Cody Celebrates 125th Anniversary; Here are 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Town Founder Buffalo Bill Cody
CODY, Wyo., March 23, 2021 – He was the most interesting man in the world long before that Dos Equis guy. Buffalo Bill Cody founded a town, entertained royalty, staged an epic traveling show without the aid of Google or Expedia, developed a newspaper, operated a hotel and championed the rights of women, children and minorities. Historians are fascinated by his quirky, colorful life. And nearly 1 million travelers seeking a great American adventure visit the town he built just outside of Yellowstone National Park every year.
As Cody – the town – celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, it’s a good time for a look back on the life and times of this remarkable man.
“The most imaginative Hollywood writer couldn’t craft a screenplay nearly as interesting as the true stories of Buffalo Bill Cody’s life, many which stretch the margins of believability,” said
Claudia Wade, executive director of Cody Yellowstone, the marketing arm of the region that includes Cody, Meeteetse and Powell as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. “Colonel William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody was a man who packed a great deal into his 71-year life. We think he’d be pleased that his legacy lives on.”
Cody Yellowstone visitors will learn about Buffalo Bill’s life and times as they explore the Smithsonian-affiliated Buffalo Bill Center of the West, experience the always-entertaining Cody Nite Rodeo and visit historic attractions like Pahaska Tepee, his hunting lodge, and the Irma Hotel, which he built in 1902 and named after his daughter. While visitors will certainly leave with a better understanding of the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, it is difficult to absorb a complete picture of a man who was legendary even in his own time.
Here are some nuggets of Buffalo Bill Cody’s life that are not widely known:
He once claimed “the world” as his residence. On the tail end of a lengthy hunting trip throughout the West in 1902, he pulled his six-horse stagecoach to a stop in front of Salt Lake City’s Templeton Hotel and registered for a room. He signed the hotel register “W.F. Cody, Buffalo Bill,” and in the space to list his residence, merely wrote “the world.”
We were this close to having a Buffalo Bill Comstock. While employed as a hunter to supply bison meat to railroad workers, Bill Cody engaged in an eight-hour competition with another hunter, Bill Comstock, to see who could shoot the most bison and earn the “Buffalo Bill” nickname. Cody shot 68 bison – about one every seven minutes, soundly beating Comstock’s total of 48 bison.
He was lousy with money. Although he built a fortune with his Wild West Show, he was a generous lender to friends on the down and out, and he made a series of bad investments that ultimately led to financial ruin. One of the final financial blows was in 1902 when he lost much of his Wild West profits in an unsuccessful mining venture in Arizona. He was deeply in debt when he died in 1917.
He even tried his hand in journalism. Buffalo Bill started the Cody Enterprise in 1899, three years after founding the town of Cody, which had grown to a population of 300. The newspapers is still in operation today under the same masthead.
Buffalo Bill got his sense of fairness honestly. His father Isaac barely survived an 1853 stabbing following an antislavery speech he delivered in Fort Leavenworth, then part of the Kansas Territory. Pro-slavery sentiment in the town made life difficult for the Cody family, and at one point, a plot to murder Isaac was foiled when young William, not yet 10 years old, rode 30 miles to warn him of the plan.
He became a household name because of an imaginative dime novelist. Learning of his feats as a hunter and scout, novelist Ned Buntline authored a book called “Buffalo Bill, the King of the Border Men,” the first of some 550 dime novels about the larger-than-life character.
Buffalo Bill’s life has inspired many artists, even long after his death. Mark Twain described his “Wild West Show” as the country’s most “distinctly American pop-culture export to the world.” F. Scott Fitzgerald combined the personalities of Buffalo Bill and Daniel Boone to create “Dan Cody,” a character in “The Great Gatsby.” Film director and screenwriter Sam Peckinpah had Buffalo Bill in mind when he created Randolph Scott’s character in “Ride the High Country.” Even the Beatles found inspiration in their lighthearted, satirical song “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.”
Upon his death in Colorado, his estranged wife Louisa sold his body for $10,000. The publisher of the Denver Post and the city of Denver bought the rights to bury Buffalo Bill’s body. The Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum in Golden may – or may not – be his final burial place, though. Some Cody residents still believe the story about an elaborate plot to steal his body from the mortuary and return it to Cody where he wanted to be buried.
Prominent friends formed the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association shortly after his death. Through the association, they secured funding from the Wyoming Legislature and commissioned sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to create “The Scout,” a bronze sculpture that stands near the entrance to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Cody was a Freemason who achieved the rank of Knight Templar in 1889 and 32-degree rank in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1894.
Cody was an ardent supporter of rights for women and minorities, and he insisted on equal pay for all members of his traveling shows, regardless of gender. “What we want to do is give women even more liberty than they have,” he once said. “Let them do any kind of work they see fit, and if they do it as well as men, give them equal pay.”
Buffalo Bill received a Medal of Honor while serving the Third Cavalry Regiment as a civilian scout. Congress later rescinded the medal, as well as all others awarded to civilians. In 1989, Cody’s medal was officially reinstated.
He was known as a fearless Indian fighter, but he was also a committed advocate for the rights of American Indians. He once said, “Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government.”
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations