Title: Buffalo Bill's Early Days | Kansas City Remembers How He Whipped an English Bully in the Red-hot Days

Periodical: San Francisco Bulletin

Date: July 1, 1887

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BUFFALO BILL'S EARLY DAYS.


Kansas City Remembers How He Whipped an English Bully in the Red-hot Days.


The Hon. William F. Cody, whose exhibition has recently been visited by her Majesty, the Empress of India, [1] was a protégé of the famous border hero, Wild Bill, [2] with whom he hunted and scouted, and who made him first deputy when holding the responsible and dangerous position of City Marshal of Abilene, Kan. Buffalo Bill had achieved a reputation on the plains before Ned Buntline [3] brought him, in his Wild West dramas, prominently before the people of the East as a typical frontiersman. A little before this time he figured in an exciting pugilistic encounter in Kansas City. He was a young man then, as now, superbly developed physically, of undaunted courage, renowned for his exploits in the killing of buffalo and as a Government scout in times of Indian troubles, and doing at leisure intervals a little work, conspicuous for its conscientious attention to details, in the way of painting frontier towns in hues of scarlet and vermillion.

Kansas City was at that time the rendezvous of the Buffalo hunters and general outfitting point for expeditions over the plains. It was an ungainly, overgrown settlement, strung along the steamboat wharves at the foot of the bluffs on the Missouri river, opposite the mouth of the Kaw, [4] but giving even then some promise of its subsequent marvelous growth. It was in the red-hot stage of local development and had a population fearful and wonderful to contemplate. Here were gathered ex-bushwhackers of the war just finished. Union and Confederate, with animosities yet unhealed, buffalo hunters and trappers from the plains and mountains, Mexican freighters from over the Santa Fé trail, roustabouts from the steamboat landings, and gamblers from everywhere, who mingled, caroused and fought on the drop of the hat, while, attracted like camp-followers to the field carnage, painted, showily dressed women practiced their allurements in numerous dance-halls and lent a gaudy adornment to the muddy streets. Almost every man carried weapons and was prompt to use them on occasions with, and often without, provocation.

Here in this frontier paradise appeared an athletic and bumptious Englishman, who soon made himself objectionable to the community by his fondness for fist-fighting. He possessed both strength and science, and courted encounters at fisticuffs, from which he invariably came out victorious. He had "done up" successively every man who could be found to meet him, from those who made pretensions to ability under the rules of the prize ring to the unpromising boatman, half-horse, half-alligator, who fought viciously rough and tumble. He was bullying and overbearing of demeanor, and had become a source of chronic exasperation to the fighting population of Kansas City. He went ostentatiously without weapons, and there existed in the minds of many a prejudice against shooting an unarmed man, which interferred with the adoption of the ordinary methods of getting rid of an obnoxious party in the community. A popular sentiment has arisen, however, and was rapidly extending, favorable to his assassination, when in informal conclave it was concluded, after some discussion, to await the coming of Buffalo Bill, who was daily expected to arrive from the plains, and to then contrive that a hostile meeting should occur between them.

In the course of time Buffalo Bill appeared in town, and as soon as possible after his arrival a meeting was effected between him and the Englishman in a saloon, a quarrel easily started, and a fight arranged. A back room of the saloon was the arena, and both men set to business with promptness and energy. For the first fifteen minutes Buffalo Bill, who was as little and quick as an Indian, fought on the defensive, and did little but dodge and parry the blows of his antagonist, who followed him about the room hitting heavily, but generally ineffectively, and who soon got warm and began to lose wind and temper. Then Buffalo Bill, who, though somewhat punished, had kept his coolness and temper, assumed the aggressive. Avoiding a terrific blow at his face, he sprung with the movement of a panther under the Englishman's guard and caught him with both hands by the throat in a grip like steel. For a few moments the Englishman rained short-arm blows on him and struggled to break his hold, but his efforts could not loose the grasp on his windpipe, and presently he grew black in the face and fell to the floor. Buffalo Bill held his grip until his opponent was motionless and apparently dead, and then released him and walked away, bearing some marks of punishment, but victorious. It took a long time to bring the Englishman to, and for a while the task seemed hopeless. He was shaken and rolled, deluged with ice-water, and strong hartshorn [5] was held to his nose, but under these provacatives he lay like a log. It seemed he was gone beyond recall, but under the most strenuous efforts he finally revived, and was eventually, as far as physical injuries went, all right. The encounter, however, broke his reign of terror in Kansas City, and was one of the occurrences that went to establish the prestige of Buffalo Bill.--Kansas City Journal.

Note 1: Her Majesty, the Empress of India, was Queen Victoria, who held the title "Empress of India" from 1876 to 1901. [back]

Note 2: "Wild Bill" was James Butler Hickok (1837-1876), a mentor and friend to William F. Cody, as well as a fellow performer in the traveling theater productions of the Buffalo Bill Combination. [back]

Note 3: Ned Buntline (1822 or 1823-1886) was Edward Zane Carroll Judson, Sr., or E. Z. C. Judson, an American writer, journalist, publicist, and publisher who helped popularize the names and images of James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. [back]

Note 4: "Kaw" refers to the Kansas River in northeastern Kansas in the United States. The river flows eastward to become a tributary of the Missouri River. The name comes from the Kanza (Kaw) people who once inhabited the Kansas area. [back]

Note 5: Hartshorn was a preparation of ammonia from the antler of a male red deer (or hart) used as smelling salts. [back]

Title: Buffalo Bill's Early Days | Kansas City Remembers How He Whipped an English Bully in the Red-hot Days

Periodical: San Francisco Bulletin

Date: July 1, 1887

Also appeared as:

  Title: Buffalo Bill's Early Days | How He Whipped an English Bully in the Red-Hot Days

  Periodical: Daily Alta California

  Date: July 3, 1887

Topic: European Tours

Keywords: American bison American Indians Buffalo Bill Combination Frontier Frontier and pioneer life Melodrama, American

People: Buntline, Ned, 1822 or 1823-1886 Hickok, Wild Bill, 1837-1876 Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901

Places: Kansas River (Kan.) London (England) Missouri River

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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