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Finding Aid to the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archives MSA.24
MSA.24  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Preferred Citation note
  • Other Finding Aids note
  • Custodial History
  • Physical Characteristics
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content
  • Acquisition
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Access
  • Use
  • Processing history

  • Title: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archives
    Identifier/Call Number: MSA.24
    Contributing Institution: Autry National Center, Autry Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 125.0 Linear feet
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1940-1960
    Date (inclusive): 1885-2008
    Abstract: The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archives contains publications, press clippings, photographs, slides, promotional materials, correspondence, sheet music, ephemera, and business records relating to the film, television, and recording careers of Rogers and Evans, primarily from the 1940s until 2000. Roy Rogers' early success came as a musician with The Sons of the Pioneers before he began a solo career as a Republic Pictures singing cowboy star. His successful career led to decades of working in radio, film, and television. Dale Evans began her work as a singer on the radio and in night clubs, before starting work as a film actress. She and Rogers worked together in B Westerns for Republic Pictures before starring in their own television shows and public appearance tours. In addition to her work as a performer, Dale Evans also published inspirational books. The Archive has a small selection of the personal papers of Rogers and Evans, and their manager Art Rush, but is primarily a business archive reflecting brand marketing strategies and offering insight into fan reception.
    Language of Materials: Materials in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch.
    creator: Evans, Dale, 1912-2001
    creator: Far West Savings Bank.
    creator: General Foods Corporation.
    creator: Knox-Reese Enterprises.
    creator: Rackin, Al
    creator: Roy Rogers Enterprises.
    creator: Roy Rogers, 1911-1998
    creator: Rush, Art, 1907-1989

