Meet the man who ‘introduced America to Americans’
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Meet the man who ‘introduced America to Americans’

In May 1931, Will Rogers — the movie star and newspaper columnist and arguably the most famous person in America — decided to take his wife on a vacation for Mother’s Day. Rogers was well known for his near obsession with flying and had just piloted himself on a cross-country tour to promote his new film, a homespun adaptation of Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee.” But he and Betty, both 52, had decided to leave their kids at home and do a driving journey: a version of what had already become the quintessential American trip, which people called the “Southwest Detour.” They would explore America’s most recently added states, Arizona and New Mexico.

From their home in Beverly Hills, they went first to Tucson, Arizona, and then drove over 450 miles east along the Mexican border to Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico. There, Will gave “Ma” a white desert flower and then “walked her for seven miles” through what he described as “the Grand Canyon…

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