Buffalo Bill Cody: The Man behind the Legend

By Robert A. Carter | Go to book overview
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“A Congress of Rough Riders”

There were major changes in store for the Wild West during the 1891 season. Nate Salsbury, who had kept the show in winter quarters in Europe while Cody was back in America dealing with Indians both war/ like and pacific, had not been idle. Needing a new attraction, and fearing that they might not be able to get any Indians for the show, the general manager had returned to his original concept for the Wild West—a show that “would embody the whole subject of horsemanship.” Salsbury set about signing up horsemen of as many nationalities as he could find. The idea was so popular that by 1893 the show's name had been changed to “Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.” It is not clear where the name “rough riders” came from, but Cody's use of it preceded Theodore Roosevelt's by five years. Don Russell believes it might refer to a bronco-busting term; the cowboy who had the hardest broncos to bust was called “riding the rough string.” There was also an Illinois Cavalry regiment during the Civil War with that name. At any rate, the picturesque name stuck.

The full complement of Cody's show, as organized in 1891, had 640 “eating members.” There were 20 German soldiers, 20 English soldiers, 20 soldiers from the United States, 12 Russian Cossacks, 6 Argentine gau/ chos, along with the familiar cast of characters: 20 Mexican vaqueros, 25 cowboys, 6 cowgirls, the 100 Sioux Indians, and the Cowboy Band of 37 mounted musicians. Altogether, it was a spectacular ensemble, an exhibi/ tion of horsemanship that for speed, style, and color would soon be the talk of Europe.

The 1891 tour picked up the swing through Europe that had been interrupted by Cody's trip home. Stops in Germany included Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Maxinz, Wiesbaden, Cologne, Dortmund, Duisburg, Krefeld, and Aachen. Kaiser Wilhelm II was a frequent patron of the show.


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