Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bass Reeves and The Lone Ranger.

Lone Ranger, Television, Series, ActorMost people know The Lone Ranger, either from early radio, to the television series in the 1950's, to one of two movies, the most recent one a few years ago.  There is some speculation this fictional character is based on Bass Reeves, a Marshall with over 3000 arrests.

Bass Reeves, an African American was born a slave in Arkansas in 1836.  During the Civil War, he accompanied his owner who fought for the confederacy but as soon as he heard about the Emancipation Proclamation, he declared he was free and took off.

He escaped to the Oklahoma Territory where he was adopted by the Cherokee.  They taught him to ride, shoot, track and  speak 5 native languages, everything he needed to be an effective lawman.

Shortly after the end of the war, he married and settled down as a farmer to raise a family.  He occasionally tracked for lawmen but for the most part.  In 1875, he was hired as one of 200 Deputy Marshalls who worked the territory trying to settle it.

Bass Reeves, the first black lawman east of the Mississippi, was 6 ft 2 inches tall, rode a grey horse, with his trademark black hat and colt 45's worn peacekeeper cross draw style .  Remember the average height for men at this time was only 5 feet 6 inches so he towered above them.

He was fearless and worked hard to fulfill any arrest warrants.  It is especially impressive since he could not read so when he got a warrant, he'd have someone read it to him until he'd memorized all the details.  He worked for 32 years in this job and is said to have arrested 3000 felons and only brought in 20 dead. He admits to only killing 14 and those were in self defense.

Some people claim he is the basis of the fictional Lone Ranger character but according to sources, he was not.  The Lone Ranger character was conceived in 1932 George Trendle who claims to be the creator.  George knew people loved westerns. Its a bit confusing as Fran Striker who worked for Trendle is said to have created him and Jack Jewel who worked at a station in Detroit also is credited. What is provable is that one of the local radio stations began development of this series by securing rights from Striker to create a radio version of the story.

The first five years of the radio series was never recorded and only a few radio scripts exist today.  Fran Striker Jr states the Lone Ranger developed as needed but the first episode came from another one written for a different show. It was adjusted to introduce the character and the character developed as needed.  Tonto was added during the 11th episode so the narrator did not have to explain everything.  Originally, he was a wrinkled old man who drove a wagon.

Over the years, the Lone Ranger continued evolving and changing until he became the character we are familiar with. In 1954, George Trendle sold the series to Jack Wrather so he could concentrate on selling and producing his other series, the Green Hornet.   At this time, television was coming into popularity so the Lone Ranger transitioned to television and eventually into the movies.

Personally, I do not think the Lone Ranger was based on Bass Reeves.  Let me know what you think.  I love to hear from people.  Have a great day.

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