West 2016: Buffalo Bill Center of the West


Day 10, Sunday, August 14, 2016

It’s not everyday that one man gets a huge museum dedicated to him, but the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming is just that.  Here you can learn everything you want to know about Buffalo Bill.

Museum Entrance

Buffalo Bill was born William Frederick Cody in 1846, in Iowa.  His father died when he was only 11, and as the legend goes, he took work as a Pony Express rider and made a daring, physically challenging ride of 322 miles without a break (although the horses were switched out).  But the truth is, it never happened.  Bill was in school when the Pony Express was operating and never worked for them.  He did in fact ride for a messenger service, but he only transported messages a distance of three miles.  Bill did serve in the Civil War, after having been in some trouble leading up to it, and then gained his fame as a bison hunter after the war.  He worked for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, killing bison to provide food for the men who were working their way across the west building the rail line.  He was apparently a very good shot and killed an awful lot of bison.

He was also extremely good at promoting himself.  He told his stories, and was apparently a very likable guy, so people wanted to listen to him.  He started his Wild West Show – it ran in various versions for over 30 years, from 1883 to 1916, and it traveled the U.S. and even in Europe.  He was able to get famous Native Americans to participate, including Sitting Bull and Standing Bear, as well as horsemen from around the world.  There were trick riders and sharpshooters, and other types of cowboys, Indians, and Buffalo soldiers.  The show had it all…

The museum details all of this, as well as his personal trials, family life and death in 1917.  It is very well done.

Buffalo Bill Portrait

Of course, the museum is really five in one, with the Draper Natural History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum and the Plains Indian Museum, in addition to the Buffalo Bill Museum.  There is also a research library.  You could spend several days there, and still not feel like you saw it all.

We spent a solid half day in the museum, and tried to see what we could.  We visited on the last day that we were headed into Yellowstone National Park, traveling that afternoon down through Grand Teton National Park to stay two nights in Jackson, Wyoming.  My mom had an advantage, as she had visited before on a previous trip.

I really liked that the Natural History Museum indicated where their mounted animals had come from (sadly, lots of them had been killed by cars).  The Western Art Museum had some really amazing pieces, and I enjoyed the reproduction art studio of Frederic Remington.

If you have a chance, it is well worth the $19 price of admission; be sure to allow plenty of time.

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