Buffalo Bill Cody
- Category : Military
- Type : PE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 1
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American soldier, bison hunter and showman. He was born in the Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), in Le Claire but lived several years in Canada before his family moved to the Kansas Territory. Buffalo Bill received the Medal of Honor in 1872 for service to the US Army as a scout. One of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill became famous for the shows he organized with cowboy themes, which he toured in Great Britain and Europe as well as the United States.
Nickname and work
William Frederick Cody ("Buffalo Bill") got his nickname after the American Civil War when he had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. Cody is purported to have killed 4,280 American bison (commonly known as buffalo) in eighteen months, (1867–1868). Cody and William Comstock competed in a buffalo-shooting match over the exclusive right to use the name, which Cody won by killing 68 bison to Comstock's 48.
Cody had documented service as a soldier during the Civil War and as Chief of Scouts for the Third Cavalry during the Plains Wars. He claimed to have had many jobs, including as a trapper, bullwhacker, "Fifty-Niner" in Colorado, a Pony Express rider in 1860, wagonmaster, stagecoach driver, and a hotel manager, but historians have had difficulty documenting them, and he may have fabricated some for publicity.
He became world famous for his Wild West shows, which toured in Great Britain and Europe. Audiences were enthusiastic about seeing a piece of the American West. The adventure story writer Emilio Salgari met Buffalo Bill in Italy, saw his show, and later featured him as a hero in some of his novels.
Early life and education
William Frederick Cody was born on February 26, 1846 on a farm just outside of Le Claire, Iowa. Cody's father Isaac was born in Toronto Township, Peel County, Upper Canada, on September 5, 1811. Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock, Cody's mother, was born about 1817 near Philadelphia but within New Jersey. Mary moved to Cincinnati to teach school and it was here she met and married Isaac. Mary was a descendant of Josiah Bunting, a Quaker who settled in Pennsylvania; however, there is no historical evidence to indicate Buffalo Bill was raised as a Quaker. He was baptized as William Cody in the Dixie Union Chapel in Peel County (present-day Peel Region), Ontario, Canada in 1847, not far from his family's farm. The Chapel was built with Cody money and the land was donated by Philip Cody of Toronto Township.
In 1853, Isaac Cody sold his land in rural Scott County, Iowa for $2000 and he and his family moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. In these years before the Civil War, Kansas was high with emotion and physical conflict on both sides of the slavery question. Invited to speak at Rively's store, a local trading post where pro-slavery men often held meetings, Cody's father gave an antislavery speech that angered the crowd, which threatened to kill him if he didn't step down. One man in the crowd attempted to make good on the threat, jumping up and stabbing the elder Cody twice with a bowie knife. Cody's father would have died from his wounds had it not been for Rively, the store's owner, who rushed him to safety. Isaac Cody never fully recovered from his injuries.
In Kansas, the family was frequently persecuted by pro-slavery supporters, forcing Cody's father to spend much of his time away from home. His enemies learned of a planned visit to his family and plotted to kill him on the way. The young Cody, despite his youth and the fact that he was ill, rode 30 miles (48 km) to warn his father. Cody's father went to Cleveland, Ohio to organize a colony of thirty families to bring back to Kansas. During his return trip he caught a cold which, compounded by the lingering effects of his stabbing and complications from kidney disease, led to Isaac Cody's death in April, 1857.
After the father's death, the Cody family suffered financially. At age 11, Bill Cody took a job with a freight carrier as a "boy extra." He would ride up and down the length of a wagon train, and deliver messages to the drivers and workmen. Next he joined Johnston's Army as an unofficial member of the scouts assigned to guide the Army to Utah to put down a rumored rebellion by the Mormon population of Salt Lake City. According to Cody's account in Buffalo Bill's Own Story, the Utah War was where he first began his career as an "Indian fighter".
Presently the moon rose, dead ahead of me; and painted boldly across its face was the figure of an Indian. He wore this war-bonnet of the Sioux, at his shoulder was a rifle pointed at someone in the river-bottom 30 feet (9 m) below; in another second he would drop one of my friends. I raised my old muzzle-loader and fired. The figure collapsed, tumbled down the bank and landed with a splash in the water. 'What is it?' called McCarthy, as he hurried back. 'It's over there in the water.' 'Hi!' he cried. 'Little Billy's killed an Indian all by himself!' So began my career as an Indian fighter.
At the age of 14, Cody was struck by gold fever, but on his way to the gold fields, he met an agent for the Pony Express. He signed with them, and after building several stations and corrals, Cody was given a job as a rider, which he kept until he was called home to his sick mother's bedside.
Cody was active in the concordant bodies of Freemasonry, being initiated in Platte Valley Lodge No. 32, North Platte, Nebraska, on March 5, 1870. He received his 2nd and 3rd degrees on April 2, 1870, and January 10, 1871, respectively. He became a Knight Templar in 1889 and received his 32 degree in Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1894.
