Lecture Description

Widely remembered as a singularly nostalgic evocation of a vanishing frontier, William F. Cody’s show business extravaganza was something much more. The development of its mythic content depended on the contributions of a diverse range of performers including Indians, cowboys, vaqueros, soldiers, and others, as well as a large support staff of cooks, blacksmiths, seamstresses, hostlers, and more, all of whom joined the show’s mobile company town (numbering over 1000 in some years) for distinctly modern reasons. Requiring three trains to move cast, support staff, animals, and props, and playing to gigantic crowds on both sides of the Atlantic over the course of three decades (1883 – 1913), Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show was a modern spectacle, heralding the rise of popular entertainments by casting a diverse community of western people to play to anxieties about the “polyglot” modern city.


Visual and Performing Arts West

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