Buffalo Bill Fast Fact

  Bill Cody prospected in the Pike's Peak gold rush when he was just 13.



Jemima McBustle

It’s 1898. Eighteen-year-old Jemima McBustle stands at the crossroads of life. She can marry a “Man of Substance” and float through life in luxury.  Or she can follow her idol Nelly Bly--forge her own way in a man’s world as a stunt reporter.

After finessing a job at a St. Louis newspaper, she must deliver stories that will sell papers. But she finds her road blocked at every turn. To keep her safe and pure her family employs a chaperone, Miss Turaluralura Snodderly, a spinster more fearsome than Lizzie Borden.

Jemmy and her photographer-partner never see eye-to-eye. Worst of all, her boss would like nothing better than to fire her. She knows he’s up to something when he sends her out of town to cover Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.

The journey lets her rub shoulders with the biggest celebrities of the day--Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody; and a man who would soon be famous, ragtime composer Scott Joplin. The trip also chases her through outlandish schemes and breathtaking danger with an enigmatic man in her make-or-break Sedalia adventure.

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Steerhead                              Buffalo Bill Fast Fact

When asked why he paid a 14 year old Bill Cody $25 a month, Pony Express owner Bill Majors said, “I gave him a man’s pay because he could ride a pony as well as any man."

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Buffalo Bill Fast Fact

William Frederick Cody earned the title "Buffalo Hunter" by killing more than 4000 buffalo for the Union (Kansas) Pacific to feed workers and to destroy the bothersome herds and even more bothersome Native Americans who needed them to live. Often his butcher crew took only the delicacies--the tongue and liver--and left 3 million pounds of meat to rot on the prairie.



Buffalo Bill Fast Fact

He was a folk hero who appeared in 1700 dime novels and a scout for the Union Army's 7th Kansas Cavalry-- the infamous Doc Jennison's Kansas Redlegs.


The Biggest Show on Earth

In the days before Americans became saturated with 24-7 entertainment in overwhelming variety, traveling extravaganzas brought sizzle to towns across the country. The biggest and loudest was born in 1883 when Buffalo Bill first uttered these words, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Permit me to introduce you to the Rough Riders of the World.”

In 1885 fifty circuses were on the road--but they couldn’t compete with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World--a nostalgic tribute to the Old West of the United States, a place that had already vanished--if it ever existed at all.

With as many as 640 people and 500 animals in 54 train cars, the show had $4,000 a day in expenses. The main tent covered eleven acres. Twenty-two thousand yards of canvas sheltered the grandstand. Hands needed just one hour to lash together the massive tents with twenty miles of rope to enclose a working arena the size of 2000 football fields.

Buffalo Bill’s show has another enduring claim to fame. Sweeney’s Cowboy Band played the “Star Spangled Banner” to open each show for 30 years. That may explain why a song with an impossible-for amateurs-to-sing range became our national anthem in 1931.



Phoebe Mozee to Annie Oakley--From the poor farm to the stars

After her father died, Phoebe went to live at the county poor farm as a servant. She was just 9 years old. The poor farm lent her to a local family so heartless they left her out in the cold to die because she didn’t work fast enough.

When her mother took a new husband, Phoebe came home. Restaurants clamored for the birdshot-free meat she brought them. Her legendary eyesight and perfect aim gave her the skill to shoot only the heads of even small game. At fifteen, she paid off the mortgage on the family farm.
The owner of a hotel in Cincinnati put up $50 to enter her in a shooting contest against famous marksman, Frank Butler. She won the match with a perfect twenty-five to Butler’s single miss—but lost her heart.

Will Rogers called Annie Oakley “the greatest rifle shot the world has ever produced.” At twenty yards, she could shoot through coins or slice a playing card held edgewise. She once shot a cigarette from the mouth of the crown prince of Germany.

Sitting Bull, the victor over Custer at the Little Big Horn, was much taken with the petite marksman, a bare five feet tall who weighed less than a hundred pounds. He even adopted “Little Sure Shot.”

Annie sent money to family and to orphans. She was so generous with show tickets that free passes are still known today as “Annie Oakleys.”

She lived by her own philosophy—

 “Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you’ll hit the bull’s eye of success.”

No wonder she was the greatest attraction of the biggest show on earth. 




Buffalo Bill Fast Fact

Buffalo Bill followed P.T. Barnum to become the greatest showman of the second half of the 19th century. He was also a man of a million contradictions. In 1876, three weeks after Custer met his fate at the Little Big Horn, he scalped Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hair and took the chief's warbonnet.  He boasted he had taken "the first scalp for Custer." He was an Indian fighter who won a Congressional Medal of Honor (which Congress took back in 1916--and reinstated in 1989.)


And yet he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature where he fought for the rights of women and Indians. He urged Congress to stop breaking treaties because, "Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government. America is the Indian heritage. The Indian only fights for what is his."