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Today in Old-West History -- On today’s date 175 years ago, Thursday, February 26, 1846, famous Victorian-Era American buffalo hunter, U.S. Army Scout, & Wild West showman Colonel William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917) was born on a farm near the town of Le Claire in Scott County, Iowa Territory.
William Cody began his working career at the age of eleven following his father’s death -- employed as a mounted messenger for a railroad company.
In 1860, after trapping beaver, Cody joined the Gold Rush to Pike’s Peak, Colorado. In the same year, he briefly rode for the Pony Express, during which time, according to his own accounts, he set several riding endurance records.
During the War Between the States (1861-1865), Bill Cody served in a guerrilla group loyal to the Union & then in the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.
In 1868, Cody was appointed chief of scouts for the Fifth U.S. Cavalry, & during the next year his Western-Frontier exploits became nationally famous when author Ned Buntline (1821-1886) wrote his first dime novel -- with Buffalo Bill as the hero.
In 1872, Cody won the Medal of Honor, led the hunting party of Grand Duke Alexis of Russia along with George Armstrong Custer, & was persuaded by Ned Buntline to act in his play, “The Scouts of the Plains,” which started Cody on his entertainment career.
Over the next decade, Cody alternately took to the frontier or the stage, & in 1883 he organized his famous “Wild West Show” -- an open-air extravaganza featuring horses & riders in a variety of displays that included reenactments of legendary frontier events. For the next three decades, the show toured across the United States & Europe.
On May 11, 1887, Buffalo Bill presented a command performance of his Wild West Show for Queen Victoria in the city of London, England.
In 1895, Cody was instrumental in founding the town of Cody, the county seat of Park County Wyoming, where he opened several inns & hotels, & established the TE Ranch, where, in his spacious ranch house, he entertained notable guests from Europe & America.
It has been stated by several noted historians that, by the turn of the 20th Century, Buffalo Bill Cody was the most recognizable celebrity on the face of the Earth.
The circa-1890 cabinet-card photograph depicts the visage of Buffalo Bill Cody at around the age of 44.
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