Buffalo Bill from Prairie to Palace

Buffalo Bill from Prairie to Palace

Buffalo Bill from Prairie to Palace

Buffalo Bill from Prairie to Palace

Excerpt

On March 17, 1911, Maj. John M. “Arizona” Burke, general manager and chief press agent for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, walked in a place of honor in the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade bedecked in the green regalia fitting to the occasion. Next day, the New York Morning Telegraph reporting the event quoted his claim to be a “descendent of the Irish kings.” Such an exaggerated claim was by no means untypical of the man. Neither was it untypical that he should make misleading comments about his background.

He was not a major in any meaningful military sense of the word. He had no obvious connection to Arizona. His name contained no middle initial M in any of the earliest official records. His claim to Irish descent was, however, unquestionable although he was not necessarily of a royal line.

John Burke’s paternal grandfather was Irish merchant Thomas Burke who emigrated to the United States in 1833 with his wife, Ellen. Both were already in their forties. Within a year they were joined by three sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren, and by 1840 all were settled in the Brandywine Hundred, New Castle, Delaware. In 1838 their twenty-seven-year-old middle son, Peter, married Swiss immigrant Mary Frances Raymond and the couple had two sons: Thomas, born August 13, 1840, and John, born April 10, 1842.

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