1898 : Buffalo Bill Cody’s Troop Comes to Manistee

When:
July 18, 2021 all-day
2021-07-18T00:00:00-04:00
2021-07-19T00:00:00-04:00

William F. Cody, later nicknamed Buffalo Bill, was born in February 1846 in the Iowa Territory. Growing up he became employed by the Pony Express and later fought in the Civil War. After the war was over he contracted with the Union Pacific Railroad to hunt and kill buffalo to feed railroad crews. Cody supposedly slaughtered over 4,200 buffalo in eight months, earning him his nickname. Cody later was involved in numerous battles with Native Americans and his experiences in war along with his expert marksmanship made him a favorite subject for dime-store novelists.

In the early 1870s, Cody began acting in various productions about the Old West and in 1883 he organized his first Wild West show which he continued to perform around the world for many years.

An article published in the evening edition of the July 18, 1898 Manistee Daily News provides an excellent description of the arrival, set up, and performances of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show on July 18, 1898:

“It was just nine o’clock yesterday morning when three trains of immense special cars pulled into the Flint and Pere Marquette yards from Saginaw and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show had arrived.

“A great crowd of spectators witnessed the interesting sight of the unloading work an the transportation of the great hordes of horses, scores of truck wagons with the tent equipments, etc., to “circus common.” But a short space of time had elapsed after the arrival of the first few wagons at the tent ground, before the great mass of well drilled employees had erected the mess tents, the feed stables and the scores of small tents. Each of the hundreds of working men understands his especial duties perfectly and the great task of putting the grounds in shape, and raising the immense canvas auditorium is carried out with an ease and precision which comes only from years of experience and good management.

“The main tent on the common is an immense affair, it having a seating capacity of 14,000, which may be increased to 20,000 if necessary. This great tent, as well as the others, is excellently lighted by electricity throughout. Two dynamos and engines with competent electricians are carried by the company for this purpose.

“Early this morning, great crowds began to arrive from neighboring cities and the adjoining country. Every regular train, the incoming steamboats, and the excursions all brought great crowds, and these combined with Manistee citizens filled the streets. Promptly at 10 o’clock the parade, one of the shows most interesting features, started from the circus grounds.

“Down Maple Street to First, on First to Spruce and thence to River, east, most of the imposing pageant, passing on River Street through a living channel of humanity. Thousands viewed from sidewalk and windows, the approach of the procession, which was led by himself. Following him were members of the standing army of dozens of European nations, bands of husky cowboys, wily Arabs, and daring Cossacks. Three bands stationed in the line, including the famous mounted cowboy band, discoursed enlivening music. Especially notable features in the grand parade were the band of Cuban soldiers, the old stage coach of which so much has been heard, the United States and German Cavalry in their natty and elaborate uniforms.

“The performance this afternoon was attended by an immense audience and the grand parade and massing of the nations at the opening of the show proved a most magnificent spectacle. The riding of the Indians, cowboys and Arabs was a feature of special merit. The Cubans attracted much attention and aroused the enthusiasm of the audience to a high pitch. The great scene in which the coach is held up by the Indians and rescued by Buffalo Bill and his riders as usual was one of the best things on the program and was greatly enjoyed by the audiences. The evening performance will be in all respects an exact reproduction of the one given this afternoon, there being no features but what are carried out to the minutest detail in the evening as well as afternoon.”

Buffalo Bill toured with his Wild West Show until 1906 and later passed away in 1917 at the age of 70.

Believe it or not, but a construction crew discovered a poster of the event on the side of building in September 2021.

This poster for Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World Show was discovered last week in Manistee as workers removed siding off a building in the Oak Hill area in Filer Township. (Courtesy photo)
This poster for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World Show was discovered last week in Manistee as workers removed siding off a building in the Oak Hill area in Filer Township.

Sources:

Mark Fedder, “Buffalo Bill Comes to Manistee“, Manistee News Advocate, July 12, 2012.

Kyle Kotecki,”More than century old Buffalo Bill poster uncovered in Manistee“, Manistee News Advocate, September 21, 2021.