The C-SPAN 3 broadcast of our panel discussion is now online :
The Enduring Legacy of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West
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!
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 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.
This paper addresses issues related to the editing of William F. Cody’s autobiographical writing published between 1879 and 1888. The projects include the recently completed The Life of Hon. William F. Cody appearing with University of Nebraska Press in fall 2011 and ongoing work on Cody’s The Wild West in England (also slated for publication with UNP). Both works are part of the press’s Cody Papers Series in conjunction with the Papers of William F. Cody project.
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.