Emilie Blackmore Stapp and The Trail of the Go-Hawks (1908)

Newspaper clipping advertising the childrens book series The Go-Hawk Series. In the bottom left corner, there is a round emblem with a girls face surrounded by the words I’m a Go-Hawk The Happy Tribe. Someone took a blue crayon and drew a circle around the emblem. The text of the clipping reads The Happy Tribe. Do you belong to the Happy Tribe? All the boys and girls from 7 to 77 are joining. Come to our shop for a button which makes you a life member. Every good Indian will enjoy our Go-Hawk window. Every real boy and girl have a right to want a set of the Go-Hawk Series for Christmas. Full set, box, $3.00. Jones Book and Picture Shop. Across from Wilkins, Eighth Street.

Although largely unknown by the general public today, Emilie Blackmore Stapp was a Pied Piper who, rather than leading children away from their homes, led them into philanthropic thoughts and actions. Stapp’s 1908 book, The Trail of the Go-Hawks, served as the catalyst for a philanthropic series of events—both in the United States and in Europe.

During this period of history, there was very little awareness of the harm of negative stereotypes. Children were enamored of the idea of dressing up, wearing costumes such as headdresses, and Stapp employed this fascination to enjoin children, giving them a sense of belonging.

Stapp’s first book resonated with children because it told of ten boys and two girls who were members of the “Go-Hawks Tribe.” The first chapter of the book is “The Initiation,” in which twin sisters are allowed to become members of the tribe. As part of the ceremony, the girls’ blonde curls are cut off, but they do not make a sound, for fear of being barred “forever more out of th’ tribe of Go-Hawks, ‘cause we can’t have squeaky girls in this company of Indians” (Stapp). 

It all began when Stapp received a letter from a nine-year-old child—Little Jimmie. Jimmie had read Stapp’s book which showed children playing, and Jimmie longed to be in a “tribe,” but he didn’t think anyone would have him because he suffered from paralysis. Upon hearing Jimmie’s story, Stapp decided to begin the Go-Hawks Happy Tribe.

At the time, Stapp was working at the Des Moines Capital as the editor of a literary column. The newspaper gave her a page to use for the Go-Hawks, and with that, Stapp galvanized children to “do good,” She used the “Happy” page to enlist members of the Go-Hawks Happy Tribe.

Each new member received the official Happy Tribe button and the code of conduct:

A good Go-Hawk never fights a kid younger than himself. He will not lie.
He tries his best to make everybody happy around him. He protects birds
and dumb animals, old people and children. He does one good deed a day
and more if he can.

During World War I, Children followed “Happy” (Stapp’s nickname) in collecting pennies for war orphans. When the pennies finally reached their destination, the Happy Tribe had collected $43,000.00 in pennies—4,300,000 pennies.

Pictured here are two images. One image shows the official button and membership card youngsters would receive when they joined the organization. The other features a newspaper clipping about joining the group.

Stapp eventually wound up in Wiggins, Mississippi, where her brother-in-law was a prominent member of the lumber industry in the region. For more information, contact Ellen Ruffin at
or 601.266.6543.

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