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tv   Buffalo Bill Frontier Myth  CSPAN  February 12, 2021 11:54am-1:06pm EST

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sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern on "oral histories," virginia coleman describes her experiences as a chemist for the manhattan project at oak ridge to build the atomic bomb, and monday at 7:30 p.m. eastern on "american artifacts" photographer and storyteller john ploschel on the 4 giant bust of presidents decaying on private property. watch that this weekend on c-span3. in 2017 the buffalo bill center of the west in cody, women, marked the 100th anniversary of buffalo bill's death during a symposium with western historian paul hutton. he smoke about how william cody became a sin pom of the frontier and influenced the american perception of western culture. this is just over an hour.
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>> welcome, everyone, to the final event of what's been a terrific three days. you know, when you start to plan these things and you think oh, we'll have this person and that person and do all this stuff. there was this moment when we started to put the program on to paper and we said we have 36 different speakers on this thing and it became, you know, exceeded our expectations certainly so thank you to everyone for all the terrific presentations, so, thanks very much. [ applause ] are and this won't be the last that you will have heard from the gathered scholars. we are going to compile an -- a new volume in our william f. cody series on the history and culture of the american west with the university of oklahoma press so all of the presenters are invited as they know to submit their work for consideration for this volume, and then all of the rest of you
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are invited to purchase and read that volume when it comes out. [ laughter ] so stay tuned. it's a great pleasure to introduce tonight's keynote speaker. paul andrew hutton is an american cultural historian. he's an award-winning author. he's a documentary writer and television personality. he serves as a distinguished professor of history at the university of new mexico and as we all know he's published quite widely in both scholarly academic venues and popular magazines, and he's reached, you know, a very large audience through that kind of work. his work has been recognized far and wide. he's a six-time winner of the western riders of american spur ward and also a six-time winner of the western heritage award from the national cowboy and western heritage museum for his work in both print and film. it's his book that jeremy
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mentioned the other day, "phil sheridan and the army" that received the prize from the american group of historians, and he's also the ed to have several books that we all have on our shelves, "western heritage," "roundup," "frontier and region," "the custer reader" and "soldiers west" as well as a civil war series that he did for wantium back in the '90s. he started in -- in many ways reaching on shaping western historical scholarship when he was an associate editor at the western historical quarterly and then editor of "the new mexico historical review." now, he has written several short films, dozens of television documentaries and he's appeared upon, if this is to be believed, over 300 television programs on major networks, public television and
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cable networks, as well. you may have known or seen the work that he did behind the scenes as a historical consultant on ron howard's film "the missing." he also worked on jon favreau's "cowboys and aliens" and, again, recently on gavin hockey for's "jane got a gun." he's been very active as a public historian making an imprint on programming at museums by guest curating exhibits on everything from the alamo, the cuffer legend, davey crockett and billy the kid. his latest book, "the apache wars" was published by crown in may of 2016, and it was recognized with a 2017 western writers of america spur award for the best nonfiction, but coming up through western history, my academic career came
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up during the time that we just saw reflected in the various toasts that we had. the heady era of the new western history, old western history range wars, and, you know, paul hutton severed as the executive director of the western history association from 1990 to 2006. so, you know, when we think of davey crockett, you know, we have a popular image in our mind of fess parker. when we think of the lone ranger it's going to be clayton moore hand when you think of james bond, of course, it's, of course, got to be sean connery, right, and when you think of the western historian, you think of paul hutton, so it's my great pleasure to introduce paul to speak to us tonight. [ applause ]
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>> i know it's just so common to think of me and sean connery in the same way. surely my wife does -- not. i want to thank the buffalo bills center of the well. i want to thank jaire myoand his excellent staff. this really has been a marvelous three days. the only thing i've really learned as i've -- as i've aged is how little i know, and acaround all these bright young scholars this week has certainly just shown me really how little i know about -- about something i thought i knew everything about. it just is wonderful new work and exciting new work and, you know, as a historian one thing that makes you get up in the morning and after hearing that introduction of all this stuff i've done, i understand why i'm
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so tired and why it's so hard to get up in the morning, but i certainly appreciate so much all that they are doing to bring about new insights and also to discover new material. i mean, we were shown all kinds of new material about buffalo bill and his show this week that's just absolutely astonishing to me, so thank you all for educating me this week. i don't know if i'm going to educate you very much tonight. this room is full, of course, of experts on william f. cody. the story that i'm going to tell is a familiar one, but i sort of thought that thematically i might be able to pull together here's the last speaker some of the themes that we've been talking about this week and put buffalo bill in -- in perspective, and let me start doing that by telling you a personal story because we've been getting some of those this week as well are.