After his mother recovered, Cody wished to enlist as a soldier, but was refused because of his age. He began working with a United States freight caravan which delivered supplies to Fort Laramie. In 1863 he enlisted as a teamster with the rank of Private in Company H, 7th Kansas Cavalry and served until discharged in 1865.
The next year Cody married Louisa Frederici, and they had four children together. Two died young in Rochester, NY. They and a third child are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, in the City of Rochester.
From 1868 until 1872, Cody was employed as a scout by the United States Army. Part of the time he scouted for Indians. At other times, he hunted and killed bison to supply the Army and the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In January 1872, Cody was a scout for Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia's highly publicized royal hunt.
Medal of Honor
In 1872, Cody was awarded a Medal of Honor for "gallantry in action" while serving as a civilian scout for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. In 1917, the U.S. Army—after Congress revised the standards for award of the medal—removed from the rolls 911 medals previously awarded either to civilians, or for actions that would not warrant a Medal of Honor under the new higher standards. Among those revoked was Cody's.
In 1977, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker's medal was restored, and other reviews began. Cody's medal—along with those given to four other civilian scouts—was re-instated on June 12, 1989.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West
In December 1872, Cody traveled to Chicago to make his stage debut with friend Texas Jack Omohundro in The Scouts of the Prairie, one of the original Wild West shows produced by Ned Buntline. During the 1873–1874 season, Cody and Omohundro invited their friend James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok to join them in a new play called Scouts of the Plains.
The troupe toured for ten years. Cody's part typically included an 1876 incident at the Warbonnet Creek, where he claimed to have scalped a Cheyenne warrior.
In 1883, in the area of North Platte, Nebraska, Cody founded "Buffalo Bill's Wild West", a circus-like attraction that toured annually. (Despite popular misconception, the word "show" was not a part of the title.) With his show, Cody traveled throughout the United States and Europe and made many contacts. He stayed, for instance, in Garden City, Kansas, in the presidential suite of the former Windsor Hotel. He was befriended by the mayor and state representative, a frontier scout, rancher, and hunter named Charles "Buffalo" Jones.
In 1893, Cody changed the title to "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World". The show began with a parade on horseback, with participants from horse-culture groups that included US and other military, American Indians, and performers from all over the world in their best attire. Turks, Gauchos, Arabs, Mongols and Georgians, displayed their distinctive horses and colorful costumes. Visitors would see main events, feats of skill, staged races, and sideshows. Many historical western figures participated in the show. For example, Sitting Bull appeared with a band of 20 of his braves.
Cody's headline performers were well known in their own right. People such as Annie Oakley and her husband Frank Butler did sharp shooting, together with the likes of Gabriel Dumont, not to mention Lillian Smith. Performers re-enacted the riding of the Pony Express, Indian attacks on wagon trains, and stagecoach robberies. The show was said to end with a re-enactment of Custer's Last Stand, in which Cody portrayed General Custer, but this is more legend than fact. The finale was typically a portrayal of an Indian attack on a settler's cabin. Cody would ride in with an entourage of cowboys to defend a settler and his family. This finale was featured predominantly as early as 1886, but vanished after 1907; in total, it was used in 23 of 33 tours. Another celebrity appearing on the show was Calamity Jane, as a storyteller as of 1893. The show influenced many 20th-century portrayals of "the West" in cinema and literature.
With his profits, Cody purchased a 4,000-acre (16 km2) ranch near North Platte, Nebraska, in 1886. Scout's Rest Ranch included an eighteen-room mansion and a large barn for winter storage of the show's livestock.
In 1887, Cody took the show to Great Britain in celebration of the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria attended a performance. It played in London before going on to Birmingham and Salford near Manchester, where it stayed for five months.
In 1889, the show toured Europe, and in 1890 Cody met Pope Leo XIII. He set up an independent exhibition near the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, which greatly contributed to his popularity. It vexed the promoters of the fair, who had first rejected his request to participate.
In 1908, Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill joined forces and created the "Two Bills" show. That show was foreclosed on when it was playing in Denver, Colorado.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tours Europe
The Adventures of Buffalo Bill (1914)
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West toured Europe eight times, the first four tours were between 1887 and 1892, and the last four were from 1902 to 1906.
