In the early 19th century, David “Davy” Crockett emerged from the wilds of Tennessee to become one of the United States’ first living folk heroes. Though best known for his 1836 death at the Alamo, he was also a writer, hunter and United States Congressman whose high reputation as an adventurer made him a legend in his time.
Born on August 17, 1786, backwoods statesman Davy Crockett has been obscured by myth for nearly 200 years. Even during the man’s lifetime, fanciful stories about his adventures were transforming him into a buck-skinned superhero. And after his death, the tales kept getting taller.
Explore some interesting facts about the man often called the “King of the Wild Frontier.”
1. He helped foil an assassination attempt on Andrew Jackson. Despite their political differences, Crockett famously came to Andrew Jackson’s aid during an assassination attempt.
On January 30, 1835, the two men were part of a crowd of lawmakers leaving the U.S. Capitol after a state funeral. As Jackson passed near the East Portico, a crazed gunman named Richard Lawrence emerged from a throng of spectators and shot at him with two pistols—both of which miraculously misfired.
“Old Hickory” supposedly responded by whacking Lawrence with his cane. Crockett, meanwhile, was one of several bystanders who disarmed the would-be assassin and wrestled him to the ground.
2. Crockett claimed to have killed 105 bears in one year. If his autobiography can be believed, the expert marksman and his dogs pulled off this feat during a seven-month stretch from 1825 to 1826. Back then, bear flesh and pelts were highly profitable items, as were the oils yielded by their fat—and Crockett’s family often relied on ursid meat to last through the winter.
3. Walt Disney helped revive his fame. Crockett’s death at the Alamo secured his place as an antebellum American hero, but it was Walt Disney who brought his legend into the 20th century.
In 1954, Disney released the first of five Davy Crockett television serials starring actor Fess Parker. The series and a subsequent film were both hugely successful, triggering a renewed fascination with Crockett and a massive demand for frontier-themed children’s toys.
According to the Smithsonian, at the height of Crockett-mania, coonskin caps were selling at a rate of 5,000 per day.
4. Crockett was born in a state that no longer exists. Crockett was born on August 17, 1786, in what is now eastern Tennessee. At the time, however, many of the region’s residents considered themselves citizens of the so-called state of Franklin, a breakaway territory that had declared its independence from North Carolina two years earlier.
Supporters of the movement—including Crockett’s father, John—pushed for Franklin to enter the union as the 14th U.S. state, but the fledgling territory fell just shy of the required vote total in Congress.
Following a stint as an independent republic, Franklin was eventually reclaimed by North Carolina in 1789. By 1796, its lands had become part of the newly formed state of Tennessee.
5. He had a troubled career in Congress. In 1826, having already served in the Tennessee legislature, Crockett was elected to the first of three non-consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While he quickly gained fame for his folksy persona and advocacy for the poor, his sharp tongue also won him his share of political enemies. In 1830, meanwhile, he alienated many of his constituents with his fierce opposition to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.
Crockett’s feud with Jackson would eventually play a key role in his final election defeat in 1835, but by then he had grown bored in Washington and was often absent from his duties. In fact, during six years in Congress, he failed to get a single bill passed.