Thursday, October 11, 2012

Was Buffalo Bill in Your Backyard?

Ad on left Erie Evening Herald, July 2, 1898; ad on right Erie Evening Herald, June 15, 1901.

Was Buffalo Bill in your backyard?

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show performed in Erie, Pennsylvania seven times between 1884 and 1916. Chances are pretty good that he played in your backyard, or paraded down your street on the way to your backyard. 

For instance, Cody's July 9, 1898 show was held in a field at 23rd and Parade owned by the Charles M. Reed estate. A stream cut through the middle of the block, which was bordered by Parade and Wallace between 22nd and 23rd Streets. 

If he didn't play in your yard, there's a chance that your grandparents or great-grandparents attended one of his performances. "Thousands were on hand to witness a street parade...The Indians, about eighty in all, resplendent in feather head-dress, paint, bells, etc., mounted upon their lithe and wiry mustangs, rode in amity with the Cowboys."

The Wild West Show was a huge production that was regularly updated. "Another new feature is a series of tableaux, depicting the famous Custer massacre, participated in by a number of Indians who fought against Custer on that memorable day in 1876. Among them is Red Horn Bull, who had a portion of his jawbone shot away by General Custer. Flat Iron, old and shrunken of limb, but rugged and active despite his 73 years, was at the head of the Indian warriors." -Erie Daily Times, July 9, 1898.

Annie Oakley was one of the stars of the Wild West Show. She began touring with Cody in 1885.

Cody's June 21, 1901 was staged under big tents at 8th and Cranberry in Erie, PA on property owned by Charles H. Strong. At the time, Cranberry was the western border of the City of Erie on the lower west side. Cody set up shop in a field was near the present-day Japan Street, just a few blocks from Frontier Park. "There are forty Sioux with the show...Chief Whirlwind is at the head of this tribe." -Erie Morning Dispatch, June 22, 1901. 

Here's an interesting observation about the size and scale of the show. "There is one feature about the show that may not have been appreciated by the thousands who looked at it from their seats, but which is worth remembering, and that is that every war that has occurred on this globe during the past thirty years- no matter in what country- was represented by men who had been actual participants in the battles...In August, after a tour of the Northwest, it will reach the Pan-American exposition and probably be located there a month or more." -Erie Daily Times, June 21, 1901.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show performed at the Peach Street circus grounds on at least two occasions, July 15, 1907 and May 13, 1916.

Before he took his Wild West Show on the road, Col. William F. Cody performed at the Park Opera House on North Park Row a number of times. To learn more about this era of his career (1872 to 1876), be sure to check out the book Buffalo Bill On Stage by Erie native Sandra K. Sagala:

No comments:

Post a Comment