“Davy! Davy Crockett.” Hey.
Hello hello, what’s going on? Do you have
the package? All right, all right, have you opened it yet? No should I do that now?
Wait one second. Dang it, I’ve been waiting like a week. Before we open the package, let’s
introduce who we are. I’m Phil Edwards. Coleman Lowndes.
This is History Club, where 50% of us know what we’re talking about. Where we roll ideas over in their grave. You could tell the other guy ain’t want no damn catchphrase, lmao. Yeah I’m a bad liar. OK so
thank you first of all to Jose Padrino Megan Long and Martin from Vegas for
these catchphrases, we’ll never speak of this again. Can I open this? I really wanna open this. You can’t open it yet. I just want to explain what we do here.
On this show each, time one of us tells the story and the other person has no
idea what’s gonna happen. And this time that’s you, you’re the person who has no
idea. And I just want to clarify based on the comments from last time – got a lot of
people saying, “Ah what a fake conversation all this.” No, this is real. The idea that we could even try to act is actually a compliment, so thank you. Go ahead, it is time, open up the package. Okay. Oh it’s a wig? Oh it’s a raccoon hat!
Are we talking about David Crockett? Ding Ding Ding.
Wow I’m keeping this by the way, this is a gift. I love it.
Yeah. Thank you.
I feel like that’s definitely
like just like rat hair and asbestos. In a lot of ways he was kind of the
first celebrity politician, and the way that he became this legend and
politician is really complicated. So that’s what we’re gonna talk about today.
Fun! That is from the Disney movie and television series about Davy Crockett,
and he was like a baby boomer phenomenon in the 1950s. I want to show you one
picture too, this is a woman who was just making all the coonskin caps well over a
hundred years after he died. These shows and movies, they actually changed the
price of raccoon pelts like the one that lady is working on from 25 cents a pound
to $6 a pound.
You know, in 1960 John Wayne played him in the movie “The Alamo” and he was actually a really big celebrity when he was alive. This play
here is reprinted and it’s The Lion of the West. The play was so famous while
Davy was alive and in Congress that he even went on Broadway and saw Nimrod
Wildfire playing, basically, Davy Crockett in this show. You don’t really think of
people gaining celebrity in that time period at all. That kind of opens up this
question of like how did he get there, how did that happen, how did he become
this big celebrity? Is that map on screen now? Yep.
So Tennessee is literally the
edge of the map, people did not think of him as much as a southerner as they
thought of him as a westerner. He’s way out there. I’m gonna read a little from
his autobiography. I’ll just read you like a little quote: “At so advanced an
age, the age of 15 I did not know the letter of the book.” He didn’t know how to
read by the time he was 15. He tells a story in the book of how he ran away
from home from 12 to 15 just because it was like … super fun.
Yeah. It’s these political tall tales interspersed with how awesome he is at
hunting bears. David Crockett is not just a hunter and frontiersman, he’s this
political guy too. In 1825, he runs for the House of Representatives, but he
loses the first time. And then in 1827 he runs again and he wins. So bear hunting,
raccoon-killing David Crockett is in Congress.
Nice. David’s big issue is land
rights for the people who he represents. So a lot of the people that he
represents are squatters. They find a patch of land that nobody cares about,
they develop it, they maybe cut down some trees or they build a house, and David
wants to fight for them to have the right to either get that land, or
purchase it at a reasonable price. That’s his big issue he’s in the House of
Representatives but we’re not at this, like, legend status yet, and that is where
my second prop comes in. Should I put my hat back on or wait?
Yeah, sure put your hat back on.
Ok, now that you have your hat back on I will reveal prop
number 2, which is this guy.
See I was thinking about Andrew Jackson this whole time, also Tennessee, celebrity politician,
folksy man-of-the-people, big personality.
Yeah you’re dead-on man,
you’re dead on.
I mean Jackson is like the Mario to David Crockett’s Luigi.
David would hate to hear that. Can you just tell me a little more about like what
you know about Andrew Jackson? The night he got elected, he threw a huge party at the White House, and everyone like notoriously just got absolutely wasted
and people were like falling out of windows and just like totally trashing
the place Jackson is from Middle Tennessee which
is a little bit richer so he’s on a plantation and then Crockett — they’re
from this frontier — they are poorer. You know I should mention that throughout
his life there were periods when David Crockett owned slaves too.
