Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill Cody was born William Frederick Cody, and at the age of 11 his father died. As the middle child of seven brothers and sisters, William Cody had to go to work to help support his family. His first job was carrying messages on horseback between wagon trains for a freight company. For a while he was a rider for the Pony Express where he became acquainted with his lifelong friend, Wild Bill Hickok.   
 
After failing at running a boarding house, he got a job killing buffalo to feed the workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. This is where he got his nickname “Buffalo Bill.” The railroad workers who called him by that name didn’t do so as a compliment. They got so tired of buffalo meat that when they saw him they would say, “Here comes that ‘Buffalo Bill.’”  
 
In 1872, now known as Buffalo Bill Cody, he starred in a play entitled “The Scouts of Prairie.” Although he had a couple more stints as a scout for the army, his head was in show business. In 1882 “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” appeared for the first time. 
 
In 1887 he took the show to England. In 1889 he went on a tour of Europe… And again in 1891 his “Wild West Show” went back to Europe. The European citizens were enthralled with the Indians, the skills of the cowboys and wildness of the west.
 
Inspired by Buffalo Bill Cody, Europe has had a love affair with the Old West, even through two world wars. It’s interesting that although they were inspired by the theatrics of Buffalo Bill’s show, they, much more than American Old West re-enactors, strive for authenticity in their attire and reenactments.  
Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show - Europe

Old West Book Review: The Many Loves of Buffalo Bill

The Many Loves of Buffalo BillThe Many Loves of Buffalo Bill. This book is a short introduction to the personal life of “Buffalo Bill” Cody who was born William F. Cody, in 1846 in Scott County, Iowa.  He had a brother and three sisters who adored him, plus a worried mother who wanted the best for her son.  William’s father died when the boy was ten years old, and William became the “little man” of the family at an early age.  During his early years he worked as a freighter, buffalo hunter, army scout, Indian fighter, and daredevil rider for the Pony Express.

Tall and handsome, William cut a dashing figure with his long blonde hair and buckskin jackets.  He deftly handled wagons and horses, and was a crack shot.  From the very beginning of his working days, he was determined to take care of his mother and sisters, and accepted many dangerous jobs if the pay was good.

When still in his early twenties, he noticed Margaret Louisa Frederici’s good looks and superb horsemanship.  Louisa was the daughter of a hard working farm family, who had been educated by Catholic nuns in a convent in St. Louis.  The girl won the heart of William Cody, but a rocky personal road was ahead for both people.  They married on March 6, 1866. Louisa had fallen madly in love with the dashing William Cody, but she eventually learned to despise him because of his philandering.  She wanted William to find a steady job close to home, but that was not to his liking.

Always a good provider, off Cody went into one adventure after another while his wife kept the home fires burning.  The couple had several children; two died at an early age.  Staying at home, making many of her husband’s elaborate costumes, Louisa raised the children, took care of their ranch in Nebraska and stashed money William sent to her in properties she put into her own name.

“Buffalo Bill” had a dream about putting together a “Wild West” show, and that is exactly what he did.  Year after year, he traveled to cities throughout the United States and even Europe.  He employed hundreds of cowboys, cowgirls, sharpshooters, trick riders, stagecoach drivers, wild Indians and herds of horses and buffalo to fill his acts.

While William traveled constantly, he naturally attracted the attention of numerous women who fell for the dashing showman.  Some women became romantically involved with him, while others, such as Annie Oakley, found the relationship strictly business.  Nevertheless, Louisa harbored a burning jealously of her husband.  This did not improve when she made a surprise visit to a hotel where he stayed while on tour, and discovered “Mr. And Mrs. William Cody” were registered there.  Louisa’s threats reverberated for many years thereafter.

As news filtered back to Louisa about William’s affairs, including one of long standing with a beautiful blonde actress named Katherine Clemmons, the wife burned with resentment.  It was later told by servants that Louisa tried to poison William on more than one occasion by serving him a tea concoction that made him violently ill.

Cody eventually applied for a divorce, but Louisa fought the legal action and the judge ruled in her favor.  There was not enough evidence to prove attempted murder.  In time the two reconciled, and remained together until death did they part.

Buffalo Bill Cody passed away due to heart failure January 10, 1817 and was buried in Colorado on Lookout Mountain.  Thus ended the career of probably the most famous wild west showman of all time.  He met presidents as well as kings and queens, Indian chiefs and lady sharpshooters.  He had millions of adoring fans. A more flamboyant character is hard to imagine.

This little book is a first step toward uncovering the personal life of Buffalo Bill Cody.  It is fast-paced and fun to read. You can join the fun by grabbing this book HERE.

