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.
Tag Archives: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West
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 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 →
Crucial to our understanding of the significance of the Great Plains to Cody’s personal experiences are the early years of Cody’s life, from his birth and early childhood in Iowa in the 1840s through the early 1850s, to his formative years in Kansas from 1852-1868, and his young adult period in Nebraska from 1868-1878. Events that occurred before he wrote his first autobiography and went on to achieve national fame and world-wide celebrity are eventually incorporated first into his stage shows and then into his grand Wild West exhibitions.
In 1887 William F. Cody brought his Wild West show to London where he launched the first of four European tours. Initially linked to London’s American Exhibition, the 1887 tour was limited to Britain playing, over a twelve-month period, to hundreds of thousands at venues from Earl’s Court to Manchester. Cody was embraced by London society playing host to the Prince of Wales and William Gladstone, and giving a command performance for Victoria on the eve of her Jubilee. He also found friendships among stage luminaries including Wilson Barrett, Henry Irving, and Bram Stoker. Continue reading →
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’s show could be envisaged as a pioneering attempt of exporting the newborn American Culture into the Old World, like a sort of backlash colonization. It can be therefore interpreted as an embryonic example of American transnationalism. The Italian stopovers of the Wild West’s tour, although sporadically tackled by previous scholarship, proved to be focal in the construction of a transnational awareness, especially considering the history of mass-migrations of the time. In particular this paper looks at one specific aspect of such perception, which is the two-sided understanding of ‘otherness’, showing the double point of view in which both the Italians and Western (and Native) Americans kept relationships with one another and defined their identities.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show spent almost a third of its life in Europe, traveling extensively through Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Austria between 1887 and 1906. It left behind a lasting impression of America in European minds and inspired countless Western-themed novels, plays, and even fashion. However, it also intersected with ideas about the American West that had already been formed by novels, through journalism, travelogues, immigrant letters, and visual materials such as paintings, prints, and photographs.
After watching a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performance in 1883 Mark Twain wrote to William Cody encouraging him to export the show: “It is often said on the other side of the water that none of the exhibitions which we send to England are purely and distinctively American. If you will take the Wild West show over there, you can remove that reproach.” Four years later Cody would take the show to London and begin one of the most successful and celebrated runs of his career. Twain’s words reflect a century-long American quest to earn cultural legitimacy in the eyes the British. Nineteenth century American cultural history is defined in large part by the exceptionalist enterprise as American writers including Emerson, Whitman, and Melville defined their work in relation to British influence and sought an original American voice in their writing. Many people viewed Twain’s regionalism as one such original moment. And Twain clearly viewed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West as another.