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.
The trajectory of Indian history since 1862 proved important in shaping Cody’s ideas about Native Americans and their role in the American West. His formative experiences on the Plains — having grown up or worked in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska, the locus of many changes brought about by Civil War-era federal policies — would influence the story he told national and international audiences through the Wild West exhibition. Likewise, the Rough Riders envisioned by Cody epitomized the skilled westerner who epitomized the apex of civilization through hardiness and strength — key values increasingly associated with the settling of the frontier as a result of Cody’s depiction. Together, Indians and Rough Riders of the Wild West illustrated what Cody took to be the “authentic” American West and Great Plains experience, a representation that he conveyed to a generation of Americans and Europeans from 1883-1916.
“The William F. Cody Archive.” Digital Poster Session. Center for Great Plains Studies Symposium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, March 28-30, 2012. Jason A. Heppler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.