Celebrities often use their influence to direct the attention of their fans toward organizations and initiatives they support. Over the decades, numerous local, regional and national celebrities have steered donations toward The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.
Spurred on by the enormous popularity of western movies, which peaked during the 1950s, city slickers didn’t have to travel far to see an idealized wild west come to life at a traveling rodeo show. Shown here, Helen Sutherland and three cowboys from the Flying X Rodeo drew the attention of passersby and roped in donations for The Salvation Army in Chicago, Ill.
Operating from 1926 to 1946, the Flying X Rodeo was founded in Miles City, Mont., by Colonel A. L. “Cliff” Gatewood. After a flurry of preparations to meet the needs of the animals and riders, the rodeo rolled into the Chicago Coliseum for its very first indoor performances, December 7–15, 1940. An estimated 75,000 spectators viewed the rodeo during its nine-day Chicago run.
The rodeo featured 60 cowboys and 15 cowgirls from Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota and Texas. Gatewood’s granddaughter has claimed that a young John Wayne worked as a Flying X Rodeo performer for a time. However, by 1940 “the Duke” was far too big a star to participate in the Chicago performances. The 1940 cast included Joe Cody, a descendant of “Buffalo” Bill Cody and Emily Jean Davis, a 12-year-old fancy rope twirler from Texas. The cast and their highly trained horses were some of the best rodeo performers of their day.
The basement of the Coliseum served as the quarters for the rodeo’s 350 four-footed performers which included longhorn cattle, wild horses, and buffalo. In addition to events like bronc and trick riding, steer roping, and fancy roping, a special feature of the performance was a “wild” buffalo stampede by a heard brought in from a Wyoming ranch.