"Buffalo Bill" Cody and the Wild West Show competed with the world's fair
Buffalo Bill Wild West
Le Claire, IA
- Visiting Buffalo Bill Cody's Boyhood Home in Iowa
Buffalo Bill While visiting my aunt and uncle in Bettendorf, Iowa one year, they graciously decided to show my mother and me a bit of the surrounding countryside which included among other sites...
William Frederick Cody known as Buffalo Bill Cody,led an interesting life in many occupations, some authentic and some not so certain.His life is about frontier history but also intertwines with Native American Indian History.In his Wild West shows where both whites and Indians wore respective wild west costumes and he showed respect for the Native American culture, by including Indian women as well as warriors.
Both Cody and Bill Comstock claimed the name Buffalo Bill when they hunted Buffalo under contract to the railroad to supply meat to the crews. Cody won the title in a shooting match between the two. Besides being a buffalo hunter he was a pony express rider, soldier in the Civil War, Chief of Scouts for the Third Cavalry during the Plains War. He claimed many other jobs including trapper, bullwhacker, wagon master, stagecoach driver, and hotel manager. But it was as a showman that he left his mark on history.
Born February 26, 1846 near Le Clair, Iowa , a river town near the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois. Its population just under 3000 people.
The city is named for Antoine, LeClair who originally owned the land. There is a Buffalo Bill Museum there. The Mississippi River is scenic there and when I lived in Moline, Illinois it was the kind of place we liked to go for a Sunday drive.
An interesting custom and activity started. In 1987 a tug of war between Le Clair, Iowa and Port Byron, Illinois started. A 2,700 ft. rope is strung across the river between the two towns. That section of the river is closed to river traffic. Each side has 10 teams of 20 muscled competitors.. It takes place in late July or early August with festivities in the area for two days.
The Cody Homestead is Bill’s boyhood home It is located in the valley of the Wapsipincon River near the Scott County Park. It is a 1847 farmhouse entered in National Registry of Historic places.
Buffalo Bill at 19
His family moved to Leavenworth, Kansas when he was seven years old. After his father gave an anti-slavery speech slavery supporters formed a mob and his father was stabbed.. Young Cody helped drag his father to safety, but the father never fully recovered. As a result the family was persecuted by the pro-slavery people forcing Isaac Cody to spend much time away from his home. Young Bill, who was ill at the time, rode thirty miles to warn his father that his enemies heard of his plans for a trip home and wanted to kill him.. The father died in 1847 from complications of the previous stabbing.
The family had financial difficulties after losing the father and Bill, at age eleven, took a job as a “boy extra” delivering messages the length of the wagon train.
At fourteen he headed for the gold fields but met a Pony Express agent and signed on with them. He helped build ways stations and corrals and worked as a rider until he was called home due to his mother’s illness.
Buffalo Bill Cody
After his mother recovered, he wanted to join the Army but he was too young. He worked for a freight caravan delivering supplies to Fort Laramie. He enlisted as a teamster in1863 with the rank of Private in the 7th Cavalry until discharged in 1865. He then worked as a scout for the U.S. Army. Part of the time he scouted for Indians and the rest of the time he killed buffalo for the Army and the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In 1872 Cody scouted for the Grand Duke Alexi Alexandrovich of Russia’s highly publicized royal hunt.Cody got a Medal of Honor in 1872.
Cody with Sitting Bull
The Wild West
Cody’s show business career started in Chicago with his stage debut in The Scouts of the Prairie, an original show of the Wild West produced by Ned Buntline the author of many Dime Novels about frontiersmen.
They toured for ten years and included a 1876 incident at Warbonnet Creek where is claimed to have scalped a Cheyenne warrior in revenge for the death of General Custer. Later Cody became a strong advocate of Indian rights.
In 1883 near North Platte, Nebraska he put together a traveling show called “Buffalo Bills Wild West” which was somewhat like a circus. It was later changed to “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.’‘
The show began with horseback a parade with participants from horse-culture groups including U.S. and other military y, American Indians and performers from all over the world in their best attire. Turks, Gauchos, Arabs, Mongols and others showed their distinctive horses and costumes.
The show included feats of skill, staged races and sideshows. Many Western people such as Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley and her husband Frank Butler. Events included re enactments of the Pony Express rides, Shooting exhibitions, Indian attacks and stagecoach robberies.Custer’s Las Stand was usually re-enacted as the finale.
In 1887 the show went to Britain to celebrate the jubilee year of Queen Victoria. In 1890 he met Pope Leo XIII. In 1893 he set up an exhibition near the Chicago World’s Fair. It made him popular the promontory had turned down his request to be part of the fair, so he was basically competing with it and drawing business away from the fair.
- Murder of a frontiersman: Colonel George Davenport
Colonel Davenport for whom the City of Davenport, Iowa was named was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1783. At seventeen he became a sailor on a merchant ship and for three years visited several places. ...
In 1895 Cody helped found the city of Cody. On the original site, the Old Trail Museum stands to honor the traditions of Western life.
January 10, 1917 he died of kidney failure. He was baptized before his death by Father Christopher Walsh into the Catholic faith. He received tributes from many world leaders.
Buffalo Bill Cody was an advocate for women’s rights and the rights of the American Indian. Although he made his reputation hunting buffalo, he supported conservation and spoke out against hide hunting and for having a hunting season. Although the American Indians were usually the “bad guys “ in his shows attacking wagon trains he had the Indian women and children of the performers in their wild west costumes set up camp for the audience to see the human side of the Native American Culture with families like any other culture did. The history of the West is as much American Indian history as of the frontier..
© 2010 Don A. Hoglund