“The West of the old times, with its strong characters, its stern battles, and its tremendous stretches of loneliness, can never be blotted from my mind.” (Buffalo Bill Cody)
The Wild West has made legends out of many men and women through the embellishment of their stories, but it was Buffalo Bill Cody who truly brought the Wild West to life and provided the images that people today still associate with the 19th century West. Though he had a long career that spanned service in the Civil War, trapping, and even a stint with the Pony Express, Buffalo Bill eventually became synonymous with his world-famous Wild West Show. By depicting stereotypical Western scenes like riding the Pony Express and gunfights between cowboys and Indians, Buffalo Bill became one of the men most responsible for establishing how the public remembered the Wild West, and the show influenced subsequent film and literature. The show also featured several kinds of activities that are still part of rodeos today, including riding bucking broncos, roping livestock, and target shooting.
Wild West shows were popular in America during the late 19th century, but it was Buffalo Bill who made them popular overseas and truly mastered the art of showmanship. Employing famous figures of the era, including Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill managed to make national celebrities out of his show’s participants while deftly promoting himself as the ultimate showman, making himself one of the most famous figures of the Wild West in the process. With plenty of experience shooting bison and riding for the Pony Express, Buffalo Bill would also participate as a cowboy in his own show.