Buffalo Bill as Reported in Newspapers
By Melvin Schulte
Not all famous people or events made headline news. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) and his Wild West Exhibition are prime examples. Although he was one of the most popular men of his day and generated untold column inches of publicity, most of them appeared on the inside pages.
Buffalo Bill Cody
As a dedicated collector of Buffalo Bill memorabilia, I have accumulated over 500 newspaper clippings that relate to his life and legend. It is surprising how his successes and his failures during his lifetime can be followed through them, as well as the ups and downs of his popularity after his death. The following series of events are found reported just in my own collection of clippings and are therefore far from complete.
The earliest is a two column by eleven inch ad from the New York Times of November 16, 1869. It was for the first publication of the first installation of the first Buffalo Bill dime novel -- Buffalo Bill, The King of Border Men -- written by Ned Buntline. The serial was to begin in the December 23 issue of The New York Weekly. Buntline had met young Bill Cody in the fall of that year, and this dime novel story initiated the tremendous interest in Buffalo Bill. (This remains my favorite among all my clippings.)
Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody
Buffalo Bill's first stage appearance was in 1872 and his theatrical company toured the next ten years. This period is represented by two ads, one from the Wilkes-Barre Record of the Times (April 26, 1880) for his appearance in "Buffalo Bill at Bay, or The Pearl of the Prairie". and one undated for "Twenty Days, or Buffalo Bill's Pledge", and this time with a band of genuine Sioux Indians.
During his stage career he also continued to act as an army scout during the Indian Wars, and many of these clippings carry reports of Indian battles. The first to mention Buffalo Bill by name is from the New York Herald, September 5, 1876, in a report from General Terry's camp on Powder River while the army was attempting to trap Sitting Bull's band of savages following the Custer massacre. (It erroneously reported that Sitting Bull had fallen in the Battle of Little Big Horn.)
From left, Ned Buntline, Buffalo Bill Cody, Josephine Morlacchi, Texas Jack Omohundro.
Other interesting clippings about the progress of this campaign follow, then on September 15, 1876, the Chicago Tribune reported that "Wm. F. Cody, alias Buffalo Bill, arrived at the Tremont House, from the Yellowstone Country, enroute to Rochester, New York."
Another article in this same paper states that Buffalo Bill had had a falling out with both Generals Terry and Crook, and had said, "General, I am through with this expedition. Give me my vouchers for services rendered... It is now, and has been for some time, apparent to my mind that neither you nor Crook intend to fight, and you won't let them ... if you will come I will take you to the Indian encampment on the Rosebud in 36 hours."
The same paper, on September 23, quotes Buffalo Bill as saying the troops could not catch the Indians because "...Gen. Crook was afraid of breaking his crockery and otherwise injuring his camp equipage." (It would be interesting to know if the generals responded to these barbs.)
Buffalo Bill started a Wild West Exhibition in 1883 with Doc Carver under the name "Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition". The partners argued and split up, and in 1884 Buffalo Bill teamed up with Salsbury and Bogardus to put the expedition on the road under the name "Buffalo Bill's Wild West". My first newspaper ad for the reactivated Wild West is from the part of that 1884 first season before Bogardus left the show. The name of the newspaper or exact date in unknown.
Buffalo Bill during his time as a Buffalo hunter, (1867-68) supplying meat to the Kansas Pacific Railroad gaining the nickname "Buffalo Bill." (He killed 4,280 buffalo by his own count.)
In 1909 Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill joined their two shows under the name "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Pawnee Bill's Far East", and in 1910 Buffalo Bill's "Farewell Proclamation" appeared in these ads. An ad in the Stockton Evening Mail of October 8, 1910 states that "Buffalo Bill Positively Bids You Good-By". This was followed by similar ads for several years, but he did not actually act out that "Last Good-By" until the show was broke and attached for Sheriff's Sale in July, 1913.
During 1914 and 1915 Buffalo Bill traveled with the Sells Floto Circus, which advertised in the Stockton Daily Evening Herald on May 4, 1914 as "Sells Floto Circus & Buffalo Bill Himself", in which "Col. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) Appears in Parade and Performance." In 1916, the year before his death, he appeared with the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Shows. The Boston Evening Transcript of June 10, 1916 advertises this show as "Miller and Arlington Wild West Show Co. -- Buffalo Bill (Himself.)"
