The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
Sir Harry Lauder
MacLennan Lauder was five feet three inches tall and
weighted 170 pounds. He had sparkling eyes, a husky
voice and his trademark was a Scottish costume and a
walking stick. His first tour of the United States was
made in 1906. He would make at least 40 tours in America
over a period of some twenty years. (Since Buffalo Bill
toured Scotland in 1904 it makes one ask if there was a
connection.) Sir Winston Churchill called him "the
greatest minstrel the world has ever seen." During his
1915 tour he crossed the States preaching a gospel of
preparedness for war.
In San Francisco he spoke to a crowd of twenty thousand.
Along the way he met Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow
Wilson both of whom have a Scottish heritage.
Harry Lauder was born 4 August 1870 in Portobello, on
the outskirts of Edinburgh. In the summer of 1890, he
was a coal miner in a Hamilton pit singing to help
conquer his fear of such dangerous work. By 1900 he was
performing the popular songs of his day in London. Along
the way he married 17 year old Nancy Vallance who often
accompanied him to the United States. He began to write
and publish his own music and his first hit was I Love a
Lassie (My Scotch Bluebell). It was his most successful
song, although 13 of his records were in the top 10. He
became a millionaire but never demanded a certain fee,
taking only what was offered.
His only son died on the battlefield of Flanders in
France. John was a Captain in the 8th Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders. Harry and Nancy were notified of
his death on January 1, 1917. Harry continued his work
of entertaining the troops and established a fund to aid
Scottish veterans. In 1919, he received a knighthood
from King George V for his service to the troops during
the war. He was the first entertainer so honored. During
World War II he became the first person to entertain
troops on the battlefield. With a small custom built
piano tied to the grill of jeep, he sang and joked his
way across France.
His popularity never diminished, and when he visited
America during the 1920's, he dined with Presidents
Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. During one of his
trips to Chicago in the 1920's he also visited the
Scottish Home. Elizabeth Ross, a one hundred year old
resident of the Scottish Home, fondly remembers his
performances in Chicago. Harry Lauder was also a proud
and active Rotarian.
After World War I, Scottish intellectuals began to
attack Harry Lauder and his "Stage Scot." They scorned
his affected accent, his mannerisms, and his humor,
complaining that Lauder had "made the Scot a figure of
fun throughout the world." But, they missed the genuine
appeal that Lauder had for thousand of emigrant Scots
around the world.
The Doig family of Montana remember that their
Scottish-born grandmother would nap after dinner with an
alarm clock by her bedside so that she could listen to
Harry Lauder on a Canadian radio station. The extent of
his appeal can be seen in the inclusion of his voice in
a Great Voices of the Twentieth Century record series.
The Scottish American Museum at the Scottish Home is
fortunate to have a complete album of his songs, some
sheet music, and one wonderful picture.
Harry Lauder used his Scottish theme to strike a
universal, romantic chord about Scotland. From a base
in Highland mythology, Harry Lauder approached the
universal. As historian Harold Orel put it, Lauder "may
have been responsible for making permanent in the
popular imagination more images of Scottish life than
the work of an entire tourist board."
Lauder's American contemporary was William F. Cody,
better known as Buffalo Bill. As the popularity of
Lauder and Cody illustrated, the legends of Scotland and
the American West had an appeal far beyond their own
The Scottish Drovers
It might not occur to most people that Scotland was
once the center of a great cattle industry. Thievery
along the Borders gradually gave way to legitimate
cattle droving. London and the large urban centers
simply could not get enough beef. Gradually, drovers
swam their herds over sea lochs, or drove them down
well-established roads to the great fairs at Smithfield
in London or Falkirk in Scotland. In 1880 fifteen
thousand cattle and twenty thousand sheep were sold at
The Drovers led a demanding life and it is said that
one man and his dogs could drive up to 400 cattle. When
herding them from the Highlands and Islands, a drover
often had to swim the beasts across rivers or sea lochs.
They often tied the tail of a cow to the horns of
another as they crossed the Kyle of Rhea. On the road,
armed drovers and their dogs lived on oatmeal, onions,
ewe's milk, cheese, bannock, and a ram's horn filled
with whiskey. When night fell, the drover simply wrapped
his plaid around him and slept by his charges.
Gradually each region of Scotland began to specialize
in certain types of cattle. Some were the Highland
cattle, the Galloway, or polled (hornless), the Ayrshire,
the Fifeshire, and the Shetland and Orkney cattle.
William McCombie of Aberdeenshire, helped produce the
Aberdeen Angus, perhaps the most famous of all the
Scottish breeds. Thus, the Scots' history of cattle
raising prepared them to feel comfortable with
investment in cattle ranches in the American Great
Plains. This confidence stemmed in part from the fact
that while American cattle breeding might be haphazard,
the Scottish cattle breeding had developed into a
Western Land Investments
Historian Paul M. Edwards has estimated that the
total capital invested by Scots in the West approached
almost 6.5 million pounds. Much of this capital went to
New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.
The first large scale effort was the Prairie Cattle
Company formed in Edinburgh in 1880. In 1883 it paid its
shareholders almost 28 percent. Corporations such as the
Texas Land and Cattle Co., Ltd, the Swan Land and Cattle
Company and the most famous Matador Land and Cattle,
Co., Ltd. began to advertise and sell.
