This paper examines the relationship between the American Exhibition of 1887 and the Wild West London season as cultural exports. I argue that 1887 tour marked the beginning of a new phenomenon in transatlantic culture even as the US and Britain were experiencing a period of high nationalism. By examining the 1888 version of Cody’s autobiography, particularly The Wild West in England, I will discuss how the frontier came to be defined in both nationalist and transnationalist terms. Cody’s autobiography demonstrates the role spectacle and ritual play in articulating a sense of national identity.
In describing this process my paper addresses the following questions: What bearing does the British Wild West have on a broader discussion of globalism and exceptionalism? Why was the frontier a uniquely relevant site for the expression of national ideals and a cosmopolitan sensibility? How did Buffalo Bill’s version of the frontier myth revise, complicate, and enhance its ideological value?
“American Exhibitionism and Frontier Performance in 1887 London.” Boundary Markers and Border Crossers, Fifty-Second Annual Conference of the Western History Association, Denver, CO, October 7, 2012. Frank Christianson, Brigham Young University.