William "Buffalo Bill" Cody lived and organized his Wild West show from his ranch north of the North Platte rail yard. He transported the show via rail and wagon.
Newspaper clippings other than advertisements are probably more interesting than the ads. As an example, two unknown newspapers (February 18 and 20, 1894) carried articles describing a fight between Cody and Fred May caused by an argument over a girl (name withheld). May had provoked the fight, and -- "The colonel promptly knocked May down and then also floored one of May's friends who had interfered." May was hustled out and Buffalo Bill was a hero at the hotel, but there was talk of a possible dual which never developed. Just one of Buffalo Bill's many problems.
Many of these clippings are interviews with Buffalo Bill and articles about the appearances of the Wild West Show, but there are too many to detail here.
William Cody with U.S. Cavalry in 1913
There are also many articles about his associates. The Washington Post (1914) reported that there had been rumors that Buffalo Bill was dying, but that he had said "I might quote to you from Mark Twain, 'The report of my death is greatly exaggerated.' I have yet a great life work to complete before I pass over the river... I have been supervising the taking of motion pictures.. These start with the opening of the West and come down in well defined periods to the present day. These have been taken for the United States Government and will be preserved in the archives... for the education of future generations." (He completed this task but only portions of this final major undertaking have survived.) The Post continued "Col. Cody is in fine physical condition... full of snap and ginger and straight as an arrow."
But all too soon Buffalo Bill did die on January 30, 1917. His illness, death and funeral plans were reported in many newspapers. My personal favorite, simple but revealing the nation's sense of loss, is a cartoon from the Boston Records of January 15. A young boy is seated at a table, head resting on his arms, with his faithful dog looking on with a sorrowful expression. A picture of Buffalo Bill is on the wall, the "History of the Wild West" is opened on the table, and a newspaper headlined "Buffalo Bill is Dead" is lying on the floor. A simple cartoon tells it all.
A picture of the funeral procession, a description of the tomb and long articles on Buffalo Bill's life depict the end of his career. Finally the death of his widow is reported in a clipping datelined Cody, Wyoming, October 21, 1922. The entire family was now at rest after eventful, sometimes stormy, lives.
"Let my show go on" Buffalo Bill had said. After his death in the same year, his protÈgÈ Johnny Baker put together another outdoor show with Jess Willard that lasted just one season. An ad in an April 24 newspaper gives it the title "Jess Willard (Himself in the flesh) and the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show And Circus."
Clippings from the 1920's and 1930's cover a multitude of articles about people who had been associated with Buffalo Bill -- Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, Wild Bill Hickok, Texas Jack Omohundro, Buffalo Chips, Doc Carver, Pawnee Bill, Capt. Jack Crawford, Frank North, Ned Buntline, and many others. Any many of their deaths were duly reported.
And everyone seemed to want to share in Buffalo Bill's limelight. Reporters who had interviewed him -- plains men, scouts, Indians, and Indian fighters and hunters who claimed his as "pard" or "crony" -- the men who freighted with him -- his playmates and schoolmates when he was a youngster -- his neighbors at any place and time -- performers and other employees of the Wild West Show -- proprietors of boarding houses, hotels and restaurants that had catered to him -- all sorts of ordinary people who simply claimed to be "a friend of Buffalo Bill". Some of these relate little known incidents in his life. Some are long. Some are short. Some are obituaries.
In the middle 1920's there was a rash of proposed memorials and museums to honor Buffalo Bill -- Lookout Mountain, North Platte, Cody, Davenport (Iowa), Omaha, Leavenworth, and others. Some of them were built, others were not, or at least not in the form proposed. The museum at Cody, Wyoming received much attention.
In the late 1920's a trend began to debunk the legendary heroes of the Wild West, Buffalo Bill included.
This was precipitated by the publication of Walsh's book "The Nothing of Buffalo Bill," in 1928 and was reviewed in many newspapers. One such review appeared in the Kansas City Star on December 16, 1928 and was titled "Stripping the Heroic Legendary From Buffalo Bill." "The Famous Exploits Attributed To Him Were But Press Agent Imagination" headlined another long article in the Hardin Tribune, April 5, 1929, but in spite of its title, this one comes strongly to Buffalo Bill's defense. Others put him down calling him a spy, a sham and a pretense among other things -- but others upheld him just as vigorously and the verbal battle went on.
