Originally featured in Points West magazine in Fall/Winter 2013
Pocket watch given to Ned Buntline by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody
Two individuals—William F. Cody and Edward Zane Carroll Judson—are remembered less by their real names than by the nicknames through which each helped the other find fame. Born around 1821 in New York state, Judson showed promise in the Navy, but quit in 1839 to pursue writing, adopting the pen name “Ned Buntline.” Though he wrote scores of stories, Buntline’s writing career languished until a publishing house hired him to produce an adventure tale set in the frontier West.
In Kansas, Buntline met Cody and, intrigued by his nickname, wrote Buffalo Bill: The King of Border Men. Published in 1869, it appeared in hundreds of newspapers and made Buntline into a literary lion. Three years later, Buntline persuaded a reluctant Cody to appear in a stage adaptation of his story, thereby launching “Buffalo Bill” on the road to international celebrity. Inscribed “Presented to Edwin Z. Judson by his friend William F. Cody May 1885,” this gold pocket watch tangibly displayed Cody’s affection for the man who made him famous.
Gold pocket watch, 1885. Elgin National Watch Company, Elgin, Illinois. Gift from the Howard family, in memory of Howell H. Howard. 1.69.6376