Buffalo Bill’s Wild West!

William F. Cody was born in Iowa in 1846.  When he was just a boy, his father moved the family to Kansas, settling near Fort Leavenworth.  Cody was naturally skilled in shooting and riding, and at the age of 14, became a renowned pony express rider, a dangerous occupation on the plains.  The advertisement called for “skinny, expert riders willing to risk death daily.”   Clearly not one to be left out of the excitement, he served as a Union scout during the Civil War as part of the Seventh Kansas Calvary.  Cody continued to serve the Army after the war as a scout and dispatch rider.

In 1867, Cody began hunting buffalo to feed the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers.  In seventeen months, he had killed 4,280 buffalo.  It is believed that he took up a contest with William Comstock to see who could kill more buffalo in eight hours.  With Cody’s 69 to Comstock’s 46, Cody earned the nickname Buffalo Bill.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Program, 1893

His reputation as Buffalo Bill grew into that of a national folk hero.  Ned Buntline’s dime novels featured Buffalo Bill along the ranks of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.  In 1872, Buntline even persuaded Cody to appear in his play The Scouts of the Plains, which was a great success thanks in part to Cody’s natural showmanship.  Riding on this achievement, Cody organized Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883.  The show dramatized frontier life with buffalo hunts, Indian attacks, the Pony Express, and a presentation of Custer’s Last Stand.  His show featured stars such as Annie Oakley, Buck Taylor, and, for one season, Chief Sitting Bull, the “slayer of Custer.”  He added the Congress of Rough Riders of the World that featured cavalrymen around the world, including Mexico, Russia, and Syria.  The show toured for thirty years, even travelling to Europe.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show pulling into Rockford, July 26, 1901

 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show even made it to Rockford in 1901!  The show then returned for Rockford’s Chautauqua events, the first of which was held in August 1902 at Harlem Park.  The Chautauqua was advertised as a place of learning for adults: “A School for Out-of-School People.”  It was a two-week long event that offered lectures on cultural and political topics, women’s topics, and global topics with speakers from all over the country.  Musical performances could be heard, including music from the Third Regiment Band every evening.  Kindergarten classes were taught for younger children, as well as art, cooking, and elocution classes for adults.  Sundays offered church services and Sunday School.  And of course, Buffalo Bill and his Congress of Rough Riders were there to thrill and impress the crowds.

Upcoming Event!!

See for yourself Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show featuring Annie Oakley at Midway Village’s 1900 American Chautauqua! 

June 9 & 10, 2012

  • Meet Theodore Roosevelt as portrayed by nationally known Joe Weigand as he campaigns for the 1900 Republican Party ticket.
  • Chat with Mark Twain and meet famous Americans Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley
  • Thrill to demonstrations of sharp shooting, trick riding and Native American Indian demonstrations at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World on the Midway Village Green with two shows on Saturday (12:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.) and one on Sunday (2:30 p.m.) along with a wide variety of other popular activities, presentations and entertainments of the times.
  • The 1900 America event will include live period music featuring Mark Dvorak on Saturday and Rockford’s own Betsy Kaske both days in the Midway Village church.
  • Experience Dr. Balthasar’s Miracle Medicine Shows
  • Visit and learn from re-enactors depicting Spanish-American/Philippine War soldiers’ encampment
  • Rockford’s Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Veterans
  • View demonstrations of antique high-wheel bicycles by the Illinois Wheelmen and Wisconsin Wheelmen and horse drawn wagon rides.
  • Participate in classes in the art of 19th century military sabre and pugilism taught by Allen Reed, Headmaster of Gallowglass Academy and Professor of Antagonistics, Leaf River, Illinois.

For more details and admission prices, click here: http://www.midwayvillage.com/wordpress/event-registration/?ee=4


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  1. Pingback: Camping 100 Years Ago: It Was In Tents | Midway Village Museum Collections

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