‘Hi Yo Silver, Away!’: ‘The Lone Ranger’ Rode into Our Hearts in 1933

The Lone Ranger from left: Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels, 1949-57
Everett Collection

The Lone Ranger and his horse Silver premiered on WXYZ radio in Detroit for the first time on January 30, 1933. Known for his strict moral code, his crime-fighting ways, and eventually his controversial Native American sidekick Tonto, The Lone Ranger continued to be a part of American pop culture for decades to come. While at first, the radio program was meant for children, it quickly became a hit among adults too.

For two decades, there were over 3,000 radio episodes featuring the Lone Ranger as he rides across the Wild West, keeping the common folk safe. Despite premiering in Detroit, it soon found a nationwide audience and sparked a television show on September 15, 1949, starring Clayton Moore. It didn’t stop there. When the show ended in 1957, there were several other TV and movie adaptations over the years including the 2013 movie starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp. There have also been comic strips, books, and merchandise, not to mention that the show inspired countless TV westerns.

The Lone Ranger Clayton Moore, 1949-57

Everett Collection

Have you ever wondered why he was called the “Lone Ranger?” Turns out, he was once part of a group of six Texas Rangers. They were ambushed and gunned down by outlaws, with only John Reid… “The Lone Ranger” left to defend the Wild West. NPR wrote, “After the shooting was over, an Indian man happened upon the scene of the ambush. The ranger, who was wounded but still clinging to life, had saved that Indian from outlaw raiders a few years earlier, when the two were just boys. The Indian recognized his boyhood companion, carried him to a nearby cave and nursed him back to health. Four days later, the surviving Ranger came to. And he asked his savior what had happened to his comrades. The Indian showed him the graves of the other five Rangers … ‘You only Ranger left … You Lone Ranger.’”

The Lone Ranger from left: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, 2013

Peter Mountain/Walt Disney Pictures/Everett Collection

He wore a mask on his face to try to fool his enemy, Butch Cavendish, into thinking that he too was killed in the ambush. Some stories even say that his brother Dan was one of the Rangers who died in the incident. For decades, The Lone Ranger has also put some popular phrases into our vocabulary such as “Kemosabe,” a colloquial phrase for “friend.” In each episode, he yells “Hi-yo, Silver!” (Is it just me or did anyone else think he said “Hi-ho, Silver!”?) before jumping into action to save the day.

If you’re a fan of the character, you may also remember his creed.

“I believe…

That to have a friend, a man must be one.

That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.

That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.

In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.

That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.

That ‘This government, of the people, by the people and for the people’ shall live always.

That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.

That sooner or later … somewhere … somehow … we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.

That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.

In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.”

Wild West- Heroes & Villains
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Wild West- Heroes & Villains

November 2022

Celebrates the unique sense of justice, compassion and adventure in the Old West as seen on TV and in the movies

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