In Last of the Great Scouts, a biography of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody penned by his sister Helen Cody Wetmore, she writes about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’s visit to a Boston children’s hospital. An excerpt from the 1899 book appeared in a Boston newspaper, the Sun, on August 3, 1899. Titled “Buffalo Bill’s Surprise: how he made some poor little invalids in Boston happy,” the story went something like this:
When Buffalo Bill’s Wild West visited Boston one hot June day, the parade passed a children’s hospital on the way to the show grounds…All who could do so ran to the open windows and gazed eagerly at the passing procession, and the greatest excitement prevailed.
These more fortunate little ones described as best they could to the little sufferers who could not leave their beds, the wonderful things they saw. After the procession passed, one wee lad, bedridden by spinal trouble, cried bitterly because he had not seen it. A kind-hearted nurse endeavored to soothe the child, but words proved unavailing. Then a bright idea struck the patient woman. She told him he might write a letter to the great Buffalo Bill himself and ask for an Indian’s picture.
This idea was taken up with delight and the child spent an eager hour in penning the letter…The little sufferer told the great showman that he was sick in bed and unable to see the Indians, and he longed to see them when they passed the hospital, and that he wished to see a photograph of one.
In came a six-foot Indian clad in leather trousers and wrapped in a scarlet blanket…The little invalids gasped in wonder; then they shrieked with delight. One by one, silent and noiseless but smiling, six splendid warriors followed the first…[so startling] the nurse that she could not even speak…The happy children were shouting in such glee that the poor woman’s fright was unnoticed.
The Indians…waved their arms to and fro, executing a quiet war dance. A sham battle was fought, followed by a song of victory. After this…the kindly red men went away, still smiling as benignly as their war paint would allow them to do. A cheer of gratitude and delight followed them down the broad corridors. The happy children talked about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show for weeks after this visit.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveled for thirty years; read more stories at codyarchive.org.