William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917)

Buffalo Bill


  • William Cody – born in Iowa Territory, 1846 – was raised in Canada and Kansas Territory.
  • At the age of 14 he became a Pony Express Rider after his father died and the family fell on hard times.
  • From 17 – 19 years old he served as a Union soldier in the American Civil War.
  • At 20 he married Louisa Frederici, with whom he had 4 children.  Only 2 reached adulthood.
  • During the Plains War he returned to the army as Chief of Scouts for the 3rd U.S. Cavalry.  Although he fought in 16 battles and was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry, he spent a lot of time hunting bison to feed the army and workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad.  Having killed 4,288 animals in 18 months he earned the nickname Buffalo Bill.
  • When he was 26, Cody led a famous hunting expedition with  Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia.
  • He called his rifle Lucretia Borgia, and his two favorite horses were Brigham and Buckskin Joe.
  • Buffalo Bill became a celebrity when Ned Buntline began publishing stories based on Cody’s adventures.
  • At the age of 27 he turned to acting and starred in The Scout of the Prairie, which later became The Scouts of the Plains when his friend Wild Bill Hickok joined the troupe.
  • 10 years later the showman developed a huge, outdoor, circus-like rodeo event called Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.


  • As the show expanded it featured many famous Wild West figures including Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, and Chief Sitting Bull.
  • Cody performed in England by royal command of Queen Victoria and he also met Pope Leo XII.
  • When he was 55 years old his Wild West show was involved in a serious train accident that injured Annie Oakley and led to the deaths of 110 horses.  This disruption in touring signaled the demise of his performing career.  But by this time Cody was an international superstar.
  • Buffalo Bill then turned to other business ventures.  He founded the town of Cody (Wyoming), which was incorporated in 1901.
  • He owned several hotels and a large property on the Shoshone River called the TE Ranch.
  • In 1879, Cody published his autobiography called The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill.  By then he had become a supporter of regulated hunting seasons, the rights of women, and Native American civil liberties.  He died in 1917.
  • At the turn of the 20th Century “Cody was the most recognizable celebrity on earth” (Larry McMurty and R.L. Wilson).


Cody, William F. The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill at http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/seven/w67bbauto/w67bb0.htm

Wikipedia, “Buffalo Bill” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Bill


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