Beginning in the 1920's and continuing to this day the papers gave a lot of space to plays and movies, even light opera, based on Buffalo Bill and his exploits. Interest in Buffalo Bill as evidenced by the newspapers was always alive and well.
William F. Cody (aka Buffalo Bill) owned a mining claim in Oracle. He is seated behind the driver with his friend and former Indian scout, William (Curly) Neal, a pioneer Oracle citizen.
The 1930's saw the end of the large outdoor arena extravaganzas that were modeled after Buffalo Bill's Wild West, such as the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Shows and the short-lived Col. Tim McCoy's Wild West Show. Their financial woes were duly reported in newspapers. Smaller Wild West shows were still on tour, and the "after shows" were still based on the traditions set but the out-dated but not forgotten Wild West exhibitions. Many people were still living who claimed friendship or connections with Buffalo Bill himself but these were getting fewer and many obituaries mentioned these ties. Articles were still being written about the old-timers such as Annie Oakley, Pawnee Bill and the others.
Arta, William F., Louisa & Orra Cody, ca. 1880. Black & white photograph.
About the same can be said about the clippings from the 1940's to date, except that there is a lot less of the "friendship ties" class. The memories of Buffalo Bill seemed to be less vivid, but never died. But when the centennial year of Buffalo Bill's Wild West came in 1983, the newspapers again exploded with stories about him and his exhibition and about the many centennial celebrations and shows. Buffalo Bill was again in the limelight.
On This Day In history
Birthdates which occurred on August 02:
1696 Mahmud I Ottoman sultan, fought Austrians & Russians
1754 Pierre Charles L'Enfant France, architect laid out Wash DC
1826 William Denison Whipple, Bvt Major General (Union Army), died in 1902
1832 Henry Steel Olcott 1st president of Theosophical Society
1892 John Kieran NYC, columnist/author (Natural History of NYC)
1905 Myrna Loy Montana, actress (Jazz Singer, Thin Man, Vanity Fair)
1914 Gary Merrill Hartford Conn, actor (Young Dr Kildare, All About Eve)
1922 Carroll O'Connor NYC, actor (All in the Family, Heat of the Night)
1922 Paul Laxalt (Sen-R-Nev)
1924 James Baldwin US writer (Another Country)
1932 Lamar Hunt owns NFL KC Chiefs
1932 Peter O'Toole Ireland, actor (Lord Jim, Beckett, Lawrence of Arabia)
1934 Valery Bykovsky cosmonaut (Vostok 5, Soyuz 22, 31)
1939 Edward Pattern Atlanta Ga, singer (Gladys Knight & the Pips)
1940 Doris Kenner Passaic NJ, singer (Shirelles-Soldier Boy)
1942 Garth Hudson keyboardist (The Band)
1943 Max Wright, Detroit, actor (Buffalo Bill, Alf, Misfits of Science)
1949 Bertalan Farkas 1st Hungarian space traveler (Soyuz 36)
1952 Paul David Crews SC, murderer (FBI Most Wanted List)
1960 Linda Fratianne US, figure skater (Olympic-silver-1980)
1977 Edward Furlong Pasedina Calif, actor (John Connor-Terminator 2)
Deaths which occurred on August 02:
0257 Stefanus I, bishop of Rome (254-57)/heretic fighter, dies
0640 Severinus, Italian Pope (640), dies
0686 John V, 1st Greeks-Syrian Pope (685-86), dies
1075 John VIII Xiphilinus theologian/patriarch of Constantinople, dies
1100 William II, [Rufus], king of England, shot in New Forest at 44
1788 Thomas Gainsborough, English painter (Blue Boy), dies at 61
1799 Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, balloonist, dies at 54
1811 William Williams, US merchant/signer (Decl of Indep), dies at 80
1876 Wild Bill Hickok shot dead (from behind) by Jack McCall while playing poker. He held a pair of Aces & a pair of 8's (Deadwood Dakota)
1903 Martha Jane Cannary, [Calamity Jane], US desperado, dies
1922 - Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish/US physicist (telephone), dies
