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Museum Minute: Military drills in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

Buffalo Bill Wild West show poster portraying military drills with men on horseback.
Buffalo Bill Museum
This poster is part of the “Advertising the Frontier Myth: Poster Art of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” exhibition opening on May 18.

Some of the dramatic scenes showcased in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show were also printed on advertising posters.

Buffalo Bill Museum Curator Jeremy Johnston said some of the images in posters that are part of a newexhibition opening this month are ones you might not expect.

“Many people assume the show focused solely on recreating episodes from the settlement of the American frontier, but Buffalo Bill’s Wild West also included many contemporary events,” he said.

Johnston said one example is a poster called “The Military Pageant (Preparedness)” that references Buffalo Bill working with the U.S. War Department and the 101 Ranch show to showcase military drills during show performances.

“The goal of these preparedness shows was to prepare America for World War I. And Buffalo Bill basically took up this preparedness campaign and staged these military reenactments hoping Americans would see the value in at least preparing for the possibility of war,” he said.

In terms of other events, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show also featured recreations of the Battle of San Juan Hill and scenes from the Boxer Rebellion.

Olivia Weitz is based at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. She covers Yellowstone National Park, wildlife, and arts and culture throughout the region. Olivia’s work has aired on NPR and member stations across the Mountain West. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom story workshop. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, cooking, and going to festivals that celebrate folk art and music.<br/>