Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Pullman Story; A Brief Overview.

The first Pullman sleeping car, the "Pioneer," was constructed in 1864. Although not an immediate success, the Pioneer received national attention when transporting President Lincoln's body from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois.
President Abraham Lincoln's Pullman Funeral Railcar, 1865.

The high demand for his cars led George Pullman to incorporate the Pullman Palace Car Company in February of 1867. It was first located in the third Tremont House (1850-1871) at 92 West Lake Street at Dearborn Street, Chicago.

Employing a primarily white workforce, the Pullman car transformed the experience of passenger railroad travel, setting a new standard. The company produced various cars, including sleeping, hotel, parlor, and dining cars. These were too expensive for railroad companies to purchase outright, so Pullman built his business model around leasing the cars and providing the employees necessary to serve passengers.

Demand for Pullman cars and a growing workforce led Pullman to the development of his company town. 

Early in 1880, Pullman sent Colonel James to secretly purchase 4,000 acres of land between Lake Calumet and the Illinois Central rail line for $800,000 ($21.5 million today). The property was acquired from 75 different owners. The actual site of the town, including the Pullman shops, did not occupy more than 300 acres. Housing for workers was separated from the industrial areas and took shape primarily as row houses with streets in front and alleys in the rear for daily trash collection. The streets were lit and had fire hydrants.

The original Town of Pullman was completed in 1884. The first permanent resident, the Benson family, moved into the town on January 1, 1881, at 11109 South St. Lawrence Avenue. By April, the Pullman car shops were in operation, and by May, more than 350 people lived in Pullman. 

Though Pullman provided a beautiful, sanitary, and orderly town for his workers and their families, George Pullman did not offer these accommodations freely because he believed that a person does not value those things for which they do not pay.

The average rent for three-room apartments was $8 to $8.50 ($172-$183 today). The rent for a five-room row house (with basement, bathroom, indoor toilet facilities, running water on two floors, gas, and sewers, advantages unheard of in other working-class areas of the city, was $18 per month ($387 today). 
The Town of Pullman Row Houses.

Larger homes for professionals and company officers began at $28 ($750 today). Rents were calculated to achieve a 6% return on the cost of the housing; however, the investment never earned more than 4½%.
The executive row was on 111th Street between St. Lawrence and Langley Avenues. Because the kind of housing and its location next to the plant were determined by status within the Pullman Company, these executive homes were nearest to the plant. It also made it possible for the executives to reach work without having to pass through the more modest residential areas to the south. Exterior and interior detail not found in many other Pullman houses made this row a showplace. The houses consisted of eight and nine rooms, renting for $28.00 to $50.00 ($750-$1,340 per month). All had a basement, several fireplaces, a dining room, and additional space in an attic.

Housing in the Town of Pullman was somewhat more expensive than in other parts of the city, but the housing quality was far superior to that available elsewhere.

By the fall of 1883, the population of Pullman topped 8,000. Ethnically diverse, less than half of Pullman residents in 1885 were native-born, most being immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany, England, and Ireland.

By 1885, 30,000 trees bordered the streets and parks  mostly white elm, maple, ash, and linden. To supply enough landscaping material for the community, six acres of land on the shores of Lake Calumet between 113th and 114th Streets were used for nursery and greenhouse space.

The Town of Pullman is distinct in that nearly all of this housing stands today more or less as it did initially.

Not all workers at the Pullman factories lived in Pullman. Out of necessity or choice, many moved out to the surrounding neighborhoods that developed. These neighborhoods provided places for single-denomination houses of worship, saloons, and property ownership that were not possible in Pullman.

The town attracted visitors, and during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, visitors from near and far came to marvel at the town. Pullman did, however, have its detractors; labor leaders were mistrustful of the decidedly capitalist scheme, while other capitalists saw it as inviting trouble and doubted it could possibly be as profitable as George Pullman intended. It wasn't. Returns on the town never reached the six percent threshold promised to its investors. When one of the partners in Procter & Gamble approached George Pullman for advice on building a model town for a Cincinnati soap factory, he advised against the idea.

As Chicago was on display in the 1893 World's Fair, the grip of a financial crisis (the Panic of 1893) was closing around the country in general and the railroad industry in particular. Despite the stimulus provided by travelers from around the nation flocking to the fair itself, railroads had become mismanaged and overbuilt. Pullman's exhibits in the Transportation Building at the World's Columbian Exposition helped spur fairgoers to visit the Pullman neighborhood, and most found cause to praise George Pullman's grand experiment.

The World's Fair visitors did not see the annoyance of Pullman workers and residents at company paternalism and the red tape that festered under the surface. As 1893 wore on, orders at the factory declined. George Pullman cut wages as demand for new passenger cars plummeted and the company's revenue dropped. A delegation of workers complained that wages had been cut but not rents at their company housing or other costs in the company town. Since rents were deducted from paychecks, workers were left with what amounted to starvation wages. Pullman refused to lower rents or go to arbitration.

The Pullman workers, who had formed a grievance committee to negotiate with the company, were getting nowhere. Though the newly formed American Railway Union (A.R.U.) leadership advised against it, a strike broke out at the Pullman factories on May 11,1894.

The timing was unfortunate since the company could financially withstand a work stoppage by relying on existing leases. Against the might of the Pullman Company, the cause of the workers seemed hopeless. The Pullman Company continued to resist any concessions in negotiations with the strikers, trying to wait them out. So the A.R.U. decided to take a genuinely injurious action against the Pullman Company on a national scale: a boycott of the handling of Pullman cars by all A.R.U. workers.

Because Pullman cars were in such wide use, the boycott crippled rail traffic nationwide. Workers across the country had also seen wage reductions and had cause to take action. The size and scope of the A.R.U. was threatening to railroads. In response, the General Managers' Association, an industry group representing 24 railroads with terminals in Chicago, organized measures against the boycott. Those who walked off the job were replaced with strikebreakers, and the association tried to sway public opinion against the boycott through methods such as encouraging Pullman cars to be hitched to mail cars to disrupt delivery.

Through the disruption of the United States mail, the federal government was given an opening for intervention in the boycott and strike. The government was uncomfortable with the labor actions in general, part of growing apprehension about the laboring classes by those in the propertied class during the economic hardship. An injunction against the boycott was secured on the grounds of the violent nature of the strike and the threat to interstate commerce, citing the Sherman Anti-Trust Law of 1890, which ironically had been adopted to combat monopoly by big business.

Going over the head of Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, thousands of U.S. marshals and U.S. Army troops were deployed in what seemed an oversized response to the disturbance. In Chicago, mob activity increased with the military presence, with members from Pullman but many more from other southside neighborhoods. Back in Pullman, the Pullman Company strikers' plight had been overshadowed on the national stage by the boycott. Fighting between the military and workers at rail yards in the Chicago area left dozens dead and more wounded. The injunction led to the jailing of key leaders, weakening the A.R.U. and the strike.

With the government working to the General Managers' Association's ends, Debs felt the only way to force the Pullman Company into arbitration was by reaching out to other labor groups to join in a general strike, but his efforts did not succeed. The boycott dissolved in mid-July and the A.R.U. was defeated. For refusal to obey the injunction, Debs and others in the A.R.U. were indicted for contempt. In late July, President Grover Cleveland appointed a commission to investigate the strike and boycott.

Though public sentiment had been against the boycott, George Pullman was roundly criticized for the policies that led to the strike and his refusal to enter into arbitration with his workers. The situation for those in Pullman remained dire, and while little effort was made to evict residents or collect rent in arrears, destitution was widespread. However, in his testimony before the investigative commission, George Pullman defended his model town and his decisions, though they had led to a strike that ultimately damaged the company and the strikers and tarnished his image irreparably.

If George Pullman entertained any doubts about the wisdom of continuing the company town experiment, they were not reflected in his actions. Company ownership and concern with the town's appearance continued under Pullman's direction until he died in 1897. Tons of steel and concrete were placed over his casket to prevent labor radicals from desecrating the grave.

The impacts of the Pullman Strike were national in scope. As a massive and truly national strike, it demonstrated the power of national labor and forced consideration of labor action and corporate paternalism. Legally, the injunction against the strike affirmed the broad power of the federal government to ensure the free flow of interstate commerce, essentially making national strikes illegal.

In October 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the Pullman Company to sell all non-industrial landholdings. Some holdings, such as the brickyard, sold quickly. The Illinois Central railroad had owned the right of way past the front of the factory; Lake Vista was filled, and new tracks and a road were installed. The company was granted a deferment on its deadline to sell most of the town, which mostly changed hands in 1907, with residents given the first option to buy.
When owner George Pullman died in 1897, Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham's son, filled in as the acting president. His role transformed into a permanent one in 1901. He resigned in 1911, citing health concerns. Lincoln remained involved as the chairman of the board, a position he held until 1922.

The Pullman Company, no longer in the landlord business, returned to success under its second president, Robert Todd Lincoln. Union activity returned to Pullman, and just ten years after the explosive strike in 1904, the company locked out union workers, trouncing them without larger incident. In 1900, the company began using metal frames for its cars, and by 1908, the company had converted to all-steel construction. Over $5 million was invested in remodeling and enlarging the shops. As the company succeeded in the 20th century, the town it once supported floundered. As the housing stock uniformly aged and other neighborhoods grew around it, Pullman lost population and its community identity.

The 1894 Strike was not the last time the Pullman Company would be the epicenter of a contentious labor issue. In the early 20th century, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) strove for recognition of their union, a victory whose impact went beyond Pullman Porters to the Negro society on the whole.

The operation of railroads across the country relied on different classes of workers: conductors and engineers in the "operating trades," construction and laborers, and service positions like porters, dining car waiters, and station ushers. The classes of railway workers were segmented along racial and ethnic lines. Workers in the railroad trades began forming "brotherhoods" in the 1860s and 1870s to respond to health and safety issues. Many of these brotherhoods codified these racial divisions, barring non-whites from membership. In general, Negroes were confined to the service positions.

Thus it was in the service positions that black trade unionism on the railroads began. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was founded in 1925 in New York City, and for four decades, was led by A. Philip Randolph. From outside the Pullman Company, he was not susceptible to their reprisals, and his powerful public speaking and work editing the Harlem, New York monthly The Messenger helped prepare him for the task. Porters comprised 44 percent of the Pullman rail car operation workforce, and Pullman was the nation's largest employer of Negros. The porters, owing in part to their cosmopolitan experience, held positions of status and respect in the black community. The union faced tough opposition from a traditionally racist industry, an anti-union corporation, and initially from some in the black community. Many members of the Negro community feared economic reprisals since the Pullman Company offered jobs to Negroes and advertised in the black press.

In 1937, the Pullman Company signed a contract with the BSCP, leading to higher salaries, better job security, and increased protection of workers' rights through grievance procedures. It was the first major labor agreement between an Negro union and a corporation. The NAACP's Crisis credited the victory for broad influence, saying, "As important as is this lucrative contract as a labor victory to the Pullman porters, it is even more important to the Negro race as a whole, from the point of view of the Negro's uphill climb for respect, recognition and influence, and economic advance." The BSCP also functioned as a civil rights organization through the 1960s.

The Pullman Company factories consolidated and downsized through the 1940s, and the railroads discontinued sleeping car service in 1969. For short trips, cars and highway travel eclipsed passenger rail, and commercial aviation eclipsed passenger rail for long-distance travel. Although the company split apart and rail travel itself faded from prominence, the Pullman Company and the labor unrest it ignited remained prominent in the American memory of industrial and labor history. The causes of those developments and upheavals can still be seen in the architecture and landscape of Pullman's model town.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Town of Pullman Street Name Changes.

Pullman's avenues were initially named after inventors. Chicago annexed the Town of Pullman in 1907. In 1909, the street names should have been changed along with the rest of the city. However, many of the old names were still in use up until the 1930s.

Corliss Avenue is named after the inventor of the "Corliss Engine," George Henry Corliss (1817-1888). The Corliss Steam Engine originally powered the Pullman Works and provided steam heat for the public buildings in the town.

Maryland Avenue is named for the state of Maryland. The state, in turn, is named after the wife of King Charles I, Henrietta Maria. Charles was king at the time of the founding of the province in 1634. Maryland was originally named Ericsson Avenue (spelling varied on different maps). Ericsson is named after John Ericsson (1803-1889), inventor and engineer. He would have captured Mr. Pullman's attention because he developed and built the first ironclad, the U.S.S. Monitor, which famously saw action in the American Civil War.

Doty Avenue honors Duane Doty, original Pullman town manager.

Bessemer Avenue is a street that no longer exists in North Pullman, named after Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), the inventor of a revolutionary method of making steel. His system is still in use today.

Langley Avenue was probably named for Esther Langley, a relative of real estate developer, entrepreneur, and manufacturer Sivert Tobias Gunderson. Langley was originally Fulton Avenue, named for Robert Fulton (1765-1815). Fulton was an American engineer and inventor who developed the first commercially viable steamboat.

Champlain Avenue honors Samuel De Champlain (1567-1635), a French explorer and navigator who founded the city of Quebec. Champlain was originally Stephenson Avenue, named for George Stephenson (1781-1848). Stephenson Avenue occupied pride of place in the center spine of the town because the man the avenue honors built the first public railway line. All railways today are descended from this first railway; he also developed the standard gauge of railways (4 feet 8 and a half inches) still in use today.

St. Lawrence Avenue is named after the St. Lawrence River, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. St. Lawrence is named, in turn, after the early Christian Martyr St. Lawrence (225-258 AD), deacon of Rome. He was killed in the persecution of Christians by Emporer Valerian by roasting him to death over an open grate. Before 1907, St. Lawrence was Watt Avenue. James Watt (1736-1819) invented, among many other things, the first modern and efficient steam engine.

Forrestville Avenue - Forrestville was a small town on the south side in the 1850s. It was located near Hyde Park. The street name honors this now-vanished town. Forrestville was originally named Morse, named for Samuel Morse (1791-1872), developer of the single-wire telegraph system and, famously, Morse code.

