Sandburg's Hometown

November 17, 2014

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show poster 1899
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show poster (1899)

It was Buffalo Bill's Day

by Barbara Schock

On June 18, 1896, the C.B.&Q. Railroad brought Buffalo Bill's Wild West show to Galesburg from Rock Island in two trains of twenty cars each. They arrived at 2:45 am and were unloaded by 7 o'clock. Everything was transferred to the ball grounds on East Main Street and at 11 o'clock, a parade was held. Large crowds assembled along the street to see it.

The Galesburg Evening Mail observed that all was peaceful among the scores of Indians and United State Cavalry men. Both groups were essentially actors who would later pretend to have fierce hostility to one another. Along with them were men dressed in regulation military uniforms of England, France and Germany, as well as Russian Cossacks, Asiatic Tartars, Bedouin Arabs and American cowboys. “Colonel” William F. Cody led the procession.

Performances were given in the afternoon and evening. It was estimated thirty thousand people had been in attendance for the world-renowned presentation. The Cowboy Band gave a concert while people were taking their seats in the grandstands. It provided music throughout the performance.

The grand review showcased all the riders in the program. There were 350 men in the American Cavalry unit which drilled and performed various maneuvers before the grandstand. The units from other countries also demonstrated their military specialties.

Miss Annie Oakley gave a wonderful exhibition of her firearms skill. There was an attack by Indians on the Deadwood stagecoach. Buffalo Bill and several dozen cowboys chased the Indians through painted scenery of mountains and shot blanks from their guns. The newspaper reported the audience stood up and cheered.

The newspaper continued “the crowd cheered everything from Buffalo Bill down to the buffalo calf that was shot at 95 distinct times with no apparent injury.” The show moved on to Burlington, Iowa, after the evening performance.

It is unclear whether Carl Sandburg attended the show. The year 1896 was a restless one for him. He was eighteen years old and had only vague ideas of what kind of work he would do the rest of his life. His father allowed him to use an employee railroad pass to go to Chicago. After spending three days and all of his money, he came back to Galesburg. Perhaps a show of cowboys and Indians had no appeal to a fellow trying to find his way in the world. Or, perhaps, he lacked the price of admission after his sojourn in Chicago.

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody was born February 26, 1846, in LeClaire, Iowa Territory. He started working at the age of eleven after the death of his father. At the age of fourteen he became a Pony Express rider. In 1863 he enlisted as a private in Company H, 7th Kansas Cavalry and served until the end of the Civil War.

He received his nickname, “Buffalo Bill,” after fulfilling a contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to provide buffalo meat for its dining cars. In 1883 he founded “Buffalo Bill's Wild West”--a circus-like attraction that toured the United States and Europe until 1906.

Cody respected the Native Americans in his company. He encouraged them to bring their families and set up camp as they would at home. He thought the public should see the human side of those warriors and their wives and children. Cody also respected the rights of women. He thought they should be given more liberty than they were at the time and they should be paid the same as men if they could do the same work.

William F. Cody died January 10, 1917, at Denver, Colorado. His final resting place, as he wished, is on Lookout Mountain near Golden, Colorado.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
November 17, 2014 It was Buffalo Bill's Day
November 10, 2014 The Election of 1896 (A follow-up story)
November 3, 2014 The Election of 1896 (continued)
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014 4  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013 Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013 Lace Curtains
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity