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A History of The Lone Ranger...Who Was That Masked Man?

By Edited Jul 13, 2016 2 5

The History Behind the Series

Hi-Yo Silver!

A fiery horse with the speed of light,
A cloud of dust,
And a hearty
Hi, yo Silver!

The Lone Ranger!

Millions of children sat next to their radios from 1933-1954 and millions more were glued to the television from 1949-1957 to watch Clayton Moore as the wandering Texas Ranger searching for justice.   The Lone Ranger has been a beloved character for over eighty years, and still has fans around the world that span  generations.  [1]

The Lone Ranger Theme Song

The William Tell Overture

How Did The Lone Ranger Come to Be?

A Brief History of The Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers was founded in 1823 by Stephen Austin as a group of ten men who were organized to protect the wild Texas frontier. By 1835, their ranks rose to 25. Between the Mexicans who did not want the Americans settling in the area and the Native Americans who resented the white man’s presence overtaking their land, Texas was a volatile place.[2]

The men who formed the Texas Rangers were young, brave volunteers who rode their horses into battle. For the most part, they were always outnumbered in their confrontations, yet they showed no fear in the face of danger. Non-military Mexicans called this band of fighters "los diablos tejanos", the devil Texans. [2]

Texas Ranger CIrca 1846

The Story of The Lone Ranger

The real name of The Lone Ranger is John Reid. While on the hunt for Butch Cavendish and his band of outlaws, the Rangers were ambushed. All of the men were killed except for John. Among the dead is his older brother, Daniel.

The surviving Ranger is taken care of by Tonto, who recognizes John as the man who, years earlier, had saved his life. He calls him kemo sabe, which means “trusty scout”.[3]

After John Reid recovers, Tonto and he come upon an injured white horse, whom they nurse back to health. The horse follows them even though he is set free, and so he is named “Silver” after his coat color.

John makes a mask from his brother’s black vest and spends the rest of his days seeking justice for those who have been wronged in the Wild West. [4]

He only uses silver bullets to remind him of the preciousness of life.  [5] In true hero’s fashion, The Lone Ranger never shoots to kill, only to injure. He wants the law to judge, not his silver bullets.  He gets his silver bullets from a man who is the caretaker of an abandoned silver mine that he and his late brother owned.

And why does no one know who that Masked Man is?  Because Tonto dug six graves, everyone believes that John Reid is also dead.  Thus, no one ever discovers who is the man behind the mask.  [6]

Who Was That Masked Man: The Story of the Lone Ranger
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The Story Comes to the Radio

In the days before television, radio was the main source of indoor entertainment.  Families gathered around to listen to programs together.  On January 31, 1933, The Lone Ranger made it’s debut on the radio airwaves and stayed on for over 3,000 episodes. George Seaton was the original voice of the series' hero and John Todd was the voice of Tonto, his faithful Indian companion, for the entire run of the program. [4] The radio series spawned a line of merchandise that collectors today covet.

The Lone Ranger Movie Serial

During the era of radio, it was very common for popular characters to come to the silver screen so people could see them in action. Many times this would be in serial form, i.e, each week a new episode would appear in movie theaters before the feature film.

In 1938, Republic released The Lone Ranger in serial form. It starred Lee Powell as The Lone Ranger and Chief Thundercloud as Tonto. In this version of the story, which takes place in 1865, a group of Texas Rangers are ambushed by a rogue Confederate Army Captain, who has assumed the identity of a man he murdered.

One Ranger survives, and he is nursed back to health by Tonto. Once healed, this masked man vows to get revenge for the death of his comrades. [7]

The Famous Television Series

A Baby Boomer Favorite!

If you mention The Lone Ranger to Baby Boomers, one man comes to mind-Clayton Moore. He was the star of the hit television version of the story. It aired on ABC from 1949-1957. John Hart briefly played the Masked Man during a contract dispute, but he was not nearly as popular as Moore, who was brought back to play the famous masked man.