The Wild West first came to London in 1887 as part of the American Exhibition that coincided with the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, requested a private preview of the Wild West performance, he was impressed enough to arrange a command performance for Queen Victoria. The Queen enjoyed the show and meeting the performers, setting the stage for another command performance on June 20, 1887 for her Jubilee guests. Royalty from all over Europe attended, including the future Kaiser Wilhelm II and future King George V, these royal encounters provided Buffalo Bill’s Wild West an endorsement and publicity that ensured its success. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West closed its successful London run in October 1887 after over 300 performances and more than two and a half million tickets sold. The tour made stops in Birmingham and Manchester before returning to the U.S. in May 1888 for a short summer tour.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West returned to Europe in May 1889 as part of the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France, an event that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille and featured the debut of the Eiffel Tower. The tour moved to the South of France and Barcelona, Spain, then on to Italy. While in Rome, a Wild West delegation was received by Pope Leo XIII. Buffalo Bill was disappointed that the condition of the Colosseum did not allow it to be a venue; however, at Verona, the Wild West did perform in the ancient Roman amphitheater. The tour finished with stops in Austria-Hungary and Germany.
The Wild West tour returned to Germany in 1891 and moved through Belgium and the Netherlands before returning to Great Britain to close the season. The 1892 tour was confined to Great Britain and featured another command performance for Queen Victoria. The tour finished with a sixth month run in London before leaving Europe for nearly a decade.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West returned to Europe in December 1902 with a fourteen-week run in London complete with a visit from King Edward VII and the future King George V. The Wild West traveled throughout Great Britain during the 1902-03 tour as well as the 1904 tour, performing in nearly every city large enough to support it. The 1905 tour began in April with a two-month run in Paris and proceeded to the rest of France, performing mostly one-night stands, concluding in December. The final tour of 1906 began in France on March 4, and then quickly moved on to Italy for two months. The Wild West then traveled east performing in Austria, the Balkans, Hungary, Romania, and the Ukraine before coming back west to visit Poland, Bohemia (later Czech Republic), Germany, and Belgium.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was enormously successful in Europe making Buffalo Bill an international celebrity and an American icon. It was a genuine American cultural export; Mark Twain commented, “…It is often said on the other side of the water that none of the exhibitions which we send to England are purely and distinctly American. If you will take the Wild West show over there you can remove that reproach.” The Wild West brought an exotic foreign world to life for its European audiences, allowing a last glimpse at the fading American frontier.
Life in Cody, Wyoming
In 1895, Cody was instrumental in the founding of Cody, the seat of Park County in northwestern Wyoming. The Old Trail Town museum is at the center of the community and honors the traditions of Western life. Cody first passed through the region in the 1870s. He was so impressed by the development possibilities from irrigation, rich soil, grand scenery, hunting, and proximity to Yellowstone Park that he returned in the mid-1890s to start a town. He brought with him associates for whom streets were named: Beck, Alger, Rumsey, Bleistein and Salsbury. The town was incorporated in 1901.
In November 1902, Cody opened the Irma Hotel, which he named after his daughter. He envisioned a growing number of tourists coming to Cody via the recently opened Burlington rail line. He expected that they would proceed up the Cody Road along the North Fork of the Shoshone River to visit Yellowstone Park. To accommodate travelers, Cody completed construction of the Wapiti Inn and Pahaska Tepee in 1905 along the Cody Road with the assistance of artist and rancher Abraham Archibald Anderson.
Cody also established the TE Ranch, located on the South Fork of the Shoshone River about thirty-five miles from Cody. When he acquired the TE property, he sent cattle from Nebraska and South Dakota. His new herd carried the TE brand. The late 1890s were relatively prosperous years for "Buffalo Bill's Wild West", and he bought more land to add to the TE Ranch. Eventually Cody held around 8,000 acres (32 km²) of private land for grazing operations and ran about 1,000 head of cattle. He also operated a dude ranch, pack horse camping trips, and big game hunting business at and from the TE Ranch. In his spacious ranch house, he entertained notable guests from Europe and America.
Larry McMurtry, along with historians such as RL Wilson, asserts that at the turn of the 20th century, Buffalo Bill Cody was the most recognizable celebrity on earth. While Cody's show brought appreciation for the Western and American Indian cultures, he saw the American West change dramatically during his life. Bison herds, which had once numbered in the millions, were now threatened with extinction. Railroads crossed the plains, barbed wire, and other types of fences divided the land for farmers and ranchers, and the once-threatening Indian tribes were now confined to reservations. Wyoming's resources of coal, oil and natural gas were beginning to be exploited toward the end of his life.
Even the Shoshone River was dammed for hydroelectric power as well as for irrigation. In 1897 and 1899 Cody and his associates acquired from the State of Wyoming the right to take water from the Shoshone River to irrigate about 169,000 acres (680 km2) of land in the Big Horn Basin. They began developing a canal to carry water diverted from the river, but their plans did not include a water storage reservoir. Cody and his associates were unable to raise sufficient capital to complete their plan. Early in 1903 they joined with the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners in urging the federal government to step in and help with irrigation development in the valley.
