Monday, October 24, 2011

Two Sides of Buffalo Bill

For the last two years I have been an Associate Editor at the William F. Cody Papers Project. The goal of this project is to encourage scholarship and public understanding of William F. Cody--Buffalo Bill to most of us. Cody was the most famous American in the world for much of his life, and you can explore nearly any topic in late-19th century history through the lens of the Wild West, from the formation of gender to transportation to white-Indian relations.

Part of the project is to gather together as much of the vast contemporary writing by and about Cody that we can. There is also a YouTube channel for sharing video as we find it--such as this snippet below:


My current project within the Papers is to gather and edit the writings of Cody's business partner Nate Salsbury. Viewing the Wild West through Salsbury's eyes is showing me that Cody was a hard guy to work with. Below is my preliminary transcription of a letter that William F. Cody wrote to Salsbury in 1884. I have not yet located the letter by Salsbury to which Cody was responding, but you can get the idea:

My Dear Salsbury, 

 Your very sensable [sic] & truly rightful letter has just been read. And it has been the means of showing me just where I stand. And I solemnly promise you that after this you will never see me under the influence of liquor [.] I may have to take two or three drinks to day to brace up. That will be all as long as we are partners. I appreciate all you have done [.] Your judgement and business is good. And from this on I will do my work to the letter. This drinking surely ends today. And your pard will be himself. And be on deck all the time. 

 Yours always, W.F. Cody

[The original letter is at the Yale Beinecke Library]

1 comment:

Susan Smith-Peter said...

This is especially interesting to me because one of my earliest memories is going to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. I remember a big interior space and also a bronze buffalo. Those memories are so old they almost have the look of silent film.

In any case, it's fascinating to see the two sides of Cody here - the legend and then the recently drunk and newly repentant one.