Issue: October 15, 2014 The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled off the Spectacle of the Century.
Prentice, Claire (Author)
Oct 2014. 432 p. Houghton/New Harvest, hardcover, $26.
In the early 1900s, with American presidents and advisors pondering whether the U.S. involvement in the Philippines was morally and economically worthwhile, showman Dr. Truman Knight Hunt brought a group of Filipino Igorrote tribe members—men, women, and children—to exhibit in various fairs in the U.S. and in Coney Island’s Luna Park. Advertising them, not altogether inaccurately, as “dog-eating, headhunting savages,” he charged admission to watch them sing, dance, and engage in pretend battles. The Igorrotes were a popular sensation, in their G-strings, tattoos, and greased-up hair; yet Hunt intended for them to illustrate to the U.S. that most dark-skinned peoples needed U.S. aid and instruction to be civilized. Author Prentice ferreted this true tale from a variety of sources, and the pages of this incredible story are peppered with maps, period memorabilia (such as telegraphs and newspaper headlines), and weathered but fascinating photos of the Igorrotes themselves. Hunt, though initially much loved by the cheerful, hardworking, and honest Igorrotes, broke his promises to them of fame and fortune, absconding with the proceeds. This story of an astonishing spectacle is enhanced by Prentice’s sparkling prose.