Photo of the Week
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
The Parry Sisters / Suffolk County in the Wild West
by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian
The Parry Sisters (wearing hats, neckerchiefs, gauntlet gloves, armbands, and velvet costumes). (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
Sisters Etheyle and Jaunita Parry, daughters of Amy Rothermel Parry and veterinarian Archer E. Parry, were born in Riverhead in 1890 and 1891, respectively. They spent most of their early years in Riverhead, but by the early twentieth-century they would become two of the greatest circus and rodeo stunt horseback riders in the United States.
William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a personal friend of the family, and in 1907, when the younger Juanita reached age 16, the sisters left Riverhead to join Cody’s Wild West show just before it started on a South American tour. Etheyle and Juanita became known as the Cossack Girls because they performed daring feats of horsemanship attributed to the Russian Cossack cavalry. The sisters fascinated audiences at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows from New York to London. They also appeared in Miller Bros. shows and in the Barnum & Bailey Circus. One of the Parry Sisters’ roping and riding routines involved a runaway stagecoach: Etheyle would leap off a vehicle onto a horse running alongside the stage, and Juanita would rope a fixed object from the driver’s seat of the stage to bring the team of horses to an abrupt stop.
The Parry Sisters’ act lasted from 1907 to 1918, when, sadly, Juanita died after falling off her horse and breaking her neck at a Barnum & Bailey show. Etheyle married William Cody Bradford, a nephew of Buffalo Bill.
Don’t miss our Women’s History Month Exhibit: The Parry Sisters, Suffolk County in the Wild West. From our permanent collection, assorted costumes, beads, photographs, and other items showcase the story of circus performers Etheyle and Juanita Parry of Riverhead, two of the greatest stunt horseback riders in the country at the turn of the 20th century. In our History in the Hall display cases beginning March 11, 2020.
ATTENTION KNITTERS! Join our SCHS knitting circle, the Historical Knit Wits, every Thursday from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM! FREE and open to all levels, bring your own project and enjoy the company and conversation of fellow knitters! Exchange ideas, styles, and enjoy a bit of show and tell! This club does not include instruction; however, our knitters are always willing to lend a helping hand! Call Lee for more information: 631-727-2881.