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The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,121 ratings  ·  154 reviews
Readers of Erik Larson will love this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream: A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Island’s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by New Harvest
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  1,121 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
This painstakingly and meticulously researched book tells the story of the Igarrotes, a group of tribespeople brought to the US from the Philippines by showman Truman K Hunt and exhibited at Luna Park on Coney Island and at other venues in the US and abroad at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a shocking story, as they were exploited and very badly treated before the authorities stepped in and repatriated them. It’s an astonishing and enthralling tale and narrated in great detail. However, ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
If it’s about Coney Island I’ll read it so it’s no surprise that when THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND came up while I was browsing through NetGalley that I immediately requested it. And got approved by the publisher. For the past ten or so years I’ve held a fascination with Coney Island, especially as it was during its heyday back at the turn of the century (20th, not 21st). It makes me sad to think about what it’s become now so I like to remind myself what it was. I have a few Coney history book ...more
Nancy Kennedy
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In the early 1900s, outlandish exhibits at fairs and amusement parks were all the rage. Elephant tamers, circus performers, rides depicting the horrors of hell or a trip to the moon -- Americans were more than willing to slap down their quarters for these experiences. At Luna Park in Coney Island, two showmen put together a blockbuster attraction -- a man-made village peopled with Igorrotes, a primitive tribe of nearly naked, head-hunting people imported from the Philippines. The tribe would eat ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

In this day and age, when even The Greatest Show on Earth is promising to quit exhibiting elephants for fun and profit; it’s difficult to get one’s head around a time—just a little more than a century ago—when human zoos were the most popular attractions at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks. THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century, by Claire Prentice is a poignant look at that era.

The goodre
Margaret Sankey
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Billed as "in the style of Erik Larson!" popular history, this is one of those "this happened and then this happened and then this happened" narratives drawn from a compelling stash of accounts and rendered into a big anecdote. Huckster Truman Hunt leveraged his government post in the Philippines to import 35 northern Luzon tribes people to the US in 1905 and exhibited them at Coney Island and a series of increasingly dingy and exploitative state fairs in defiance of court orders and the War Dep ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Have we changed? It is good to remember or be reminded of the ugly things of the past, but not particularly pleasant. I don't know if we have changed so much in the hundred years since these events took place. It seems like similar "sideshows" might be possible and similar exploitation of people groups could happen today.
I confess total ignorance of the Igorrote tribal peoples dragged over to America from the Philippines for entertainment in the early 1900's. The author did a credible job portra
Sarah Beth
I received an advance copy of this book from Net Galley.

This work of non-fiction details the true story of Truman Hunt, who orchestrated the passage of a group of tribespeople known as the Igorrotes from the Philippines to America for the express purpose of putting them on tour to make himself rich. Millions of people flocked to Coney Island and similar attractions to see the "dog-eating" tribespeople in their mock village. However, over time, it quickly became obvious that Truman was never goi
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I think you guys are going to view me as slightly schizophrenic after reading my thoughts on this one. If you have been reading the blog for any length of time, and I apologize for my absence over the last month, you guys know I'm a huge fan of nonfiction in general, and that I adore narrative nonfiction. With all of that, you would assume that I would have loved The Lost Tribe of Coney Island. Sadly, I didn't.

I found the subject to be fascinated, and even laughed out loud a few times as I was r
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This book was simply salacious and saccharine. The tribe was lied to, robbed, and displayed in a human zoo, but this is written like a Disney movie. The victims are generalized, and so many...just so many....assumptions are made about their inner thoughts and private interactions that it is almost insulting to my intelligence as a reader. The worst part is the constant infantilization of the tribes-people, painting them with the same "simple savage" brush as the people who displayed them, and th ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to believe but in 1901 you could go to the early Disneyland, Luna Park at Coney Island, and see an actual tribe of headhunters brought over from the Phillipines. They lived in a village they built themselves. And their big attraction to the hoards that came to see them was killing and eating a dog. This is why I need a time machine. They were brought to the states by a hard-drinking entrepreneur/symbol-of-ugly-American. His name was TRUM.... Actually it was Truman...but close. He expl ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How have i never heard any of this?

