Anniversary of Buffalo Bill’s burial on Lookout Mountain

Buffalo Bill's grave

Commemorative visit to Buffalo Bill’s grave, on the anniversary of his burial

Yesterday was the 98th anniversary of William F. Cody’s burial on Lookout Mountain.  Last night, the museum’s Director, Steve Friesen, gave a wonderful tour of the gravesite and the museum.  He talked about the nineteenth century fascination with death, coupled with the cult of celebrity that was building at the dawn of the twentieth century.  Those two movements combined to make Buffalo Bill’s internment an event of huge interest to the public.  His funeral was attended by tens of thousands of people, and millions have visited  the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in the intervening century.

Buffalo Bill’s funeral procession on the Lariat Loop Road, June 3, 1917

After the visit to the grave site (where we got inside the fence!), Mr. Friesen gave a tour of the museum’s permanent collection, where we learned of Cody’s work as a Pony Express rider, a wagon train leader, a scout for the army, and a buffalo hunter for the railroad.  The exhibit includes Cody’s Congressional Medal of Honor for his service as an army scout during the Plains Indian Wars.

Cast of the Wild West show, with Cody in the middle.

The current temporary exhibit is “Harmonious Living: Diversity in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.”  Cody’s Wild West show employed dozens of people–men and women, white, black, and red.  Cody was an early and staunch proponent of equal pay for equal work.  The exhibit highlights the fact that, while the U.S. government was doing its best to exterminate Native American culture, Cody’s Wild West show provided a place where his cast members could preserve their culture and beliefs.

Steve Friesen has been the Museum’s Director since 1995.  In that time, he has published an excellent book, Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary, and contributed significantly to the world’s understanding of Cody’s life and times.