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of course, you know we're here because it's the centennial of buffalo bill's death, william f. cody's death, and that was in 1917 which was the year of my mother's birth, and then in 1968, 51 years later, i first visited this wonderful institution in the company with two of my high school chums, steve horowitz and don fork, and we had just graduated from short ridge high school in indianapolis, and we had don's volkswagen bus and had simon & garfunkel's "america" ringing in our ears, and we went out in search of america. i'm still looking. [ laughter ] well, the boys were anxious to get to the climax of our trip, our final destination, the
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really golden dream at the end of the western rainbow for all young men, las vegas, nevada. [ laughter ] but i would not be a party to the trip unless we -- unless we visited first the black hills and then the little big horn battlefield and then here to cody, wyoming to -- to this museum, and they reluctantly agreed to -- to that, and they were perhaps not as delighted as i was by this institution in 1968, but they -- they pretended to be charmed. well, it's now been 49 years since i made that journey. 51 years from the time of buffalo bill's death until i made the journey, 49 years now since i did that, and my point
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to you is just how short our history as a nation is and how an institution like this hand what we're trying to convey is in fact a connection point, something that connects us to america's living past, and it is alive, and it dictates so much of our actions today. what's the old joke? people who don't know the past are are -- have to repeat it and, of course the curse of historians is that they do know the past and they have to watch the country repeat it over and over and over, and if you live long enough you get to see it being repeated even again. it's like if you -- i used to watch "days of our lives." if you watch it too many times they just repeat the same plots over again. new people, same story.
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william f. cody was a man seemingly trapped in a distant past yet he was one who cared desperately together about an on-rushing future for himself, for hires family, his business and for his nation. he was progressive in his politics. he favored votes for women long before that liberal icon woodrow wilson finally got around to -- to supporting it, and he was, for his time and place, and you must always keep that in mind, he was for his time and place incredibly enlightened on questions of race and equality. he had lived the american dream. he have risen from abject poverty to incredible wealth. he had been fawned over by kings and kwoens, presidents and captains of industry, and at the time of his death he was the living symbol what have it meant
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to be an american. the president theodore roosevelt described him thusly, an american of americans. he embodied those traits of courage, strength and self-reliant, heartihood which are vital to the well-being of our nation. he was like the nation he came to symbolize though, a bundle of contradictions, is paradox has been the used. contradictions works as well. he was a hunter who became a conservationist. he was a friend to the indian who was famous as an indian fighter help. what is a rugged frontier scout best remembered as a sequinned showman who could have stopped off the stage with liberace or elvis in vegas. a living artifact of a pioneer past playing out his role in a world of telephones, motion pictures, automobiles, airplanes, skyscrapers and finally at the very end world
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wars. now cody's life 1846 to 1917 spanned a period of astonishing change, and he participated in much of that change. his father was a martyr in the fight to keep slavery out of kansas, and as a teenager he fought in the civil war. he rode for the pony express, hunted buffalo for the railroad where he earned his nickname, scouted for the army, won the congressional medal of honor in a fight with the sioux, took the so-called first scout for custer and a celebrated duel at war bonnet hat as it was a well known creek in 1876 and took a final curtain call on his western adventures at the time of the terrible tragedy at wounded knee. that fight though at the creek in which there was only one
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casualty, that fight is the defining episode of his life, and i want to talk about it for it was are many way's moment, an incredible moment simply frozen in time where western reality and the frontier myth, the topic that i'm going to talk about tonight game together, but, first, a little context just to set the stage of how we got to war bonnet creek. one of my favorite movies is "ft. apache" in which the custer legend, a western legend is proven to be entirely false and covered up by army officers and the final line in that film which is so powerful is correct in every detail about a famous painting of custer's last stand, and let me just stay this painting, too, is correct, too, in every detail. nothing is correct in that painting.
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many serious scholars who spent a considerable part of their lives debating points such as this have placed the birth of the western at 1823 with the publication of james fenimore cooper's novel "the pioneers." now some grumbled at the more enduring and superior "last of the mohicans" in 1826 deserves that spot of honor and then others say the tales of captain smith and pocahontas, colonial navy and narratives and john fillson's marvelous chapters on the adventures of daniel boone in 1874 are the true origin point for the western story. >> which is ultimately the story of america. now there are those who give all credit to that talented harvard dude who came right out here to
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where we are, and he captured the imagination of the world with his 1902 novel the virginian. it was he who turned the american cowboy and that word was an epithet, you know, and it still used that way, sometimes, you know, cowboy, foreign policy, cowboy diplomacy, but when you said cowboy you meant a wild, rowdy uncontrolled element in your society. well, suddenly he makes the cowboy into an american centar, i'm looking at you, professor warren. he's always so riveted by my comments. it's like the kid in class who pretends that you're his favorite professor and, of course, he's always on his phone facebooking while he's in your class. anyway. i took -- i took professor
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warren's phone away from him before we began. it was worcester who turned the american cowboy into a national symbol. all it be with considerable help from, of course our hero william f. cody, from frederick rimmington to the cowboy president himself, the real cowboy president theodore roosevelt. all cowboy presidents go to harvard before they -- well, this debate has found expression among my class of people in the endless and sometimes tire sohm argument over frederick jackson unturner's 1893 frontier thesis. now turner saw the american national character and then american exceptionalism as an outgrowth of the frontier experience. his critics in there have been many. these days it's like, you know, the premier of "star wars."
