Yukon Nuggets

  • Will Rogers and RCMP Constable David Mascall stand in front of an airplane. Date: July/August 1935. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #8472.

  • Will Rogers standing on the pontoon of an airplane. Date: July/August 1935. Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #8473.

1935 Yukon Nuggets

Post and Rogers


The news spread around the world with the speed of a lightning bolt. Two of America's most beloved citizens were dead. In the wilds of Alaska, the picture of their crumpled aircraft was a sad sight, indeed.

Will Rogers was born on a Cherokee reserve in Oklahoma in 1879 and, as a youngster, became a cowboy. Wiley Post was born in Texas in 1899 and became a pilot at an equally young age.

Rogers joined the world famous Ziegfield Follies in 1915 and was an immediate hit as the cowboy philosopher, twirling his lariat with extraordinary precision while making salty comments about the political and social scene in America. "I never met a man I didn't like" was an often quoted phrase. He hosted a national radio show. Millions of listeners tuned in each week to hear such lines as "Everbody is ignorant. Only on different subjects". "They may call me a rube and a hick, but I'd rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it." Rogers wrote several books and starred in many motion pictures. Not surprisingly, he was one of the best known and highly paid entertainers in the '20s and '30s.

Wiley Post gained world-wide acclaim in 1931 when, with co-pilot Harold Gatty, he flew around the northern hemisphere in eight days, becoming the first to accomplish the feat. Two years later, Post became as well known an aviator as Charles Lindbergh when he made the same journey alone. It was an age when flyers were as famous as astronauts are today.

In August of 1935, Post and Rogers were bound for Alaska on board a float plane owned by Post. They stopped in Whitehorse and in Dawson, where they spent a few days on a sight-seeing tour. Their visit was big news in tiny Dawson City. Here were real-life celebrities.

They left Dawson and arrived in Fairbanks on August 14. The next day, they left Fairbanks but encountered heavy coastal storms. This used up more fuel than Post had planned for. Post landed on a lake near the small community of Wallatka. Here they learned that Point Barrow, their final destination, was just 14 miles away.

Post assumed he had enough fuel to make that short hop. The plane was barely air-borne when the engine sputtered and stopped. It plunged into a shallow lake, ending up on its back, a twisted chunk of metal. Both Rogers and Post were killed. The news stunned the people of depression-ridden America. Two of their most famous celebrities were gone.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.