Originally featured in Points West magazine in Summer 2016
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West “Cowboys & Indians” poster
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West effectively marketed its appearances through bright, colorful posters depicting dramatic, exciting adventures that occurred in the American West. This early poster, circa 1887, depicts a rare encounter between cowboys and Indians.
In 1866, Nelson Story and a group of cowboys drove cattle across the Bozeman Trail through the Powder River Country at the height of Red Cloud’s War. A group of eighty Lakota and Cheyenne warriors attacked six to eight of Story’s men. The cowboys formed a ring with their horses, defending themselves while the warriors scattered the cattle. One cowboy and one Lakota warrior were killed in the fracas.
During his stay in the Dakota Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt heard of this event. He described the cowboys as “good riflemen” who “killed a good many ponies, and got one scalp, belonging to a young Sioux brave who dashed up too close, and whose body in consequence could not be carried off by his comrades, as happened to the two or three others who were seen to fall.” Roosevelt also noted, “Both the men who related the incident to me had been especially struck by the skill and daring shown by the Indians in thus carrying off their dead and wounded the instant they fell.”
Famed western artist Frederic Remington illustrated the event for Theodore Roosevelt’s “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail,” a series of articles published by the Century Company in 1888. Buffalo Bill used a similar image based on Remington’s illustration for this poster promoting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, further promulgating the western iconic image of cowboys and Indians in combat, albeit a rare historical event.
Woodblock engraved print, Calhoun Printing Company, 1885. Museum purchase. 1.69.6148
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