Neighborhood Cowboys of 1930 Wisconsin Rapids

Even in the late 1920s, it was a time-honored tradition for the neighborhood boys to dress up as their favorite cowboy hero. The priceless image above shows a group of youthful cowpokes hard at play on Wisconsin Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids. The smallest cowpoke in front is Donn G. Hanneman, and judging by his spiffy cowboy getup, it might have been sometime near his August birthday.

Youth flocked to see their hero Tom Mix and his steed, Tony the Wonder Horse.
Youth flocked to see their hero Tom Mix and his steed, Tony the Wonder Horse.

So just which movie stars would these boys (and one perplexed young lady) be imitating while hard at play? The photo dates to around 1930, so it was well before the days of Red Ryder played by Red Barry and Rocky Lane, and long before the Lone Ranger. But no worries, the cowboy genre was well established at the movie house by such stars as Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix and even a very young John Wayne. These tykes might have gone off to see Fred Thompson in The Two-Gun Man or John Wayne in The Big Trail. It was still a few years before Gene Autry would be the star of In Old Santa Fe.

A bit older Donn Hanneman in his latest cowboy getup, circa 1933.
A bit older Donn Hanneman in his latest cowboy getup, circa 1933.

So here’s a tip of our 40-gallon hat to all of the aspiring cowboys of that era, with their chaps, shiny lawman’s badge, wooden gun and all the swagger a 5-year-old could muster. Let’s ride!

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