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Archives On The Air 25: From The West To The East—Buffalo Bill Papers

American Heritage Center

In May 2017 Barnum and Bailey’s staged their final show. However, in their earlier years, the entertainment titans had a connection with Wyoming.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show opened in 1883 and dazzled viewers with courageous dramatizations of the West. In addition to the main theme of western life, the show also focused on Native Americans and the Orient, with accurate costumes, camels, and elephants. Buffalo Bill’s show brought the world to Wyoming.

Credit American Heritage Center
Description of Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East in the program for their joint show with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, circa 1910. Box 2, Buffalo Bill papers.

In 1907, Buffalo Bill joined forces with Barnum & Bailey across the pond to promote their traveling shows and circuses. Shortly after, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show began touring Europe and beyond. Barnum and Bailey’s network provided Buffalo Bill with seamless transportation around Europe, Russia, and the Far East.

With enormous train cars designed to carry bison, horses, props, stages, and actors, Buffalo Bill was able to bring Wyoming into the canon of European entertainment.

While both shows are over now, their entertainment lives on at UW’s American Heritage Center in the Buffalo Bill papers.