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just line them up around the block. his critics argued that the frontier was but one of many forces that shaped the nation, and, of course, you can't argue with that. the argument though is one between process and place with the strongest modern interpreters, sometimes referred to by people like me as the rebel led by professor patricia nelson limerick. of the university of colorado, professor warren is just a fellow traveler with her but when you go to yellowstone and you see those pacs, she's the leader. >> the leader. ness. >> well, this is exactly the same debate in historical circles that you have between cooper and owen worcester.
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where does the story begin? well, is it doesn't matter where the story begins, i would argue. it's this rich and varied literary history, this rich and varied historiography that's essential to the understanding of our ourselves and you always looking for that. you're looking as a kid and looking for your identity, and, of course, many of us never get there but nations do that, too, and we're looking for our identity, and we hope we're not like some of the other nations that we're tom with, and we want to be so special. and it's always been this way. in the 1820s americans were in search of an identity that might unite them as a people. who were we? 13 colonies, what the hell is that? how do we get together? how do we become one out of many. north and south, accomplish that by looking to the west. frontier america suddenly became respectable in literary circles
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with the success of cooper's leather stocking tales. samuel woodward song, the hunters of ken encan, celebrating the prowess of kentucky and tennessee militiamen over the 1850 battle of new orleans. apologies to our english friends, but we elect presidents because they shoot english people. the i'm a historian. i can only speak the truth. i off -- i tell -- i tell my students that there's a beautiful thing about -- about the british is that they unite all people's everywhere around the world. india, africa, russia, germany, france, the united states. we've all shot at them and we've all been in somebody else's neighborhood telling folks how
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to behave and then they get themselves in trouble and they get all shot up and then they build beautiful statues in london we we all pay a lot of money to go visit. very good. it was a very clever technique. nevertheless, that song "the hunters of kentucky" helped to sweep andrew jackson into the white house hand border dramas as they were called in those days, stories such as nick the woods and "the lion of the west" which was a play based on the life of davey crockett became all the rage on even and european stages in the 180s and 1840s and the rise of jackson, other western political figures including the legendary crockett himself symbolized the political and cultural will shift in this country from the east to the west. the which i always cheer for. no offense to our eastern friends but since we we're already gunning the british why not just continue that.
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timothy flint's best selling biography of daniel boon, the martyr doom of davey crockett and the celebrated a ventures of kit carson and john freemont and the romance surrounding the great migration to oregon which was immortalized by one of america's first great historians who was, of course, a western historian, francis parkman, harvard. by the way, the professor limerick and professor warren, that is harvard, not yale, but i went to indiana university so what the hell do i know? thank you, thank you all very much. good basketball. well, anyway they all served to change the frontiersmen once disdained by the american culture as a dangerous symbol of low breeding and anarchy into the very adulation of the evolving national character.
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here's who we were. we're davey crockett. we're daniel boone or kit carson, the people pushing west on the oregon trail. that's america. that's the new human that's coming on to the planet from so many different places. well, a ghastly civil war tore all of this asunder. a great westerner, the grandson of up who had followed daniel boone up to cumberland gap and into kentucky, redeemed the dream, restored hope to the country and abraham lincoln through the homestead act and the transcontinental railroad that he sponsored created a new transmississippi west and set it all in motion. and out of this story, out of the new west, a new epic arose. this story unit a divided nation north and south, forever cemented a national identity and now for a richly diverse people. the folks were coming after the
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civil war, from everywhere. you want to know who you were when you got to this country. read a buffalo bill spy novel, whoever you are. doesn't matter that you're from poland or russian. doesn't matter that you're an italian. get some buckskins, kid. get a cowboy hat. and it helped, it helped people unite. a first generation of heroes emerged to be celebrated in the popular novels that horrified parents and literary critics alike, and now we had the gun fighting lawman, wild bill hickok, the heroic soldier, martyr to george custer, the scout, buffalo bill, the outlaw, billy the kid, the indian statesman signature bull and the wild cowgirl calamity jane and from them came a story rich in romance and boundless optimism yet also burdened even while he
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was being told with nostalgia for vanishing pasts because even as it played out it was over, over in an instant. the buffalo bill cody who had lived the reality a western story and a civil war story, railroad bufl low hunter and railroad scout put it all, of course into, a grand extravaganza in 1863 and took ittin the road. his wild west enthralled two generations of americans and poem around the world, created the cliches and conventions followed by writers and film-makers that were to follow him. now cody was a true child of the american frontier and he was a -- a person who grew up in the very environment that he was now celebrating. he was the third top child born
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in scout county, iowa, on february 26th, 1846 and william frederick was the third child of isaac and mary cody and isaac moved the family to the newly organized territory of kansas settling near fortt 11 worth where he became a prominent advocate for free soil. he didn't want slavery extended into kansas for whatever reason. when he was giving an anti-slavery speech in 1854 he was taken from the platform and taken by pro slavery men and if you're able to go to the one free legislature in tone characters he was plagued by his woundsed and finally dying in 1857. his father was a martyr having shed, of course, the blood for cause for freedom in kansas.