1923 Pres Harding dies at Palace Hotel, SF
1934 Paul Von Hindenburg dies at 86, Hitler takes over presidency
1943 Galewski, Polish? leader of uprising in Treblinka, commits suicide
1943 Zelo Bloch, Polish? Treblinka-rebel, shot to death
1956 Albert Woolson, last veteran US Union army, dies at 109
1964 Jack Kirkwood actor (Fibber McGee & Molly), dies at 69
1967 Claude A Barnett founded Associated Negro Press, dies at 78
1976 Fritz Lang, director (Cloak and Dagger, Metropolis), dies at 85
1979 Thurmon Munson killed in a plane crash at Akron Oh at 32
1985 Frank Faylen vaudevillian, dies at 79 of pneumonia
1986 Roy Marcus Cohn, US lawyer (Joseph McCarthy), dies
1988 Raymond Carver poet/short story writer (Furious Season), dies at 50
1997 William S. Burroughs, author "Naked Lunch". The godfather of the "Beat" generation
Reported: MISSING in ACTION
1965 DAUGHTREY ROBERT NORLAN DEL RIO TX.
[02/12/73 RELEASED BY DRV INJURED,ALIVE AND WELL 98]
1965 HAIL WILLIAM WARREN LOS ANGELES CA.
1967 CUNNINGHAM CAREY A. COLLINGSVILLE AL.
[REMAINS RETURNED 1989 IDENTIFIED 04/01/98]
1967 HYNDS WALLACE G. JR. SUMTER SC.
1969 TALKEN GEORGE FRANCIS CHICO CA.
POW / MIA Data & Bios supplied by
the P.O.W. NETWORK. Skidmore, MO. USA.
On this day...
0216 BC Hannibal Barca wins his greatest victory over the Romans at Cannae.
0047 BC Caesar defeats Pharnaces at Zela in Syria and declares, "veni, vidi, vici," (I came, I saw, I conquered).
0257 St Stephen I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
0640 Severinus ends his reign as Catholic Pope
0686 John V ends his reign as Catholic Pope
1375 1st roller skating rink opens (London)
1492 Jews are expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand & Queen Isabella
1552 The treaty of Passau gives religious freedom to Protestants living in Germany.
1610 Henry Hudson explores bay later named after him the Hudson Bay
1776 The Continental Congress, having decided unanimously to make the Declaration of Independence, affixes the signatures of the other delegates to the document.
1791 Samuel Briggs and his son, patent nail-making machine
1819 1st parachute jump in US
1832 1,300 Illinois militia defeat Sac & Fox indians, end Black Hawk War
1858 1st street mailboxes-Boston, Mass
1864 2nd Saratoga Racetrack (NY) opens
1865 Lewis Carroll publishes "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
1877 SF Public Library opens with 5,000 volumes
1903 Unsuccessful uprising of Macedonians against Turkey
1906 Chicago White Sox begin record 19 game win streak
1909 1st Lincoln head pennies minted
1909 Army Air Corps formed as Army takes 1st delivery from Wright Brothers
1914 Sherlock Holmes Adventure "His Last Bow" takes place
1914 Belgian govt receives German ultimatum
1914 German press falsely reports that French bombed Nuremberg
1914 German troops overthrows Luxembourg
1914 Germany and Turkey signs secret treaty
1914 Great Britain mobilizes
1914 Postdam Conference ended
1914 Russian troops invade Eastern Prussia
1920 Marcus Garvey presents his "Back To Africa" program in NYC
1921 A jury in Chicago acquitted several former members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team and two others of conspiring to defraud the public in the notorious "Black Sox" scandal.
1923 Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes president upon the death of Warren G. Harding.
1932 Charlie Grimm replaces Roger Hornsby as manager of Chicago Cubs
1934 1st airplane train, plane tows 3 mail gliders behind it
1934 Adolph Hitler becomes commander-in-chief of Germany
1934 William Franks twirls an indian club overhead 17,280 times in 1 hour
1938 1st test of a yellow baseball (Dodgers vs Cardinals)
1939 Hatch Act prohibits political activity by federal workers
1939 Albert Einstein signed a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging creation of an atomic weapons research program.
