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RG3004.AM:  William Frederick Cody, 1846-1917

Collected research materials:  1878-1955

North Platte, Lincoln County, Neb.:  Cowboy; showman

Size:  1.0 cu.ft.; 1 box


William F. Cody was born on a farm in Scott County, Iowa on February 26, 1846, the son of Isaac and Mary Cody. The family moved to Kansas where the father died in 1857. William found work at the age of eleven on freighting outfits and later was employed by Russell, Majors, and Waddell as a mounted messenger. In April of 1860 he is said to have been hired as a rider on the Pony Express. In 1863 he served as a scout with the 9th Kansas Cavalry in operations against the Kiowas and Comanches. The next year he served as a scout for General A.J. Smith in Tennessee. He earned his nickname “Buffalo Bill” in 1867 while he was engaged in hunting buffalo to supply meat for Kansas Pacific R.R. construction crews. For the next four years he served as a scout for the Army.

Colonel Judson, writing as Ned Buntline, made Cody the central figure in western fiction. In 1872 Judson wrote a play, Scouts of the Prairies, which Cody produced, and played the lead role. Cody scouted for the Army again in 1874 and 1876. In July of 1877 Cody, in partnership with Luther, James and Major Frank North, established the Cody-North ranch on the head waters of the Dismal River. As a Wild West showman Cody helped popularize the cowboy as a romantic figure in American History. He, with Major John Burke and W.F. Carver, commenced the Wild West Show. Cody in partnership with Nate Salisbury continued this show for years, combining frontier attractions into an active entertainment which pleased audiences in the United States and Europe. Cody was married to Louisa Frederick in St. Louis in 1866. He died in Denver, Colorado, on January 10, 1917 and is buried on Lookout Mountain overlooking that city.


This collection consists of research material and correspondence, 1878-1955 (not inclusive) arranged in five series: (1) Correspondence, 1878-1955; (2) Biographical; (3) Scrapbook, 1887-1888; (4) Printed Material; and (5) Miscellaneous. The bulk of the collection contains correspondence and research materials of Margaret May McCann in preparation for her 1929 Masters Thesis at the University of Nebraska entitled, “The Life of William F. Cody, With a Criticism of the Sources,” a copy of which is located in the NSHS Library. Miss McCann corresponded with relatives of Col. Cody, with soldiers, scouts and Indian fighters, business associates, the war department, and the historical archives of Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Iowa. This material was presented to the NSHS by Miss McCann following completion of her work.

The remainder of the collection consists of correspondence concerning the duel between Buffalo Bill and Yellow Hand, and the monument to Gen. Merritt and the 5th Cavalry at Montrose, Nebraska by Addison E. Sheldon and to him. Also included are bibliographies of research material for Cody and biographical material from several sources. Also included is a scrapbook maintained by Cody’s sister, Julia M. Goodman, containing newspaper articles surrounding her brother’s career.

See the photo component [RG3004.PH] for related images. See the NSHS Library catalog and the Nebraska History index for articles and publications about William F. Cody.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1878-1955

Box 1


  1. 1878-1929, May (not inclusive)

  2. 1931-1935, Dec.

  3. 1936-1944, 1955

Series 2 – Biographical

  1. Includes photograph and research bibliographies for William F. Cody

Series 3 – Scrapbook, 1887-1888

  1. Scrapbook, 1887-1888 (see oversize for three oversize items removed from scrapbook)

Series 4 – Printed matter

  1. Published articles and newspaper clippings

  2. “The League of Three or Buffalo Bills Pledge” by Col. Prentiss Ingraham, New York, Beadles Dime Library, No. 329, 11 February 1885. (photocopy only)

Series 5 – Miscellaneous

  1. Story of Buffalo Hunt with Grand Duke Alexis, 1872 by M.M. Turner

    Diary of James Frew (transferred to RG4229.AM: Frew, James Barcus)

    Correspondence and articles concerning Cody duel with Yellow Hand, 1876

    Biography of Benjamin Irving, Member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show

  2. Cody v. Strickland, Lincoln County Court, 1884

  3. Cody family genealogy records compiled from records at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior, North Platte, Neb.



Buffalo Bill, 1846-1917

Cody, William F., 1846-1917

Cody family

Frontier and pioneer life — (West) U.S.

McCann, Margaret May


DDS/pmc   01-28-1972

Rev. KFK   07-22-1996

Encoded TMM   03-11-2010