William Frederick Cody "Buffalo Bill", a Biography & Chronology in Photos

William Frederick Cody known as "Buffalo Bill" was a larger than life Western frontiersman & one of America's greatest showmen. Over 85 original photos by Jim Steinhart trace William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody's life. Most of the pictures were made at three important travel attractions: his home called Scout's Rest in North Platte, Nebraska (now a State Park); the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, a town Buffalo Bill literally put on the map; & Cody's Gravesite & Museum atop Lookout Mountain in Colorado.

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  • February 26, 1846: William Frederick Cody born in Scott County, Iowa.
  • 1848: Cody family moves to nearby Le Claire, Iowa.
  • 1853-4: Cody family moves to Missouri then Salt Creek Valley, Kansas near Leavenworth.
Cody's portrait on horseback (1916) Poster of Scenes in Life of W.F. Cody
  • 1857-59: Cody, age 12, works as mounted messenger for Majors & Russell Co. in Kansas, who later start Pony Express.
  • 1858: Cody works as bullwhacker on wagon train bound for Fort Laramie.
  • 1858: Cody traps beaver over winter.
  • 1860: Cody joins gold rush to Pike's Peak.
Fort Laramie Cody trapping beavers
  • 1860-61: Cody rides for Pony Express setting record of 322 miles in a day when next rider fails to show up. Cody later makes Pony Express an act in Wild West Show, spreading the legend.
Pony Express ad sign (1860) Pony Express Mochila saddle
  • 1862-4: Cody fights aside Kansas freebooters (horse thieves) during Civil War.
  • 1864-Sept. 1865: Cody formally enlists in Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.
  • 1865: Cody works as a scout & dispatch bearer for General William Tecumseh Sherman in Kansas.
Cody as scout for army
  • March 6, 1866: Cody marries Louisa Maud Fredirici, then retires to run a hotel.
  • 1867: Cody scouts for Colonel George Armstrong Custer at Fort Hays & for William B. Hazen & Philip H. Sheridan out of Forts Larned, Hays & Dodge.
  • 1867-68: Cody contracted to shoot buffalo meat for Kansas Pacific Railroad workers & gains nickname "Buffalo Bill".
  • Winter 1868: Cody guides relief train to General Sheridan's troops guided by Wild Bill Hickock.
Cody hunting buffalo Painting of Cody, buffalo hunter Cody guiding Sheridan's relief train Poster of Generals served by Cody
  • 1869-72: Cody moves to Nebraska to become a scout for the Fifth Cavalry at Fort McPherson. Cody becomes chief of scouts.
Fort McPherson HQ building (1863) Fort McPherson HQ interior
  • 1869: Ned Buntline (Edward Z.C. Judson) writes first of 550 dime novels* featuring Buffalo Bill.
  • Buffalo Bill becomes subject of many publications over the years; many printed to promote his shows.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West book (1887) Buffalo Bill's Daring Deed Dime novel (1888) Art for British Buffalo Bill Magazine (c1908-15) Dime novels on Buffalo Bill (1911-12) Scouts of Great Wild West with Buffalo Bill book (c1913) Buffalo Bill Weekly (1917)
  • 1870: Cody works as Justice of the Peace.
  • 1870: Cody son, Kit Carson Cody, born at Fort McPherson but dies 1876.
Cody's as Justice of the Peace
  • May 22, 1872: Cody awarded Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in battle against an Indian tribe at Birdwood Creek but Congress revokes award June 16, 1916, because he was a scout & not officially a soldier. His award is finally reinstated by Congress, July 1989.
Cody's Medal of Honor Cody as Indian Fighter
  • 1872: Cody & General Custer guide buffalo hunting party & stage "Indian" show for Grand Duke Alexis, son of Czar of Russia, a visit arranged by General Sheridan. Event makes Cody & Custer international celebrities.
Cody guiding Duke Alexis Painting of Duke Alexis royal hunt
  • 1872: Cody starts 11-season acting career playing himself in a melodramas of frontier life.
  • 1873: Cody forms "Buffalo Bill Combination" show with Buntline, Texas Jack Omohundro & Wild Bill Hickock. First show written by Buntline is "Scouts of the Prairie". Cody cuts back his scouting to summers.
Buffalo Bill Combination poster (c1870s) Buffalo Bill Combination poster (1877) Poster for Prairie Waif (c1877) Heroes of the Plains book (1881) about Wild Bill & Buffalo Bill
  • 1876: Cody scouts for General George Crook's Yellowstone expedition.
  • July 17, 1876: Cody kills Cheyenne war leader Yellow Hair (aka Yellow Hand) in a gunfight at Hat Creek, Nebraska. Cody takes scalp in revenge for death of Custer 22 days earlier. Fight becomes legend in dime novels & stage tableaus.
  • 1878: Cody starts using reservation Indians as actors.
  • 1879: Cody begins speaking for Indian rights.
Chief Iron Tail, star in Wild West show Headdress of Short Bull, star in Wild West show Indian items used in shows
  • July 4, 1882: As local festival, Cody organizes "Old Glory Blowout" in North Platte, NE, which inspires his Wild West show.
  • May 19, 1883: Buffalo Bill opens first Wild West show in Omaha, Nebraska.
Cody's personal saddle (1880s)
  • 1884: Annie Oakley joins show as "Little Sure Shot".
Poster of Annie Oakley Annie Oakley's saddle Annie Oakley's gloves
