Title: The Lion of London

Periodical: The Daily Inter Ocean

Date: July 31, 1887

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HAVE been received into London's fashionable Holy of Holies. I have seen mysterious sights which thousands of Londoners fain would to see, but can not. I have stood in the sacred precincts where H. R. H., the Princess of Wales, [1] with her train of titled attendants, has been proud to stand. What was it? Some weird recess in a vast cathedral, where a mighty hero rests triumphant? Not at all. I have simply been in Buffalo Bill's private tent at the American Exposition.

I will proceed to reveal the secrets of this mystic habitation. The tent is in two parts— one a parlor and the other a bedroom. The wooden floor is covered with beautiful rugs, woven by nature on the backs of her four-footed creatures, and ruthlessly torn therefrom by the hunting-knife of the Hon. Mr. Cody. The skins of a monster grizzly and a yellow-streaked panther [2] lie near the door, and glare at you fiercely, even yet, out of their glassy eyes. In the center of the room is a sort of taxidermical mosaic, to which a score of animals have contributed much more of themselves than they could conveniently spare, and on this rests a rack of repeating rifles, which are supposed to have done deadly execution in the Wild West. The chairs are of polished buffalo horns, upholstered in soft fur, and the tables and walls are covered with a profusion of curious relics, quite indescribable. Strings of Indian scalps, the glossy black hair mingling with feathers and foxes' tails; Indian belts, beaded in gaudy colors and fantastic designs; iron-pointed arrows, which cut through a horse or a man like a rifle bullet; the knife with which Buffalo Bill killed "Yellowhand;" [3] great spreading antlers hung with specimens of cowboy wearing apparel; moccassins, papoose cases, etc.

In all this, perhaps, there is nothing very extraordinary; but this is not the extraordinary part of the tent. Let us pass back into the sanctum sanctorum—the bedroom. Here the appearance is very different. Instead of shaggy skins we find A BED COVERED WITH THE RICHEST LACE,and rude buckskin is supplanted by the most skillful work of a fashionable tailor. Hot and cold water, luxurious furniture, fine pictures—in fact, a first-class hotel could hardly offer more in the way of comfort and elegance than Buffalo Bill's sleeping apartment. The dressing-table the other morning was piled up with scented invitations, stamped with armorial bearings, requesting the pleasure of Mr. Buffalo Bill's company at various receptions, dinners, balls, etc. The mantel-piece was decorated with photographs of the Queen, of the Prince and Princess of Wales, of Mrs. Brown Potter, [4] of Miss Grace Hawthorne, [5] of Miss Ellen Terry, [6] and of Henry Irving, etc., and all with "the kindest regards" of these distinguished personages.

"Why," said the boy who was showing me about, "there is not a day that passes without our having ladies and gentlemen of the nobility here. This morning, for instance, I showed the Duchess of Teck [7] and the Duchess of Connaught [8] what you are seeing now, and if the Princess of Wales has been here once, she has been here at least a dozen times."

There is no doubt about it, Buffalo Bill is the great lion of the season. Mr. John Sartin, [9] the affable Philadelphia artist, and the manager of the Art Department of the American Exhibition, said to me yesterday: "Without Buffalo Bill this whole enterprise would have been a dead failure. He draws the immense crowds, and after the show they flock into the picture galleries, and find often to their astonishment that we have some fine paintings here. However, without the 'Wild West' attraction, we should never have got our crowds at all."

A lady who was present at a reception given some time since by the Marchioness of Ely, [10] told me that Mr. Cody stood in the center of the room, under the great chandelier, his long hair streaming down over his broad, stout shoulders, literally surrounded byA CIRCLE OF TITLED ADMIRERS,and at the supper table he sat at the right hand of the Princess of Wales. [1] The fact is, he is a very handsome man, and has succeeded by honest enterprise in giving the Londoners an exhibition which certainly has the unaccustomed charm of absolute novelty. Naturally, they are grateful, and for the moment he is their hero.

Hardly less amusing than his extraordinary social success are the heated discussions as to his real merit. The following is a good illustration of this: It happened at a recent ball in this city. Buffalo Bill was parading grandly through the rooms, with Mrs. John Bigelow [11] on his arm, who was evidently supremely happy at the sensation she was making. The Hon. James G. Blaine [12] was there, too, and so was Minister Phelps, [13] as well as a host of other distinguished Americans, but Buffalo Bill was, nevertheless, the center of attraction, and as he advanced slowly, he was kept bowing without intermission to the dozens of pretty faces which happened to be in his path—quite by accident, of course. He bows, by the way, with the grace and dignity of a king. It was during this grand ovation that I overheard the following conversation between a titled English lady and an independent American damsel.

"Isn't he a splendid man?" said the duchess, with enthusiasm.

"Hum," replied the other, "I don't see anything very splendid about him. He is only a cowboy anyway and no one would recognize him at home. I think you English are too ridiculous for anything."

"Nothing but a cowboy," responded the other indignantly; "do you know him?"

