Tuesday, January 10, 2017

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody passes on

William F. Cody, a figure truly "fabled in song and story", died on this day in 1917 in Denver, Colorado.

 Cody in 1903.

Cody was born in 1846 in Iowa but spent his early years in Toronto, Ontario, before his family returned to US, settling in Kansas.  His father died when he was eleven and he went to work as a mounted messenger.   He jointed the Pony Express at age 14.  And he served as a teenage civilian scout to the U.S. Army during the Mormon War.  He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and then as a scout for the Army thereafter, winning the Medal of Honor in 1872.

 William F. Cody as a Union soldier.

His award of the Medal of Honor was at a time at which it was the nation's only military medal and the criteria were less severe than they later became.  His was one of hundreds stricken under a military review that was tightening up the requirements in 1917, although mercifully that came the month after his death.  The medal, however, was restored in his case, in 1989.  The restoration included four other civilian scouts.  Interestingly, although Cody was a showman, he never made a big deal of having received the medal.

 Cody as an Army scout.  His appearance here is typical for the era, including some shirt embellishments that were quite common, but not what we'd normally associate with the rugged frontier today.

After serving as s civilian scout Cody became a buffalo hunter, as is well known.  He hunted under a contract with the Kansas Pacific Railway in order to supply meat to railroad construction crews.

Cody in 1880.  Cody appears to be armed with a sporting version of the trapdoor Springfield military rifle in this photograph.

In 1883 he founded is Wild West Show, which resulted in the spread and preservation of his name, although he had appeared on stage as early as 1872.  His show toured the globe.

In 1895 he was instrumental in founding the town in Park County, Wyoming, that bears his name.  He entered ranching in the area at the same time.  He also founded the Erma Hotel.

He was for forty years to Louisa Frederici, although in the early 20th Century Cody sued her for divorce. Divorce was not automatic in those days and he lost the suit and, in fact, the couple later reconciled.  The couple had four children but Cody would outlive three of them and Louisa outlived all of them.  He was baptized as a Catholic the day prior to his death.  His funeral was held in Denver and buried at Lookout Mountain near Golden Colorado that summer.  Efforts by partisans in Wyoming to have him relocated to Cody lead to the grave site being reinforced to prevent that from occurring involuntarily.

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