  • 1885-86: Sitting Bull joins the show for a season & becomes Cody's friend. Sitting Bull is killed in 1890 while being arrested.
Cody with Sitting Bull Lamp with Cody & Sitting Bull
Scout's Rest Barn at Scout's Rest Cody's Scout's Rest
  • 1887: Cody appointed Colonel in Nebraska National Guard.
Cody's medal from Nebraska National Guard
  • 1887: Cody's Wild West Co. incorporated with President Cody & Treasurer Salsbury each having 35/100 shares & Frank C. Maeder, Milton E. Milner & William D. Guthrie the other shareholders.
Cody Stock Certificate Cody portrait (c1887)
  • 1887: Cody's Wild West show goes to London as part of American Exhibition at Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
  • Ocean crossing uses 14 chartered steam ships.
Poster of American Exhibition in London (1887) Poster of Royal visitors to 1887 London show Kings who saw 1887 London show Poster of International Friendship (c1888)
  • 1889: Cody's show plays at Exposition Universal in Paris & performs before French president & cabinet.
Cody troop under Eiffel Tower (1889) French President Carnot at Cody show (1889)
  • 1890: Cody's show tours Italy & Cody meets Pope & King Humbert.
Cody performing at Mt. Vesuvius (1890) Cody meets Pope Leo XIII (1890) Cody entertains Italian King Humbert (1890)
  • 1891: Cody's show tours Belgium & Germany playing before Kings & Kaiser.
King of Belgium, Kaiser Wilhelm, Bismarck (1891)
  • 1892: Cody show plays before Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.
  • 1892: Cody creates Wild West, Congress of Rough Riders of the World show.
Cody before Queen Victoria (1892)
  • 1893: Snubbed by not being invited by World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Cody's partner Salsbury rents land around expo's entrance for Cody's shows, creating a captive audience of those passing to attend fair.
Cody show at Colombian World's Fair, Chicago (1893) Chicago World's Fair glass souvenir (1893) Ruby glassware from Wild West at Chicago Columbian Exposition
  • 1894: Cody awarded Masonic life membership.
  • 1894: Cody speaks out for women's suffrage & conservation.
Cody's Masonic uniform Cody's Masonic life membership certificate Cody's Masonic sword
  • 1895 on: Cody develops town of Cody, Wyoming, including, his TE Ranch, his Hotel Irma (1902) & takes tourists to Yellowstone Park along a road he built. Cody also creates a dam, canal & railroad, but town's investment does not pay off in his lifetime.
Carriage from TE Ranch TE Ranch brand on carriage Hotel Irma in Cody, WY
  • 1896: Cody show grows to hundreds performers, horses, wagons & buffalo requiring dozens of rail cars & hundreds of tents. Cody poster claims largest arena exhibition in history.
View of size of Wild West show (1896) Wild West band uniform
  • 1890s: Wild West, Congress of Rough Riders of the World show creates ever more elaborate posters.
White Eagle poster of Congress of Rough Riders (1890s) Red Cloud poster of Congress of Rough Riders (1890s) Plunging Bucker poster of Congress of Rough Riders (c1895) Cossacks on Congress of Rough Riders poster (1898) Cowboy's Fun poster of Congress of Rough Riders (1898) Cowboy on Congress of Rough Riders poster (c1901) Gaucho on Congress of Rough Riders poster (c1901) Caballeros on Congress of Rough Riders poster (c1901) Custer's Last Stand by Wild West show poster (1904)
  • 1902: Cody business partner Nate Salsbury dies.
Nate Salsbury
  • 1903: Cody show returns to Europe.
Poster of Buffalo Bill with King Edward VII (1903) Plate of Buffalo Bill & King Edward VII Plate of Buffalo Bill in London (1903) Entente Cordiale with France on Congress of Rough Riders poster (1905) Wild West Tour of France poster (1905)
  • 1908: Facing bankruptcy due to lack of Salsbury's business talent, Cody is forced to be subsumed by Pawnee Bill's Great Far East show. Pawnee Bill (Gordon William Lillie 1860-1942) worked for Cody as scout translator & actor before Lillie started own show in 1888.
Poster of Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill shows (c1908) Thrilling Lives of Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill book (1911) Poster of Wild West Girls in Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill show (c1910) Poster of Oriental Vision for Buffalo Bill's Wild West & Pawnee Bill's Show (c1912) Poster of Chief Iron Tail for Buffalo Bill's Wild West & Pawnee Bill's Show (c1912)
  • 1910: Cody begins series of farewell appearances.
  • 1912: Cody appears in movie Life & Adventures of Buffalo Bill.
  • 1913: Pawnee Bill's show folds.
Cody's Farewell Poster (c1912) Cody's Movie Poster (1912)
  • 1914: Cody makes unhappy tour with Sells-Floto Circus.
  • 1916: Cody makes his final appearance with Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West show.
Poster of Buffalo Bill in Sells-Floto Circus (1914)
  • January 10, 1917: Cody dies in Denver, Colorado, & is buried on Lookout Mountain.
  • 1921: Louisa Maud Cody dies & is buried next to Buffalo Bill.
Codys' graves Cody grave
Note: * Dime novel refers to printing format, not price.

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All photos on this page are originals by & copyrighted by Jim Steinhart.All rights reserved. Permission required to use.