Cottage Grove Avenue has a long history. Charles Cleaver (1814-1893) developed a suburb south of Chicago on the Illinois Central line called Cleaverville in the 1850s. Cleaverville eventually became the Oakland neighborhood north and west of Hyde Park. Cleaver named the street after a grove of shady trees that surrounded a cottage in his development. The grove was a popular meeting spot for early settlers.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Barack Obama announces the groundbreaking ceremony for his presidential library in Chicago’s covenanted Jackson Park.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias creating a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. Historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and people instigating arguments or fights.

The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN
or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED, are explained in this article.



Five years ago, then-President Barack Obama chose Chicago’s Jackson Park as the future site of his presidential center, stirring the South Side with the promise of long-overdue transformation and the distinction of being the place where the story of the nation’s first Black president and first lady is told.

On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the Obamas will return to Chicago and at last kick off construction during a ceremonial groundbreaking with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Obama Foundation announced. The celebration follows a protracted journey that began in 2016 and, thanks to a confluence of obstacles, at times left supporters to wonder if dirt would ever be turned.

But with a date for the ceremony formally inked in, the Obama Presidential Center will take an important step toward its debut on the South Side, where Barack Obama was first elected to public office and Michelle Obama grew up.

“Michelle and I could not be more excited to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center in the community that we love,” Barack Obama said in a video posted Friday. “With your help, we can make the center a catalyst for economic opportunity, a new world-class destination on the South Side, and a platform for young people to drive change. So let’s celebrate Chicago.”

Obama Foundation President Valerie Jarrett agreed, saying next week’s ceremony also represents a milestone for the South Side.

“I spent my entire childhood and adulthood seeing the South Side overlooked,” Valerie Jarrett told the Tribune this past Monday. “For generations now, the South Side of Chicago hasn’t seen the kind of investment and attention that I think it deserves. So, long overdue, and I couldn’t be more proud that it is President and Mrs. Obama who decided to make this major investment in the South Side of Chicago.”

In pitching the vision of his presidential center, Obama sought to build a “living, breathing” campus that pays homage to the movement that made his historic presidency possible, Jarrett said — including in Chicago, where he served as a community organizer before finding his political star.

“This is not your parents’ or your grandparents’ presidential library,” Valerie Jarrett said. “This is a library of pointing really towards the future, that stands on the shoulders of our past.”

When Obama announced that historic Jackson Park, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Woodlawn, would be the destination of his future presidential center, its opening day was scheduled for this year. But it would only be last month that shovels even hit the ground at the site, following a failed but lengthy legal effort to halt construction.

The hurdles to groundbreaking stemmed from Obama’s decision to place his presidential center at a park listed on the National Register of Historic Places and first mapped out in 1871 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also co-designed New York’s, Central Park. The Jackson Park location, as well as the need to close and expand major adjacent streets, prompted a yearslong federal review that concluded this February.

However, that would not be the last the city and the Obama Foundation would hear from those who oppose the Jackson Park location. Protect Our Parks, a park preservationist nonprofit that unsuccessfully sued the city in 2018 to block the project, filed a second legal challenge the same day pre-construction roadwork began in April, this time regarding the legality of the federal review.

That lawsuit recently led to an emergency bid to block construction that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in August. Bulldozers soon descended on the site, though the plaintiffs maintain they still have legal options in their arsenal.

Amid the twists and turns that the decision to locate the campus at Jackson Park sparked, Jarrett, said the Obamas never doubted their choice.

“Hard things are hard,” said Jarrett, who has deep roots in Chicago and worked in the Obama White House. “The challenges presented were challenges that we were prepared to overcome, and we have. And so, no, I never heard a single time where President Obama wavered in his commitment to deliver this world-class center on this site and in this location.”

The $700 million presidential center is mostly dirt mounds now, but in four years there is to be a 235-foot-tall tower with a quote from Barack Obama’s speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil-rights marches carved on the exterior. There will be a forum building and a plaza with public artwork open to members of the community to gather, as well as an athletic and recreation center.

A new branch of the Chicago Public Library will include on its roof a garden resembling Michelle Obama’s fruit and vegetable garden at the White House. And a playground, walking paths, and a sledding hill will adorn the park area surrounding the buildings.

Meanwhile, Obama Presidential Center Museum Director Louise Bernard, who also helped design the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, said the team has been searching across the nation for the thousands of objects that will go into the artifact collection. But Bernard emphasized the artifacts are not a “time capsule” but a way to inspire future generations, including the young South Side visitors who might come to see themselves as a future president of the U.S.

“It’s not simply that the history is this thing that happened in the past to other people, or that the objects all live behind glass … but rather that the visitor feels themselves to be a social actor in the making of history,” Bernard said in a recent interview.

In newly revealed details, Bernard shared that the four floors of the museum will start with the first level portraying Obama’s childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia as well as his seminal years in Chicago with Michelle Obama and his first presidential campaign. The second floor will frame his administration’s tenure, beginning with its inheritance of an economic meltdown and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the third floor will be a homage to the diversity of the different groups of people who worked at the Obama White House, and a full-scale replica of the Oval Office will be open for visitors to walk through. And finally, the last floor will symbolize Obama’s “passing of the baton” to the next generation of leaders in his farewell address in Chicago, Bernard said.

“It’s a story that’s connected, obviously, to Chicago,” Bernard said. “It’s really rooted in the South Side of Chicago broadly. … As much as the kind of central narrative arc is about the Obama presidency, it is also about all of the people who made his journey possible.”

By Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune, Sept 24, 2021
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Lost Towns of Illinois - Forrestville, Illinois.

Forrestville was a Hamlet (a small human settlement), founded in the 1850s, that had a somewhat indefinite boundary, like many other suburban villages. It is in today's Grand Boulevard community. 

It may be said at first to have been bounded as follows: Forty-third Street, Cottage Grove Avenue, Fortyseventh Street and Indiana Avenue.

Forrestville was in what was known as District № 7, which was taken from District № 2, in May 1873. 

A school of thirty-seven pupils was organized on May 19, 1873, in Miss Alice J. Quiner's house on Forty-fifth Street. In September 1873, Miss Alice Draper became principal, and Miss Quiner remained as the assistant. Nearly fifty children were in attendance within less than a year. 
Forestville School in Chicago.

The Springer school, built in 1873, became an important educational institution. In 1874 the school was moved to Cottage Grove Avenue, between forty-fourth and forty-fifth Streets. In 1875 the school was moved once again to the corner of forty-fifth Street and St. Lawrence Avenue. The Oak Ridge school was in the vicinity of Forty-seventh Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, but children attended from as far south as Sixty-third Street and as far west as Indiana Avenue.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Stark Truth About Chicago in the 1890s.

The World's Columbian Exposition tried to show the world — and the rest of America — the best Chicago had to offer. But outside the fair's gates, many Chicagoans lived a much darker existence.

