Chief Willie Bowlegs: A Seminole in the Sideshows

“Chief” Willie Bowlegs (1896-1964) was a sword swallower, alligator wrestler, knife thrower and juggler from the Everglades of Florida. A full-blooded Seminole, he was named in apparent homage to the great chief of that nation Holata Micco (ca 1810-1864), nicknamed Billy Bowlegs, who had led his people during the Second and Third Seminole Wars. The gent we honor today performed with circuses (including Ringling Brothers) and medicine shows, hawking his own patent remedies. His last years were spent in Chicago.

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For more on the variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous