Buffalo Bill Cody: The Man behind the Legend

By Robert A. Carter | Go to book overview
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“The Man Who Broke
My Heart”

Bonfils and Tammen, in Don Russell's opinion, were “probably the most amoral and unscrupulous partners ever to publish a newspaper.” Tammen, a native of Baltimore, went to work as a porter's helper in a beer garden at the age of seven and at twenty-one was the bartender at Chicago's famous Palmer House. He later tended bar at the Windsor in Denver, where Cody probably met him. The Windsor was built in 1880. There were two bars on the first floor—one off the lobby, and a back bar off the billiard room. There were usually six bartenders on duty. If a celebrity such as General Grant, Buffalo Bill, or the heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan visited Denver, the bar staff was doubled. A Chinese boy in full costume kept the floor clear of cigar butts and tobacco juice.

Bonfils had made a small fortune running a lottery in Chicago. Tam/ men met him there, and in his account of the meeting, “walked smack in on him.… He eyed me up and down, and said: 'Who are you? And what do you want?' 'Kid,' I said, 'I hear you've got a million dollars in safety/ deposit boxes, and I'm going to shake you down for half of it.'

“This sort of floored him, continued Tammen. “He said: 'Sit down, and we'll talk it over.' Then he imitated me. 'Kid,' he said, 'if you get a nickel out of me, you'll be doing more than anyone else ever did, or ever will do.'”

The proposition Tammen made to Bonfils was that they buy “a pid/ dling little paper” in Denver called the Evening Post. Bonfils put up the money—$12,500—and Tammen supplied the brains. They also bought the equipment of the defunct Denver Democrat and rechristened their new acquisition the Denver Post. They then proceeded to turn it into the most successful paper in Denver—building circulation in William Ran/ dolph Hearst fashion—by making the Post loud, vulgar, and sensational.


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