Much of Chicago's industry centered on the Union Stock Yards and meat-processing plants. The smoke, stench, and filth surrounding the packing operations drove many well-off residences to other Chicago communities and some to the cleaner suburbs. Those who labored in the yards continued to live nearby in what was known as Packingtown.

Thousands of immigrants lived in crowded tenement buildings and worked long hours, six days a week; the average wage for a meat-packer was less than 20¢ an hour ($7.60/hr today), and many laborers made far less.
Packingtown just outside of the Union Stock Yards.

Many Chicago neighborhoods that were not directly affected by the stockyards were also dirty, smelly, and unsafe. Garbage was dumped in the streets, and corpses of animals were left to rot. The water supply was notoriously unhealthy; hundreds of people, particularly children, died of cholera and other preventable diseases every year. 

Bubbly Creek was originally a wetland; during the 19th century, channels were dredged to increase the rate of flow into the Chicago River and dry out the area to increase the amount of habitable land in the fast-growing city. The South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River became an open sewer for the local stockyards, especially the Union Stock Yards, and the packing houses. Meatpackers dumped waste, such as blood and entrails, into the river. The creek received so much blood and offal (decomposing animal flesh) that it began to bubble methane and hydrogen sulfide gas from the products of decomposition.
Bubbly Creek, circa 1915

In 1906, author Upton Sinclair wrote "The Jungle," (in pdf) an unflattering portrait of America's meatpacking industry. In it, he reported on the state of Bubbly Creek, writing that:

"Bubbly Creek is an arm of the Chicago River, and forms the southern boundary of the Union Stock Yards; all the drainage of the square mile of packing houses empties into it so that it is really a great open sewer a hundred or two feet wide. One long arm of it is blind, and the filth stays there forever and a day. The grease and chemicals that are poured into it undergo all sorts of strange transformations, which are the cause of its name; it is constantly in motion as if huge fish were feeding in it, or great leviathans disporting themselves in its depths. Bubbles of carbonic gas will rise to the surface and burst, and make rings two or three feet wide. Here and there the grease and filth have caked solid, and the creek looks like a bed of lava; chickens walk about on it, feeding, and many times an unwary stranger has started to stroll across and vanished temporarily. The packers used to leave the creek that way, till every now and then the surface would catch on fire and burn furiously, and the fire department would have to come and put it out. Once, however, an ingenious stranger came and started to gather this filth in scows (a large flat-bottomed boat for transporting bulk material and dredging), to make lard out of; then the packers took the cue, and got out an injunction to stop him, and afterward gathered it themselves. The banks of Bubbly Creek are plastered thick with hairs, and this also the packers gather and clean."
Bubbly Creek Today.

The World's Fair organizers were so afraid of a cholera outbreak among fair visitors that they built a pipeline to bring in clean water from Waukesha, Wisconsin, about 115 miles to the north. The city was characterized by overcrowded schools, filth, rampant crime, and hundreds of brothels in several red-light districts. 

English politician John Burns, who visited Chicago in 1895, called Chicago a "pocket edition of hell." Later he added, "On second thought, I think hell is a pocket edition of Chicago."

How dirty was Chicago? In the late 1890s, Chicago had about 83,000 horses living and working in the city. On average, one horse creates between 40 to 50 pounds of manure a day. At 40 pounds per day, which equals 3,320,000 pounds, or 1,660 tons of horse manure to dispose of per day. "Manure Mongers" (street sweepers) would swept-up the horse manure. By 1900 there were only 377 automobiles registered with the Board of Examiners of Operators of Automobiles. What happened to all that manure? 
1890s Chicago Traffic

Many of the poor probably didn't see the White City except from a distance. Although the fair's organizers were pressed to provide a "Waif's Day (Waif: a homeless, neglected, or abandoned child)." But Harlow Niles Higinbotham, World's Fair President, said peremptorily (subject to no further debate or dispute), "NO!"

The United States as a whole was struggling during the year of the fair. The Panic of 1893 was a serious depression that bankrupted railroads and triggered runs on banks. Even the wealthy struggled, and many middle-class families who might have traveled to the fair stayed home. The poor were even less likely to experience the wonders of the exposition. 

That being said, Fair revenues from gate admission, concessions, and exhibitors reached $35 million ($1.1 billion today). After all the expenses were paid, the net profit was about $2 million ($61 million today), which was split amongst shareholders. 

NOTE: The Observation 'Ferris' Wheel, opened 52 days late on June 21, 1893, earning $733,086 ($22,237,000 today) at 50¢ ($15 today; same as the cost to enter the fair) per a 2-rotation ride (one rotation to load/unload passengers, six cars at a time, and one complete rotation). Receipts were second to the "Street in Cairo" exhibit at $787,826 ($23,898,000 today).
Amazing one-minute footage of the Ferris Wheel
running in 1896 at Ferris Wheel Park at Clark and
Wrightwood in  Lincoln Park, Chicago.
The vantage point here is looking from the southwest
corner of Wrightwood, northeast across Clark Street.
Filmed by the Lumiere Brothers and is one
of the first films ever shot in Chicago.

In 1893 Chicago, the entertainment that was more attainable for the poor was the "Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World" show at 50¢ ($15 today) entry fee, which was across the street from the World's Fair. Most of the exhibits and entertainments at the World's Fair charged an additional entry fee.

Racism at Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The 1893 World's Fair demanded too high a percentage of gross profits from Buffalo Bill Cody's show, that he opened his show next to the fair.

William Frederick Cody was born on February 26, 1846. As a young man, Cody won renown and an indelible nickname for his authentic, embellished, and imagined exploits on the Great Plains. But it was in Chicago that Buffalo Bill embarked on his celebrated career as a showman extraordinaire. Cody was among a handful of civilian scouts awarded the Medal of Honor for courage in battle.
William F. Cody's Medal of Honor, April 26, 1872

Chicago knew the intrepid frontiersman early on. The first installment of "Buffalo Bill: The King of Border Men" — the sensational tale by dime-novel fabulist Ned Buntline that brought 23-year-old Cody national fame — appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on December 15, 1869. 
Cody first visited the city in February 1872, exchanging his fringed buckskin for a store-bought 'monkey suit' before attending an elegant ball. "Here, I met a bevy of the most beautiful women I had ever seen," he remembered. "Fearing every minute I would burst my new and tight evening clothes, I bowed to them all around — but very stiffly."
Buffalo Bill Cody
Before year's end, Cody returned to the city, summoned by Buntline to star in his new play. "Scouts of the Prairie" opened on December 16, 1872, at Nixon's Amphitheatre, a foul-smelling, canvas-topped venue on Clinton Street (not far from today's Ogilvie Transportation Center). Without exception, the city's newspapers panned the lively but ludicrous melodrama.

Theatergoers didn't care. Despite his limited acting skills — the Tribune critic claimed Cody delivered his lines "after the manner of a diffident school-boy in his maiden effort" — Chicagoans loved Buffalo Bill. Full of sound and fury, the play, with its tall, ridiculously handsome leading man, "attracts more people than the house can hold," noted the Tribune. "Crowds are turned away nightly."

For the next few years, Cody divided his time between the Plains, where he served as an Army scout, and the theatrical circuit, where he led his acting troupe, Buffalo Bill Combination. From 1874 to 1886, "Bison William" (as one Tribune wit dubbed him) performed dozens of times at the Olympic, Criterion, Adelphi, and other long-vanished Chicago theatres. He headlined in such fare as "Knight of the Plains," "The Prairie Waif," "Buffalo Bill's Pledge," and "May Cody," a contrived Western romance involving Cody's sister.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, 1883
Cody assumed his most famous role beginning in October 1883 when he brought "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" to the Chicago Driving Park, a horse track on the city's West Side (immediately west of today's Garfield Park, see map below). The "Wild West" featured scores of cowboys, scouts, buffalo hunters, and Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Lakota men and women in an outdoor extravaganza. Open to the public, the Native American encampments attracted throngs of curious onlookers throughout the decades-long run of Cody's traveling show.
Buffalo Bill Cody, with three Indians from his Wild West Show. Date unknown.
Confident they were seeing, as advertisements promised, "genuine illustrations of life on the plains," Chicagoans were thrilled to spine-tingling reenactments of buffalo hunts, Pony Express riders, stagecoach attacks, and, in later years, Custer's Last Stand. Staples of the show were rodeo acts and "marvelous shooting" exhibitions, at which Cody excelled.

In the May 1885 Chicago appearance of the "Wild West," a diminutive young woman named Annie Oakley outshone even Cody with her marksmanship. She'd remain a star attraction of the show for 17 seasons. America's darling sharpshooter, Annie Oakley, was greeted by a mob of newspaper reporters.
Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses on August 13, 1860, in Darke County, Ohio. Her family called her Annie. Oakley joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1885 with her name on advertising posters as "Champion Markswoman." 
Thanks to the work of his manager, Nate Salisbury, Buffalo Bill was invited to perform at London's American Exhibition in 1887. His voyage across the Atlantic included "83 saloon passengers, 38 steerage passengers, 97 Indians, 180 horses, 18 buffalo, 10 elk, 5 Texan steers, 4 donkeys, and 2 deer." Before the show opened, the camp was visited by former prime minister William Gladstone, the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII), and his family. Annie Oakley even shook hands with the Prince, and he was so charmed—despite the breach in etiquette—that he encouraged his mother, Queen Victoria, to see it. 
Buffalo Bill in London, 1887

A performance was arranged for May 11, 1887. It was the first time since her husband's death two decades earlier that Queen Victoria appeared in person at a public performance. She liked it so much that she asked for another performance on the eve of her Jubilee Day festivities, with the kings of Belgium, Greece, and Denmark and the future German Kaiser William II in attendance. The twice-a-day performances at the American Exhibition averaged crowds of 30,000 at 50¢ admission ($15 today).

Yet his mettle would be tested many years later by a man who drafted blueprints and knew nothing of warfare on the Western plains. Cody often thought it was the most satisfying performance of his life.
Buffalo Bill Cody
Daniel Hudson Burnham, the foremost architect in Chicago, Illinois, was appointed the director of works for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The official name of the Fair, the World's Columbian Exposition, commemorated the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. Upon his selection, Burnham wrote a prophetic entry in his daily journal: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood…."
Daniel Hudson Burnham
Cody immediately grasped an opportunity from his ranch in Nebraska in the Columbian Exposition. His "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World" show had recently returned from a  hugely successful tour of Europe. Ever alert to profitable ventures, he foresaw fortune awaiting at the world's Fair. He promptly dispatched his partner and business manager, Nate Salsbury, to Chicago.

The exposition's Committee of Ways and Means was the governing body for all concessions at the Fair. Salsbury made an enthusiastic pitch, extolling the wonders of Buffalo Bill's Wild West extravaganza. After due consideration, the committee informed Salsbury that the tariff for a concession was 50% of gross proceeds—not [net] profits, but 50¢ of every dollar collected for admission.

When Salsbury returned to Nebraska, we can only imagine Cody's reaction. He probably shouted something on the order of: "Fifty percent! Who do those SOBs think they are?"

Within a short time, he would learn not just who they were but, more importantly, the grandeur of their plans. The Columbian exposition was envisioned as the most spectacular attraction in the world.
Cody was not one to be denied. The exposition was scheduled to run six months, May 1 to October 30, and he meant to be there—without handing over 50% of his gate receipts. He dispatched Salsbury again to Chicago, where the manager leased about 14 acres of undeveloped land at Stony Island Avenue and 63rd Street, opposite Jackson Park, for the encampment.
Just west of the World's Fair. See the Map Below.

The entrance to Buffalo Bill's 1893 Wild West show and encampment was on 62nd Street, just west of the Fair's 62nd Street entrance.
On March 20, a long train carrying the Wild West show arrived at the rail yards. Unloaded from the cars were 100 former cavalry troopers, 46 cowboys, 97 Cheyenne and Sioux Indians, 53 Cossacks and Hussars, and several herds of animals, including horses, buffalo, and elk. In a game of one-upmanship, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World opened on April 3, four weeks before the exposition. 

The 50¢ admission to the show was more affordable than the World's Fair, which also charged 50¢ admission but had separate admission costs for most exhibits on the Midway Plaisance.
Buffalo Bill Day was the show's last day. It closed one day after the World's Columbian Exposition, on purpose!
The show presented bronco busters and wild animals, a cowboy band tooting popular tunes, a choreographed Indian attack on the Deadwood stagecoach (vanquished by mounted troopers), and a realistic staging of "Custer's Last Stand." In daring feats of marksmanship, Oakley blasted an impossible array of targets, and Cody, on horseback, shattered glass balls thrown into the air. On some days, every seat in the 18,000-seat arena was sold out.
Buffalo Bill at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Fair authorities allowed the Wild West show to parade through the Exposition grounds weekly. 

Cody often upstaged the exposition. On one occasion, World Fair officials flatly refused a request by Mayor Carter Harrison that poor children of Chicago be admitted for one day at no charge. Ever the consummate showman, Cody immediately announced a "Waifs Day" (Old French term; "stray beast," designates a homeless, forsaken, or orphaned child) at the Wild West show. 

Cody offered every child from Chicago free train tickets, free admission to his performance, and free access to roam the Wild West encampment. To top it off, he also gave them all the candy and ice cream they could eat. Fifteen thousand children of all races swarmed the Wild West show, and Cody was hailed as a "champion of the poor."
 Waifs Take A Bath
Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1893
Some hundreds of children to whom the word "home" conveys no meaning, many of whom have no recollections of their parents, and still others to whom the mention of father or mother only conjures up feelings of lothing and fear, enjoy the rare luxury of being clean and decently clothed yesterday, Tuesday, July 25, 1893. Though the exertions of Superintendent Daniels and his fellow-workers of the Chicago Waifs Mission & Training School little wanderers of the street of both sexes and all colors enjoyed their annual bath.

There may be some to whom the idea of an annual bath is highly amusing. There was nothing amusing in the scene on the lakefront yesterday. Hundreds of boys, some of them with crutches, stood patiently in line for hours before a small tent east of Michigan Avenue, between Randolph and washinton streets. The high wind caught up loose dirt and whirled it about through the crowd in dense clouds, filling eyes, ears, and noses until the grimy urchins almost lost their identity. Dirty clothes were made still dirtier and the discomfort of standing for hours in a broiling sun was greatly intensified. Those who passed through the tent and came out clean did not remain so until they got fifty feet away. That cloud of dirt and street sweepings immediately covered their moist skins until they were as black as before. If someone had sent a street sprinkler down there all this discomfort for the children and their grown up friends who were working so hard for them could have been done away with. But no one sent the sprinkler.
Inside the tent three barbers armed with clippers worked as they never worked before removing unkempt locks. As fast as their hair was cut the boys were passed along the line to half a dozen muscular men. Dirty and sometimes filthy rags were quickly striped off, the boys were plunged into tubs, and the attendants begam with stiff brushes and plenty of soap upon the dirt accumulations of months. Superintendent Daniels was there himself with a scrubbing brush until he was tired out. Then he went outside to issue checks to the washed throng for clothes.
The attendants were none too gentle in the way they handled those still brushes, but not once was a wimper of complaint heard. The boys were only too glad to be clean once in twelve months. They would be clean all the time if they could.

But if they love cleanliness why are the newsies selling papers and bootblacks shining shoes for pennies enough to keep soul and body together always so dirty? Where are they to go for a bath, even once a week? They cannot spare the price of even one bath from their scanty earnings, and even if they could there isn't a public bathhouse in the city those unkempt younsters would be allowed to enter. They cannot wash at home, for they have no home. If they attempted to bathe in the lake they are promptly arrested by policeman. There are no free public bathhouses in this city of nearly two million people. The only thing these boys can do is to wait, and push, and struggle, endure great physical discomfort, and miss the sale of their papers for a part of the day, which means that they shall also miss what passes with them for dinner, for the privilege of being clean once in a year.
After the bath came the distribution of clothing. Two hundred boys stood in line patiently waiting their turn while another hundred who did not know Superintendent Daniels so well swarmed around him, not rough and noisy but only afraid, so very much afraid, that the badly needed clothing would all be gone before their turn came and that for months longer they would have to wear the rags that hardly covered thei nakedness. Never once did a harsh word escape Superintendent Daniels, though he was so closely beset that for hald an hour he could do nothing but expostulate. Finally he was forced to take a piece of board and push back broad sides of the boys until he had dressed the  the line into order.

Some of the women teachers were on the ground at times. These, like Superintendent Daniels, were treated with the utmost respect by the children. Some of the smaller boys were met by these teachers going sorrowfully away without the coveted bath. They were worn out with waiting in the hot sun and the dust. The only comfort these teachers could offer the disappointed little ones was the assurance that next year they should have a nice wash and some clean clothes. Wait a year for a bath!

Possibly the city might have lent a hose to be connected with the nearest hydrant, thus affording a plentiful supply of water at least, but the city did not do this, so the water was hauled in barrels.

Up at the Chicago Waifs Mission & Training School, homeless, fatherless, motherless girls were also going through the cleansing process and were afterward given new dresses, new shoes, and new hats. A few mothers were there with babies that needed washing and clean clothes. The girls were taken upstairs, where half a dozen women presided at the tubs. The manes of every one of these women are familiar to the readers of society news. they came early in the morning, put on old wrappers, rolled up their sleeves,  and went to work, hard, earnest work, until they were exhausted. Other women watched over the distribution of clothes. More than 300 girls were made clean and provided with new clothes. Here are the firms that helped to give these boys and girls a bath and to clothe them afterward: Edson Keith & Co., Keith Bros., Gage Bros., Sweet, Dempster & Co., Phelps Dodge & Palmer, Sampson, Lowe & Co., Gus the Square hatter, C.M. Barnes, King & Bro., Putnam, Felix & Marston, and Mann Bros.

Six hundred boys and three hundred girls were cared for by the Chicago Waifs Mission & Training School workers yesterday. In the afternoon those who had been fortunate enough to get their baths and their clothes in the morning went to the Auditorium, where a benefit was given for them by the theatrical profession. All afternoon up to the close of the preformance squads of breathless boys and girls, their faces shining with expectancy and soap, would come rushing up the stairs, cast one awe-struck, admiring glance around at the beauties of the parquet and the handsomely dressed women and children in it, then go tearing up the steps, up, up, to the topmost galleries, where for once thay might sit in comfortable chairs, watch the wonders of the stage, and, watching, forget their wretchedness.

The house was well filled. There were sixteen box parties. The theatrical profession was generous in volunteering their services, and the program was a long one. Lillian Russell, Sol Smith Russell, Eissing-Scott, Henry Norman, Herman Bellstedt Jr., Col Thomas H.Monstery, Genevra Gibsom, Denman Thompson's double quartet, Annabelle, Richard Pitrot, Tilly Morrissey, the three Marvelles, and Iwanoff's Imperial Russian troupe took part.

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 27, 1893, children will attend Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. They will be in condition to enjoy it in truth, for each youngster will be given all thay can eat before entering the show. The Illinois Centralwill transport the waifs to Sixty-third street and Stony Island Avenue. Across the World's Fair grounds was a piece of vacant property owned by J.Irving Pearce, which has been placed at the disposal of the children. Here a booth has been put up, where lemonade was made and lunches distributed. Each and every boy and girl will get a glass of lemonade served in the biggest glasses it is possible to find anywhere and an extra large lunch, larger than the hungrist boy could possibly eat at one time, neatly put in a paper box. Then for the show.

Buffalo Bill will give a special performance for the waifs earlier than usual so the boys can get back to their special trains in time to sell their papers at 4 o'clock. "Buffalo Bill's heart is bigger than his hat," said one of the woman teachers at the Chicago Waifs Mission & Training School, "and any one who has seen the latter knows that is saying a gread deal. When we asked him if we might bring the children down to see the show he replied, 'Why, of course; bring as many as you like.' "Can we bring 10,000?" I asked. 'Bring 20,000 if you like,' was his answer."

World's Fair President, Harlow Niles Higinbotham, was asked to let the children march through the grounds from one end to the other with the teachers accompanying to explain what the various buildings were and to keep them in order. They were not to enter any of the buildings. The teachers pledged themselves that the children should not break ranks, step on the grass, or do anything at all out of the way. It was to be simply a march through the grounds.

But Higinbotham said peremptorily (subject to no further debate or dispute), "NO!"

Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World closed on October 31, 1893, a day later than the World's Fair. During its engagement, an average of 16,000 spectators attended each of the 318 performances, for an overall attendance exceeding five million. In the end, Cody departed Chicago with $1 million in cash ($30 million today) and the irony of the last laugh. He never paid Burnham or the World's Columbian Exposition one red cent. He used part of the proceeds to found his namesake town, Cody, Wyoming; build an extensive fairground for North Platte, Nebraska; and retire the debts of five Nebraska churches. The balance went toward expanding the panorama of his Wild West extravaganza.

