning that Jewell was not responsible for writing The Lone Ranger, and that Jewell was paying Striker, Trendle contacted the Buffalo scribe with an invitation to visit the studio in Detroit, and consider long-term employment. In May 1934, Trendle asked Striker to sign an agreement surrendering all rights to the program and fictional characters to Trendle. According to Art Black, Trendle was responsible for adapting the life and career of Bass Reeves into The Lone Ranger. That some of Reeves' criminals were incarcerated in Detroit, thus a connection. Again, a flimsy connection with a man who was only responsible for the creation of The Lone Ranger because he asked Jim Jewell to create a Western. Nothing more. (Remember WXYZ was responsible for hundreds of hours of programming each week. No one thought of The Lone Ranger beyond kiddie-fare at the time.)

Treadle's 1934 purchase of The Lone Ranger property has been reported in numerous reference books and academic articles. Sadly, most historians have been quick to claim Trendle wanted to own the property outright so he could financially benefit from The Lone Ranger. The real reason why Trendle purchased The Lone Ranger was to protect himself legally so Striker would not come back later as a result of the "misunderstanding." If Trendle was to sell sponsorship of the program, which was his intent from the beginning like any radio program, he would be obligated to pay Striker -- unless Striker was a paid employee under salary as "work for hire." This 1934 agreement led to local stations across the country to cease dramatizing their own version of The Lone Ranger because Striker ceased sending them scripts and this explains why Trendle did not begin copyrighting The Lone Ranger scripts until June 9, 1934. Trendle began copyrighting other Striker programs about the same time: Thrills of the Secret Service beginning June 14, 1934; and Manhunters beginning June 9, 1934. (Copy of the contract between Striker and Trendle is enclosed below.)

In November of 1935, Striker and his family then moved from Buffalo to Detroit. Striker became a full-time script writer for WXYZ and Trendle now owned The Lone Ranger lock, stock and barrel. Yes, this has to be without a doubt one of the best (or worst) business deals in history. Fran Striker, Jr., attending the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention a few years ago, was asked about this deal and his response was, "My father was not a good businessman." Even more of a shocker, a few years later Striker signed a contract with Trendle, for a set fee (for $400), allowing Trendle to claim himself as the sole creator. Yes, the radio industrialist had so much money that he paid people to surrender their rights to claim themselves as the creator of a fictional property.

To this day, if you open a Grosset & Dunlap Lone Ranger novel, a Lone Ranger Big Little Book, watch a television episode of The Lone Ranger or purchase a Lone Ranger comic book, you will no doubt see some form of credit to George W. Trendle as the creator of The Lone Ranger. The present owners of The Lone Ranger insist Fran Striker never created the character or the series and in the past, on occasion, have rejected any claim of Striker's authorship or having a hand in the creation of the character. As you can see from the documents above, they are committing no wrong. But facts are facts and as long as historians continue to do the legwork, we will always know the true story of the creation of The Lone Ranger. It has been documented many times in published books and magazine articles, so this is nothing new to fans who enjoy the adventures of The Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger in person.
Years later, when George W. Trendle died, his obituary also labeled him as the creator of The Lone Ranger, Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon and The Green Hornet. Over the years, other people involved with the program also were credited as “creator,” including Charles Livingstone, Jim Jewell and artist Bill Freyse, with columnists quick to lay claim without proper research. (This still happens to day in newspapers and magazines.)

The assumption that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger makes fascinating reading. (So does a recent essay that purports that an episode of The X-Files was the inspiration for the Twilight saga.) But facts are facts, supported by archival documents, reprinted above both as scans and excerpts. (A friend of mine and I both went through more than 41,000 archival documents related to the radio program and Bass Reeves is never mentioned once.)

