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Lot 15: Cody, William F. ("Buffalo Bill"). Autograph letter signed, 3 pages (11 x 8 ½ in.; 279 x 216 mm.)

The Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector

Platinum House

by Profiles in History

December 18, 2012

Calabasas Hills, CA, USA

Live Auction
  • Cody, William F. (
  • Cody, William F. (
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15. Cody, William F. (“Buffalo Bill”).  Autograph letter signed, 3 pages (11 x 8 ½ in.; 279 x 216 mm.), “Tucson, Arizona,” 26 October 1908, on imprinted stationery of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, to Joseph T. McCaddon.

Injured and angry, Buffalo Bill vents his frustration.

Cody owned only a third of his own show (and that third was mortgaged); the co-owners were the heirs of Nate Salsbury and James A. Bailey.  The heirs of the deceased Bailey began to make demands on Cody in his final years with the show, with Cody hanging on lest the show collapse without him.  In Tucson with his show, Cody writes to McCaddon back in New York.  He complains bitterly about the demands made upon him by the co-owners and about the show’s direct competition with various circuses, accusing McCaddon (i.e., the Baileys) of trying to make him go broke.  Facing financial ruin, Buffalo Bill still has great faith in his Wild West Show. 

He writes in full: Yours of Oct 13th suggesting sending the Mexicans home from El Paso to hand. Its simply impossible to cut the Mexicans out.  You say they will hardly be missed.  You Gentlemen sitting in New York are in no position to tell exactly what will be missed.  I have already by suggestions made all the big cuts of the performers I possibly can.  And now to cut the Mexicans means the loss of two of our strongest acts - that is the Mexican Act and the Bucking Horse Act - for I am so short of cowboys in the bucking horse act cant be done without the Mexicans.  With the few cowboys I now have five of them are crippled.  Besides the Mexicans have to take the bucking horses to and from the cars - the cowboys the buffalo.  We are carrying 98 canvassmen and employing all the idle help in each town to do their work.  We used to get along for years with 80 canvassmen.

And there are other cuts that could be made without killing the performance entirely.  I see we show New Orleans barely two weeks behind the Barnum Circus.  The show was evidently sent out this season to go broke.  That’s the way it looks to all showmen.  The way this show was routed to follow either the Ringlings or Barnum Circus the entire season would have killed any show on earth but this one.

I suggested some weeks ago to bill Zuma a little.  And had it been doen we could have taken $4000 there.  Just with the side show speelers & our Orator announcing in the morning, we took $600.  In this southern country there are many Mexicans and ropers.  And they come to see Orefasoes [?] and the Mexicans.  Their act is strong in this country, Texas, New Orleans &c.

As for myself I am riding when by rights I should be in a hospital.  And I may have to give up any day.  Some Time ago I was taking a sponge bath in my car when the car took a lurch and I sat down on a red hot oil stove.  Four days ago in the dark I struck an iron rusty stake with my shin bone - and I have one awful leg should blood poison develop.  I won’t be able to ride as its all I can do to ride now, burnt in my seat - and the stirrup leather rubbing my sore shin bone.  So I am not having a very pleasant time. 

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