The Shoshone Project became one of the first federal water development projects undertaken by the newly formed Reclamation Service, later to become known as the Bureau of Reclamation. After Reclamation took over the project in 1903, investigating engineers recommended constructing a dam on the Shoshone River in the canyon west of Cody. Construction of the Shoshone Dam started in 1905, a year after the Shoshone Project was authorized. When it was completed in 1910, it was the tallest dam in the world. Almost three decades after its construction, the name of the dam and reservoir was changed to Buffalo Bill Dam by an act of Congress to honor Cody.
Life in Staten Island, New York
Cody brought his "Wild West" show to an area of Mariners Harbor called Erastina (named for Staten Island promoter Erastus Wiman) for two seasons from June to October in 1886 and again in 1887. During the winter of 1886, the show moved indoors to Madison Square Garden. His show, featuring Native Americans, trick riders, "the smallest cowboy" and sharpshooters (including Annie Oakley), is said to have drawn millions of visitors to the island.
His 1879 autobiography is titled The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill. A final autobiography, titled "The Great West That Was: 'Buffalo Bill's' Life Story," was serialized in Hearst's International Magazine from August 1916 to July 1917 and ghostwritten by James J. Montague. It contained a number of errors, in part because of its completion after Cody's death in January 1917.
Cody died of kidney failure on January 10, 1917, surrounded by family and friends at his sister's house in Denver. Cody was baptized into the Catholic Church the day before his death by Father Christopher Walsh of the Denver Cathedral. He received a full masonic funeral. Upon the news of Cody's death, tributes were made by George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and President Woodrow Wilson. His funeral was in Denver at the Elks Lodge Hall. The Wyoming governor John B. Kendrick, a friend of Cody's, led the funeral procession.
At the time of his death, Cody's once great fortune had dwindled to less than $100,000. He left his burial arrangements up to his wife Louisa. She said that he had always said he wanted to be buried on Lookout Mountain, which was corroborated by their daughter Irma, Cody's sisters, and family friends. But other family members joined the people of Cody to say Buffalo Bill should be buried in the town he founded. The controversy continued.
On June 3, 1917, Cody was buried on Colorado's Lookout Mountain in Golden, west of the city of Denver, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, overlooking the Great Plains. His burial site was selected by his sister, Mary Decker. In 1948 the Cody chapter of the American Legion offered a reward for the "return" of the body, so the Denver chapter mounted a guard over the grave until a deeper shaft could be blasted into the rock.
As a frontier scout, he respected Native Americans and supported their rights. He employed many more natives than Sitting Bull, as he thought his show offered them good pay for a better life. He called them "the former foe, present friend, the American", and once said, "Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government."
Buffalo Bill also supported the rights of women. He said, "What we want to do is give women even more liberty than they have. Let them do any kind of work they see fit, and if they do it as well as men, give them the same pay."
In his shows the Indians were usually depicted attacking stagecoaches and wagon trains in order to be driven off by cowboys and soldiers. He also had the wives and children of his Indian performers set up camp – as they would in the homelands – as part of the show, so that the paying public could see the human side of the "fierce warriors"; that they were families like any other, just part of a different culture.
He supported conservation by speaking out against hide-hunting and pushing for a hunting season.
Legacy and honors
Buffalo Bill and his exploits became well known in American culture and he was portrayed in many literary works, television shows, and movies, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, when they were most popular. He is featured as a character in the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun.
He was honored by two U.S. postage stamps. One was a 15¢ Great Americans series postage stamp.
On television, his character was featured on such television programs as Bat Masterson and even Bonanza. His persona has been portrayed as that of an elder statesman or a flamboyant, self-serving exhibitionist.
In 1959, the actor Britt Lomond played Cody in the episode "A Legend of Buffalo Bill" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western television series, Colt .45, starring Wayde Preston as the fictitious undercover agent and pistol salesman Christopher Colt.
A free verse poem on mortality by E. E. Cummings uses Buffalo Bill as an image of life and vibrancy. The poem is commonly known by its first two lines: "Buffalo Bill's / defunct". In Poetry, edited by J. Hunter, it is titled "portrait". The poet expresses Buffalo Bill's showmanship by describing his "watersmooth-silver / stallion", and using a staccato beat for the quick shooting of clay pigeons.
A 1976 feature film, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson by Robert Altman, gives deeply critical depiction of Cody and his Wild West show, with Cody portrayed as a lying buffoon who cannot separate fiction from reality.
The Buffalo Bills, an NFL team based in Buffalo, New York, was named after Buffalo Bill. Prior to that team's existence, other early football teams (such as the Buffalo Bills of the AAFC) used the nickname, solely due to name recognition, as Bill Cody had no special connection with the city.
The art cover for Tyler, The Creator's album Goblin features a picture of Buffalo Bill at the age of 19.