    Biographical/Historical note

    Roy Rogers (1911-1998) and Dale Evans (1912-2001)
    Roy Rogers was born Leonard Frank Slye on 1911 November 5 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but grew up in the rural town of Duck Run near Portsmouth, Ohio. He dropped out of high school in the late 1920s to work with his father at a Cincinnati shoe factory.
    After a visit to his sister in California, Rogers decided to move to the state in late 1930. While there he appeared on an amateur talent radio show in southern California which led to a job with the Rocky Mountaineers and subsequently to the Pioneer Trio with Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan. The Pioneer Trio changed their name to the Sons of the Pioneers and continued to tour.
    In 1934, as part of the Sons of the Pioneers, Rogers became a staff musician on Warner Brothers radio station KFWB in Los Angeles. That same year the band obtained a recording contract with Decca Records. The Pioneers appeared in their first feature film, The Old Homestead, in 1935. This and subsequent film work led to a contract with Columbia Pictures to star in Charles Starrett films.
    In 1937, Rogers left the Pioneers to pursue a solo career. He auditioned for Republic Pictures as they searched for a potential Gene Autry replacement and landed a 5 year contract. His professional name was initially Dick Weston, but it did not stick and he and the studio decided Roy Rogers was a more fitting moniker. Early press materials claimed Rogers was born in Wyoming, but not long after his first starring role in 1938’s Under Western Stars, he publically claimed Ohio as his rightful birthplace. He legally adopted the name Roy Rogers on 1942 October 6.
    Rogers’ Palomino horse companion Trigger also began life with another name. Initially named Golden Cloud, the horse’s first film appearance occurred in the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood. Golden Cloud was renamed Trigger after working with Rogers in Republic films. Rogers eventually purchased Trigger from Hudkins Stables.
    Although Trigger performed tricks, another palomino named Little Trigger often worked as Trigger’s stunt double and represented the original Trigger on tours and public appearance performances. Trigger Jr. also worked as Trigger’s double, though unlike Little Trigger, Trigger Jr. was publicly acknowledged as a different horse and even featured as the title character in the 1950 Republic film Trigger Jr.
    In Roy Rogers’ personal life, his first marriage to Lucile Ascolese in 1933 May 12 ended in divorced 15 months later. His second marriage to Arlene Wilkins of Roswell, NM lasted much longer, from 1936 until Arlene’s death after giving birth to their son Roy (Dusty) Rogers Jr. in 1946. Before she passed away the couple adopted Cheryl Darlene in 1942 and had Linda Lou in 1943 April.
    While at Republic, Rogers made dozens of Western films portraying “Roy Rogers” and a variety of folk heroes and historical characters. Rogers’ film career with Republic continued until the expiration of his contract in 1951. Renegotiations for a new contract were unsuccessful, as Rogers and the studio could not come to agreement on the issue of television appearances. While Rogers wanted to appear on TV, Republic refused and instead broadcast edited versions of his work in Republic films.
    Dale Evans was born Francis Octavia Smith on 1912 October 31 in Uvalde, Texas, though her name on record at the hospital was misregistered as Lucille Wood Smith. At fifteen, she gave birth to son Thomas Fox with Thomas Frederick Fox, which led to a brief marriage and subsequent divorce.
    After her divorce from Fox, Evans attended business school and worked as a secretary in a Memphis insurance office. As she worked she scribbled down song lyrics and sang at her desk. Her office singing led to a radio program spot sponsored by her insurance company employer. Though she made it on the radio, she continued to work secretarial positions while building her singing career.
    She moved between Texas, Arkansas, and Kentucky, working in different offices while pursuing her singing career. She married August Wayne Johns in 1930 November, but they divorced in 1936. Evans did not remain single for long, marrying Robert Dale Butts, a composer and arranger, shortly after her divorce from Johns. They remained married until 1946 when they amicably divorced.
    Though Evans’ private life was often in flux, her professional life remained steadily productive during this period. In 1935 May she became a staff vocalist for Louisville station WHAS, then worked in Texas at WFFA, followed by a stint in Chicago with the Anson Weeks Orchestra in 1938.
    Her talent was noticed by talent scouts from the film studios, and an offer to take a screen test led to a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox in 1941. Although her contract was not renewed after it expired, it marked the beginning of her career in Hollywood.
    During this period Evans was briefly managed by Art Rush. Rush got her a position on the Chase and Sanborn Hour radio show as a vocalist from 1942 September to 1943 September. Evans left Rush management, citing that he spent too much time working with Rogers and not enough with his other clients. She acquired a one year contract with Republic Pictures in 1943 with Danny Winkler as her agent.
    When her contract with Republic ended in 1946, she did not renew, as she hoped to appear in an RKO musical. When the RKO musical did not materialize, Evans signed a new contract with Republic, acting in two non-Western films, The Trespasser (1947) and Slippy McGee (1948). After the brief hiatus from Westerns, Evans returned to the genre, making a total of 28 Westerns with Rogers between 1944 and 1951.
    Rogers and Evans married New Year’s Eve in 1947 at the Flying L Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma. After their marriage, Republic removed Evans from Rogers' westerns, only to return the partnership to films in 1949 after public protest demonstrated Republic had made a mistake in removing Rogers’ costar from his films.
    They were both managed by W. Arthur Rush. Rush founded his own management firm, Art Rush Inc., in 1939 and managed Rogers and Evans through it, as well as their marketing and merchandising empire of hundreds of licensed products, including the franchised Roy Rogers Restaurants.
    Rogers and Rush originally entered into a management agreement through a handshake in 1941. Rush briefly managed Evans in the early 1940s, but Evans left for a different manager until returning to Rush after her marriage with Rogers.
    After they left Republic, Rogers and Evans began working together on The Roy Rogers Show, broadcast on NBC and sponsored by Post Cereals. Episodes aired between 1951 and 1956. The show went into syndication in 1962. The production starred Rogers and Evans with Trigger, their German Shepherd dog Bullet, and their comedic sidekick Pat Brady. In addition to the human and animal sidekicks, the show also featured Brady’s broken down Jeep Nellybelle as comedic relief.
    Rogers and Evans worked together not only in film, but also on radio programs, appearing together on the weekly radio show, The Roy Rogers Show, first broadcast in 1948 and sponsored by Quaker Oats. The show was on Mutual Broadcasting Company until 1951 when it went to NBC for its final four years with initial sponsor Post Cereals, and later support from Chrysler Corporation. They also made guest appearances on radio shows The Chase and Sanborn Hour, the Bob Hope Show, and Ralph Edward’s Truth or Consequences.
    After the end of their first television series, the couple hosted Chevy Shows, beginning in 1959 January and continuing until 1961 May. Shortly after their hosting job, they began another series of their own, this time at ABC. The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show premiered in the Fall of 1962, ran for 13 episodes, and featured Rogers, Evans, and their children visiting locations across the U.S. such as the Seattle World’s Fair and Olvera Street in Los Angeles.
    After their own television series ended, they continued to work on TV as guest stars in a number of shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including The Dean Martin Show, The Barbara Mandrell Show, Hee Haw, The Muppet Show, and Wonder Woman. Dale Evans began her television program A Date with Dale in 1984 and continued hosting the thirty minute spiritual talk show on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) until 2000.
    Off the screen and radio, Rogers and Evans also made a career out of live performances, appearing at State Fairs and Rodeos as the star attraction. They made frequent appearances at the annual Houston Fat Stock Show and Madison Square Garden Rodeo. They also made special appearances on floats sponsored by Post Cereals and Chevrolet in the Pasadena Rose Parade, before becoming Parade Grand Marshals in 1977.
    Rogers and Evans were also very involved in charities, starting their own Annual School Safety Awards program in 1949 in cooperation with the National Safety Council.
    Evans, with encouragement from son Tom Fox, renewed her Christian religious faith, which became reflected in her writings and in the themes of songs she and Rogers chose to perform.
    They also maintained an active licensing campaign throughout their lifetimes. The Roy Rogers fast food franchise began in the 1960s and the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Happy Trails Resort opened in Arizona in 1986 January.
    In addition to film, television, and radio work with Rogers, Evans began her book publishing career in 1953 with Angel Unaware, based on the short life of their daughter Robin Elizabeth, who was born with Down’s syndrome in 1950 and passed away at two years old. Evans continued to write and publish inspirational books until 2000.
    Rogers and Evans continued to make public appearances into the 1990s. After years of heart problems, Rogers passed away on 1998 July 6. Evans died of congestive heart failure on 2001 February 7.