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after his father's death young bill cody went to the freighty company of alexander, randal and they had contracted with our government because president james buchanan was trying to take the spotlight off tensions between the north and the south by having a war against the mormons out in utah who weren't obeying the government quite as well as they need to, and majors and russell provided the supply wagons to keep that army going. on this trip, during the so-called mormon war of 1857, a young cody struck up a conversation with wild bill hickok and when russell majors had the short lived pony expression cody worked as a rider and also worked for the pony expression. with the outbreak of the civil war cody quit the express company and joined a band of kansas jayhawkers preying upon
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neighboring missourians. he was anxious to avenge his father's murder and anxious to get some free horses from missouri. they have got horses over there. they had no conscious of stealing from missourians which they would. i don't know what is the matter with me. it's very well. code i readily admitted that these are not his best days. i entered on a dislult and reckless life and associated with drunk yards and bad people association and that was my experience when i ran the western association for 16 years. after one particularly rowdy night in 1846 and as he later said he was under the influence of bad whisk he, this is as opposed to good whiskey, under the influence of bad whiskey he woke up in the morning and he
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hen listed in the seventh kansas and he became a soldier in the civil war. his service was, you know, is not particularly distinguished but he certainly served in the war. when the war was over, he took himself a bride, louise frederique of louisiana and attempted to settle down to the life of a hotel keeper at his salt creek valley home. he could have been the marriotts, but instead, no, he took a different tack. it was not to be because he was totally devoid and his later career would prove this of any kind of business skill whatsoever, and within a year he head west to seek employment with the army but his buddy hickok was a scout with the army out of kansas and he got his young friend a job, and while at ft. elsworth cody became acquainted with lieutenant governor george armstrong custer seventh cavalry just beginning his western career and cody was asked by custer to come and
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scout for him, and he -- he declined that opportunity, wise career move and became instead a hunter for the kansas pacific railroad, the firm of goddard brothers had the contract to feed the railway workers and they employed cody at a princely sum to hunt buffalo to feed the workers. in eight months time from october 1867 until may of 1868 cody killed 4,280 buffy will for the kansas pacific railroad. now i know this in the more environmentally sensitive time in which we live and under the influence of the new western history and its creed we do not celebrate that but they were after all eaten. i mean, this was for food. they weren't just being shot like happened later, and cody indeed when he hunted buffalo did it on horseback using a
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single shot rifl and did it indian and which is unbelievebly dangerous, of course, and he was incredibly successful with his loading rifle and mounted on his fleet horse brigham named for the mormon patriarch, so, you see, he had a sense of history from the very beginning. he was a young man. i'm amazed he knew who la corretja borge was. it speaks to the power of education in territorial kansas. well, the workers for the railroad, he became a popular anything, needless to say, because he's bringing him dinner because they made up a little song, a little song about it. buffalo bill, buffalo bill never missed and never will. always aims and shoots to kill and a company pays his buffalo bill. that's your authentic american
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poetry right there. eat your heard out, europeans. the and let me just point out that it's not bides op william, bizon william, never missed and never will. it is indeed buffalo bill. what is this going on to make us stop calling buffalo buffalo and call them bison? bison? i mean, is that like greek and latin derivatives, bison? know it's scientifically incorrect like i care, and i would like to tell you it's part of the american language, but, of course, it was champlain the frenchman who came up with the term and identified bison as buffalo but nevertheless, just because a frenchman did it, that doesn't mean that's not okay. ness this goes to prove that the french can occasionally get something right. isn't that amazing?
