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 Much of his earliest autobiography written in 1879 contains important historical content concerning the region’s growth and development.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.
Our electronic poster submission will showcase the William F. Cody Digital Archive through which we will introduce viewers to various aspects of the project and discuss the historic and idealized impact that Cody had on the American West and Great Plains. The Archive offers an opportunity to view the historic developments and idealization of the American West through William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Specifically, we will present materials and findings related to Native Americans and Rough Riders, two key groups of performers involved in his Wild West exhibitions.