Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Polzin, Donald E., 1930-||Arnold, Richard L., 1928-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show


This study deals with various phases of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show from its first production on May 19, 1883, to its demise on September 15, 1913. The purpose is to study the origins, changing contents, behind-the-scenes activities, and eventual decline of Buffalo Bill’s wild West Show. This study also reconstructs the first Wild West Show, the 1887 London show, and the 1893 Chicago show and clarifies William Frederick Cody’s distinct contribution to the field of entertainment. The primary sources for this study are programs of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, newspaper and magazine accounts of the show, and The New York Dramatic Mirror. Other primary sources are the Julia Cody Goodman Scrapbook, the Frank J. North Collection, the Richard Jerome Tanner Collection, Robert L. Parkinson’s "Scrapbooks of Newspaper Advertising," and Project 21. These sources are found in special collections at Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois; Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska) Scouts Rest Ranch, North Platte, Nebraska; and the Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin. This paper is organized according to various topics on Buffalo Bill’s Mild West Show. The study establishes the basic format of the Wild West Show program and explains the changes occurring in Cody’s show between 1883 and 1916. It discusses the behind-the-scenes attraction of the show and presents reconstructions of the 1887 London show and the 1893 Chicago show. It presents the reasons for the decline of the 1913 show. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is discussed by this study as a distinct form of nineteenth century American entertainment which used authentic westerns to portray actual events in the history of the American West. The Introduction includes the statement of the problem, the limitations of the study, a review of the literature, and methods of study and research procedures. Chapter I establishes the origin of the Wild West Show and reconstructs the first Wild West Show which established the format for all subsequent Wild West Shows. Chapter II describes the changing contents of Buffalo Bill’s West Show between 1883 and 1916 and explains how these changes occurred in the framework of the seven features established in 1683. Chapter III provides a sketch of the Wild West Show’s campgrounds. Chapter IV reconstructs Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in London, 1887. Chapter V reconstructs Buffalo Blll’s Wild West Show in Chicago, 1893. The Conclusion is a summary of the findings of this study.


Includes bibliographical references.


99 pages




Northern Illinois University

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