To a great promoter like Colonel William F. Cody, the semireligious phrase “I Am Coming” required larger letters on this poster than the identification of the face that everyone would already recognize. Cody, originally a frontier scout, Indian fighter, and buffalo hunter, had become famous as the hero of “Buffalo Bill” dime novels and magazine stories. In 1882 he created his popular wild west show and toured as its star for thirty years, arguably doing more than any single American to popularize the myth of the West. Combining sharpshooting, riding, and roping with historical reenactments of war dances, buffalo hunts, stagecoach attacks, and “Custer’s Last Fight,” Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show had enormous international appeal. In fact, this copy of the poster, bearing a French tax stamp (top right), is a testament to his extremely successful tours in France.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.