Birthday: February 26, 1846
Died At Age: 70
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: William Frederick Cody, Bill Cody, William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill Cody, William Frederick
Born in: Scott County
Famous as: Hunter
Spouse/Ex-: Louisa Frederici Cody
father: Isaac Cody
mother: Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock
siblings: Mary Decker
Died on: January 10, 1917
place of death: Denver
U.S. State: Iowa
The most famous American of the 20th century, William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody played too many roles in his long and blessed life. He was an American scout, soldier, hunter, and an entertainer. His class and talent were unmatchable during his time. The American showman is best remembered for his circus-like show ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.’ The show was about touring through the US, and later through Europe, to feature daring feats and adventurous horse races, staged battles, and enactments. His nickname “Buffalo Bill” was a result of his popular hunting style that involved killing of more than four thousand buffaloes to feed his construction workers. Apart from being a massively successful and loved entertainer, Buffalo had also served in the American Civil War and was also a civilian scout for the US army during the Indian Wars, for which he received a ‘Medal of Honor.’ Apart from his own show, Buffalo also performed in stage shows such as ‘The Scouts of the Prairie,’ and ‘Scouts of the Plains.’ Most of his shows were based on the “cowboy” theme, and that is perhaps why he became an Old West legend.
Early Life & Childhood
Bill Cody was born on February 26, 1846, in a farm near Le Claire in Scott County, Iowa. His father, Isaac Cody, was against slavery and often delivered anti-slavery lectures. His mother, Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock, was a teacher before she met Isaac.
In 1853, the Codys sold their land in Scott County, Iowa, and moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. The family often received murder threats from the supporters of slavery. This made Cody’s father decide to live separately.
Bill’s father received a lot of hate while delivering a lecture at Rively’s store against slavery, and someone stabbed him twice. His father could not fully recover from that injury.
Bill once rode 30 miles to inform his father about his enemies’ plan to kill him while he was busy gathering supporters for the abolition of slavery. His father suffered a respiratory infection while returning from Cleveland, Ohio. This was caused by the earlier stabbing. He succumbed to his condition in April 1957.
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After his father’s death, Bill had to take over the responsibility of his family. He took up his first job at the tender age of 11, which had him working with a freight carrier as a messenger.
In 1859, he heard about the Holcomb Valley “gold rush” in California and decided to try his luck. However, before reaching his destination, he got an opportunity to work with the ‘Pony Express.’
He left his job to be with his sick mother. He worked too many jobs, including that of a trapper, a bullwhacker, a stagecoach driver, and a hotel manager, until he decided to enlist himself as a soldier in the US army.
His wish to enlist himself as a soldier could not come to fruition, since he was too young to be enlisted. This made him work with the freight services, until he finally turned 17 and got enlisted in the army.
In 1863, he enlisted as a teamster and served as a scout for the ‘Union Army’s 7th Kansas Cavalry,’ until he was discharged in 1865. In 1868, after getting married, he went back to serve the army, as the chief of scouts for the ‘Third Cavalry.’
He fought 16 battles and was later awarded with a ‘Medal of Honor’ in 1872, for his dedication and bravery toward the nation.
A law that was passed later stated that only the “officers who demonstrated bravery above and beyond the call of duty” were to be awarded with the highest gallantry award. Thus, Cody’s medal was taken away after his death.
In 1989, after constant objection by Cody’s relatives, his honor was restored, when Senator Alan K. Simpson decided to intervene.
Soon, Cody received his popular nickname “Buffalo Bill.” The reason behind the name was his contract to supply the ‘Kansas Pacific Railroad’ workers with buffalo meat.
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He is said to have hunted more than four thousand buffaloes between 1867 and 1868. His nickname gradually turned him into a living legend.
In 1869, Cody had a story published about him in the ‘New York Weekly.’ The story was based on Cody’s adventures and was written by Ned Buntline.
The writer republished the story as a novel with the title ‘Buffalo Bill, King of the Bordermen.’ The novel became a bestseller. The story was later published by many other magazines and even had numerous sequels made. *After receiving unexpected fame, Cody made his stage debut with the play ‘The Scouts of the Prairie,’ in 1872. The show was produced by Ned Buntline.
Cody’s performance was not appreciated by critics. However, he continued working in plays and founded the ‘Buffalo Bill Combination’ in 1874. He toured with his troupe for almost ten years while struggling in the entertainment business.
In 1883, he founded the circus-like show ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.’ The show became extravagantly popular in the US and in Europe too.
The show featured performers from all over the world, performing feats such as horseback parades, sideshows, main events, and stage performances in colourful outfits. Many well-known performers, such as Annie Oakley, Frank Butler, and Lillian Smith, were part of Bill’s one-of-a-kind extravaganza.
In 1887, Cody performed his show in Britain, for the first time ever. Queen Victoria watched the performances of the ‘Wild West’ at her Golden Jubilee ceremony.
The enormous success of the show in Europe made Cody a global star and turned him into the most popular man in America. He toured almost every European city and finally ended his tour in 1905.
In 1895, Cody passed through Wyoming and was impressed by its rich soil, its irrigation facilities, and its great environment. In 1901, he started a town named Cody in the same area.
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He even established the ‘Irma Hotel’ for the visitors to his town. The hotel was named after his daughter, Irma.
His autobiography, ‘The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill,’ was published in 1879. His biography, ‘The Great West That Was: "Buffalo Bill's" Life Story,’ was said to have a lot of errors, as it was completed after Cody’s death.
Awards & Achievements
Two US postage stamps featuring him honored his legacy. The ‘Buffalo Bills,’ a ‘National Football League’ (NFL) team from Buffalo, New York, is named after him.
A lot of books and films have been inspired by him. It is impossible to enumerate all of his massive achievements within a few lines.
Personal Life & Legacy
Buffalo Bill married Louisa Frederici in 1866. He was only 20 years old at the time of his marriage.
Buffalo had four children with his wife. Buffalo filed for divorce in 1904, after 38 years of marriage.
Buffalo died of kidney failure on January 10, 1917, at the age of 70. He was buried in Lookout Mountain in Denver, Colorado.
His show was sold to Archer Banker, who was from Kansas, on June 9, 1917. Bill was a staunch supporter of women’s rights.
As a ‘Freemason,’ Bill earned a ‘Knight Templar’ in 1889 and earned up to 32 degrees, the last of which was earned in 1894.