The Wild West Show originated by famous William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, in the late 1800s and continues to this day in its tradition. The next Wild West Show is scheduled January 10th through 25th in 2015. It will be held in Denver, Colorado at the National Western Complex.
|Wild West Performers|
The original Wild West Show was produced by Ned Buntline and William Cody traveled to Chicago to join the show with his friend, Texas Jack Omohundro in December of 1872. Cody and Omohundro invited their friend, James Butler Hickock, better known as Wild Bill. They performed in a play entitled Scouts of the Plains. The troupe toured for ten years.
|Interpreters of Sioux and Pawnee|
In 1883, in the area of North Platte, Nebraska, Cody founded the Buffalo's Bill Wild West, which toured annually with circus atmosphere. Originally the word “show” was not in the title.
In 1893, Cody changed the title of his show to “Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World”. The show began with a parade on horseback that included Americans, including military and Native Americans, and performers from all over the world. Their were Turks, Gauchos (South America), Arabs, Mongols, and Georgians (Russian) – all displaying their traditional costumes and distinctive horses from their regions. The audience would see the main events, feats of skill, staged races, and sideshows. American West historical figures would participate, one the most famous being Sitting Bull who appeared with his band of 20 Sioux braves.
|Lillian Smith - 1866|
Performers like Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler, were already famous before coming to the show with their sharp shooting skills. Gabriel Dumont and Lillian Smith (trick shooter and trick rider) would also perform. Performers would reenact the rides of the Pony Express, Indian attacks on wagon trains, and stagecoach robberies. The show ended with a reenactment of Custer's Last Stand. General Custer was portrayed by William Cody; but the reenactment was based more on legend rather than historical fact. The finale was a portrayal of an Indian attack on a settler's cabin and then Cody would ride in with his entourage of cowboys to defend the settler and his family. The finale began in 1886, but ended after 1907. It was used in 23 of the 33 tours. Another western celebrity appeared on the show – Calamity Jane, in 1893 as a storyteller. The Wild West show influenced western films in the 20th century as well as western literature.
After making a tidy sum, Cody purchased a 4,000-acre ranch near North Platte, Nebraska in 1886. He named it Scout's Rest Ranch, which had an 18-room mansion and a large barn for winter storage of his show's livestock. You might say it became his winter quarters.
In a May 9th, 1887 entry of This Day in History, :
A well-known scout for the army and a buffalo hunter for the railroads (which earned him his nickname), Cody had gained national prominence 15 years earlier thanks to a fanciful novel written by Edward Zane Carroll Judson. Writing under the pen name Ned Buntline, Judson made Cody the hero of his highly sensationalized dime novel The Scouts of the Plains; or, Red Deviltry As It Is." In 1872, Judson also convinced Cody to travel to Chicago to star in a stage version of the book. Cody broke with Judson after a year, but he enjoyed the life of a performer and stayed on the stage for 11 seasons. … Audiences loved Cody's reenactments of frontier events: an attack on a Deadwood stage, a Pony Express relay race, and most exciting of all, the spectacle of Custer's Last Stand at the Little Big Horn. Even more popular were the displays of western outdoor skills like rope tricks, bulldogging, and amazing feats of marksmanship. Cody made a star of Annie Oakley, an attractive young Ohio woman who earned her nickname "Little Sure Shot" by shooting a cigar out of an assistant's mouth.
… Having effectively defined the popular image of the West for many Americans, Cody took his show across the Atlantic to show Europeans. He staged his first international performance at the Earls Court show ground in London on this day in 1887 to a wildly appreciative audience. Queen Victoria herself attended two command showings. After London, Cody and his performers amazed audiences throughout Europe and then became a truly international success. One bronco rider, who stayed with the show until 1907, traveled around the world more than three times and recalled giving a performance in Outer Mongolia.
Buffalo Bill Wild West Band
The show's interpretation of western history was filled with myth and legend to thrill audiences. People in the eastern states had only known about the “Wild West” from “Dime Novels” (actually they sold for five cents), which Cody was a hero in such novelettes, later to become “comic books” published by Marvel Comics. The depiction was not entirely fictionalized, but myths soon were believed along with fictional stories. It certainly was popular because city folk could get a glimpse of how folks lived in the American West and dangers they faced. The shooting events were popular, thanks to Annie Oakley, who was prominent. In the first two years of the Wild West show, over 10,000,000 spectators had seen it and the show profited what would be about a $1 million dollars today.
Entertainers picked up stage names, like Dr. W.F. Carver was Pawnee Bill, Buckskin Joe Hoyt became Mexican Joe (Jose Barrera). There were other shows, like Luella-Forepaugh Fish Wild West Show, the Kemp Sisters Wild West Show, Buck Jones Wild West Show, and Pawnee Bill Wild West Show. They all performed in Wild West shows, which Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World was the most popular.Some of them were just western-style circuses.
The Pawnee Bill Wild West Show still performs today at the historic Pawnee Bill Ranch. In competition there was the Luella Forepaugh-Fish Wild West Show. Bill Cody's show was by far the most successful and longest lasting.
William Buffalo Bill Cody was more than just a great performer, he had lived pretty much what he portrayed in his show.The next biography will be about William F. Cody and the most famous trick shootist - Annie Oakley after that.