    Preferred Citation note

    Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive, 1885-2008, Autry Library, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; MSA.24; [folder number] [folder title] [date].

    Other Finding Aids note

    Folder list available.

    Custodial History

    Roy Rogers and Dale Evans opened a museum to house their professional memorabilia in the 1960s in Victorville, California. Rogers and Evans later had a larger museum structure built in Victorville to showcase their collections.
    The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum relocated to a different facility in Branson, Missouri in 2003, before ultimately closing in 2009. The Museum collections were auctioned, and their business papers were donated to the Autry National Center in 2010 as one archive.

    Physical Characteristics

    paper, metal, plastic, photographs, rubber

    Arrangement

    1885-2008
    • Series 1: Managment Files, 1935-2003
    • Series 2: External Publications, 1921-2008
    • Series 3: Fan Mail, Publications, and Ephemera, 1938-2000
    • Series 4: Music Files, 1885-1995
    • Series 5: Personal Papers, circa 1930s-circa 2000s
    • Series 6: Photographs, circa 1930s-2001
    • Series 7: Production Files, 1945-1992

    Scope and Content

    The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archives document the film, television and recording careers of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, primarily from the 1940s until 2000. It is comprised of seven series: Management Files, External Publications, Fan Mail, Publications, and Ephemera, Music Files, Personal Papers, Photographs, and Production Files. These series contain publications, press clippings, photographs, slides, promotional materials, correspondence, sheet music, ephemera, and business records relating to their artistic management, merchandising and licensed products, public appearance tours in the United States and Great Britain, development of their Victorville museum, song repertoires, charity work, promotional strategies, production of their television series, awards received, Roy Rogers' sporting hobbies, Roy Rogers Riders Clubs, and fan perception of their image. There are also correspondence, awards, and travel ephemera related to their manager Art Rush. Many of the merchandising materials and some of the earlier photographs appear to originate from the office of Art Rush, or from their publicity manager Al Rackin. Press clippings, sheet music, and scrapbooks make up the bulk of the archive.

    Acquisition

    Donated by Lora and Robert U. Sandroni to the Museum of the American West, 2010.

    Related Archival Materials

    Gene Autry Personal Papers and Business Archives, 1900-2002, pending donation from Mr. and Mrs. Gene Autry, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; MSA.28.
    Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Archives, 1950-1994, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; MSA.30.

    Access

    Collection is open for research. Appointments to view materials are required. To make an appointment please visit http://theautry.org/research/research-rules-and-application or contact library staff at rroom@theautry.org. A folder level inventory is available from library staff.

    Use

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Autry National Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Autry Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Autry National Center as the custodian of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Processing history

    Processed by Mallory Furnier, 2011-2012.
    Processing of collection and publication of finding aid made possible by donations from Lora and Robert U. Sandroni.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Evans, Dale, 1912-2001
    Roy Rogers Riders Club.
    Roy Rogers, 1911-1998
    Rush, Art, 1907-1989
    Advertising
    Agricultural exhibitions
    Apple Valley (Calif.)
    Christianity
    Comic Books, Strips, Etc.
    Correspondence
    Madison Square Garden (New York, N.Y.)
    Merchandise licensing
    Motion picture actors and actresses
    Museums -- West (U.S.)
    Press releases
    Programs
    Promotional materials
    Radio actors and actresses
    Rodeos
    Rose Bowl Stadium (Pasadena, Calif.)
    Roy Rogers and Dale Evans show (Television program) Roy Rogers show (Television program)
    Scrapbooks
    Scripts
    Sheet music
    Singers
    Songbooks
    Television actors and actresses
    United Service Organizations (U.S.)
    Western films
    Western television programs
    Women musicians