Great controversy continues decades later as to who actually created the great radio classic. Numerous books have been written about the subject, multitudes of magazine articles in addition, each providing various takes and theories, many copying material from each other. It is true that Trendle wanted a Western radio program. It is true Fran Striker, while residing in Buffalo, had already written a western series called Covered Wagon Days. James Jewell, dramatic director of the station, contacted Striker, for whom the station was already purchasing scripts. Jewell, dramatic director of the station, wrote a Western but Trendle did not like it. Jewell then contacted Striker, who believed that he was merely adapting his Covered Wagon Days to fit Trendle’s requirements. Much of the creation occurred in staff meetings attended by Trendle, Jewell, Harold True (the studio manager) and Felix Holt. Jewell communicated with Striker, apparently misleading Trendle into believing it was he who wrote the scripts. In late 1933 Trendle learned that Jewell was passing on to Striker all the information from the staff meetings, and Trendle brought Striker on to Detroit. No one person created The Lone Ranger but rather three men each providing input, each creating various aspects of what made up the fictional masked man. One person lived in Buffalo, New York, the others in Detroit, Michigan. A number of characteristics that ultimately became the charm of The Lone Ranger as we know it today were formulated over a period of years. 

If the claim that one person based the entire concept of The Lone Ranger on Bass Reeves, that claim is now obsolete. Even the author of the Bass Reeves biography that started this myth publicly said the claim -- which originates from his publication -- is not accurate but rather an "assumption." But if you want to believe that Bass Reeves was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger because, as Black suggests, "Reeves may have ridden a white horse during one period of his career," you may want to revisit eight-grade composition and reading comprehension. Everyone loves a good controversy and everyone has an opinion.

What Art Black did was Transmedial Migration. That is, properties of fictional characters as they relate to real-life historical figures. Burton chose to find a connection from fiction to real-life, not the other way around as any real historian will assert. For decades in colleges and universities across the country, history professors suggest to their students to avoid this pitfall.

When once asked who created The Lone Ranger, Striker once remarked, "Only God creates." Perhaps without Trendle's financial backing, the Ranger would never have continued beyond a few months. The dramatic director at WXYZ, Jim Jewell, played a major role in the program's birth. It was his production genius that interpreted the scripts and solicited. So if you stumble upon a website that claims Bass Reeves was the original Lone Ranger, make sure you add a link to this blog entry to the comments section to help stop the spread of this ridiculous rumor.

Bass Reeves should be remembered for what he accomplished. Let us not tarnish his good name with a fictional children's program that had nothing to do with the legendary lawman.


Eddie said...

A few months ago, our local paper printed an article that mentioned "The Lone Ranger." It talked about the show's offensive depiction of the white man as savior of the west rather than the destroyer of it, and how its depiction of Native Americans and Native American culture was an embarrassment on the scale of Amos and Andy.

Things like that, on top of young people not knowing or caring about figures like The Lone Ranger, make me wonder if these properties have any future at all.

Mark Ellis said...

Thanks for a very informative and entertaining article, Martin!

Thomas said...

Interesting article. I hadn't heard any of the Bass Reeves business. I have to admit that I don't much listen to (or watch) THE LONE RANGER. It's a little too kiddie-oriented for my tastes. I prefer my westerns a little more grown-up.

Eddie, around the time that awful movie came out last year, I remember reading a piece or two that criticized the depictions of Native Americans on "The Lone Ranger," which I suppose shouldn't be surprising, given how things are these days.

Anonymous said...

Years ago PBS aired a documentary called "Reel Injun" about depictions of Native Americans in film history. From what I remember the early sound era (late 1920s or early 1930s) focused more on Indians attacking stage coaches versus the silent era's "noble savage" (films like Ramona, and The Fighting American). My point is.. "The Lone Ranger" radio program must have stood out in its earlier years by having a white hero live, ride, fight, and communicate with an American Indian three times a week for a juvenile audience who would remember both characters as icons and heroes.

Mike said...

The problem is, Anonymous, people these days don't like look at these situations with that kind of wise perspective. Everything gets filtered through the hyper-sensitive brand of political correctness that runs rampant these days, where everything in the past is expected to conform to currently acceptable ideas.

