The doors of the Crystal Palace arena swung open and out thundered Buffalo Bill Cody steering a stagecoach with six galloping horses. Next came the whooping and yelling Sioux Indians shooting their guns as feathers from their war bonnets floated in the air behind them as they circled the arena.
It was all so exciting. Audiences didn’t care where the truth stopped and folklore started with Buffalo Bill. It was Cody’s Wild West Show, a world that gave people permission to escape for a few hours into a make-believe universe.
Buffalo Bill’s early program booklets pointed out that he was “young, sturdy, and a remarkable specimen of manly beauty.”
Even England’s Queen Victoria was intrigued. Her companion, Prince Albert, died 25 years earlier and she rarely left Buckingham Palace. If she wanted anything it was always brought to her at Windsor Castle.
She made an exception for Buffalo Bill. She was told his production was so huge it was impossible to move it in its entirety to Buckingham Palace.
So Victoria broke her own 25-year rule and travelled to Earl’s Court arena to see Buffalo Bill in person.
On May 11, 1887 Cody’s version of Wild West history was on full display for the Queen. Cowboys raced passed Her Majesty waving “Old Glory” as the “Star-spangled Banner” blared in the background.
The choreography was dazzling. All of a sudden for the first time in history The Queen stood and with an elegant bow saluted the American flag.
She said she had a great time and the Lakota Indians turned out to be her favorite part of the show. Victoria called them the best-looking people she had ever seen.
Her blessing that day turned Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show into the world’s premiere entertainment attraction. Show business was his forte.
Buffalo Bill basked in the spotlight and spent more than 45 years as a show business visionary. His real life adventures delivering mail for the Pony Express, scouting, fighting in the Civil War and slaughtering buffalo were almost as intriguing as the scenes he acted out on stage.
On the prairie Buffalo Bill would ride his horse full tilt into a herd of buffalo, and, with a pistol in both hands and the bridle reins between his teeth, he brought down the day’s supply of meat and then some.
He claimed to have killed 4,280 buffalo. Today, the killing of so many buffalo, almost to extinction, remains a sad chapter in American history.
“Buffalo Bill was a good fellow,” one old-time cowboy said. “While he was no great shakes as a scout as he made the eastern people believe, still we all liked him and we had to hand it to him because he was the only one that had brains enough to make that Wild West stuff pay money.”
On Jan 25, 2020, Old West eve3nts featured a selection of Buffalo Bill Cody items in its auction.
Here are some current values.
Letters; 3; hand-written and hand signed; to his friend Dorothy Deane “Dot” Newton Efner; framed and matted; with loose envelopes; $2,723.
Cased Cutlery Set; attributed to William F. Cody; English Ivory and silver handle carving set; knife and fork; $2,950.
Poster; original lithograph; featuring Buffalo Bill on horseback tipping his hat to the crowd; circa 1907; 38 inches by 28 inches; $4,130.
Poster; original lithograph; for CAPT. A. H. BOGARDUS AND HIS FOUR SONS/WITH BUFFALO BILL WILD WEST; Bogardus was both a world champion trap shooter and Wild West performer; believed to be the only surviving copy; circa 1884; 23 ½ inches by 29 inches; $17,700.