By happy coincidence, the natal day of Chief Caupolican (Emile Barrangon, 1876-1968) falls on Indigenous Peoples Day this year. Chief Caupolican was believed to have been a member of the Mapuche tribe of Chile. His stage name was in homage to a war leader of his tribe who had led resistance to Spanish Conquistadors centuries earlier. He performed in vaudeville and the Chautauqua circuit, doing an act that combined song and patter. He is also reknowned for being the first non-white to sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. In 1928 he sang in a Minneapolis production of the opera Winona. Today, he is best known for his turn as Black Eagle in both the Broadway (1929) and Hollywood versions of the Eddie Cantor vehicle Whoopee!
For more about vaudeville and related variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.
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