Buffalo Bill was born William F. Cody in 1846, in LeClaire, Iowa. At a young age, his family moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, and at age eleven he left home to herd cattle. He also crossed the Great Plains several times as a driver of a wagon train. In addition to those two jobs, he also tried fur trapping and gold mining. In 1860, he joined the Pony Express. When the Civil War ended, he scouted for the army, which is when he earned the nickname “Buffalo Bill” because he was a great hunter of buffalo.
He started his career on stage at age 26 in December 1872 with the “Scouts of the Prairie” in Chicago. In 1872, the Wild West show was conceived as an outdoor spectacular. It was made to entertain and educate the audience by using a cast of hundreds in addition to live buffalo, cattle, elk, and other animals. The shows demonstrated roping, bronc riding, and other skills that today’s rodeos have incorporated into their competitions.
Buffalo Bill also believed in equality when it came to the cast members. He made sure that the women in his show received comparable pay for comparable work to the men in the show.
He made his first visit to Colorado in 1859 as part of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, passing through Denver on his way to the gold fields. He searched for two months with little success. He visited Denver as part of the Buffalo Bill Combination show in the 1870’s in a local opera house. Between 1886 and 1916 he performed 35 times in Colorado.
Due to a bad business deal, his Wild West show was seized and sold in 1913 to repay that debt. He was also forced to honor a contract to appear in the businessman’s show and when he got out of the contract, Buffalo Bill was not able to rebuild his Wild West show.
He died in 1917 while he and his wife were visiting his sister’s home in Denver. Although the citizens of Cody, Wyoming said that he wanted to be buried near his friends in Cody, his wife and the priest who administered last rites insisted that he wanted to be buried on Lookout Mountain so he could overlook Denver and the Great Plains, where he had spent some of the happiest times of his life. He was buried on Lookout Mountain.
In 1921, Johnny Baker, a close friend and unofficial foster son, started the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum. Millions of people have visited the museum and his grave, making it one of the top attractions not only in Denver, but also in the state of Colorado. Buffalo Bill’s grave is located thirty minutes from downtown Denver. His grave is surrounded by an iron fence, with a headstone that is embedded in stone.