Clayton Moore as The Lone Range

In fact, The Lone Ranger was the role of a lifetime for Moore. He would wear the mask to all public appearances until 1979, when the producers of the film had a court order filed that banned him from wearing the mask in public (instead he wore sunglasses). After the 1981 film flopped, the courts permitted Moore to wear the mask in public again. [9]

Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger

Jay Silverheels played Tonto, his faithful companion. Riding atop his horse, Scout, Tonto would go everywhere with The Lone Ranger. He would scout places for him when it was too dangerous for this hero to be seen. Oftentimes, he would be the one who got pelted for his efforts.

Jay SIlverheels as Tonto

Silverheels was not thrilled with how he had to portray Tonto and was oftentimes frustrated by the stiff dialogue he had to say. Viewers of this classic Western today can understand what he was feeling, as what we hear through the ears of today’s society is cringe worthy.

Lone Ranger Costume X-Large
Amazon Price: $42.31 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 11, 2015)

A Ranger Movie Flop

A film that is best forgotten

The Legend of The Lone Ranger

In 1981, the film The Legend of The Lone Ranger made it’s way into theaters. It starred Klinton Spilsbury, Michael Horse and Christopher Lloyd. It failed to attract an audience. It was so bad that the voice of Klinton was dubbed in by James Keach.

The New Lone Ranger Movie Summer 2013

Starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp

It seems every generation tries to bring this legend back to life, and in 2013, Disney Studios will be releasing it’s own version of The Lone Ranger. Armie Hamme will be playing the lead role, while Johnny Depp portrays Tonto. The projected release date is May 31, 2013.

Time will tell if this version will be a hit with modern audiences or if it will, too, be an unsuccessful commercial venture.



Jan 18, 2013 8:28am
Fascinating article if you're an old west buff as I am.. Adding to your excellent article I worked for Alaskan Pictutres for many years for Chuck Keen. Chuck had hired Clayton Moore for some film project and since Moore did not know what time he would arive, Chuck gave him a key to their hollywod apartment. The apartment was small with only one bathroom and the bathroom was just off the bedroom. Sometime in the middle of the night, Chucks wife jerked awake to see the shadow of a man pass through. She quickly woke up
Chuck and asked, "Who was that man?" And Chuck replied--"That, my dear, was the Lone Ranger." Chuck loved telling that story and it is true. Anyway, two thumbs and a rating for you.
Jan 18, 2013 11:22am
Marlando, thank you for sharing that chuckle with all of us! It made me smile! I appreciate the comments and the story!
Jan 18, 2013 9:36am
Dependent upon which native language is applied, the term of endearment Tonto uses for The Lone Ranger ("kemo sabe") can mean either "white shirt" or "soggy shrub".

Also, I'm INSANELY jealous that I not only DIDN'T write this but didn't have the presence of mind to nail down the first mention of the 2013 movie (which I'm dying to see!). Right now I alternately love you/hate you (mostly love you!).

Big "Hi-ho-Silver, awaaaayyy!!" thumb's up from me, and I'll let you clean up the steamy pile he left behind (I'll hand you the shovel!)
Jan 18, 2013 11:25am
Vic, thank you for the other interpretation of "kemo sabe". I had not read that. I am looking forward to the movie, as I faithfully watched the reruns as a child.

As for shoveling, after working five hours in the preschool with two and three year olds today, I will tell you what I tell the teachers when it comes to "shoveling" little people's stuff -NO!

Love ya!
Jan 18, 2013 12:06pm
I also thought "The Lone Ranger" was the real deal as a kid -- total loner, operated on the fringes of the law, kind of rode in and out like a shadow. It's how I've tended to live my own life. Good times...
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  1. "The Lone Ranger Takes to the Air." The Lone Ranger Fan Club. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  2. Juniper Tree "The History of The Texas Rangers." Yahoo Voices. 29/01/2007. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  3. B.R. Smits "The Lone Ranger." Museum TV. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  4. "Short History of The Lone Ranger Radio Program." Essortment.com. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  5. "The Lone Ranger F.A.Q.." Weird SciFi. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  6. Helen O'Hara "A History of The Lone Ranger." Empire Online. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  7. "The Lone Ranger Serial." Wikipedia.org. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  8. "Clayton Moore." Biography.com. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  9. "Clayton Moore." Biography.com. 19/12/2012 <Web >
  10. "The Legend of The Lone Ranger." Wikipedia.org. 19/12/2012 <Web >

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