Super interesting and informative book! I cant believe ive never read anything about this before and am looking forward to finding out more about it! (Tho this book did a pretty great job!)
Becky Loader
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dr. Truman Hunt met the Igorrote tribe while in the Philippines serving as lieutenant governor of the area. He wanted to make his personal fortune, so he devised a way to transport 50 of them to the United States in order to display them to the masses who were fascinated by exotic peoples at the beginning of the 20th century. No more despicable man ever existed than Dr. Hunt. He was extremely clever at eluding, bending, and re-creating the law to his own advantage.

I was appalled at how Hunt tre
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice is a very highly recommended nonfiction account of Truman K. Hunt's use and abuse of a tribe of Filipinos, specifically Igorrotes, who were brought to America in 1905 and put on display at Coney Island’s Luna Park. As Prentice points out, "Ultimately, this is a story of a hero turned villain that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage."

Although in the end only Hunt and the fifty-one Filipinos who traveled with him to America knew th
Zeb Kantrowitz
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-read
In late nineteenth century Europe and America, people were fascinated by people from backward tribes of Asia and Africa. At the 1889 Exposition in Paris, the French had people from many of their colonies, living in enclosures. They were presented like living dioramas purported to show the everyday life of these people. They were such a big hit that many of the same tribes were presented at the 1892 Chicago Exposition and other at Buffalo and St. Louis. Having these types of exhibits became de ri ...more
This book was my Amazon Prime Kindle Lending Library choice for January 2015.

It was a fascinating look at a (thankfully) bygone age, when people from "primitive" cultures were considered suitable fodder for a carnival. We follow Dr. Truman K. Hunt on a journey from a kind benefactor to money-grubbing slave holder. After living with the Igorrote tribespeople from the Phillipines for quite some time, he offered to bring about 30 of them to America in 1905, explaining how they could earn more mone
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, anthropology
This was an interesting, if somewhat horrifying account of a showman named Truman Hunt who brought a small group of Igarrote people from the Philippine Islands to the United States to exhibit them at a number of show grounds, most notably Coney Island in 1905-1906. Truman had been a medical doctor and a lieutenant governor of the Bontoc region of the Philippines after the US took over the PI, and at that point seemed to be a friend to the Igarrote when he set up the visit with the eager cooperat ...more
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
From page one this is a thought provoking and compelling read. As someone who never enjoyed history I can heartily endorse the historical narrative as the best possible way to learn some history, and have a cracking great read along the way. At some point it sinks in that this really happened, though, and where you can shake off the violence or pain in a fictional mystery this type of drama lingers and makes the reader ponder man's inhumanity to man. This is a true story of a man who brought a t ...more
nikkia neil
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Ebook provided by Netgalley
This was so crazy and so real! I was reading about how the Victorians in England had real people on display and then I saw this book about Americans doing the same thing too. I can't believe people got away with doing this at first, but this book explains how different everything was back then. Read this book, its fascinating!
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars: Compelling and readable account of a crooked man and his human exhibit business.

In 1905, Truman Hunt brought a band of Philippine villagers of the Igorrote tribe to New York, to be part of a human exhibit at Coney Island. Hunt had lived among the Igorrote's for some time before coming up with the scheme. Truman had an interpreter named Julio to act as a middleman when needed. Julio was half Igorrote and spoke the language.

The villagers that accompanied him across the ocean were there
Sara Balmuth
Interesting, but poorly written

In the early 1900s as America was embroiled in a debate over colonialism of the Philippines, Dr. Truman Hunt organized a party of native Filipinos of the Igorot tribe to be part of a traveling display. Lured by the chance to see America and to make money for their families, about 30 individuals signed up and left their homes only to discover a crooked underbelly of American carnivals and sideshows full of corruption.

