Who was Buffalo Bill and What was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show about?

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was an elaborate spectacle of sharpshooting, trick riding, and dramatic re-creations of events in American history, particularly well-known battles between the U.S. Army and Plains Indians.

Buffalo Bill (the stage name for William F. Cody) was a former U.S. Army scout and Indian fighter who found his true calling as an entertainer. His famous show toured all over the United States and Europe in the late nineteenth century.

One of the biggest draws of the show was the Indians whom Cody hired as performers. Among them was the great Lakota chief Sitting Bull. In eastern towns and cities, most of Buffalo Bill’s customers had never seen an Indian before. All they knew of tribes first hand came from his sensational shows, which presented Indians as wild savages whom whites needed to conquer and tame.

By spreading this false idea of Plains Indians, Buffalo Bill’s entertainment helped gather popular support for the U.S. Army’s brutal war against these peoples.