John Steuart CurryU.S. 1897-1946
Wild Bill Cody or Frontiersman 79.0022
In this lithograph, John Steuart Curry has given us the two versions of Wild Bill, the real and the celebrity, the frontiersman and the showman. William Frederick Cody, or "Wild Bill," was born in Scott County, Iowa in 1846. When his father died, the family moved to Kansas where Cody worked for a wagon freight company. He tried his luck at the gold mines at Pike's Peak in 1859 and a year later joined the Pony Express at age fourteen. They wanted "skinny, expert riders willing to risk death daily." Cody fit the description perfectly. Cody served as a Union scout during the Civil War and then as a cavalryman and dispatch rider in Kansas. After the war he took up the trade that gave him his nickname, hunting buffalo to feed the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. By his own count he killed 4,280 head of buffalo in seventeen months. During this time, "Buffalo Bill" as William came to be called, was gaining popularity in the dime novels of Ned Buntline as a mythic folk hero. Buntline persuaded Cody to assume his larger than life role on stage in 1872 by starring in a series of western theme plays. Cody later starred in his own outdoor extravaganza, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," a show that dramatized the more picturesque elements of frontier life.
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