I was fascinated by this story in part because I
Dawn Peterson
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it. Writers who tackle historical subjects sometimes get into trouble with their audience for taking too many liberties to fill in gaps and build a captivating story. I appreciated this author choosing to err on the other end of the spectrum. Because she is so careful to adhere to fact, there is not a lot of compelling dialogue or emotional character development, and the language is a little stilted. But now I've got a really solid report of an actual tragic event that speaks for itself. ...more
Julia Simpson-Urrutia
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prentice made me CARE about a tribe of headhunters called the Igorottes from the Philippine Islands, sweet-talked by an American named Truman Hunt, who saw some financial promise in displaying the 50 odd tribespeople to the American public for profit. I do not blame him for wanting to display them since that was a trend at the beginning of the early 20th century. However, everything I might have found repellant in them and their primitive way of life (eating dogs for celebrations, for instance) ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
The domino effect of a war won or lost has far-reaching consequences, and this book chronicles the fates of a tribal group of Filipinos following the 1898 Spanish-American War. After the American victory, control of the Philippines went from Spain to the USA. The American occupiers were then in conflict with Filipino nationalists, leading to the Philippine-American War and many American boots on the islands. After another American victory, many Americans remained, with (at least) one man taking ...more
Donald Luther
One of the things I tried to teach my students about history is that it's not merely 'one damn thing after another' as Will and Ariel Durant practiced it. This book offers a delicious insight into early 20th-century hucksterism and one of the ways in which Imperialism allowed Westerners to exploit the people whom they found in territories that became overseas possessions.

This book offers a detailed look into fascinating corner of American history, but it doesn't do much with it. We follow one e
Ursula Johnson
The Exploitation of the Irrigote Tribe

This was a fascinating story about a doctor turned showman who befriended a native tribe in the Philippines, then brought them to America to showcase them in amusement parks and fairs. Benevolence turned to dictatorship, and the tribe was held against their will while he stole all their funds, including their tips and kept them as prisoners. The Irrigote tribe were honest people who were displayed as freaks. They were enormously popular as an attraction and
E. Ozols
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you like Erik Larson books and are looking for something similar, definitely read this book. Prentice has that same talent as Larson for making a non-fiction tale feel like an intriguing novel with an over-the-top plot. I honestly have no clue how these people can go into so much detail, but dang. The basic story isn't particularly surprising (spoiler alert: man brings tribe to the US, exploits them, skews the truth). But along the way there are still plenty of surprises and tons to learn. Ho ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a great historical fiction read with a lot of historical merit. I listened to the audiobook version of the text and really enjoyed the flow of the narrative and the organization of the facts and events. The story seems so far-fetched, but has an incredibly strong basis in reality that just left me shaking my head at the craziness and injustice of it all (even though I truly expected it beforehand). I love historical fiction stories that are creative and focus on small niche pieces of his ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dpbc
Very moving story about innocent Filipino natives brought to the USA to be shown at exhibits/fairs throughout the country. Truman (not the President) was a greedy man who organized these events, moved the people around and collected payment by the fair/event attendees. Unfortunately he was unscrupulous and failed to share the money he collected for the Tribe who were the main attraction. Sad to think that bad things could happen to good people, but the book is full of these real and tragic event ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Al Lock
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book about a rather tragic event - the exhibition and exploitation of a tribe of Phillipine's Bontoc Igorrote at Coney Island and elsewhere across the USA, and the prosecution of the man who exploited them.

I found this well-written, interesting and very effective at providing a view of all the people involved within the larger context of the US involvement in the Philippines.
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61 likes · 20 comments
“In 1904, the American government spent $1.5 million taking thirteen hundred Filipinos from a dozen different tribes to the St. Louis Exposition. The Philippine Reservation became one of the most popular features of the fair, and the Igorrotes drew the largest crowds of all. By displaying the tribespeople in this manner, the US government hoped to gain popular support for its occupation of the Philippines by showing the American public that the Filipinos were innocents, a people far from ready for self-government, and in need of paternalistic American protection.” 0 likes
“Here were eighteen human beings living in squalor and being forced to put on a degrading show for the public and the only complaint this party had was about the treatment of the dog.” 0 likes
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