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the bison nickel. buysen wild wings. i mean, seriously. [ laughter ] and evidently the associated press has joined with the government in trying to change the american language, and i noticed now any time buffalo are mentioned in a newspaper they must send out a style sheet. i'm sure they do. they are called bison, and i just think this is truly the definition of fake news. combination of bad weather and -- and native hostility temporarily halted construction of the kansas pacific when it reached end of track, and cody's contact with the railroad ended there despite the fame he had derived, and he went to work at ft. leonard for the army, and he carried dispatches. this was a very, very dangerous job and hi did such a superb job
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after it until the new commander of the army on the southern plains and sheridan just loved this kid and he became his protector and sponsor. in a way he became his mentor, and sheridan after cody had made just a couple of incredible and dangerous rides where no one else would carry dispatches sheridan made him chief of squats for the fifth cavalry. scouts are hired through the quartermaster department but cody is different. he's hired to be a permanent scout for the fifth cavalry. and indeed he did a spectacular job, and soon he became the army's most famous scout. on april the 26th, 1872 neither south fork of nebraska's loop river cody led a group of soldiers on running battles with sioux raiders which won him a
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medal of honor in 187 it. he wasn't necessarily a soldier so when they cleaned up the army roles at the end of the first world war they dropped him but certainly powerful figures)u the country managed to get it + god bless al simpson and he should have, for heaven sake. captain charles mineholden the letter of commendation describing the engagement with indians said, quote, mr. cody's reputation for bravery and skill as a guide are so well established that i need not say anything else but that he acted in his usual manner. his words were typical of the praise that frontier soldiers gave to cody, phil sheridan, emory carr, are charles king, anson mills, and many other army officers all praised cody both before and after he became nationally famous.
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his exploits though later exaggerated by press agents and show business hype are absolutely authentic. why doesn't he drive to cancel it which drives me crazy, as can you tell but one thing that drives me crazy is those who try to present him as a fraud and chartan. he's not at all. he just did it all before he was 25. i'm sorry. wish i had. and indeed later writers have tipped to downplay scouting activities and many of them treated him as just one of many comparable army scouts, but he wasn't just like one of many comparable army scouts. he was truly head and shoulders above almost all. he certainly ranked with ben clark, luther kelly, frank north as one of the great scouts of the indian wars, and one 12-month period, for example, from october 68 to october 69
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he's chief scout for the fifth cavalry and engaged in seven expeditions against the indians and engaging in nine fights during these campaigns. a few soldiers experienced that much action in a decade of service. all of cody's frontier exploets play including 16 battles with native americans occurred before his 32nd birthday, for after 1876 he devoted his time exclusively to the show business. now the grand my strove cody's rise to international name and show business glory was on obscure writer of very limited talent but unflagging imagination, a man by the name of ned montline. his real name was edward zain carroll judson born in new york in 1823, a blum little man and master of the dime novel and claimed to have written half a dozen of them in one week alone.
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>> writing in women in ned's great passions and pursued with vengeance. went through seven divorced and wicks wives, several he was married to simultaneously. >> not a problem for ned. july 24th, 1869, found it in mt. mcpherson, nebraska, you've got to make a buck anyway you can. learning that major william brown pafr outraiding indians, never in search of a good story volunteered to go along. he didn't found any natives, but he wrote along along with buffalo bill during the entire trip and they became pals, and when he headed back east promising cody he'd keep in touch. on december 23rd, 1869 the new york weekly carried the first
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installment of buffalo bill, king of the border men. the story was a fictional reworking of the already well-publicized and well-known "adventures of wild bill hickok," cody's friend who by the way buntline kills in the story. was really irkd when it was a guy who you didn't want to get on the bad side of. nevertheless from buntline's story was born the legend of buffalo bill. at ft. mcpherson the real buffalo bill was really flattered by the tale even though absolutely none of it was true. when his son was born on november the 26th, 1870 he proposed to name him after buntline. cooler heads prevailed and the kid was named after kit carson instead, good move. now net buntline what is not a man to allow opportunity to slip away. he commence scribbling a new dime novel, buffalo bill's -- on
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and on and on they went. at the same time ned barrage sent letters that said come on back here, kid. this is a gold mine. you are a gold mine. cody finally relented thanks with the help of sheridan, and he recruited another fortt mcfirstson scout to accompany him to chicago and join in this novel enterprise. the scout's turned actor encouraged by buntline and to their hey maizement buntline had no script even though they were to open at nixon's amphitheater on deese 18. this was not a problem for professor warren and myself. retreated to his hotel room buntline skinned the scouts to the prairie and another impressive "chicago tribune"