J'aime Rubio, Author said...

I am so glad you wrote this! I had been planning to do an investigation on this story myself but I was satisfied with your findings. I believed that Trendle had created the character solely as I found in old books and radio broadcasts I have. I now believe that Striker and Trendle created it together, whether or not the idea came from one particular person we may never know for sure. I do agree that Bass Reeves is NOT the Lone Ranger nor was he even known to this writers at the time of the creation of the story. Thank you for your research!! ---

Anonymous said...

Hi All... I have read the letters above I expect you have as well and .. it clearly shows that Striker was somewhat of an opportunist .. and looked to attach himself as the originator Trendle... he clearly was not ... in fact upon the Conception of the Lone Ranger …Striker was no where around or involved ... his involvement came a few years later… as a employee/writer ... when Striker Died the newspapers Mis-Printed that Striker created the show... Trendle spent muchly effort reprimanding the media for such an error... and retractions were of course made ... there is so much to the Trendle-Campbell-Meurer Inc. story ... and hard feels of contempt are felt even today ... as if it just happened ... I am Raymond J Meurer's Great Niece and I have quite a bit of juicey info that I can't share ... interesting though… is how they used the Stories to feed the NWO machine ... as a race stimulator … and trash the wholesome nature of an American Adventure Story ... such a shame what they did to the film ... not surprising though ...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying. I stumbled onto the Bass Reeves mystery more than once. Every few months someone newly arrives at this conclusion and runs with it. Word spreads through Facebook; fans start believing the rumor again. Nice to know someone reprinted archival documents and did the leg work to clear up the matter. Maybe next time someone wants to run with the Bass Reeves story they will think twice and refrain from spreading such rumors.

Anonymous said...

After looking for other sources supposedly "Debunking" this particular myth I have yet to find any other than yours. Yet their seems to be various articles suggesting, that Bass Reeves, may have indeed been the inspiration for the Lone Ranger.

Sandra Robinson said...

Dear Anonymous (July 15 posting), what Mr. Grams did proves that fifteen websites can be wrong. I am familiar with those other sites and they report speculation. Mr. Grams posted facts and as you mentioned, his is the only one that bothered to scan proof rather than reprint what other websites have. In short, what most people do is assume what they read on the internet is all true, and the more websites that list something in error, the more factual it must be. A common misconception. Thank you, Mr. Grams. Most of us know Bass Reeves was not the inspiration and that they myth started from that unscrupulous author of a Bass Reeves book who used the Disney Lone Ranger movie to promote his book. Keep posting archival finds. Enjoy your blog.

Art T. Burton said...

