Monday, October 19, 2015

Dick Tracy's homage to Moses Yellowhorse

After publication of my feature on Moses Yellowhorse in Sports Collectors Digest early in 1994, I made the journey to Pawnee, Okla., about an hour northwest of Tulsa. I was in the area to represent Krause Publications' gun-trader periodical at a huge gun show in Tulsa. 

The principal purpose of my sidetrip was to present my 1922 Exhibit Supply Co. card of Moses Yellowhorse to the Pawnee County Historical Society. At the time, the society maintained a small display in the town's First National Bank building.The society has since opened a larger museum in town.

In 1994 I visited Pawnee, Okla., to present
the historical society with a 1922
Exhibit card of Yellowhorse. I'm on
the left; I no longer recall the name
of the society official who accepted
the donation.

The donation came about as the result of my correspondence with D. Jo Ferguson, publisher of The Pawnee Chief, the local newspaper. D. Jo had read my SCD article about Yellowhorse. 

We exchanged letters, clippings and photos and I grew to enjoy the appearance in my mail box of the distinctive yellow envelopes that the publisher used in his correspondence.

On my stopover in Pawnee, D. Jo bought me lunch at a local diner where we were joined by the chief of one of the Pawnee bands headquartered around Pawnee.

Over the course of the meal I was surprised to find that Yellowhorse, though a former major league pitcher, was only about the fourth most famous former resident of the small town (current population only about 2,230).

At the top of that list would be a famed Wild West showman and a renowned cartoonist.

The showman was, of course, "Pawnee Bill" (Gordon W. Lillie), who operated "Pawnee Bill's Historical Wild West Indian Museum and Encampment Show" in various iterations from the late-1880s through the early 1910s.

Lillie settled in a mansion on a 500-acre ranch just west of Pawnee. The site is maintained today by the Oklahoma Historical Society as a museum.

Pawnee's most famous true native son is Chester Gould creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, which he drew from 1931-77. There is a huge mural honoring the comic strip detective on the side of the downtown Pawnee County Historical Society Museum & Dick Tracy Headquarters. 

Though he left town many years before creating Dick Tracy, Gould often used Pawnee landmarks and characters in his strip -- including a character named Chief Yellow Pony.

According to Fuller, who penned a Yellowhorse biography in 2001, Gould introduced the character of Yellow Pony in an arc that ran in the Dick Tracy strip from March 27 to May 22, 1935. Fuller said that Gould's syndicate paid a fee to Moses Yellowhorse for use of the character.

This photocopy of the third strip in which Chief Yellow Pony was featured was provided through Fuller's courtesy.

The third Pawnee resident that outshines the ballplayer is noted actor Wes Studi. Studi, a native Oklahoma Cherokee, was not born in Pawnee, but went to the Chilocco Indian School there for high school in the early 1960s before going to Hollywood. Over lunch, I heard a bit about Studi's days in Pawnee from the then-chief.

Before I left Pawnee for the day, D. Jo took me out to a local cemetery, where Yellowhorse was buried in the once-segregated section now called the North Indian Cemetery. A nice granite headstone, pictured here, marks the grave.


  1. From doing genealogical work I know that spellings of names can be all over the place. In this case you have his first name as Moses and on the stone it is Mose. Any idea why the variation? I'd venture to guess he was called Mose by his friends so that is what they went with on the stone.

  2. That would be my assumption, as well.


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