Thursday, September 7, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 315

Buffalo Bill Cody & Annie Oakley

This modern day postcard found in the gift shop of the Buffalo Bill museum, Cody, Wyoming, shows pictures of western legend Buffalo Bill Cody and sharp shooter, Annie Oakley together with a photograph by Dewey Vanderhoff of the Buffalo Bill sculpture titled “The Scout or Buffalo Bill – The Scout” by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.  Shoshone Distributing Co. Inc. of Cody, Wyoming published the card that has an identifying number of #67364. 

The statue in the center of the card was dedicated in 1924 and is located at the end of Sheridan Avenue in Cody, Wyoming not far from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  It stands on a large stone base that represents nearby Cedar Mountain where Cody wished to be buried.  He was buried at Lookout Mountain in Colorado instead. 

Even though Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was persuaded by Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, to sculpt the piece she also funded most of the approximately $50,000 cost out of her own pocket.  Later she would go on to establish the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1931.  Her son, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney funded the establishment of the Whitney Museum of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  The statue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 

Phoebe Ann Mosey (1860-1926) who was born in Ohio became known as Annie Oakley and was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter.  Annie was one of nine children born to Jacob and Susan Mosey.  Her father died when she was 6 years old and she began trapping before she was 7 and shooting then hunting by age 8 in order to help support her siblings and widowed mother.  Because of poverty Annie did not have opportunities to regularly attend school until she was in later childhood and as an adult.  When she was 15 years old she won a shooting competition with Frank E. Butler, a traveling show marksman and dog trainer who had offered $100 to anyone who could beat him. 

She later married Butler and they joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885.  Annie adopted the stage name of Oakley when she began performing with Butler.  Just barely 5 feet tall, in advertisements for the Wild West Show she was called “Little Sure Shot.”  One of her more famous tricks was to split a playing card held on edge and put several holes in it before it touched the ground.  She performed this trick from 90 feet away using a .22 caliber rifle.  She believed it was important for women to know how to use a gun and it is estimated that during her lifetime she taught approximately 15,000 women how to do so.

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917) was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory, lived for a time in Toronto, Ontario Canada, moved to the Kansas Territory and was in Denver, Colorado at the time of his death.  His story has many similarities to that of Annie Oakley including the fact that both came from Quaker families; although, it does not appear that Cody was raised a Quaker.  When Cody was 11 years old his father died and he began working to help support the family.  He claimed to have been a trapper, bullwhacker, Pony Express rider, wagon master, stagecoach driver, and hotel manager.  Historians, however, have not been able to document all of the claims and suspect that he may have fabricated some as publicity for his traveling Wild West show.   He got his nickname of Buffalo Bill when he contracted to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. 

When Cody was 23 years old he met the writer Ned Buntline.  Buntline published a story based on Cody’s adventures and his own imagination that was serialized in the Chicago Tribune.  There were subsequent sequels by Buntline and others beginning in the 1870s and continuing on into the early 20th century.  The Buffalo Bill Wild West traveling show and the legend were born in part due to these stories.  Cody took his show around the United States, Great Britain and Europe where audiences were entranced with being able to view a piece of the American West.  Performers acted out Pony Express rides; Indian attacks on wagon trains, and stagecoach robberies.  The finale was usually an Indian attack on a settler’s cabin with Cody and a group of cowboys riding in to defend the settler and his family.  Many of the re-enactments from this Wild West show later found their way into 20th century cinema and literature. 

For lots more additional information about both Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody, see:

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