In regards to Bass Reeves being the inspiration for the Lone Ranger fictional character, I never said that it was definitive, but coincidental similarities. Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves’ legacy is much bigger than the fictional Lone Ranger. I did say in my biography on Reeves, "I doubt we would be able to prove conclusively that Reeves is the inspiration for The Lone Ranger," …. "We can, however, say unequivocally that Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger..." Reeves worked for 32 years as a deputy U.S. marshal (1875-1907) in the Indian Territory (pre-state Oklahoma) and became a legend in his lifetime.
The radio station was owned by a lawyer, George W. Trendle. He and Fran Striker, the scriptwriter put their efforts together and started the radio show in Detroit in December of 1932. Being a lawyer it is quite possible that Trendle talked to criminal justice attorneys in Detroit, especially as it related to the Detroit House of Corrections. During Bass Reeves tenure with the federal court at Fort Smith, Arkansas, the majority of felons he arrested were sent to Detroit.
The uncanny similarities between Bass Reeves and the Lone Ranger are 1. Reeves worked in disguise throughout his career as a lawman, as did the Lone Ranger. 2. Reeves rode a (gray) white colored horse at one time during his career. 3. Reeves gave out silver dollars; Lone Ranger gave out silver bullets. 4. On many occasions Reeves had an Indian sidekick when he was on patrol in the Indian Territory. Deputy U.S. marshals were mandated by federal law to take at least one posseman with them when they were in the field. A posseman was hired to assist with arrest. They also took a cook and guard along also. The Texas Rangers didn’t work with Indians in the post-Civil War Texas. Tonto was notated in the show as a Pottawatomie, one of the tribes located in the Indian Territory. 5. Many people in the Indian Territory didn’t know Reeves’ name and called him “The Black Marshal.” Who was that masked man? 6. The Lone Ranger’s last name was Reid, similar to Reeves. 7. In the American Cowboy Magazine’s Texas Ranger Collector’s Edition, 2014, it mentioned that the fictional Lone Ranger took his nephew Dan Reid with him sometimes when he was chasing felons. Sometimes, Bass Reeves took his nephew John Brady on his trips into the Indian Territory to arrest criminals.
I stand by my research and never had devious thoughts of stating the truth that I found. May the mythical Lone Ranger live forever. Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves doesn’t need the Lone Ranger now or before. His record will stand on its own merit.
Art T. Burton, July 21, 2015, author of Black Gun, Silver Star, The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves.

Anonymous said...

Real or not, I am thankful "modern" history is beginning to recognize the importance of inclusion of all humanity and not just a select few.

Anonymous said...

The thing on this page that debunks this myth the most is the ridiculously silly comment by the actual author of the book who all the media is quoting now as historical fact. It's pretty funny the author actually posted here.

Mr. Burton's connection here between Bass Reeves and the Lone Ranger is a total reach. He rode a gray horse once. Wore a disguise sometimes. They called him the Black Marshal. Damn, it's uncanny. Must be the Lone Ranger. Are you kidding me?! This could be any number of other lawmen. Also, how about the major differences?

Also, the completely hilariously stupid speculation where Mr. Burton mentions since Trendle was a lawyer he talked to other lawyers and heard the story. Trendle wasn't even a criminal law lawyer. He did contracts and leases. Major difference with no crossover. But I guess if you can't tell the difference between a Texas Ranger and a U.S. Marshal how can I expect you to know the difference between lawyers.

Mr. Burton's comment here reminds me of the bogus Lincoln-Kennedy Coincidences urban legend. I guess his Bass Reeves-Lone Ranger is the new one.

Joe Harding said...

I was going to purchase a copy of Black's book about Reeves until I learned that he ridiculously uses a flimsy connection that the subject of his book was the inspiration for a character four different staff members and one non-WXYZ staff member created over a period of weeks through creative process. Black loves the free publicity and knows folks on the internet will run with any story that sounds like an injustice. Reeves should have been acknowledged for what he accomplished, but Black cares only about book sales. He should be ashamed of himself. Maybe he will spend his royalty checks from the book sale launching a new product line of Bass Reeves action figures in the image of The Lone Ranger.

Tony said...

"I am so glad that I found this site so that I can completely disregard new information that recently shook my worldview to the core. What a relief - first Jesus, now the Lone Ranger? Thank goodness I can return to a reality where overwhelming 'coincidences' can just be 'splained away by the kind of good 'ol common sense that makes sense to ME and how I already see the world."
-the underlying and unspoken premise of damn near every comment on this page

Jesse James Bell said...

History says your wrong, Always trying to take what pride us Black Americans have ! You are the only one in a sea of many that says he was ! I am the real Jesse james and so was my dad from Dodge City !

Anonymous said...

Doc nupe..... BRAVO!

Shanequa Oliver said...

Thank you. I wrote a report in high school earlier this year about Bass Reeves. As an African American I was disgusted that the achievements of Bass Reeves was being overshadowed by a myth that he was the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger. I am also disgusted that my fellow Blacks jump on the bandwagon and cry 'racism' without knowing the facts. Art Black admits his theory has no backing but that did not stop others from ignoring his use of such terms as 'assume' 'coincidence' and 'assumption'. Crediting Bass Reeves as the original Lone Ranger is an injustice. Any person of color who rides the wave and claims injustice needs to review the facts and not assumptions/coincidences. Thank you for presenting the facts.

