About the Archive

The William F. Cody Archive is a scholarly digital archive that offers an unequaled opportunity to see the historic evolution and idealization of the American West through the eyes of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, presenting researchers and visitors an insightful perspective of America and the world spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. William F. Cody painted his public life in broad strokes—frontiersman, showman, bon vivant, raconteur, gentleman, entrepreneur—while his private life was often in shambles—a troubled marriage, extra-marital affairs, the death of three children, and mixed financial success. His show, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, presented aspects of western life: attacks on stagecoaches, pony express rides, shooting exhibitions, and Indian dances. He paid his performers, no matter what their color or gender, for the value of their performances. He knew to give his audience an idea of the West and of the closing frontier as they wanted it to be. He perpetuated the myth of the West with grace and style, recognizing the difference between himself and his public persona, knowing that the one was necessary to support the other. The dichotomy of the man is not always apparent, but his effect on the world is.

The William F. Cody Archive documents Cody's interactions with individuals ranging from statesmen and royalty to noted military and literary figures who sought his opinions on policy questions concerning the American West. His lesser-known roles as a community founder, businessman, rancher, and investor speak to political, economic, and environmental policies affecting western development during his lifetime. These experiences are represented by a variety of archival material: memoirs and autobiographies, correspondence, business records, published and unpublished writings, photographs, video and audio recordings, promotional and Wild West material, newspaper and magazine articles. The Archive aims to identify and make available as much of this material as possible, drawing on the resources of libraries and collections from around the United States and around the world. The William F. Cody Archive is directed by Jeremy M. Johnston (Buffalo Bill Center of the West), Frank Christianson (Brigham Young University), Douglas Seefeldt (Ball State University), and Katherine Walter (University of Nebraska).

Project Staff and Information
Project Staff
Archive Changelog (record of changes to the Archive)

Editorial Standards Statement


The corpus of materials associated with William F. Cody is large and scattered in uncounted collections both public and private throughout the United States and Europe. The Papers' editorial staff identifies new material on an ongoing basis. Consequently, the archive is highly dynamic; as significant new items come to our attention, we seek to publish them in their proper context. As new details come to light about relevant people and events, we refine the interpretive apparatus, from annotations to personographies, for greater accuracy.

Sensitive Material

The Papers of William F. Cody works to provide a faithful documentary history of Cody’s life in its full context and complexity. The value of the published material is based on how the content reflects the tenor of its times. Some items in the archive contain racial or gender stereotypes. Our editorial policy requires an accurate presentation of this material without endorsing the views represented at the time.

Document Selection

Publication on Cody Archive is, of necessity, selective rather than comprehensive. William F. Cody’s life spanned seven decades and far-flung geography, influencing an extraordinarily large number of people. As a mass media phenomenon, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West generated an enormous volume of marketing material and elicited a corresponding amount of media coverage. A significant portion of the archived materials are historical newspapers and magazines, photographs, and promotional items. Editors apply selection criteria that include an emphasis on representativeness according to document type as well as a priority on material that reflects key thematic categories. These include issues of national and regional identity, the dynamics of cultural encounter, and defining events in Cody’s life and the evolution of his major enterprises.


Editors and staff at The Papers transcribe and process material such as handwritten correspondence, memorabilia, diaries, archival scrapbooks and ledgers, using scanned images of original material. Questions regarding unclear handwriting are referred to those staff familiar with Cody’s handwriting.

Drawing on Association for Documentary Editing guidelines, our principle editorial philosophy is to render the documents as accurately as possible. The transcription process involves a minimum of two separate rounds and a verification round before a final review of all material by editors. To the extent that modern typography allows, we retain all original spelling, syntax, and grammar. Exceptions are noted and are allowed only when there is no effect on the meaning of the text and to aid the reader (i.e., datelines on personal and business correspondence are placed in the standard position). Where text has been lined out or portions of the original are damaged, or where insertions above the line have been made, attempts to restore or reposition the text are clearly marked on the transcription. All document images are viewable in order to allow for reader interpretation.


