A Digital Research and Scholarship Platform fostering new work examining the regional, national, and international reach of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and his broad impact on an emergent mass culture.
Category Archives: Presentations
The C-SPAN 3 broadcast of our panel discussion is now online :
A roundtable discussion featuring Jeremy Johnston, Buffalo Bill Center of the West; Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University; Frank Christianson, Brigham Young University; Michelle Delaney, Smithsonian Institution; and Riva Freifeld, Documentary Filmmaker. Fifty-Fourth Annual Conference of the Western History Association, Newport Beach, CA, October 17, 2014.
This 90-minute coverage provides an overview of the diverse activities of The Papers, outlining completed, ongoing, and future projects. One highlight appears beginning at minute 17.50 in the broadcast … a very brief digital representation of the 552 venues in which Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performed during the three British/European tours of the exhibition.
The Papers of William F. Cody/William F. Cody Archive welcomes you to view this panel discussion and invites your valuable questions or comments!
Renee Laegreid, an assistant professor in the Department of History at University of Wyoming, presented her talk entitled “Buffalo Bill’s Legacy: Finding the West and Westerners in Contemporary Italy” at Saturday University in Gillette, WY on October 26, 2013. Buffalo Bill crossed the boundaries of the Atlantic to bring the American West to Europe, and over one hundred years later, pieces of his West not only remain, but have become increasingly apparent. This paper addresses the persistence of Buffalo Bill and his Wild West shows in the collective memory of Italians, and how the memory of Buffalo Bill and his show, although evolving over time, continues to shape the Italian perspective on the American West. The influence is seen in the growing interest in American Western culture and literature, American-style rodeo, “Western Riding” (reining and cutting competitions), and the growth of American Quarter Horse industry in Italy. This is fertile ground for exploring the evolving idea of the West that takes place outside of American borders, focusing, as Buffalo Bill did, on the exceptionalist vision of that West.
“Buffalo Bill’s Legacy: Finding the West and Westerners in Contemporary Italy.” Saturday University, University of Wyoming, Gillette, WY, October 26, 2013. Renee Laegreid, University of Wyoming.
The words ‘heterosexual and homosexual” did not surface in the cultural vernacular until the early 1900’s. William F. Cody was as “unprejudiced as a man could be” according to prominent western historians. Was Buffalo Bill “gay” friendly before the word existed? Based on Gregory Hinton’s scholarship as a 2011 BBHC Resident Fellow, his Points West Summer 2012 article “Out West with Buffalo Bill” examines Cody’s cordial acquaintanceships with flamboyant Irish poet, lecturer & playwright Oscar Wilde; and acclaimed 19th Century French painter Rosa Bonheur, who carried a government permit to dress like a man.
“Out West with Buffalo Bill.” Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY, December 16, 2011. Gregory Hinton, Author, Filmmaker & Independent Scholar.
The meanings of the Wild West’s frontier iconography varied according to cultural context. When Buffalo Bill crossed the borders into the newly-formed Germany—a society in need of narratives to underwrite its nationalist project—he encountered fertile ground for his tales of the conquest of the American West and the belligerent yet nostalgic portrayal of Native Americans. However, the reasons for the fascination with the West differ quite significantly between American and German audiences. This paper will discuss the differences in reception, based on German newspaper accounts, linking them to the particular cultural climate of turn-of-the-century Germany with its mix of nationalist and provincial concerns.
Beginning in 1889, Buffalo Bill crossed the boundaries of the Atlantic, taking his Wild West Show overseas to perform for crowds of spectators throughout Europe. He carefully advertised his shows, constructing months-long advertising campaigns to create enormous anticipation in the towns and cities on his tour. After his shows, the memories of the cowboys, cowgirls and Native Americans remained topics of community conversation for years; stories of the show often treated like a prized possession, handed down from one generation to another. As one witness to a show in Trieste, Italy recalled, “Buffalo Bill took us to the world of the cowboy, the Indian tribes—the red skins— . . . It was a whole new world for us.” Buffalo Bill’s last tour ended in 1906, but Italian interest in the new world of the American West continues to the present day.
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. Continue reading →
In 1910 former President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt traveled throughout Europe where he received three honorary doctoral degrees, delivered a number of significant speeches ranging from such topics such as the history of Western Civilization to the conduct of British imperialists and their subjects overseas. Despite the academic and diplomatic nature of his visit, most Europeans viewed Roosevelt as the cowboy president. Roosevelt noted that the kings and queens of Europe were interested “about my life in the West, evidently regarding it as an opportunity to acquire knowledge at firsthand and at close range concerning the Buffalo-Bill and Wild-West side of American existence.” Roosevelt found his diplomatic mission enhanced by Europe’s response to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
Railroads played a vital role in the development of the American West. They not only brought supplies, settlers, and capital westward, but modernity as well. As a key participant in the creation and promotion of the myth of the Old West, William F. Cody recognized the important qualities railroads brought westward. His previous work as a hunter and supplier of buffalo meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad and his Wild West show’s extensive use of rail lines brought him into close contact with railroad executives and other men of wealth and influence. When he decided to found the town of Cody, Wyoming, Bill Cody believed the connections he had forged as “Buffalo Bill” would serve him well as he navigated the bureaucratic and political structures involved in town development.
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody earned his fame and nickname during the late 1860s when he slaughtered thousands of bison to feed Kansas Pacific Railroad construction workers. Consequently, many sportsmen and early game preservationists looked down upon him as a mere “skinner.” By the end of his life, however, Cody’s perspective on game animals had changed. A mere month before his death, for instance, Cody in December 1916 wrote a letter of introduction for one Irving H. “Larry” Larom, writing that, “He will explain how we men here in the big game country are trying to preserve the fast disapearing [sic] big game of the country.” Yet, Cody always remained an avid sportsman, routinely organizing and/or leading big game hunts in northwestern Wyoming for his friends and business partners living throughout the United States, as well as European dignitaries.
William F. Cody’s early life—and his later celebrity based on it—took place largely within Kansas specifically and the Great Plains generally. Much of his earliest autobiography written in 1879 contains important historical content concerning the region’s growth and development. Though they do not appear explicitly in the autobiography, two landmark 1862 Congressional acts, especially the Pacific Railroad Act and the Homestead Act, set into motion and fundamentally shaped Cody’s Great Plains experience. Understanding the changing plains atmosphere as a result of the 1862 acts provides important context to Cody’s life at the time in which he became the legendary character of Buffalo Bill.