Buffalo Bill left town a hero, so he remained on each subsequent visit to Chicago: more than 100 performance dates over the next 23 years. Touring the world, the hard-drinking Cody continued to make lots of money, which he steadily lost to bad investments and extravagant living. In July 1913, two weeks after an 11-day engagement in Chicago, creditors foreclosed on his show.

Now the man who once bedazzled European royalty toured with a second-rate circus. His last appearance here came over nine days in August 1916 when he served as little more than a mounted prop at the Chicago Shan-Kive and Round-Up ("shan-kive" was a Ute word meaning "celebration"). The venue for this farewell? The old West Side Park #2 (at Polk Street and Wolcott Avenue), where the Cubs won the World Series in 1907 and 1908.

Cody died at the Denver home of his sister May on January 10, 1917. He is buried at the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum, City of Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado. Louisa Maud Frederici Cody (1843-1921) married William Frederick Cody on March 6, 1866. The Colonel made arrangements if he was to die first. Col. Cody was interned in a vault blasted eighteen feet in depth from solid rock. His casket rests upon concrete pedestals, and over it is covered a substantial arch. The grave is to be opened, and the coffin of Mrs. Cody is to be placed above that of her husband; thus, the two will be sleeping in one grave.

In an editorial the next day, the Chicago Tribune celebrated the "illusion" created by Buffalo Bill. "A fact, after all, is not all true," the Tribune contended. "Truth is fact — perfected by our dreams and emotional reactions. This will live with us while mere facts sink into the shadows of the forgotten past. They are dead, and the credence we give facts makes them immortal."
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Pony Express began in the spring of 1860 and lasted 19 months. Its purpose was to get the U.S. Mail across the country as fast as possible. California, a state since 1850, was filling up with white people. The forces that soon would lead to civil war were pulling the nation apart. If the United States was going to hold together, there had to be fast, reliable communication between the West Coast and the centers of power in the East.

Bill Cody was 14 years old, so the story goes, when he made his world-famous ride for the Pony Express. Leaving Red Buttes on the North Platte River near present-day Casper, Wyoming, he galloped 76 miles west to Three Crossings on the Sweetwater River. His route took him along what we now call the Oregon/California/Mormon Trail. There was a station—at least a rough cabin and a horse corral—along the road every 12 miles. Bill would have jumped off his sweaty horse at each station and onto a fresh one.

As he dismounted, he drew the mochila—the leather saddle cover with special pockets for the mail—from the saddle and threw it over the saddle of the horse the wrangler brought up. This happened in a matter of seconds, and there was no time to lose.

When he arrives at Three Crossings, the story goes on. Bill found that Miller, the rider who was to take over for him, had been killed the night before in a drunken brawl.

"I did not hesitate for a moment to undertake an extra ride of 85 miles to Rocky Ridge, and I arrived at the latter place on time," Buffalo Bill remembered many years later. Rocky Ridge was near South Pass. There, another rider would have picked up the westbound mail young Bill delivered. But the eastbound mail needed a carrier, too, to take it back the way he had just come. Bill volunteered again. When he got back to Three Crossings, the same man was, of course, still dead, and so Bill again transferred the mochila and galloped back to Red Buttes. The entire distance, supposedly, was 322 miles.

All in all, it was a thrilling ride made by a valiant boy who had been a great horseman all his life. By the time he was 50, Buffalo Bill was the most famous man in America, and his Pony Express ride was one of the reasons for his stardom.

But Bill had things mixed up. For one thing, Three Crossings and Rocky Ridge are only 25 miles apart, not 85. For a second thing, much more important, he never did make the famous ride. In fact, William Frederick Cody never rode for the Pony Express at all.

Young Will Cody was born in 1846 into a middle-class family on the Iowa frontier. After moving to Kansas in the 1850s, the family was thrust into poverty by the violence leading up to the Civil War. Will Cody's father, Isaac, was a surveyor, a founder of towns, a real estate investor, and a locator of land claims. On September 18, 1854, during a dispute at a political meeting at Rively's trading post, a pro-slavery sympathizer stabbed him twice in the chest with a Bowie knife. Complications from the injury ultimately led to his death in 1857. Will, meanwhile, had to find work to help support his mother and sisters.

When he was just 11 years old, he took a job carrying messages on horseback for the freighting firm of Majors and Russell. He rode from the company's offices in the town of Leavenworth to the telegraph office at Fort Leavenworth, three miles away.

Majors and Russell soon became Russell, Majors, and Waddell, the largest transportation company in the West, which owned stagecoaches, thousands of freight wagons, and tens of thousands of horses, oxen, and mules to pull them, as well as a network of stations, corrals, and employees across the West. This was the company that started the Pony Express system in 1860. Because young Will had worked for them briefly when he was 11, it may not have seemed to him such a stretch later to claim he had, in fact, ridden for the Pony Express when he was 14 years old.

Will Cody's actual teenage years were troubling, not thrilling. When Congress made Kansas a territory in 1854, lawmakers left it up to local people to decide whether to allow slavery. Armed men poured in; some supported slavery, and some opposed it. Elections were often violent. For a time, "bleeding Kansas," as it was called, had two territorial legislatures. One supported slavery, one opposed it, and each claimed to be the territory's legal, rightful lawmaking body.

During the late 1850s, Will Cody took jobs driving horses and wagons to places as far away as Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and Denver, Colorado. During the 19 months of 1860 and 1861, when the Pony Express was an ongoing concern, he was in school in Leavenworth. He could not have been riding back and forth across what's now central Wyoming at the same time on the Sweetwater Division of the Pony Express.

The Civil War broke out nationwide in April 1861. Sometime in 1862, young Will, consumed by a desire to avenge his father's death, joined the Kansas Redlegs, an anti-slavery militia. These men and boys were not regular soldiers, and they were unpaid and lived only on what they could steal, according to Louis Warren's 2005 book, "Buffalo Bill's America." Mostly the Redlegs stole horses and burned farms. More so, even than other militias in Kansas and Missouri, they were criminals. They paid little attention to whether the families whose farms they burned were pro- or anti-slavery, or pro-anti-union. Young Will Cody rode with them for about a year and a half.

Later in the war, he joined a regular Kansas regiment of the Union Army, and his soldiering became more respectable. After the war, he worked in western Kansas for a meat contractor that provided food for crews building the Kansas Pacific Railroad of the Union Pacific Railroad. His job was to kill buffalo, and Cody delivered 12 bison daily to the hungry workers for a year and a half. It's estimated he killed more than 4,000 in one eight-month period, and he once killed 48 buffalo in 30 minutes, despite Cody supporting conservation measures like implementing a hunting season.

He became known as Buffalo Bill, one of several hunters on the plains with that nickname at the time. He also became friends with a man who held various police jobs in the towns of western Kansas—James Butler Hickok, better known as Wild Bill Hickok. Hickok suddenly became famous in 1867 when a reporter for Harper's Weekly, a national magazine, wrote an article about him.

