Buffalo Bill

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Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill (February 26, 1846January 10, 1917) was born William Frederick Cody in the American state of Iowa, near Le Claire . He was one of the most colorful figures of the Old West, and was perhaps a bit misunderstood.


Nickname and work life

He assumed his nickname for supplying Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. The nickname originally referred to Bill Comstock. Cody won the nickname from him in 1868 in a buffalo killing contest 69 to 48.

He worked many jobs, having been a trapper, bullwhacker, "Fifty-Niner" in Colorado, a Pony Express rider in 1860, wagonmaster, stagecoach driver, a Civil War soldier, and even a hotel manager. But he became famous for his Wild West Show.


Shortly after the death of his mother in 1863, Cody enlisted in the 7th Kansas Cavalry regiment and fought with them for the rest of the Civil War.

From 1868 until 1872 Cody was employed as a scout by the United States Army. He received the Medal of Honor in 1872 for "gallantry in action" while serving as a civilian scout for the 3rd cavalry. His medal was revoked on February 5, 1917, 24 days after his death, because he was a civilian, and thus ineligible for the award under new guidelines for the award in 1917. The medal was restored in 1989 by the Army.

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William Cody's statue at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.

After being a frontiersman, Buffalo Bill entered show business. He toured the United States in plays based on his Western adventures, and, in Omaha, Nebraska in 1883, founded the "Buffalo Bill Wild West Show," a circus-like attraction that toured annually: Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull both appeared in the show. In 1887 he performed in London in celebration of the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria, and toured Europe in 1889. He set up an exhibition near the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (properly the World's Columbian Exposition), which greatly contributed to his popularity.

He saw the American West dramatically change during his tumultuous life, seeing Wyoming's coal, oil and natural gas resources begin to be exploited towards the end of his life. The Buffalo Bill Dam was built on the Shoshone River after 1904, a dam used for hydroelectric power and irrigation.

He died on January 10, 1917. By his own request, he was buried on Lookout Mountain (Colorado), west of the city of Denver, Colorado, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains overlooking the Great Plains.


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Buffalo Bill Cody in 1903

Buffalo Bill may have been a rough-hewn outdoorsman, but was also something of a liberal, pushing for the rights of American Indians and women. In addition, despite his history of killing the buffalo, he supported their conservation by speaking out against hide-hunting and pushing for a hunting season.

Having been a frontier scout who respected the natives, he once said,

"Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government."

Despite the depiction of Native Americans in his Wild West shows, he was a supporter of their rights. He employed many more natives than just Sitting Bull, feeling his show offered them a better life, calling them "the former foe, present friend, the American."

The city of Cody, Wyoming was founded in 1896 by Cody and some investors, and is named for him. It is the home of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Fifty miles from Yellowstone National Park, it became a tourist magnet with many dignitaries and political leaders coming to hunt.

In film and television

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A handbill for Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World, from 1899

Buffalo Bill has been represented in the movies by:

"Buffalo Bill's / defunct"

A famous free verse poem on mortality by e. e. cummings uses Buffalo Bill as an image of life and vibrancy. The poem is untitled, but commonly known by its first two lines: "Buffalo Bill's / defunct". The poem uses expressive phrases to describe Buffalo Bill's showmanship, referring to his "watersmooth-silver / stallion", and using a staccato beat to describe his rapid shooting of a series of clay pigeons.

Other Buffalo Bills

External links and references

de:William Frederick Cody es:Buffalo Bill fr:William Frederick Cody nl:Buffalo Bill ja:バッファロー・ビル pl:Buffalo Bill sv:Buffalo Bill


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