Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, circa 1895.

Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, PG.168

The Amazing Buffalo Bill Cody

In many ways, Buffalo Bill Cody epitomized the West. As a young man, he was a Pony Express rider, a buffalo hunter, a U.S. Army scout and an Indian fighter. Later he invented an entertainment medium that would spread the romance of the West around the world.

So if he were magically to reappear in the town he founded, what would Buffalo Bill make of the historical center that bears his name and exudes his character?

“I think he might be a little embarrassed, but he would be pleased,” says Bob Pickering, the center’s Collier-Read Deputy Director for Collections and Education.

Despite Buffalo Bill’s reputation as a showman, he was modest. His legend was forged, sometimes with wild exaggeration, by dime novelists, press agents and several autobiographies, only a couple of which he actually wrote. Yet he was a canny promoter whose outlook informs the kind of institution the Historical Center is today.

“Buffalo Bill knew marketing, he knew the importance of objects, he knew the importance of education,” Pickering says. “One of the things he learned was that you take the show on the road. Buffalo Bill understood that having a multicultural, multinational audience was important to his success. It wasn’t good enough to just show the folks back home.”

So the museum takes the show on the road, whether in traveling exhibits to other museums, through virtual offerings or in personal digital assistant downloads for tourists going to or coming from Yellowstone. At the same time, Buffalo Bill would be proud of the collections in the museum he continues to inspire, Pickering says.

“He’d look at the people walking through the doors and walking around the galleries and having a good time, and I think he would be thrilled.” — K.M.

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