CHEYENNE, Wyo. More than a century ago, Buffalo Bill Cody
took Wyoming to the world with his Wild West show.
His trick-roping cowboys, stern-faced Indian chiefs and exotic
animal displays made Cody a celebrity in East Coast cities and
European capitals alike. With his ever-present hat and distinctive
goatee, Cody hobnobbed with kings and presidents as one of the best
known U.S. citizens of his day.
Now Wyoming is planning to scour the world for the showman's
correspondence to compile a definitive historical reference work on
its most famous ambassador.
"I truly believe that Buffalo Bill was an epic character in
Wyoming's history, especially northwest Wyoming, and America's
history,'' said state Rep. Colin Simpson, who pushed through
legislation this spring to put up $300,000 in state money to kick
off the Buffalo Bill papers project.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in the city of Cody is
raising funds to match the state's investment.
Kurt Graham, a curator at the historical center, said the
project will go beyond a compendium of letters. It will be
carefully annotated to explain the significance of what Cody wrote,
who he was writing to, who wrote to him and how those papers fit
into the historical fabric of his day, he said.
The documents will be posted online, and printed editions will
be given to libraries at the University of Wyoming and the state's
Graham believes the state's investment will help the project
secure federal grant money. Similar projects have collected the
papers of American presidents and other figures.
"This project is important because it at long last, finally
provides funding for a level of research that's equal to its
subject and the importance of that subject in Wyoming and its
history,'' said Milward Simpson, director of the Wyoming Department
of State Parks and Cultural Resources, which is in charge of
administering the state money for the project.
According to a biography prepared by the historical center, Cody
was born in Iowa in 1846. He rode for the Pony Express before
serving as a Union cavalry scout in the Civil War. After the war,
he began hunting bison for railroad crews and later was awarded the
Medal of Honor for his service as a scout during the Indian Wars.
An expert marksman, Cody worked as a hunting guide taking
dignitaries such as Grand Duke Alexis of Russia into the field. In
1883, he created Buffalo Bill's Wild West, the show he led for the
next 30 years.
Cody founded the city in northwestern Wyoming that bears his
name and developed the irrigation system that allowed agricultural
development of Big Horn Basin. His Irma Hotel, named after his
daughter, still stands. He died in 1917 in Colorado, where he is
Milward Simpson, who is Colin Simpson's cousin, said Buffalo
Bill is as important to Wyoming as Benjamin Franklin is to
"He shaped the West and so much of what we value in ourselves
and in Wyoming,'' he said.