Buffalo Bill Cody - Frontiersman & Entertainer
William Frederick Cody, "Buffalo Bill,"
was born in Le Claire, Iowa in February 26, 1846. While he was still a
child, his family moved to
left his home in
Leavenworth, at the young age of
12, working for a wagon train going to
Herding cattle and driving a wagon, he crossed Great Plains several times.
The year 1859, found Bill rushing to the gold fields of
along with thousands of other prospectors. Searching for gold for
two months near Black Hawk,
he met with little success.
On his return to
he stopped in Julesburg,
where he was recruited to ride in the
in 1860. Most of his time with the
was spent in
although he occasionally traveled across northeast
Shortly after the death of his mother in 1863,
enlisted in the 7th
Cavalry regiment and fought with them for the rest of the
After the war, on
March 6, 1866, Bill married Louisa Frederici in
and their first child, Arta Lucille, was born the same year. Three more children would follow -
Kit Carson, named after the
famous frontiersman, in 1870; Orra Maude, in 1872, and Irma Louise
began hunting buffalo for the
Pacific Railroad and soon earned the nickname "Buffalo
In less than eighteen months, he killed nearly five thousand
buffalo, which were consumed by the twelve hundred men employed in
was again employed by the U.S. Army as a civilian scout and guide for
the Fifth Cavalry. His experience and skills as a plainsman made him
an invaluable tracker and fighter.
became one of only four civilian scouts to be awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor during the
Wars for valor in action. General
Philip Sheridan saw in
a combination of charisma and frontier know-how. At this time
the Army was in need of some good publicity and
Sheridan soon arranged for
to lead lavish hunting expeditions for visiting dignitaries.
When the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia came to visit in 1872,
guided the wagon train, accompanied by
General Sheridan and
Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer.
was also able to convince a famous
Tail and his village to join the hunt. When
Tail about the trip, the
Indian said, "Great white man wants a big hunt with the
Indians." These excursion became full-scale media events,
glamorizing both the military and
During this time, authors were avidly romanticizing the exploits of the
heroes and villains who roamed the plains and Buffalo Bill
was no exception. Ned Buntline, who wrote a number of western
stories that became known as "dime novels,” further exaggerated and
created the hero of
Hungry for news of the
easterners quickly bought these many books by Buntline and others. In 1872, when
just 26 years old, Buntline persuaded him to take the stage portraying
himself, which eventually led to
Over the years, the troupe included
"Wild Bill" Hickok,
Texas Jack Omohundro,
Annie Oakleyy, several
Sitting Bull, "real”
recruited from the
buffalo, as well as other live animals. The
Show would run, in one form or another, for 30 years, charming crowds
throughout the United States and Europe.
During the height of the
Indians resistance to white settlement,
returned to the prairies in the summer to scout for the Fifth Army. On
July 17, 1876, just three weeks after
Custer and the Seventh Cavalry were defeated at Little Big Horn,
regiment intercepted a band of
in his stage clothing, killed and scalped a
warrior named Yellow Hair, he reportedly cried out "First scalp for
characterization as a figure from the past,
always looked to the future. As a businessman, he invested his earnings in
mine, ranching, coal and oil development, film making, publishing, founded
the city of Cody,
in 1896, and built hotels in both Sheridan and Cody,
Furthermore, he became an
advocate for his former foes, the
Americans, pushing for better
treatment and despite his history of killing the
spoke out for conservation of this American icon. In 1885 he stated
"The defeat of
Custer was not a massacre. The
were being pursued by skilled fighters with orders to kill. For centuries
they had been hounded from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again.
They had their wives and little ones to protect and they were fighting for
On another occasion, he
outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and
broken treaties by the government."
By the turn of the 20th
century, William F. Cody was probably the most
famous American in the world. No one symbolized the
for Americans and Europeans better than
He was consulted on Western matters by every American president from
Ulysses S. Grant to Woodrow Wilson.
However, at the same time
another show was providing serious competition - Pawnee Bill’s Wild West
and Great Far East Show, operated by
"Pawnee Bill” Lillie, who had, years earlier, worked for Buffalo Bill.
When Cody's show began to suffer financially he sold a one-third interest
in his production to Pawnee Bill in 1908.
Gordon bought the remaining interest in
the show, but retained Buffalo Bill as a partner. The two traveled
together as the "Two Bill’s Show” until 1913, when the venture went
bankrupt. It was billed as one of the entertainment triumphs of the ages
and traveled all over the world entertaining audiences with both
realistic and fantasy views of the
The show closed in Denver,
1913 after touring for five seasons.
never retired. He died on January 10, 1917 while visiting his
sister’s home in Denver. By his own request, he was buried on
Lookout Mountain, west of the Denver,
overlooking the Great Plains. His wife Louisa was buried next to her
husband four years later.
of America, updated May, 2015.
Buffalo Bill & Wild West Show
Famous Santa Fe
Traders - Buffalo Bill