Sanford Wells said...

Most people are going to jump in quick and comment with little if anything to verify their statements. There is virtually no evidence to support Bass Reeves was the original Lone Ranger. Art Black admits this and he is quick to brag he started the myth. As the proud owner of numerous books about The Lone Ranger I am extremely grateful to see that someone did what Black choose not to: rummage through archival documents to verify Reeves was never considered. I came across your blog after reading your piece in Radio Community which is far better a piece than what you posted on your blog. I recommend you cut and paste that article proving with scanned documents the origin of every facet of the development of The Lone Ranger. If the editors of Radio Community restrict the article to their periodical, I would consider asking for an exception. Bass Reeves is getting the credit he deserves as a Federal Marshal and it is a darn shame that Black Lives Matter activists would prefer to tarnish the good name of Bass Reeves by crying foul without reviewing all the facts. Reminds me of when Tawana Brawley accused four white men of raping her and started a race riot in the streets of New York. It later came out she was never raped and staged the whole thing. I wonder how many people involved in that riot felt after they realized they discredited the Black community for something that never really happened?

Unknown said...

It's sad when we're never satisfied with what is represented by fiction and history. Who cares that Bass Reeves is not the inspiration for the Lone Range. Isn't it enough to know that Bass Reeves is part of our history that is real. I am sure things may have been added to his legend throughout the years but fact is he lived and he was a great lawman. I'm sure you won't dispute Daniel Boone was a historical figure even if the song from his television series said he shot a bear when he was only three. LOL

Charles Buttram said...

Unknown, who chose to remain anonymous, made an error. It is Davy Crockett that the song claims he shot a bear when he was only three, not Daniel Boone. And "unknown" believes we should shelve the importance of getting the historical facts correctly?

Thanks you for setting the record straight. Bass Reeves is and always will be credited for his many accomplishments. It is sad that the Lone Ranger myth is circulating faster than his real deeds.

Anonymous said...

You have spurred my interest now I have to read the book on Bass Reeves

Edgar E. Mills said...

Thank you for setting the record straight. For two years I had an essay on my blog proclaiming unjust due to Bass Reeves for being the inspiration of The Lone Ranger. You have settled my curiosity. When I was in college I was taught to "stick to the facts." I bought a copy of Mr. Black's book and you, Mr. Grams, are correct. Black never states The Lone Ranger was created in the image of Reeves. Black carefully worded his "theory" and he has since run rampant with conspiracy theories on top of conspiracy theories. It is irresponsibility on the part of Mr. Black, as a historian, to have considered writing such a notion without any facts. And it appears idiots like myself ran with the story because it was on dozens of other websites. All of those bloggers told me the same thing when I inquired: "I saw it on another blog." This morning I removed my blog entry and will now compose a new one debunking this Lone Ranger myth. Bass Reeves should receive his due as one of the earliest African American U.S. Federal Marshals. It breaks my heart to see people like Mr. Black, and other bloggers, trying to tarnish his good name by claiming he was robbed of credit for a radio program he had no involvement with.

Gene Ream said...

Thank you for clarifying what I always suspected. The Lone Ranger was a work of fiction created by multiple people and evolved over the years and Bass Reeves was never even taken into consideration. But I guess every black person out there who wants to feel they themselves have been scarred with racial prejudice would jump on the Bass Reeves/Lone Ranger legend. Reminds me of when Tawana Brawley accused white men of raping her and blacks started rioting in the streets, setting fire to stores and stealing merchandise. Later it came out she admitted she made up the story. But those who had nothing to do with Brawley and never knew her personally and looted and burned storefronts still think they were victimized to racial injustice.