WILLIAM FREDERICK CODY / BUFFALO BILL PAPERS
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The William F. Cody Collection spans the years 1870-1980. The collection consists of correspondence between Cody and his family, friends, and business acquaintances; Wild West Show programs, advertisements and route cards; publications and memorabilia produced about Cody and copies of material in other collections. In addition, the collection includes numerous scrapbooks compiled by Nate Salsbury on the Wild West Shows.
Documentation of the Wild West Shows provides insight into the variety of the performances, tour routes, reaction by the public and the transitions of the performers and shows. The photographs from the collection were placed in the Western History Photograph Collection. Many of these images can be accessed on-line at the Denver Public Library's web site through the link to the Western History Photos. Material from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center was copied on to microfilm.
The donor, Mrs. James, deposited portions of her father's, Nate Salsbury, papers in the Collection of American Literature Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale and the New York Public Library Theater Collection. The University of Oklahoma holds two photograph collections, Gordon William Lillie and William M. Tilghman, that contain images of Buffalo Bill and the Wild West Shows.
The correspondence primarily concerns the Wild West Shows and the relationships between William F. Cody, his family, friends and business acquaintances. Extensive correspondence between Cody and William A. Bell, John Wallace Crawford and Nadeen Piatt is filed separately and arranged in chronological order. Remaining correspondence in the series includes letters from several of the men, working in the Wild West Show, to their families and letters between relatives regarding Cody and a portrait of him.
Material in the series consists of programs, route cards, brochures, advertisements, tickets and ephemera. The material is arranged first by format and secondly in chronological order. As documented by the material, the tour changed personnel and show titles quite frequently.
Most of writers composed the articles on Cody posthumously. The dime novels based on Cody, alias Buffalo Bill, were relocated to the Dime Novel Collection. Memorabilia consists of scrapbooks, advertisements featuring Cody, brochures and articles from exhibits on Cody and the Wild West Shows. This series includes material from organizations such as the Buffalo Bill Historic Center.
The Buffalo Bill's Ranch State Historical Park and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission own most of the papers copied. Correspondence between Cody and associates comprises the bulk of the series. In addition, copies of several newspaper articles, route cards and posters are included.
The series consists of a chronological file of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show performances. The list was developed by a volunteer, Jane Gould, who checked the Salsbury and other Cody scrapbooks, route cards, programs and the major books concerning Cody. The file slips are arranged chronologically by performance date, with a season usually lasting from April-December. Each entry includes the performance location, notes about an unusual event such as a storm or injury and the source of the information.
The series documents the Wild West Shows held by Pawnee Bill and other performers. Material includes programs, route books, correspondence and contracts.
Scrapbooks and folios of newspapers, books, musical scores and broadsides comprise the series. Nate Salsbury, who collected newspaper articles on Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows, compiled eleven of the scrapbooks. All of the Salsbury scrapbooks are available on microfilm (C MSS Mflm18). Due to the fragility of the scrapbooks, the microfilm must be used. One scrapbook consists of the Piatt's collection of material on their family and Cody. The photographs and documents in the Piatt scrapbook are copies. The original photos are part of the Western History Photograph Collection. In addition, the original papers are located in box 5. The remaining scrapbook of Cody's contains newspaper articles about his tour through the U.S. during 1901.
This series consists of microfilm of 11 scrapbooks of newspaper articles on Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows compiled by Nate Salsbury. Also included on the microfilm is William F. Cody's private scrapbook of clippings from European tours (1887, 1890), a scrapbook of clippings from British papers about the Wild West Show in the American Exhibition, London compiled by Johnny Baker and a scrapbook made by Usher L. Burdick of loose clippings found in the back of Johnny Baker's scrapbook.
The collection is open for research. Please use photocopies or microfilm instead of fragile original material.
Literary rights and copyrights have been assigned to the Denver Public Library.
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.
William Frederick Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa, during 1846 but grew up on the Kansas plains. When his father succumbed to illness in 1857 Cody sought work. Hired by the firm Russell, Majors and Waddell, Cody began working as a cattle driver and later as a Pony Express rider and stagecoach driver. At the age of 20, Cody achieved a reputation as a daring scout and buffalo hunter. During his brief stint in the Union Army during the Civil War, he met Louisa Frederici in St. Louis. They married in 1866. He and his bride returned to Kansas.
Cody's work as a scout and a buffalo hunter led to several important encounters, which shaped his future and fame. Cody's skill as a hunter for the railroads, became the source of his legends, earning him the name "Buffalo Bill" and leading to several career-influencing engagements. A dime novelist, Ned Buntline, traveling the west in search of new material, was introduced to Cody. From their meeting, Buntline gained numerous ideas for future novels. During the next four decades, more than 200 novels featuring "Buffalo Bill" were published. Through these publications, the East Coast learned about Cody's exploits as a buffalo hunter and Indian fighter.
Celebrities, including the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia and several wealthy New York businessmen, called upon Cody to lead several hunting expeditions. At the invitation of the businessmen, Cody traveled to New York in 1872. Once he arrived, he discovered his reputation preceded him as he went to the theater to see the play, Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men. E.Z.C. Judson and Ned Buntline, convinced Cody to appear on stage. Judson quickly wrote and produced The Scouts of the Plains. The play was a box-office success and for several years Cody appeared in a number of stage shows. Through these performances, Cody met Nate Salsbury who would later manage his Wild West Shows.
For several years, Cody alternated between the stage and his work as a scout and mediator in the last of the Indian wars. In 1883, Cody assisted with forming a traveling troupe that brought life in the West to the cities in the East and Midwest. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show toured for the next three decades, visiting almost every important city in the U.S. The Show played at the World Cotton Exposition in New Orleans in 1884 and the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Cody's troupe visited the Vatican and toured England and France.
Touring became difficult for Cody in later years. After Salsbury died in 1902, Cody found himself going deeper in debt to operate the tours. In 1913, agents seized the show to pay creditors. In 1914, Cody toured with the Sells-Floto Circus and by 1916, he began suffering the infirmities of old age. In 1916, he traveled to Denver to stay with his sister. He died on January 10, 1917 in her home. He is buried atop Lookout Mountain, outside of Denver.
9 boxes (9 linear feet -- original material)
5 boxes (5 linear feet -- copies)
8 oversize boxes
4 microfilm reels (Mflm18)
Language of Materials
Other Finding Aids
The Denver Public Library purchased the nucleus of the William F. Cody Collection from Mrs. Rebecca James, the daughter of Nate Salsbury, in January 1948. J. E. Reynolds donated material in 1938. Since then, additions to the collection have come from a variety of sources.
Photographs from the Buffalo Bill Collection can be viewed through the Denver Public Library web site at the Photography Collection, Western History/Genealogy Department, http://gowest.coalliance.org/
1898-1938 Piatt Scrapbook (copies) relocated to the Western History Photograph Collection.
Boxes: 9 boxes of original material, 5 boxes of copies
Oversize boxes: 8
Microfilm reels: 4
- WILLIAM FREDERICK CODY / BUFFALO BILL PAPERS
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