Editor’s Note: Reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including The Apache Kid, published by Westemlore Press, P. 0. Box 35305, Tucson, Arizona 85740

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill CodyOne of the Old West’s most famous personalities quite possibly received his fame because someone else refused it.

 On July 24, 1869 Ned Buntline was looking for fresh material. Now Buntline was a prolific writer of fictionalized books about the Old West called “dime novels.” At $20,000 a year Buntline was by far the highest paid writer of his time…exceeding the income of such famous authors as Whitman, Twain and Melville.

Buntline came to Fort Larned, Kansas looking for a prospective subject…Major Frank North. When he found North and made his proposition, North explained that real men didn’t brag about themselves. “But,” he said, “If you want a man to fill that bill, he’s over there under a wagon.” Buntline went over to the wagon and saw to a young scout sleeping off a hangover.

The writer and the 23-year-old scout ended up spending 10 days together, drinking and swapping stories. Before the end of the year Ned Buntline had written and published “Buffalo Bill, King of the Border Men, The Wildest and Truest Story I Ever Wrote.”

The book was made into a stage production in New York. Incidentally, the New York press called it the adventures of “Bison William.” Buffalo Bill came to see the show, and was intrigued with performing on the stage…After all it was a less dangerous than fighting Indians.

So, they rewrote the show and named it “The Scouts of the Plains.” The opening night was in Chicago. Even though there were no professional actors on the stage, and no lines were delivered as written, the audience applauded it enthusiastically.

They went on to St. Louis and eventually New York where Buffalo Bill and Buntline had a falling out. Buntline then hired Wild Bill Hickok, who, incidentally maintained that Buntline’s original novel “King of the Border Men” actually contained his exploits, not Buffalo Bills.

BUFFALO BILL’S METAL OF HONOR

Everybody knows about Buffalo Bill Cody.  Here’s something about him that most people don’t know.  And I’m sure it will surprise you.

Buffalo Bill CBuffalo Bill Codyody was the consummate showman.  Anytime he had the opportunity to get publicity, he took it…even making up stories about himself, and embellishing those that actually happened.  But there was one accomplishment that didn’t get much publicity.  That was that Buffalo Bill Cody won the Congressional Metal of Honor.  Part of the reason was that, he had it, and then he lost it, and then he got it back.  I’ll explain.

In May of 1872, with novels of his exploits in circulation, Cody was scouting for the 3rd Cavalry.  He was guiding an advance unit of 6 men when, a mile away, Cody spotted the Indians they were pursuing.  He led the soldiers to within 50 yards of the Indians before gunfire erupted.  It wasn’t a major battle, but in the process Cody killed one Indian and the other men killed two others.

On the basis of the report that was written up about that encounter, on May 22, 1872, Buffalo Bill Cody was awarded the Congressional Metal of Honor.  Right after this, Buffalo Bill quit his job as scout and started touring in the play The Scouts of the Plains.

But this wasn’t the end of the story of Buffalo Bill’s Metal of Honor.  In 1916, just prior to his death, Congress took a look a the people who had received the Metal of Honor and rescinded Buffalo Bill’s along with 910 others.  The reason given was that Buffalo Bill was a civilian employee at the time of his gallantry.

But, in the spirit of  “all’s well that ends well,” in 1989, 72 years after his death Congress took another look, and restored Buffalo Bill’s Congressional Metal of Honor.

BUFFALO BILL CODY

On December 11, 1872 Buffalo Bill Cody made his first stage appearance in a production of The Scouts of the Prairie.
Although he was known as a showman, William Frederick Cody played an important role in the settling of the west. Cody joined the western messenger service of Majors and Russell as a rider while still in his teens. During the Civil War, he joined forces with a variety of irregular militia groups supporting the North.

Cody began to earn his famous nickname in 1867, when he signed on to provide buffalo meat for the workers of the Eastern Division of the Union Pacific Railroad construction project. His reputation for skilled marksmanship and experience as a messenger resulted in General Philip Sheridan giving Cody a position as a scout.

Cody’s work as a scout in the western Indian wars began the foundation for his fame. Later, Cody served as a hunting guide for famous Europeans and Americans eager to experience a bit of the “Wild West” before it disappeared. One of his customers was Edward Judson, a successful writer who penned popular dime novels under the name Ned Buntline. Buntline made Cody the hero of a highly imaginative Wild West novel published in 1869. When a stage version of the novel debuted in Chicago as The Scouts of the Prairie, Buntline convinced Cody to abandon his real-life western adventures to play a highly exaggerated version of himself in the play.

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