While mostly unknown today, Hop Along Cassidy was a major film star of the 1920s and ’30s. The film character’s fame rivaled that of movie cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. But unlike Rogers and Autry, Hop Along Cassidy was actually just a fictional character played by actor William Boyd. Boyd admitted he “never branded a cow or mended a fence, cannot bulldog a steer” and disliked western music. Despite this fact, Boyd played Cassidy in over 70 films as well as a long-running radio and television series.
The character of Hop Along Cassidy first appeared in the pulp novels of creator Clarence Mulford. Mulford had written 26 books featuring Cassidy before the role was picked up for a film series. In his stories, Cassidy was a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed curmudgeon with a wooden leg. (hence the moniker). The writers for the film series dramatically altered the character. Cassidy was now a clean-cut, good guy who only drank sasparilla. Cassidy had several sidekicks including a then-unknown Robert Mitchum. The role became such a cultural phenomenon that Boyd spent the rest of his life playing the character. But to his credit, Boyd was a shrewd businessman and owned the rights to his films and his image and made millions from merchandising. William Boyd died in 1972, at the time of his death he was still in demand for personal appearances as Cassidy.
Boyd’s hometown of Cambridge, Ohio still honors Boyd’s memory with an annual Hop Along Festival each summer and has a lovely mural and statue of their local hero.
The city also had a museum which sadly burned down in 2016. A few of the items were salvaged, and there is a statue of Boyd as Cassidy that makes a great photo op.
If you happen to be in southeastern Ohio and are a fan of the screen cowboy the make sure you hop along over* to Cambridge.
* Sorry about that awful pun. GG