Cody, Wyoming is the eastern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. The city is named for Buffalo Bill Cody. He earned western fame for his work as an Indian scout/fighter, buffalo hunter, showman, actor and entrepreneur. It’s likely that anyone younger than say, 40 years of age, may not know anything about Cody. Heck, I’m willing to bet most people of any age may know the name but little else about the man. Although I’ve been to his Rocky Mountain gravesite and can recall some of his show history I learned a whole lot more after spending time at the:
Little did I know that this museum founded in 1917 was more than a history of Buffalo Bill. No, this Smithsonian affiliated museum completed in 1969 features six unique wings that focus on natural history, western art, the history of Buffalo Bill, fire arms, plains Native Americans and a research library. I also quickly learned that the exhibits were presented in many advanced modes like this — a welcome from Bill himself via a hologram projected on a wall of steam — ingenious:
The Buffalo Bill wing documents his life through an exploration of history and myth that clarifies the “old west”. Born in 1846 he joined the army as a scout while still in his teens. This was a job he was born to excel in — I love his reply when someone questioned his appearanc:
Cody’s life seems to have intersected with many of the most famous people that we know from the old west. For example, he was a friend of Wild Bill Hickock (again you’ve gotta love the hair):
For many it’s Cody the showman that we can more easily recall thanks to movies like Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy a homage to Buffalo Bill. For many years Cody was the star and producer of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show::
He knew how to dress the part — see the fancy duds he wore as the principal actor in the show:
This show traveled the breadth of North America and Europe performing to kings, queens and packed venues wherever it played. One of the featured acts was Annie Oakley — yes, Virginia there really was an Annie Oakley:
The petite Oakley was a dead shot. Sitting Bull a Native American Chief called her “The Princess”.
The museum does a wonderful job of showing the human-side of Cody too. He was married at an early age and fathered several children. However, as is the case with most driven and successful people his personal life eventually became a train wreck. Two children died of disease before adolescence. He was always traveling which put a tremendous strain on his marriage — eventually divorcing. His older children picked sides in their parent’s battles which ruined their lives as well. It seems one can rarely enjoy both public and private success.
Still, Cody can be thanked for eventually supporting Indian rights and women’s rights:
During his life Cody invested in a multitude of ventures including real estate; founding Cody Wyoming; funded a number of start-up businesses — booming and busting often yet re-inventing himself time and time again.
For all the fame and fortune he attracted he will forever best known for his Wild West Show — below are Cody with Annie Oakley and Siting Bull the stars of that extravaganza — and what a show it must have been :
I don’t think there is anyone like Cody alive today. I can only imagine what it would have been like to hear Buffalo Bill share his tales — I’m envious of these kids — aren’t you?