Annotations cover a range of information, including notes on provenance and textual notes that clarify ambiguities in presentation, including nicknames and partial or misspelled names. Contextual notes or personography links are included to explain references to people, places, and events not readily identified through standard reference sources. Annotations are twice reviewed for accuracy and conformity to editing guidelines by the Assistant Managing Editor and the Senior Editor. Additionally, Library of Congress Authorized headings are offered to clarify subjects, persons, or geographic terms.

The Assistant Managing Editor and staff are directly involved in first-round transcription and annotation duties and work with other archives holding Cody documents to obtain high-quality copies and permission for copyrighted material. The editorial staff assists remote editors with research on annotation issues that can best be answered from William F. Cody material held in Buffalo Bill Center of the West archives and other diverse archives.


Editors translate selected material from the original language based on The Papers' standard selection criteria. Materials are prioritized to offer new understanding in areas not currently well represented in literature previously published in English. These translations incorporate annotations to clarify cultural references and idiomatic expressions.

Encoding Guidelines


Textual materials included in the William F. Cody Archive are encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative's P5 Guidelines. TEI is the international standard used by a broad range of scholars including humanists, librarians, linguists, and social scientists to encode a wide variety of textual materials. Encoding texts according to the Text Encoding Initiative allows for the markup of the hierarchical structure of a text, including chapters, paragraphs, and headings, as well as the addition of metadata about the work. The TEI markup allows computers to process and display texts and facilitates searching and interoperability. Once encoded, the texts are then transformed using eXtensible Stylesheet Language (xslt) for display on the web. Cody Archive materials encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative include Books, Correspondence, Newspaper Articles, Periodicals, Records, Programs, and Scrapbooks. The TEI XML is available for viewing and download on all TEI-encoded pages.

Dublin Core

Non-textual materials within the Cody Archive are encoded using the Dublin Core Metadata schema. Dublin Core is a widely adopted set of core elements used for describing a variety of networked resources. The fifteen-element Dublin Core has achieved international, cross-disciplinary dissemination as part of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). The core element are: Creator, Contributor, Publisher, Title, Date, Language, Format, Subject, Description, Identifier, Relation, Source, Type, Coverage, and Rights. In the Cody Archive, Cabinet Cards, Illustrations, Photographs, Postcards, Posters, and Visual Art are encoded according Dublin Core.

Conditions of Use

The William F. Cody Archive as a whole, as well as the texts, images, and other items contained in it, are protected under the copyright laws of the United States and the Universal Copyright Convention.

The William F. Cody Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) License by the parent project, The Papers of William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Non-commercial Use

Users are allowed to distribute and adapt our work, so long as they credit The William F. Cody Archive, make their work available non-commercially, and distribute their work under the same terms.

Commercial Use

Requests for the right to commercially use the electronic transcriptions of items created for The William F. Cody Archive should be directed to the Managing Editor of The Papers of William F. Cody, Jeremy Johnston at JeremyJ (at) centerofthewest.org.

Permission for commercial use of any of the archival materials contained in The William F. Cody Archive must be directly granted by the rights holding institutions as identified in the metadata section of each item page. Partner rights holding institutions include:

McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Widener Library, Harvard College Library


You do not need to request permission to link to The William F. Cody Archive or to individual items within the site. (Please note that URLs may change over time.)

To identify The William F. Cody Archive as the source of information that you are using in a paper, article, book, blog post, slide show, or other print or electronic communication medium, please include the complete title of the item, the name of the site, its URL, and the date you accessed it. Here are examples in a variety of citation styles:

APA: The William F. Cody Archive. “Letter from William F. Cody to Julia Cody Goodman, April 22, 1876.” The Papers of William F. Cody. Retrieved February 26, 2011 from http://codyarchive.org/texts/wfc.css00038.html

Chicago/Turabian: The William F. Cody Archive. “Letter from William F. Cody to Julia Cody Goodman, April 22, 1876.” The Papers of William F. Cody. http://codyarchive.org/texts/wfc.css00038.html (retrieved February 26, 2011).

MLA: The William F. Cody Archive. “Letter from William F. Cody to Julia Cody Goodman, April 22, 1876.” The Papers of William F. Cody. 26 February 2011. <http://codyarchive.org/texts/wfc.css00038.html>