There are stories, which pass through hearsay but one can never be sure if the story is completely true. The Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West was aware of a story behind a certain Winchester Carbine but not until recently were they able to prove it.
The Winchester Carbine originally belonged to William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody but somehow ended up in the hands of George Beck, one of the founders of the town Cody.
Cody, George Beck and Hank Fulton headed to the Black Hills to quell a Ute Indian uprising. But when they got there it turned out the uprising didn’t really need their help, so the three men decided they would go down to Deadwood and spend a few days there.
Cody and Beck were known to play many practical jokes on each other. In fact during the Deadwood trip, Beck played a practical joke on Cody. Beck asked a woman from a traveling troupe to join in. Beck and the woman got a wagon and drove up and down Main Street in Deadwood as Cody sat in a saloon. Cody kept waving and trying to say hi to Beck and his friend but they just ignored him. Supposedly, Cody thought this was a marvelous joke, so much so that he decided he wanted to give his friend his Winchester Rifle.
The rifle was made specifically for Cody and officially given to him by Jack Crawford, an old Western poet. Cody used the rifle a lot for hunting. At the end of the Deadwood trip, Cody presented the rifle to Beck. He had changed the plate’s inscription on the stock. It had formerly read: “presented by the Winchester Company to Colonel W.F. Cody”, and had changed to, “presented by W.F. Cody to his friend George T. Beck”.
True or False?
The story was confirmed recently when the museum acquired a portion of Beck’s manuscript from his family. The manuscript outlines the full story. Now, the museum can confidently tell the story of how Beck received Cody’s Winchester Carbine.
Museum Minute is a series co-produced with Wyoming Public Media (WPM). A new minute can be heard every Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. on WPM.