October 14, 2011

Movie ledger on History Detectives

Here's a segment from the PBS series History Detectives that aired 10/11/11:

Ince LedgerThe Case:

Who were "Two Lance and Wife" and "Luke Big Turnip and Wife?" And why did the New York Motion Picture Company pay them between $7.50 and $9.50 a week?

Two Castaic, CA teens found a 1915 ledger in their great grandfather's attic after he passed away. They found the names of more than thirty American Indians listed in this ledger.

The young ladies turn to History Detectives host Eduardo Pagán to find out more about these Native Americans. How did they earn their pay? And were they treated fairly?
Comment:  You can watch the episode or read the transcript online.

The answer to the main questions is: They were Native actors paid to perform in early Hollywood Westerns. Obviously.

The segment provides some insight into how Natives became actors. When Westerns started growing more sophisticated, producers sought real Indians to play the stereotypical savages. Agents found Native performers in Wild West shows and sent them to Hollywood.

For more on History Detectives, see Modoc Basket on History Detectives and Modoc War on History Detectives.

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