And so David does end up in the House of Representatives
while Jackson’s in the presidency. So David’s big issue is that land bill and
Jackson never helps him on it and then they fall out at some point. A lot of
historians point to the Indian Removal Act, which is the Trail of Tears. So
that’s the forced removal of Indian populations. David Crockett actually
publicly opposed that. Where’s my prop? Okay. So, right here: paper money that Andrew Jackson is on. He hated paper money. He wanted people to be carrying around
gold and silver. The Second Bank of the United States issued the paper money and so they were gearing up to renew their charter. Jackson did anything that he
could to take out the bank, including using the veto power more aggressively
than anybody else. I’ll show you a classically awful political cartoon.
I was gonna ask if it has a ton of very tiny illegible scribbling.
All those people on the hydra, they are part of the coalition that forms a party in the
1830s, which is the Whigs. And so Jackson starts making this his signature issue,
and that’s where we come back to Davy Crockett.
At this point he hates Andrew
Jackson, he’s like, “Andrew Jackson is a tyrant,
he’s a bad guy.” Suddenly Andrew Jackson has these
enemies in the Whigs. So they are not the most obvious allies to David Crockett. At
the same time they are the enemies of his enemy, and so he becomes their friend. The whigs had this like superstar brand
to work with.
I don’t know if you remember that play that I brought up in
the beginning. Who does this look like to you?
This is actually James Hackett, who is the actor who played Nimrod Wildfire in the play “The
Lion of the West.” As far as we know like patient zero for the coonskin cap is
this actor playing David Crockett in a play. Crockett ends up making this
alliance. He ends up turning into a pawn in this central banking war over the
Second Bank of the United States. They might have wanted him to run for
president, possibly they wanted David Crockett to
just be an attack dog. I think he totally just got suckered, he got sweet-talked by
That’s what it sounds like to me.
They were like, here have some whiskey Dave.
Let me tell you what man, you could be President. AJ sucks, Dave. We can take him down
together my guy.
I mean we don’t know that, that’s
what I believe, I mean.
I think that sounds right, I think that’s the simplest
explanation. David’s biography comes out in 1834. He
starts leaning into the myth. This is a portrait in 1834 of David Crockett that
he was able to kind of art direct. He’s wearing a buckskin outfit. His hat is
meant to be a more man-of-the-people type hat. He even chose the types of dogs
because they were more homely hunting dogs rather than the kind of stately
dogs that were typically in portraits at the time.
By all reports like the Whigs are the ones who push him to write his own biography and then after that
they go even further. They actually sponsor a book tour all around the Northeast to give speeches against Andrew Jackson. There are other
books that come out and they actually ghost write some of those books.
Davey’s rising up with the Whigs in tandem and then they lose. Andrew Jackson wins and when the bank
gets squashed, David Crockett gets squashed too. David Crockett loses his
congressional seat. After that, he runs away. He goes out to Texas and just a year
after he’s out of Congress, in 1836 he’s dead at the Alamo, executed after being
captured. Oh good, you’re wearing the cap.
Oh yeah, no 100 percent.
It’s really itchy. In 1956, those Coonskin caps were selling
at 5,000 a day.
Actually yeah. Why do you think he became so famous like a
century after he died? A lot of the pictures I’m gonna show in this video
come from Davy Crockett Almanacs. In the 1870s there was a play by a guy named
Frank Mayo that was all about Davy Crockett. The myth trickled along a
little bit longer, and then Walt Disney is trying to figure out themes for this
new park that he’s building that’s called Disneyland. He has different
worlds that he wants to include in it — he’s got Tomorrowland and he also has
Frontierland and reportedly he just sends people to the archives and they
come back with Davy Crockett. Growing up, I don’t really know much about Davy
Crockett other than the coonskin cap and he’s like an American frontiersman and a
cartoonishly American icon.
I think it’s so interesting that we’ll never know
what really motivated him, you know, whether it was such purity that made him
cross over the Whigs because he really believed that Andrew Jackson was doing
the wrong thing, or if he was just playing this game to try to get ahead
and then why was he trying to get ahead maybe it was to help his constituents, but
maybe it was still like have the sweet life of being president, and we just
don’t know what’s true about his heroism. There is more to David Crockett’s legacy
than just a hat.
In 1841, David Crockett’s son went to Congress, he got elected, and
he went to Congress on behalf of his late father and a version of the land
bill finally got passed. So he did accomplish something in the legislature
in addition to making this permanent imprint on our culture. I was trying to
think of how we can involve the commenters on the next episode and I
have, I’ve made the decision that on the next episode where I am the person
researching and writing it, I’m gonna ask the people in the comments to choose the
next continent that I will pick a story from. That is my challenge to you, pick
the continent that I’ll draw the next story from for my end of History Club.