Pioneer Show People

Edith McCall (Author) · Christopher Tice (Illustrator)

Order Code: 7398
Class sets 10 or more paperback books: $12.00 each
Class set order code: 7398S

This book tells the stories of some of the actors and other performers who traveled the early roads and the river systems of America to take their plays and shows to the settlements along the ever-expanding frontier.


Being a pioneer on the American frontier was hard work. People had to build a home, raise some animals, and cultivate a garden for food, hunting and trapping to supplement what they needed and braving the elements all the while. It was a lonely existence, too. Many of the pioneers had to travel miles to the nearest homestead or settlement, often through dense woods and across rushing rivers. Many of these hard-scrabble settlers had only one way to experience entertainment and culture: pioneer show people.

The cities along the eastern coast of the United States often had various venues for providing shows and other forms of entertainment, including the theater, museums, and occasionally a circus, but the pioneers farther west had access to none of this. So acting companies like the Drake Players took their shows on the road to bring entertainment to the people. But the roads didn’t go far, and soon the actors had to trade their wagons for a boat. They floated downriver, bringing plays to the towns and settlements that had sprung up along the river systems of America. As their popularity grew, so grew the boats, both in sophistication and in the quality of the entertainment. The Chapman showboat was the first boat to offer plays directly on the boat itself. Doc Spaulding’s Floating Palace, pushed both up and down the rivers by its own steamboat, brought an entire circus to the riverside communities. Seeing a play or a show on a showboat was often the brightest day of the year for the pioneers who had forged past the edges of civilization to expand the boundaries of the United States. And then a small crack shot named Annie Oakley helped to show them what the great American West was all about.

The show people of early America were no less pioneers than the settlers who scraped and scratched out a life for themselves in the country’s great wilderness, and this book brings to the forefront their importance in the expansion not just of culture but of an emerging entertainment industry that was blooming across the nation.

This book is also available as a series of dyslexia-friendly books. (See below.)


Adventures on the American Frontier Series
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
History, Novels
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