Excerpts from The Life and Adventures of “Buffalo Bill”

William F. Cody

Abstract and Keywords

No single person blended history and myth better than William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Literally a legend in his own time, Cody was simultaneously a real person and a fictional character of international fame. Cody’s heavily embellished life story of migration West as a youth from LeClaire, Iowa, over the plains and through the Rockies in the 1850s encompassed all of the experiences global audiences recognized as part of western frontier life: buffalo hunting, Indian fighting, bronc busting, gunslinging, and military scouting. In the 1880s, Cody’s “Wild West” shows featured real life westerners recreating idealized versions of contemporary western events. Cody traveled the world introducing Indian resistance leaders like Sitting Bull to various queens and the young German Kaiser Wilhelm, along with hoards of peasants from Paris to Poland.

Source: Colonel William F. Cody, The Life and Adventures of “BUFFALO BILL” (1917)

The Life and Adventures of “BUFFALO BILL”

Colonel William F. Cody

His Story shows his Devotion to Duty as a Child when Supporting his Widowed Mother, his Valuable Services to the Government while riding in the Famous “Pony Express” and Vividly Portrays his Thrilling Experiences as Hunter and Scout while acting as Guide to the Army and Trains of Prairie Schooners –His many Hair-breadth Escapes and Fights with Indians, Desperadoes and while Hunting Buffalo and other Wild Animals, as well as his Later Triumphs in Conducting the Tours of his Great Wild West Exhibition in the United States and Europe.

The whole work comprising an Authentic History of many Events inseparably interwoven with the Exploration, Settlement and Development of our Great Western Plains.



To the American and English publics, at whose generous hands have received so many favors, hospitable attention and numerous special kindnesses;


To the army of the frontier, the brave comrades and pioneers whose valorous deeds, though unwritten in their country’s annals, and whose graves are unmarked save by the soughing oak or the modest daisy, but who have left the heritage of a million happy and prosperous homes in the redeemed West,


Is inscribed, by one who holds their courageous lives in grateful remembrance.

W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill)


The evolution of government and of civilisation, and the adaptation of one to the other, are interesting to the student of history; but particularly fascinating is the story of the reclamation of the Great West and the supplanting of the wild savages that from primeval days were lords of the country but are now become wards of the Government, whose guardianship they were forced to recognize. This story is one well calculated to inspire a feeling of pride even in the breasts of those whose sentimentality impels to commiserate the hard lot of the poor Indian; for, rising above the formerly neglected prairies of the West are innumerable monuments of thrift, industry, intelligence, and all the contributory comforts and luxuries of a peaceful and God-fearing civilisation; those evidences that proclaim to a wondering world the march of the Anglo-Saxon race towards the attainment of perfect citizenship and liberal, free and stable government.

For the small part I have taken in redeeming the West from savagery, I am indebted to circumstances rather than to a natural, inborn inclination for the strifes inseparable from the life I was almost forced to choose. But to especially good fortune must I make my acknowledgments, which protected me or preserved my life a hundred times when the very hand of vengeful fate appeared to lower its grasp above my head, and hope seemed a mockery that I had turned my back upon. Good fortune has also stood ever responsive to my call since I first came before the public, and to the generous American and English peoples, as well as to kind fortune, I here pour out a full measure of profound thanks and hearty appreciation, and shall hold them gratefully in my memory as a remembrance of old friends, until the drum taps “lights out” at the close of the evening of my eventful life.

Sincerely Yours, W. F. Cody Buffalo Bill Front materials from Cody’s Autobiography

Printed from , all rights reserved. © Oxford University Press, 2020

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© Oxford University Press, 2020

ESSAY HINT: *In your essay analysis, after your discussion of the primary source, you may want to consider how Cody’s story, as he presents it, lends to the mythology of the American Wild West.

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