23 – Exceptionally Rare Buffalo Bill Poster

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

If you had to select the most famous figure from the “Wild West”, Buffalo Bill would be at the top of that list – exactly how he wanted it.
William Frederick Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, was born in Iowa in 1846. In 1853, while living in Kansas, his father Isaac gave an impassioned speech advocating for anti-slavery during which he was stabbed twice with a Bowie knife. He eventually died in 1857 due to complications stemming from his wounds.
Thus at age 11, out of financial necessity for his family, William Cody began his storied string of occupations. This included ranch hand, mail carrier, Army scout, veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars, wagon train driver, town developer, railroad contractor, bison hunter, fur trapper, gold prospector and, of course, celebrity and entertainer.
In 1869 he met the popular dime-novelist Ned Buntline who published a story based on “Buffalo Bill’s” experiences (Cody had recently picked-up the nickname as a bison hunter for the railroad). Buntline’s story of Cody had a quite healthy dose of fiction and became a major hit. The legend of Buffalo Bill was born.
By 1883, Cody’s popularity had grown to the point where he decided to fully capitalize. He founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” – a touring, circus-like event aimed at bringing the Wild West to the masses. His shows featured such performers as “Wild Bill” Hickok, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and Geronimo. The show became so successful it eventually toured Europe and made Buffalo Bill a bona fide international celebrity.
In 1908 the show began to experience financial difficulties which prompted Cody to sell 1/3 of the interest to another performer, Pawnee Bill. Together they performed until Pawnee bought the remaining interest while retaining Cody as an employee. The show eventually folded for good in 1913 in Denver, Colorado.
The poster pictured here was produced in 1908 and features both Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill along with an unknown character simply named “Arrow-head”. While any Buffalo Bill’s Wild West poster is a prized possession, this particular poster is an exceptionally rare variant. It is in nearly pristine condition and is proudly displayed for all to enjoy.