1941 Jews are expelled from Hungarian Ruthenia
1941 German 11st Army surrounds 20 Russian divisions at Oeman
1942 Col-Gen Hoth' Panzer army reaches Kotelnikovo
1943 Armed revolt breaks out in Treblinka
1943 PT-109 rammed & sunk
1944 Jewish survivors of Kovono Ghetto emerge from their bunker
1958 Jordan and Iraq disolve their Arab Federation, after 3 months
1961 Beatles 1st gig as house band of Liverpool's Cavern Club
1962 NASA civilian test pilot Joseph A Walker takes X-15 to 32,600 m
1964 North Vietnam fires on a US destroyer in Gulf of Tonkin
1964 Race riot in Jersey City NJ
1965 Morley Safer's sends 1st Vietnam report indicating we are losing
1967 New Orleans Saints 1st pre-season game, they lose to LA Rams 16-77
1967 US's Lunar Orbiter 5 launched; enters lunar orbit Aug 5
1972 Gold hits record $70 an ounce in London
1975 Billy Martin named manager of NY Yankees (1st time)
1983 US District Court begins trying Yonkers accuse of race discrimination
1985 NASA launches space vehicle S-209
1986 Jackie Joyner-Kersee (US) sets record for heptathlon (7161 pts)
1986 TODAY/PC born today
1987 Don Brown sets flight record for handbow (1,336 yds 1'3")
1987 Michael Andretti runs fastest Indy car race in history (171.49 MPH)
1989 NASA confirmed Voyager 2's discovery of 3 more moons of Neptune designated temporarily 1989 N2, 1989 N3 & 1989 N24
1990 Iraq invades & occupies Kuwait
1991 Funk singer Rick James, arrested on sexual torture charges
1991 Space shuttle STS 43 (Atlantis 9) launched
1992 Tom Seaver, R Fingers, Hal Newhouser, and B McGowan enter Hall of Fame
2000 Republicans awarded Texas Gov. George W. Bush their 2000 presidential nomination at the party's convention in Philadelphia and ratified Dick Cheney as his running mate.
2001 Muslim terrorists seized 36 Filipinos on the southern island of Basilan and beheaded at least four.
Note: Some Holidays are only applicable on a given "day of the week"
Costa Rica : Virgin of Angels feast
Grenada : Emancipation Day
Lesotho : National Tree Planting Day
Malawi : Bank Holiday
Bahamas, Barbados, Turks & Caicos Island : Emancipation Day (1838) ( Monday )
British Commonwealth : Bank Holiday ( Monday )
Canada : Civic Holiday (1st Monday) ( Monday )
Colorado : Colorado Day (1876) ( Monday )
Jamaica : Independence Day (1962) ( Monday )
St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla : August Monday ( Monday )
US : National Smile Week begins ( Monday )
Grasmere England : Rush-Bearing Day ( Saturday )
National Psychiatric Technician Week (Day 2)
National HAIRitage Month
Yorkshire, England : St Wilfred
RC : Memorial of Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop (opt)
Old RC : Feast of St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori, bishop
1776 English founder of Methodism John Wesley wrote in a letter: 'Use all the ability which God gives, and He will give you more.'
1907 The Vatican issued the decree "Ne temere," declaring that marriages of Catholics were valid only if celebrated before a duly qualified priest and at least two witnesses.
1946 English literary scholar and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter: 'Apologetic work is so dangerous to one's faith. A doctrine never seems dimmer to me than when I have just successfully defended it.'
1948 American missionary and martyr Jim Elliot penned this prayer in his journal: 'Father, teach me the speed of eternity. Synchronize my movements with the speed of Thine Own heart then, hasting or halting, I shall be in good time.'
1982 Presbyterian apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote in a letter: 'There is the constant danger of slipping into the idea that if a person has sufficient faith, he will always be healed. This is clearly not what the Bible teaches.'
Source: William D. Blake. ALMANAC OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1987.
Thought for the day :
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true."
Media Reports of the Apocalypse...
Letters To God From The Dog...
Are there dogs on other planets or are we alone? I have been howling at the moon and stars for a long time, but all I ever hear back is the horny beagle across the street.
You Might Be An Engineer If...
You have no life - and you can PROVE it mathematically.
State officials ordered 400 words of "sexually explicit material" to be cut from Romeo and Juliet.