Buffalo Bill, 1846–1917, American plainsman, scout, and showman, b. near Davenport, Iowa. His real name was William Frederick Cody. His family moved (1854) to Kansas, and after the death of his father (1857) he set out to earn the family living, working for supply trains and a freighting company. In 1859 he went to the Colorado gold fields and he claimed, apparently falsely, to have ridden for the pony express in 1860. His adventures on the Western frontier as an army scout and later as a buffalo hunter for railroad construction camps on the Great Plains were the basis for the stories later told about him.
On his first visit to the East in 1872, Ned Buntline persuaded him to appear on the New York stage, and, except for a brief period of scouting against the Sioux and Cheyenne in 1876, he was from that time on connected with show business. In 1883 he organized Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and toured with it for many years throughout the United States and Europe. Wyoming granted him a stock ranch, on which the town of Cody was laid out. He died in Denver and was buried on Lookout Mt. near Golden, Colo. The exploits attributed to him in the dime novels of Buntline and Prentice Ingraham are only slightly more imaginative than his own autobiographies (1879, 1920).
See R. J. Walsh and M. S. Salsbury, The Making of Buffalo Bill (1928); biographies by D. B. Russell (1960, repr. 1969) and J. Burke (1973); L. W. Warren, Buffalo Bill's America (2005).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.