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Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England and Dukes of Bourbon. c.1465. Newberr
Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England and Dukes of Bourbon. c.1465. Newberry Case MS 166.

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On the Shelf: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century by Claire Prentice

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island is the fascinating, yet horrifying, true account of the Igorrotes, indigenous peoples of the Philippines who were taken to New York in 1905 by a charming, opportunistic doctor-turned-showman, Truman K. Hunt. There they appeared as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park.

The story begins in the Philippines and follows the Igorrotes as Truman and his cohorts take them from park to park, criss-crossing the United States, first to exhibit the natives for profit and then to elude the federal government. Many key events also take place here in Chicago, at locations that include the Riverview and the San Souci amusement parks.

This account of human exploitation introduces the reader to real individuals, both good and evil. The research for this book utilized what are often considered “genealogy resources” although they are really resources shared by genealogists and historians alike. The story could not have been told without the use of familiar sources such as census records, passenger lists, vital records, digitized newspapers, books and magazines, as well as court, probate and military records. It’s sources such as these that provide the details which bring tribesmen, showmen, government men as well as our ancestors to life.

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