“You’all can go to hell. I am going to Texas.”
William Frederick Cody (1846-1917) was an internationally renowned icon and front-figure for conquest of the American western territories. According to Wikipedia Cody started working at 11 after his father died. By age 14 (double seven) he was engaged by the Pony Express private mail service which marked his debut as a rider and skilled horseman. As a young adult he joined the Union army (1863–1865) during the American Civil War and later became a scout to the US Army in the long lasting American Indian Wars. Cody retired as a US Army Chief of Scouts in 1872 and was awarded the Medal of Honour for gallantry the same year (medal later revoked in 1913).
Even before William Cody quit the Army 26 years old, he had already made the news some years earlier with a series of articles and a novel with the most notable publication making the front page of the Chicago Tribune in its first ever first serialized edition (15 dec. 1869). The highly successful novel by Ned Buntline was entitled ‘Buffalo Bill, King of the Bordermen‘ and gave Cody his famous nick-name that supposedly stemmed from Cody’s feat of killing 11 out of 12 buffalos while hunting to feed starving Pony Express railroad workers. Cody made claims to have had many jobs, including trapper, bullwhacker, “Fifty-Niner” in Colorado, Pony Express rider, wagonmaster, stagecoach driver, and a hotel manager, but historians have had difficulty documenting them. He may have fabricated some for publicity. In contrast to Cody’s claims, he probably never rode for the Pony Express, but instead worked for ‘Russell, Majors and Waddell‘ carrying messages from Leavenworth to the telegraph station three miles away.
Already widely published and of early fame by the time he left the army, Cody would soon begin his long career as showman and produced the ‘Buffalo Bill Combination‘ in 1874 and later conceived what would be his most successful venture, the touring ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West‘ vaudeville show (1883). During his first ten years as a wild west show performer Cody would continue to spend long periods hunting and scouting, before he began extensive touring with his more ambitious ‘Wild West’ show that travelled every year in both the States and in Europe until 1913 by which time ‘Buffalo Bill’ was considered one of the best known people worldwide and a powerful freemason – first earning the title of Knight Templar in 1889 before ascending to 32nd degree master mason in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1894
When we analyse William Cody’s career, it is hard not to notice that his main occupation was that of an actor in various Wild West shows which he performed and organised during forty years (1873-1913), while his legend was made from his early enrolment in the army where he spent 9 years (from 17 to 26). Even in his own time many questioned Buffalo Bill’s real merits as his skills often appeared questionable.
Seen with more discernment in todays perspective, it becomes quite evident a large part of William Cody’s life was construed for his later role as poster-model of the conquest of the West, and the unification of an American Nation that was largely invented on the merits of the heroic portrayal of the men that vanquished indians and unified the territories we today refer to as the USA. Every country needs unifying values and glorious stories in order to create an identity strong enough to hold borders tight and a nation behind commonly accepted flag. As much as the population is indoctrinated from an early age with the values of freedom and struggle by the mere presence of a piece of cloth and a song, the would be no flag to wave or music to play without heroes of the caliber of Buffalo Bill.
“You who live your lives in cities or among peaceful ways cannot always tell whether your friends are the kind who would go through fire for you. But on the Plains one’s friends have an opportunity to prove their mettle.” -Buffalo Bill
As can be suspected in the case of William Cody, his larger than life character seems overly scripted and appear to be a much needed role played in the interest of a young nation in dire need of glory and noble values. Buffalo Bill hence seems by all means crafted and the role incarnated by the lifetime actor William Frederick Cody most probably was. To best inhabit his role as a horseman and scout there is no doubt Bill could ride and shoot a rifle. However he did not do so naturally and his skills and attire must be considered to have been created by a well written script rather than a result of a genuine life on the horseback.
As a wild west character performing deceptively in public we have to consider much attention was given to his believability and his appearence must have been of the uttermost importance. His furry buffalo coats, hats and belts were surely as well sought out as his hairstyle – and fake beard. To imagine a ‘real’ horseman with fake beard seems on the surface hard to imagine, but Buffalo Bill was no authentic scout, only a skilled actor playing the part. When we consider how prevalent EGI later has proven to be in the milieu of Hollywood and film, it becomes even more plausible. Bill might very well in fact have been played by a capable woman, and the proof might be in the beard. Maybe not for all to see, but look closely and you might see the hidden hand* of an inverted master mason lifetime actor, more likely a Jill rather than Bill.
William F Cody as Buffalo Bill (postcard circa 1890)
•female size head, hand on apparent female hips revealing curved spine, no trachea and strange neck (possibly caused by photo retouch), small ears, lacklustre jawline, no brow ridge whatsoever, little to none eyebrow hair, close set shallow eyes, soft skin and false theatrical beard and moustache
*the article ‘Bearded men’ (here) argues how the use of fake beards might have been used both in the past and even today. The Fakeologist EGI blog equally feature an article on Buffalo Bill (blogpost) and the EGI forum contains several posts with videos and information on theatrical beards and practice (forum ‘beard’ posts)