From the archives: Wild West icon and showman 'Buffalo' Bill Cody
Buffalo Bill Cody led an extraordinary life, and then re-created it in stage shows for thrilled audiences.
William Frederick Cody was born near Le Claire, where his father, Isaac, had settled after moving from Ohio. Billy learned to do stunts on horseback in the family's pasture. The child was already an accomplished cowboy by the time the Codys moved to Kansas Territory in 1854. He made a name for himself at age 14 by delivering mail with the Pony Express.
On reaching adulthood, Cody had been a teamster on wagon trains, had participated in the Colorado gold rush, served in the Army, driven a stagecoach, served as a civilian scout for the U.S. Cavalry and fought in Indian skirmishes. He earned his nickname by killing more than 4,000 buffalo to feed railroad workers in Kansas.
In 1872, Cody started a career in entertainment, performing in western shows. He created his own "wild west" show in 1883. It made its debut in Omaha, then played all over the United States as well as in Europe, where Cody performed before royalty.
The extravaganza included trick riding, marksmanship and the dramatization of Indian and animal attacks and natural disasters such as tornadoes. The show was a huge success, entertaining more than 50 million people between 1883 and 1916.
Cody received the Medal of Honor for his work as a scout.
He lost his fortune in bad investments and died in 1917, broken and ill in Denver, Colorado. He is buried atop Lookout Mountain.
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