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The Long Riders' Guild

The Hopkins Hoax

A Misleading Website and Unverifiable Photographs of Frank Hopkins in the Saddle

The Long Riders' Guild wishes to issue a public warning concerning the ownership, and mission, of the website known as frankhopkins.com

As the controversy surrounding the Old West imposter and equestrian charlatan known as Frank Hopkins continues to grow, many people are being misled into believing that the Hopkins website is owned and managed by fans of the mustang breed.

This is not the case !

The Frank Hopkins website is owned by John Fusco, the screenwriter of the forthcoming Disney movie entitled "Hidalgo."

Mr. Fusco launched the Hopkins website soon after representatives of the History Channel asked The Long Riders' Guild to verify the equestrian claims of Frank Hopkins. Because our investigation revealed that Hopkins was America's largest equestrian fraud, Mr. Fusco set into motion a series of efforts designed to camouflage Hopkins' lack of historical credibility.

His first move was to launch a website entitled frankhopkins.com on March 14th, 2003. The website was recorded as belonging to :

Waterhorse Films - John Fusco - Morristown, Vermont.
Mr. Fusco was also listed as the administrative contact.

The Technical Contact was listed as :
Signal Advertising - David Zahn - Montpelier, Vermont.

The Frank Hopkins website lists many of the now debunked Hopkins myths. As the Long Riders' Guild investigation continued, even more damaging evidence was uncovered about Frank Hopkins. These embarrassing historical discoveries prompted Mr. Fusco to attempt to disguise his direct involvement in the Hopkins website. According to new ownership papers filed on May 10th, 2003, Mr. Fusco's name had been dropped. The new "owner" was now listed as "David Zahn," the same person who had previously been listed as the Technical Contact.

To further this deliberate misrepresentation, the Hopkins website also implied that it was being independently sponsored by two mustang conservation groups.

"On this site, sponsored by the Horse of the Americas registry and the Institute of Range and the American Mustang (IRAM), we will get a glimpse into Hopkins' life and career ...."

The Hopkins website states, "... Horse of Americas (registry) was dormant until Spanish Mustang aficionado and screenwriter John Fusco purchased it along with the last of the Horse of the Americas herd and sent both registry and horses to Texas where they joined the original Horse of the Americas herd at Karma Farms," wrote that webmaster.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fusco and the Frank Hopkins website continue to mislead the public into believing that Frank Hopkins was an underdog advocate of the mustang. Published on frankhopkins.com are articles and extracts from books about Hopkins' improbable achievements by various well-known writers.  These are the very authors who, as The Long Riders' Guild has proved, did no primary research at all but simply believed - or deliberately promoted -  Frank Hopkins.  Once Hopkins' fantastic, albeit imaginary, feats had been written about a few times, the next generation of writers simply picked up the story and carried it on - still without making any effort at all to substantiate the tales!

The frankhopkins.com website even continues to publish an extract from Dr. Donald Worcester's 1986 book, The Spanish Mustang, in defiance of the fact that Dr. Worcester has publicly denounced Hopkins as being the author of an Old West fraud.  Dr. Worcester told The Guild his own research into Hopkins had been limited to reading passages about Frank Hopkins in J. Frank Dobie's book, The Mustangs.  The Long Riders' Guild provided Dr. Worcester, an Ida and Cecil Green Distinguished Emeritus at Texas Christian University, with copies of Frank Hopkins' unpublished manuscripts.

After reading the Hopkins material, Dr. Worcester issued an emphatic denunciation of the counterfeit cowboy. "I was fooled by Frank Hopkins," Worcester admitted, "because it was such a good story!"

Worcester went on to say, "I certainly can't think of any bigger hoax!" and denounced the Walt Disney studios for promoting the movie Hidalgo as "being based on a true story."  "If the Walt Disney studio does not admit that the movie "Hidalgo" is fiction, then years from now people will be misled into believing that it is a true story," the historian said firmly.

Worcester is one of 77 academics from five countries, ranging from the Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum to the Sultan of Yemen, who have unanimously denounced Frank Hopkins as the world's greatest equestrian liar. 

Furthermore, the public is being deceived in terms of two pieces of dubious photographic evidence which can be found on the frankhopkins website.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

According to John Fusco, the top photograph on the left supposedly shows an elderly Frank Hopkins.  "Pocantico Hills - Frank T. Hopkins up, 1951.  This photo, taken on the D. Stillman Estate in 1951, is the last known photo of Hopkins, mounted, before his death that year. At 86, he still had a great seat!"

The information above came from Hopkins' widow, Gertrude, who sent it to famed biographer, Robert Easton.  Gertrude did not supply the name of the photographer or any evidence to support her claim that this portly gentleman was her husband.  It is curious that Mr. Fusco, who has publicly attacked Gertrude's credibility, sees fit to believe her on this occasion.  Moreover, Waddell W. Stillman, President of Historic Hudson Valley, New York, informed The Guild that "the existence of a D. Stillman estate would be news to me."
Image courtesy of the American Heritage Center.

The lower photograph is one of the three documented photographs of Frank Hopkins.  The frail elderly man in front is definitely Frank Hopkins, and is seen with Dr. Earle Johnson.  The photograph was taken by Neill Hamilton at the 1941 100-Mile Trail Ride hosted by the Green Mountain Horse Association which Hopkins judged. 

Martha Parks, an eye-witness who met Hopkins at this event said Hopkins was so crippled he could only walk with the use of a cane.  Hopkins confided to Parks during a private lunch that he had not been able to ride for years!

This picture was taken ten years before the unsubstantiated photograph above.  Image courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society.

This photograph allegedly shows Bud Tobel, a legitimate early 20th Century horseman,  with Hopkins.

"Frank T. Hopkins' shaking hands with Bud Tobel, his opponent, after a hard riding contest, which he won," reads the caption. This photograph was published in an article written in 1935 by Hopkins' accomplice, Charles B. Roth. There are no documents, nor evidence, to prove that the men in this photograph are either Tobel or Hopkins.

Yet again, it was Gertrude Hopkins, whose credibility Mr. Fusco has otherwise continually assailed, who supplied both the photograph and the uncorroborated information to Robert Easton.  Frank Hopkins lied about Tobel on several occasions and incorporated the already-dead Tobel into various segments of his equestrian and Wild West show fantasies.  There is no evidence that Tobel ever competed in the contest described in this photograph, or indeed that he ever met Hopkins.  This was one of Frank Hopkins' classic actions.  Find famous people, wait till they die, then feed off their legends.

There is a campaign afoot to mislead the public into believing that Frank Hopkins was a bona fide equestrian hero.  This is not the case.  Hopkins is a historical fraud, the movie Hidalgo is pure fiction, and the frankhopkins.com website is a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth.

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