Soon, both Bills were the heroes of so-called 'dime novels.' Authors of these cheaply made, pulp-paper books used Hickok's and Cody's real names but made up their thrilling adventures. Part of the fun for the readers was separating fact from fiction—guessing what was confirmed in the stories and what wasn't.

Cody understood this. By the early 1870s, Hickok, Cody, a friend named Texas Jack Omohundro, and Jack's Italian-born wife, Giuseppina Morlacchi, appeared together during the winters in stage plays around the West. Many of these they wrote themselves. The plays were full of scrapes, escapes, daring rides, fights, rescues, noble heroes, and evil villains—the same kind of stuff that thrilled the dime-novel readers.

At the same time, the Indian wars on the plains were escalating. The U.S. Army always needed expert help to find its Indian enemies. Most of this work was done by other Indians and by mixed-race men. They were generally fluent in English and their mothers' Indian languages, making them valuable interpreters. But because of their race, the white officers were never entirely comfortable around them.

Cody was brilliant and friendly. The officers liked him because he liked to drink whiskey and tell stories and because he was white. But Cody also was comfortable around Indians in a way that most white officers were not. When it came time to chase Indian enemies, Cody stuck close to the Indian scouts and stayed ahead of the troops. When the enemy was found, Cody could take the credit for the discovery.

Soon the officers were praising him in their official reports and in their conversations with newspaper reporters. And they passed his name along to rich men looking for a guide for hunting trips. When Gen. Philip Sheridan arranged for Grand Duke Alexis, son of the Czar of Russia, to hunt buffalo in 1872, he made sure his favorite officer, George A. Custer, was along on the trip, and Cody was the guide. At Sheridan's suggestion, Cody persuaded Spotted Tail, chief of the Brule Lakotas, to visit the hunting camp in western Nebraska with many warriors and their families. The Indians staged large dances and killed buffalo with bows and arrows from horseback to entertain the bigwigs. Custer and the duke were the stars of the event, but the newspapers noticed Cody, too: "He was seated on a spanking charger," one columnist wrote, "and with his long hair and spangled buckskin suit, he appeared in his true character of one feared and beloved by all for miles around."

Cody was learning a lot about fame. He continued his double life, appearing in plays in the winter and scouting for the Army in the summers. Cody took part in a few skirmishes in the Indian wars, becoming part of his plays. Eventually, too, he wore his stage costumes when he went out on a campaign. A few weeks after Custer's defeat and death on the Little Bighorn in 1876, Cody scouted with the 5th Cavalry in western Nebraska.

When he encountered a Cheyenne warrior named Yellow Hair, he wore a red shirt with billowing sleeves and silver-trimmed, black velvet trousers. In the skirmish, Cody killed him and scalped him on the spot. He sent Yellow Hair's scalp, warbonnet, shield, and weapons home to his wife, Louisa, living in Rochester, N.Y., where it was displayed in a store window. Newspapers covered the story. The following winter, he toured with a new play, "The Red Right Hand; or Buffalo Bill's First Scalp for Custer," implying that Cody's was the first act of real revenge after the Custer fight.

In 1879, when he was 33 years old, Cody published his autobiography. The book smoothed the stories of his early life and expanded his stock-driving jobs, supposed Pony Express service, and Indian skirmishes into dramas of frontier nerve, pluck, and progress. With the Indian wars on the plains all but over, with the buffalo nearly gone and the plains filling up with cattle, Cody must have realized that the demand for his scouting skills would only continue to shrink. But still, America was hungry for the other half of Cody's skills—his skills in show business.

In 1883, Cody and a partner named William "Doc" Carver put together a traveling show: part pageant, part circus, part rodeo, part parade, and part huge, open-air drama. It was built out of the same thrilling dime-novel and stage-play episodes Cody now knew and the episodes of his own life.

Versions of this show, known as Buffalo Bill's Wild West, ran for more than 30 years, from 1883 to 1916. All over North America and Europe, audiences loved it. In the earlier years, Cody found the most efficient way to make money was to park the show in a single spot near a large city—on Staten Island across the harbor from New York, for example, or in a 30-acre field outside Paris—and let the crowds come to him. After the show became well known in later years, the production had to travel constantly to find audiences still new enough to want to pay to attend.

The show featured mounted Indians attacking a stagecoach or wagon train and Indians attacking and burning a settler's cabin. The settlers were rescued at the last minute by a band of mounted men led by Buffalo Bill. The company included as many as 650 people in the most prominent years—cowboys, Indians, buffalo soldiers, sharpshooters, trick riders, trick ropers, cooks, wranglers, animal trainers, and all the laborers needed to set up, take down and move the show.

Indians played themselves. In 1885, they included Sitting Bull, victor of the Little Bighorn. Other well-known Chiefs and warriors took part over the years, including Spotted Tail, Red Shirt, and Standing Bear. The show even featured a pretend buffalo hunt.

Thanks to Buffalo Bill, all these events became central to America's ideas—and the world's ideas—about how the West was settled. For decades after Cody's death in 1917, they appeared and reappeared in Western novels, especially in Western movies. Year after year, and decade after decade, the show seemed thrillingly real to its audiences. "Down to its smallest details, the show is genuine," Mark Twain, no stranger to the West, wrote to Cody in an unsolicited fan letter in 1884. The word "show" was never in the show's actual title, and it was called "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," as though people could depend on it as a genuine article.

And year after year, decade after decade, the opening act was the one many found most thrilling of all: the Pony Express. A rider galloped at full speed to the grandstand and reined his pony back onto its haunches, front feet pawing the air. The rider leaped to the ground, lifted the mochila onto the next horse, and was off again at full gallop. The crowd was left breathless. Then people burst into cheers and applause.

In their luxurious, 10-in by 7-inch printed programs, audience members could read all about Buffalo Bill's adventures. What did it matter if they were true or not? They seemed true. Cody's genius lay in offering his audience what it needed to hear.

"Somehow," writes Texas novelist Larry McMurtry, "Cody succeeded in taking a few elements of western life—Indians, buffalo, stagecoaches, and Cody on his horse—created an illusion that successfully stood for a reality that had been almost wholly different."

His legacy, however, is very much alive. Promoters in Wyoming and the West have, since the turn of the 19th century, used techniques that Cody taught the world. Cheyenne's annual Frontier Days rodeo, still continuing today, was founded in 1897, partly with Cody's Wild West in mind. "Let's get up an old times day of some sort; we will call it 'Frontier Day,' Cheyenne Leader Editor E.A. Slack wrote that year. "We will get all the old-timers together, have the remnant of the cowpunchers come in with a bunch of wild horses, get out the old stagecoaches, and some Indians, etc., and we will have a lively time of it!"

By the 1920s and 1930s, dime novels had given way to western movies. Tourists were regularly driving to Wyoming to see Yellowstone Park—and cowboys. Articles in the Cody Enterprise urged locals to dress western to supply the visitors with what they'd come to see, especially during the week of the Cody Stampede: "Get on the red shirt and top boots and help put 'er on Wild. On June 1, the localities will be urged to don their eight-gallon hats, buckskin vests, and 'go western' for the summer."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.