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Iowa History Daily: February 26 - The Birth of Buffalo Bill

Iowa History Daily: On February 26, 1846, William Frederick (Buffalo Bill) Cody was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory. An American soldier and showman, Pony Express Rider and Medal of Honor recipient, Buffalo Bill looms large in American lore.

Born on a farm just outside of Le Claire in Scott County, Buffalo Bill’s whirlwind life soon took him to Ontario, Canada, before his family returned to Iowa briefly to sell their Scott County lands in 1853 while heading for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory. Born to Bleeding Kansas at the height of slavery tensions, Buffalo Bill’s father spoke fiercely against slavery. While giving a speech, a pro-slavery opponent jumped up and fatally stabbed him with a Bowie knife.

The 11-year old Bill found himself working for a freight carrier after his father’s death, and at 14 he caught ‘gold fever’ and headed west to the California goldfields only to meet a Pony Express Recruiter who convinced him to join the iconic American organization. The famed showman made many claims about his early life which still prove difficult to claim with available historical resources.

Cody served in the American Civil War for the United States as a part of the 7th Kansas Cavalry from 1863-1865, and then served as a civilian scout with the United States military during the dispossessive and subjugative “Indian Wars” of the 19th century. In 1872 the United States awarded Buffalo Bill the Medal of Honor for “documented gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.”

After his military service, Cody performed with several ‘Wild West shows’ before ultimately starting his own in North Platte, Nebraska during 1883. Displaying cowboy themes and episodes from the ‘Wild West,’ “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show stormed throughout the United States and Europe to capacity crowds. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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