Originally featured in Points West magazine in Fall 2014
Photograph: The “Flamboyant Fraternity” of William F. Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, and friends
When they first enter the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, visitors sometimes confuse our namesake “Buffalo Bill” with “Wild Bill.” They’ve heard of both, but are a bit fuzzy on the biographies of the two men. In this 1873 photograph, titled by one source the “Flamboyant Fraternity,” it’s easy to see why. Wild Bill is second from the left, with Buffalo Bill at center—and the only one of the group looking directly at the camera. While their faces are different, their demeanor, clothing, even their hair styles, mark them both as frontiersmen conscious of the appeal of that role.
James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody were contemporaries—born in 1837 and 1846 respectively—and briefly acted together on stage; this photograph shows the cast of Scouts of the Plains. Wild Bill, reputedly a good shot, was killed just three years after this photo was taken. Buffalo Bill, as visitors to the Center of the West know when they leave us, perfected the nascent showmanship apparent here and went on to develop and star in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West for thirty years.
The “Flamboyant Fraternity”: left to right, Elisha P. Green, James Butler Hickok, William F. Cody, John B. “Texas Jack” Omohundro, and Eugene Overton, 1873. R.H. Furman photograph. Museum Purchase, Garlow Collection. P.6.908