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theater critic asked him why it took so long. bunt already line hired ten thespians off the streets of chicago to portray indians in his little drama and acquired the services of the lovely italian actress to play the lovely indian heroine and like the other members they had staged the experience and had fabulously introduced the can-can to america. and 2,500 people crowded into nixon owes amp authority for opening night. the play had no plot which was fine since cody couldn't remember any of his lines. it didn't matter. the scouts were very handsome and miss merlacci was very fetching as a very talented indian mayden and the action was non-stop. it was the theater critics had
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to be art and it was entertainment of a unique sort and on the whole it's not probable that they will ever look on this light again, such a conglamration of acting, renowned performers, mixed audience, empowering stench and won't be safe to attend in a city the second time, eastern chicago. the western had been born and ned buntline and buffalo bill were the mid-wives and mass market population was never to be the same gene. the play toured cities through enthusiastic audiences and stunned theater critics and overflowed box office sales. for the historical adviser for cowboys and aliens i know a thing or two about drama and so i can speak to this vubt. some credibility and i know that
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you've seen that move, and very good, the aliens, historically accurate and everything about them was just perfect. correct in every detail. by the time the tour ended in june of 1873 cody was fully committed to a stage career and he -- he had a bright idea. he didn't need buntline anymore so they parted company forever. for the 1873-'74 season cody created a new drama for the buffalo bill combination as the gypsy troupe was now called and the scouts of the plains hoped in pennsylvania on september 28th. buffalo bill and texas jack played themselves with miss maracci pore fraying another can-canning indian mayden, but they have upped the ante because here's wild bill hickok, joined his observe friend and alas, wild bill added to the warriors
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as a civil war hero and the scout for the army by being the town-taming marshall of an lean and the notorious man killer and he couldn't quite take this acting business very seriously and cody kept trying to impress on him how important this work was, but will can't quite get it so after one particularly heated exchange cody was left alone and hickok departed in a huff. they met again only once. womeny in july of 1876 scouting for the fifth cavalry and hickok was heading to the boom hills boom town of deadwood they settled with destiny. '76 was a tough year for western heroes. they were just checking out right and left. for a decade from 1873 until he left the boards to organize the wild west show in 1883, cody
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toured in various frontier dramas and in every play he played only one role, one he had perfect the, buffalo bill. he played himself. that's what i do as a professor, constantly. each drama was supposedly based on authentic adventures from his own past and that's it. that's the point. it's this connection between history and drama that provided a unique electricity to cody's stage presence. it made his blood and thunder dramas no matter how silly they were resonate. it's like if john wayne really had gone to iwo jima instead of staying home during the war. cody's 1876 tour was to have to success as well and interrupted in newspaper of '76 in houston, texas because of a telegram saying that his little 5-year-old son kit was
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desperately ill with scarlet fever and returned home to rochester, new york, where the little boy died in his arms. well, he's just broken, he really was, just broken and gets a telegram from sheridan saying, bill, come on, come on, wes, we're going to have a big indian war and i don't know this doesn't sound politically correct and this is our last chance. this is it. it's going to be over. there's never going to be another one, wrong. there's never going to be another one and come join us and cody -- cody decided to just that and i have to believe it was the death of his son that was the deciding fact orange. after a final show in wilmington manager on june 3rd, texas jack split up the people. they were reunited with the fifth cavalry on june 18s, 1876 he was immediately point chief scouts by lieutenant colonel
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gene a. carr and the enlisted men as well as the officers were all decided and the cry went up here. here's buffalo bill and hurrah, hurrah, everyone went and add cody greeted old friends from the cavalry camp there must have been a mixture of deja vu and nostalgia. bill cody known so well by so much of the old veterans of the fifth had5#xj now become buffal bill.c@ shows since departing the fifth in 1872 he became one of the most celebrated actors in america, but, of course, he was only playing a single character, himself, and now he returned to his past life adventure and the ones he so cleverly exaggerated in front of the foot lights. within a few days both lives and both buffalo bills, the daring scout and the celebrated actor would give their greatest performance on a ghastly
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frontier stage in which western myth and western reality would morph perfectly into each other. what's real. what's not it's hard to tell. >> what he wrote was what he saw him, very little change since i saw him in 1869 except that he looks a little worn, probably caused by his vocation in the east not agreeing with him. all the old boys were happy to see carr and cody together again. well, the renalment had just been transferred north from service with -- against the arizona apaches. because there was a huge war brewing on the northern plains. gold had been discovered by custer in the black hills. the grant administration was determined to get the hills and open them up to mining interests. unfortunately the hills had been given to the sioux under the
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1868 fort laramie tree, a decent price that they thought was auctioned and so immediately mafia tactics were employed to convince what was in it in their interest to do business? the grant administration, of course, blamed sitting bull and his so-called northern roamers, people who had never come into the -- into the agencies at red cloud and pine ridge. blamed them for these problems. phil sheridan commanding the western army was ordered to driest indians in and out came three columns, one from the -- one from the west, from port ellis and one from the east with custer's seventh calfry, the elite regiment of the plains as his strike force and up from the south from fortt laramie came general george cook with 15 companies of cavalry and five of
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infantry thousands out against the -- the sioux and their cheyenne allies. and they were sure enough troops, but marritt and carr and the fifth cavalry were there to block many more indians who would least nebraska agencies and tried to join sitting bull's people. they figured that they had at the most 500 warriors that they were going to confront, and that is because the bureaucrats of the department of the interior had lied to the army, and had, of course, inflated the censuses at the agency so that they could get more money for more goods that they could sell off to their crooked pals in -- in the west. it was a pretty grievous business and cut her testified against this before congress and
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had almost been stripped of his command by an infuriated grant, well, a good general and a terrible president, and -- and so it was kind of fuming about this disgrace when he's headed west and had a bad attitude to say the least. >> well, and so -- so the fifth cavalry heads north to -- to block the indians from -- from joining up with sitting bull and his people. of course, there weren't 500 warriors on the plains. there weren't 1,000 warriors on the plains or 2,000 warriors. there were far more and they all gathered together one last time for a great -- for this -- to do the sundance and have the renewal of their culture and their way of life and to just once more, kind of just like sheridan said, one last time. let's live the old days, and that's what they were doing, and they just wanted to recreate their past that they knew was
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slipping away and the army couldn't allow that, because the politicians wouldn't allow it. as the fifth moves north, then comes the shattering news that custer is dead along with every man of
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>> cigarette dangling out of his mouth but that's rielly got to help the classroom discipline. that's got to really help. i'm sorry, i digress. he had a red silk shirt topped with a beaver sombrero and certainly was dressed for his role that day. he quickly located the cheyenne village, but he returned to find the cavalry camp and the cheyennes had been spotted nearby. he reported to meredith up atop a slight hill after overlooking the valley called war bonnet creek, also called hat creek.
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scouts formed directly from the valley of the fifth cavalry and marritt order carr to saddle up the regiment and get red for action and in the distance came a supply train, and the cheyenne scouts were heading for it and two dispatch riders two dispatch riders were coming from the supply train toward his command and he could see they were going to get cut off by the cheyenne's and he asked them for permission to engage with his scouts. as he joined the regiment, he said, go ahead. the lieutenant was to watch from the hill and send in the scouts before the cheyennes could intercept the two messengers. and they charged the surprise warriors turning the tables on their ambush.
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as cody's horse splashed across the creek, a cheyenne warrior turned to meet him. this is not a story out of sir walter scott. this is a true story of the american west. and yet, it's strange and more bizarre than even fiction could be. and the name of the warrior was yellow hair. and he dressed splendidly for the day. he wore a belt in which he tucked the blond scalp from which he derived his name. his breech cloth had been fashioned from an american flag. i think that's a powerful political statement. i don't know about you. he, as his -- he stood his ground as his handful of
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companions fled, he took a shot at the long-haired scout in the crazy velvet, satin costume that was charging at him. he probably thought he was in cowboys and aliens. what the hell is this? i know these guys are weird, but really now? cody placed a round through the warrior's leg. at the same moment, cody's horse stumbled. he jumped clear as the horse fell. he did a somersault and came up with his rifle level and shot yellow hair, just as yellow hair fired at him. yellow hair missed. he scalped if warrior. first scalp for custer. and the soldiers went whooping by and the cheyenne's retreated
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back towards the agency. this is a -- there's a lot of debate about this scalp. to me it's not that he's thinking forward, this is a good show business move. that comes later. no, he's reverted to his past for just a moment there, he's back. he's back. he's the -- he's the kid in the civil war. he's the scout scouting for the army. he's completely reverted to the savage state that the frontier had turned him into. he ordered the regiment forward. the cheyennes quickly blended in with the rest of the population there. the lieutenant remembered that the indians were impressed with buffalo bill. it sounds to me just because of his crazy costume. they wanted to see buffalo bill and wherever he moved, they followed him with awe-filled eyes. he wore the same dress in which
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he burst upon them in yesterday's fight. a mexican costume of black velvet trimmed with silver buttons and lace, in which he had done much execution before the foot lights in the states which now became of intensified value. that night, an exhausted cody wrote to his wife, we have had a fight. i killed yellow hand, a cheyenne chief, he promoted him, in a single-handed fight. you will no doubt hear of it through the papers. i'm going as soon as i reach the fort. i will send his scalp to a friend back in rochester to put up in his window. she looked at the scalp and she fainted right away.