Scots not only invested in land, but in such things as
Arizona copper mining, Pacific Northwest lumber
corporations, numerous railroad and petroleum ventures,
irrigation projects and cattle companies. The range of
their investments was prodigious. Not all adventures
were successful, however, The City of Glasgow Bank was
placed into receivership in 1881, because it had
invested heavily into American railroads.
William F. Cody
Someone You Should Know
American contemporary of Harry Lauder was William F.
Cody better known as Buffalo Bill. There is no evidence
that Cody was Scottish, though he was born in Scott
County, Iowa in 1846. In 1887, Cody brought his Buffalo
Bill's Wild West show to the British Isles and gave a
command performance for Queen Victoria. He visited
Scotland twice, in 1891 and again in 1904. He was
received with great enthusiasm by the Scots and a legend
still exists that several Indian performers were so
charmed by the area that they married local women and
remained in the northeast of Scotland, where their
descendants still live today. Why he chose to tour
Scotland is somewhat unclear but it may have been the
extensive involvement of Scots in the development of the
On July 20, 1904, the show played to overflow crowds in
Glasgow and from August 8 to 13 about 140,000 watched
the Edinburgh performance near Gorgie Station. When his
troupe marched down the west end of Princess Street, one
reporter noted that Edinburgh had never witnessed a
Beginning in Montrose on August 15, Cody took the show
to Aberdeen for three days and one day each in Peterhead,
Fraserburgh, and Huntly. It took almost three-quarters
of a mile of railroad cars. Nineteen coaches of the
provided living quarters for the staff which numbered
more than eight hundred people. The remaining cars
carried the gigantic canvas tent, stagecoaches, and
about 500 horses. Refrigerated cars filled with eggs,
milk, and meat were regularly replenished and one
emergency wagon was filled with tinned foods, soups, and
milk in case the supply line failed.
performances in Aberdeen's Central Park drew more than
23,000 people the first day in spite of rain. Five
thousand were turned away. It was a record first day
attendance. The Great North of Scotland Railway Company
put on special excursion trains to bring in the country
people. Statistically, more than half of Aberdeen's
residents were thrilled and stirred by the performances.
The audience thrilled to see Custer's last stand, a
holdup of the famed Deadwood stagecoach, a pony express
demonstration, and war dances performed by more that 100
American Indian performers.
In many ways this 1904 tour was eminently symbolic. The
appeal of the American West proved universal. Newly
purchased British automobiles brushed up against ancient
horse-drawn buggies. Scots whose complexions betoken a
healthy country life rubbed shoulders with city bankers
and elegant ladies who lived in country homes. One
reporter commented that many of the young men with wives
and bairns in tow had been raised with Buffalo Bull
stories in their youth. Scotland suddenly had a new set
of heroes. Reporters noted that the Rough Riders, the
trick shooters, and Buffalo Bill would give the boys on
the street a good deal to talk about over the winter.
Scots spectators had thoroughly enjoyed their glimpse,
however brief, of America's 'Wild West'.
Without romance, the story of the American West is
simply that of American history set in a western locale.
Similarly, without romance, the story of Scotland is
largely that of North Britons living in a very demanding
climate. But with romance, these two histories rank
among the most fascinating of the modern world. To
paraphrase Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday, Scotland and
the American West each must be seen to be believed. And
each must be believed to be seen.
Connah is located in the Flathead or Mission Valley of
Western Montana. The most famous person connected to the
fort was Angus McDonald who came from Scotland. He was
given charge of Fort Connah in 1847 and named the Post
Connen, after a river valley in Scotland. An Indian
named Francois Finlay has such trouble pronouncing this
that Angus later contracted the name to Connah.
Angus married a Nez Perce Indian woman named Catherine.
Both are buried in a cemetery located near the Fort.
Duncan McDonald, a son of Angus was the last factor at
the old Fort. He was a capable businessman who spoke
twelve different Indian Languages. One original building
still stands and the entire Fort is presently being
Half Scot and half Cherokee Indian, he founded the
famous trail in his name which ran from Kansas to
Oklahoma and was extended into Texas. He was a
representative of several Indian tribes in their
dealings with the government and spoke six Indian
From the Editor
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting
Boston and seeing the great public library there. It is
called the McKim Library and in our next issue we will
write about Charles F. McKim, the Scottish architect who
designed that beautiful building. Trying to find my way
around the library, I met a Scottish lady by the name of
Linda MacIver. Not only is she Scottish, but she is also
very involved in Scottish activities.
The Library has a great assortment of Scottish books
but I only had a few hours to research. The stories you
read in this issue are taken from Scots in the North
American West, 1790-1917. It was written by Ferenc
Morton Szasz and is published by the University of
Oklahoma Press in Norman. This book again shows how
easily the culture flows from Scotland to America and
back again. Buffalo Bill goes to Scotland and Harry
Lauder comes to America and both are successful.
Many of you have sent in your subscriptions for this
year and that is much appreciated. We also receive "post
it" notes and sometimes letters from people as far as
Half Moon Bay, California. My thanks to each of you. You
might also be interested to know that we now have some
of the Keiller's pots and they will all be placed in our
museum. We will give each of you credit in our next