The Go-Hawks Tribe

Members of the Go Hawks Tribe founded by childrens literature author Emilie Blackmore Stapp. Many of the members are holding musical instruments.

Pictured here is a group of members of the "Go-Hawks Tribe," that was founded by Emilie Blackmore Stapp, who is standing to the right of the "Big Chief" in the picture. The group picture was taken in Iowa at the beginning of the Go-Hawks' history, but eventually there were other tribes all over the country, boasting as many 80,000 members. Stapp led a movement of "children helping children" by launching a "Million Penny Drive" during World War I. The members of the "Go-Hawks" collected over 3,800,000 pennies ($38,000.00) for war orphans in Europe.

While working for the Des Moines Capital as literary editor, one of Stapp's books for young people was published in 1908, titled The Trail of the Go-Hawks. Children related to the book because Stapp told of ten boys and two girls who "played Indian," and were members of the "Go-Hawks Tribe." The first chapter of the book is "The Initiation," in which twin sisters are allowed to be members of the tribe. As part of the ceremony, the girls' blond curls are cut off, but they do not make a "squeak," for fear of being barred "forever more out of th' tribe of Go-Hawks, because we can't have squeaky girls in this company of Indians."

Stapp received fan mail from her readers, and one particular letter from Jimmie, a terminally ill and disabled boy in New York, grabbed her attention. The boy stated that he wanted to be able to "run around and ‘play Indian," in the same manner as Stapp's own characters in the book. As a result, Stapp suggested that she and Jimmie start a tribe of their own and call it "The Happy Tribe." There would be membership buttons (pictured here), a code of conduct, and a famous person to serve as "Big Chief." Stapp contacted James Whitcomb Riley at Jimmie's prodding to be the "Big Chief." Riley accepted the honor and served as "Big Chief "in 1914, and worked with Stapp on promoting the Tribe until his death two years later.

The Des Moines Capital was pleased with Stapp's success, and as a result a "Happy Page" was launched, in which "Happy" as Stapp was called, would write about the good deeds accomplished by members of the Go-Hawks. The philanthropic deeds by the entire Tribe began by finding ways to help sick and underfed babies. Stapp would publish the fund in each column, allowing members to see what their efforts were accomplishing.

Following her time at the Des Moines Capital, Stapp accepted a position with Houghton Mifflin Publishing House. The Go-Hawks' good works continued until Stapp left Boston for Mississippi, where she and her sister built a house, which they called "The Doll's House," in Wiggins, MS. Her philanthropic work continued in Wiggins, where she and her sister donated the building for the first library.

To learn more about Emilie Stapp and her sister, Marie, visit the 3rd floor of McCain Library or contact Ellen Ruffin, the curator of the de Grummond Collection, at or 601.266.6543. To see more Items of the Month, click here.

Works Used

Noun, Louise Rosenfield. "Emilie Blackmore Stapp and her Go-Hawks Happy Tribe." Iowa Heritage Illustrated. 77:4 (Winter 1996): 172-90.

Stapp, Emily Blackmore. The Trail of the Go-Hawks. Boston: The C.M. Clark Publishing Co., 1908.


Text by Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection.