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Remmy spends most of a year with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West as the show performed from Saint Louis to New York in 1886-87.
It was only the 4th season for the Wild West, but they were in full stride. While the show and personnel changed every year and grew even larger after 1886, the basics did not change much.
William Frederick Cody had a uniquely American life. His family moved to Leavenworth, Kansas to help in the Bleeding Kansas struggle. His father fought against slavery, often giving speeches and teaching young Willy to do the same. When his father died, Willie started working for freight haulers at a young age. He rode for the Pony Express. He was a scout for the army during the Civil War, and again during the Indian wars. He earned his famous nickname while hunting meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad track laying crews.
He put together the Wild West in 1883, but had just about everything go wrong that could go wrong, loosing $50,000. The next year he teamed with Nate Salisbury who took over managing the show and turned it into the success it became. Cody was the big attraction as he was the most famous showman in the country. In 1885 they were able to hire Annie Oakley who quickly became the second biggest draw for customers.
The show made money every way possible. They sold the programs, which where small booklets. The above is part of a page. They inserted as many ads as possible to boast the revenue. The Union Metallic Cartridge Co. (on the left) is now Remington Arms. UMC sponsored Frank Butler, one of the show’s sharp shooters and husband of Annie Oakley.
This is the 1886 version of the Cowboy Band, an important part of the show.
Cody and Sitting Bull, 1885.
Cody in 1886.
Cody and some of the cowboys of the show. This is a later picture when Cody’s hair was turning gray. They boys are dressed like real cowboys, partly because they all were real cowboys. Chaps were standard to save wear and tear on the denims. Most of them are wearing the heavier winter versions probably because the looked better for the show. Notice Cody is wearing flashy clothing which had an influence on all western shows and later western movies. The tepees behind the men and the large white circus tent on back was all part of the normal setup. The large tent was either for the menagerie, costing an extra ticket, or the dining tent for the actors and crew.
This is the Indian contingent, and it appears that Cody is in the same outfit as for the cowboys, so the pictures were probably taken on the same day.
This is a more modern train, probably around 1900, carrying the Wild West to its next stop. By that time the show was so big it made up 3 trains.
Cody when he first went east to enter show business.
These men appear to be enjoying some melon.
Off loading the baggage horses and hitching them into teams to pull all the wagons off the flat cars.
Pulling a wagon of the flat cars. Slabs of steel were placed between the cars so the wagons could all be pulled to one end where a ramp was in place. You can see a line of wagons waiting to roll off.
A typical poster advertising the show.
The show ground seen from the Red Section, considered the high rent seats, and the Blue Sections along both sides. Behind the actors you see a long white stretch of canvas covering the opening to hid the off-stage business and to catch the flying buckshot. Nearly all shooting used small bird shot to minimize the chance of hurting someone. And no, it was not cheating; the choke was so tight that the pattern of shot was only slightly wider than a bullet.
Cody gave up solid shot when the show shot out half the glass in a nearby greenhouse.