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the fifth cavalry moved to reinforce the column and pursue sitting bull's people. he had over 2,000 men. they blundered and lumbered across the prairies. by the end of august, it was clear this campaign was going nowhere. they headed east to put on a new theatrical combination featuring a companion from the great sioux. and this was without head or tail. it was, of course, his most successful play ever. not the least of the shows' attractions were the war bonnet of yellow hair. the northeastern press and our clergy in the east were not
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impressed. and they sent up a protest over this display. he confined himself to brandishing his trophies on the stage. this controversy only increased the box office and made the play more successful. and he stopped showing the scalp because folks were passing out. well, is the red right hand a case of art imitating life? or rather had the slaying of the yellow hair become a case of life imitating art? cody had dressed the morning of july 17th, 1876 in one of his stage costume. he had gone forth and killed the cheyenne warrior in a grizzly ritual that reaffirmed his status as a real, authentic,
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true, frontiersman. then he hurried eastward. it was as if the frontier west had become a vast living stage where cody performed acts of heroism and violence for the entertainment of the population of the industrial east. it was a unique moment in time, for the west was providing living, breathing entertainmen for the east. the frontier had become an ak criteria anymorism. inspired by the success of a rodeo he staged at his north platte ranch, he originated his show. it combined rodeo elements with
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historical motifs from his stage plays such as the deadwood stage, the pony express, various animals from the west were brought east, put on display. frank north, sitting bull and buffalo bill himself. the cowboy once so -- such a pejorative term, became an american hero, the king of the cowboys, and johnny baker the cowboy kid. displays of marksmanship were provided by cody baker and annie oakley, little sure shot. as time passed, he would update these pageants over and over. he included the spanish-american war, the boxer rebellion and the philippine insurrection. events such as the attack on the deadwood stage and the first scalp for custer remained always part of the show. as you know, cody took his wild
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west to london where he became an international sensation. he gave the europeans just as he had given his own countryman a glimpse of the vanishing frontier. he exploited the possibilities of the american west making them intelligenceable to millions who had no other knowledge of the frontier than what he presented. he became a good will ambassador. he won the hearts of the world as had no american since benjamin franklin. and he became like dr. franklin had been at the time of the american revolution, the symbol of what it was -- who are these new people? these americans. here he is. wow. after 30 years in which time cody made and lost several fortunes, the wild west show failed in 1913. he toured, of course, for two
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more seasons with other circuses and with the miller brothers 101 ranch wild west show in 1916. well, william f. cody lived the wild west and then took it on the road. first in stage shows, and in arenas. he told a romantic adventure, a combination of rodeo and circus and most importantly a tale of progress and of the birth of a nation. cody told americans and then people everywhere around the world all about how the united states had come to be. he became the embodiment of the new america, the embodiment of the american spirit and presented to the world an image of the rugged american as important to the 19th century as
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dr. franklin had been to the previous century. he inherited the frontier mantle of boone, crocket and carson. frederick jackson turner, theodore roosevelt, he made the story of the american frontier into the nation's great creation myth. buffalo bill, astride his snow white stallion, presented an image that all the people of a rapidly changing nation could embrace no matter where they had come from. when finally he died on january -- in january of 1917, his country, about to march into a new century, into a future of steam, steel, world wars and international power, that country paused and reflected on just how far they had come in so
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short a time. it had all been encompassed in the life of one man and with the passing of buffalo bill, the first great epic of the american story came to a close. thank you very much. [ applause ] since we're doing toasts tonight, i did -- i had already planned this. i thought a toast might be in order. but when i was going through my personal history and mentioning important dates, i neglected to mention that this week happens to be the 16th anniversary of my marriage to my lovely wife, tracy lee, which occurred just across the street in buffalo bill's western church. i take this western stuff seriously. absolutely. talk about long-suffering women.
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if i might, ladies and gentlemen, as we bring this fabulous conference to a close, i would like to offer a toast to the -- and i hate to drink it in water. like bill would just slap me. i would like to offer a toast to the founder of the feast, ladies and gentlemen to buffalo bill. thank you. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span3, created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. >> weeknights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight we take a look at
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african-american history. since the 1970s, david pilgrim has collected every day objections that mock and dehuman fi african-americans. they argue that although the artifacts can be used to educate people. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. american history tv on c-span3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend. coming up this president's day weekend, saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war, author edward acorn talks about his book "every drop of blood" about abraham lincoln's second
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inaugural speech. sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern on oral histories, virginia coleman describes her experiences as a chemist for the manhattan project at oak ridge to build the atomic bomb. and monday at 7:30 p.m. eastern on american artifacts, john talks on the 41 giant busts of american presidents created by a sculptor. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. published in 1945, "cannery row" by john steinbeck takes place in monterey, california. in her own book "beyond cannery row: sicilian women, immigration & community in monterey, california", carol lynn mckibben focuses on the role women played
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