"No, I don't nor do I wish to either. It's bad enough to have to be in the same room with such a fellow."

"Well, now, I do like that. You pretend to judge the Hon. Mr. Cody without having met him or spoken to him. Let me tell you then, from my own knowledge, that he is a MOST REFINED AND CULTIVATED GENTLEMAN.

Why, do you suppose that English ladies would receive him here as they do if he were anything else? Besides that, you know very well that he is one of your statesmen. He was a member of one of your legislatures, wasn't he?"

"Yes, in some barbarous far Western State, where there are nothing but cut-throats and Indians. No doubt he was, but I do not see how you can wish to invite to your houses a man who has spent all his life in the elevating society of buffalo hunters, cow-boys, and squaws."

This last word was too much for the English duchess, and she went off with a sarcastic "Thank you for the insinuation against us."

To return now to the encampment. After my young guide had, with the utmost reverence, disclosed to me the marvellous secret of his master's tent, he led me through the entrance, over which a massive buffalo's head—a fitting emblem—seems to keep guard. I wished to see Colonel Cody in person, but, while waiting for his return, we strolled about through the crowds, who regarded us w [it] h admiring eyes, as favored beings to whom some kind destiny had vouchsafed the mighty honor of treading the hallowed precincts denied to them. That sounds like sarcasm. Perhaps it is to some extent; but the simple fact remains, account for it as you may and laugh at it if you will, that, from Kings and Queens down, and from pickpockets up, the population of this vast city has gone mad over Buffalo Bill, mad over the show in general, and the man in particular.

He must be one of those magic persons, for he seems to draw pretty nearly everything, whether it be the radiant beauty who holds London at her feet, or in the monster buffalo roaming restlessly in his native prairie. The lasso holds the one, and a rare type of manly dignity the other. This boy who is showing me about illustrates what I mean. Sixteen years old, blue eyes and fair hair, a quiet, serious manner, perhaps a little timid, and, on the whole, what you would call a home boy, or a Sunday-school boy—if he had been let alone he might have developed into a peaceful member of the Salvation army. But Buffalo Bill, with his scalps and Indians, appeared to this youth, and now he thinks and dreams only of bowie knives and revolvers.

"Yes," he said to me in such an earnest way that I could hardly keep from laughing, "I am going to be a cow boy."

"How will you do that?" I asked.

"Oh, I shall go with Mr. Cody to Paris, or wherever else he travels, and then he will take me back home with him."

"But what will your father and mother say to such an arrangement?"

"Well, sir, I don't know about that," he replied doubtfully, "but anyhow I'm going. I don't think there is any life so fine as a cow boy's,"

We walked along by the tents of his heros, the long-haired, high-booted individuals who rejoice in such high-sounding names as Cherokee Bill, Broncho Charlie, etc. We could seeNEBRASKA FRONTIERSMENplaying poker with Mexican vaqueros, at the same time performing unparalleled feats of target practice with the juice of the tobacco plant, and enlivening their conversation with euphonious profanity. We saw Indians of all shades and colors, from the ugly old squaw, waddling along in an immense red and white blanket, to the little 5-year-old Sioux, who skipped playfully about, enveloped in nothing much except his skin.

"Don't you have trouble with these fellows?" I asked.

"Oh, not much. A couple of nights ago some of them ran off and got drunk, and of course they made things lively for a while, but generally they are too lazy to make a disturbance. Then you see they are well fed and paid and are mostly contented with the life."

After finishing up the out-of-door attractions, we looked in at the American Exhibition proper, which, leaving out the picture gallery, that certainly does credit to our country, is a complete absurdity. Some uninteresting machinery, grand displays of canned tomatoes and pickles, pyramids of Dr. Somebody's sugar-coated pills, and a counter where an energetic man wastes an immense amount of breath in trying to sell what he seems to consider a marvelous top, piles of spades and pitchforks, patent egg-beaters, etc., etc., such is this much vaunted American Exhibition. Without Buffalo Bill the enterprise must have been a dire and dismal failure.

On returning to the tent I found Colonel Cody and his black-haired daughter. [14] He was dressed in a dark blue military jacket, which fitted him like a glove and showed off to perfection a splendid pair of shoulders. Under this he had a black silk shirt, beautifully embroidered in the rich Russian style, and at the waist a heavy cord in twisted massive gold, which made you reflect on the pecuniary advantages of his position.

"What do you think, sir, of England?" I asked him.

"Well," said he earnestly, "after the magnificent welcome Londoners have given me, there is not much doubt as to my answer to that question. I think thisA LOVELY COUNTRYand a grand Nation. I have been much surprised at the appearance of London. It's so clean, so orderly, and so substantial. I had expected to find much poverty and suffering, but I am very agreeably disappointed."

"Perhaps you have not been looking for it in the right place." I suggested.

"You're right there," said he smiling; "I have been at the other end of the social scale. By the way, here is a magnificent thing which the Prince of Wales gave me the other day. You see it is a large horse-shoe in solid gold, set with diamonds and rubies, and here on the inside are the three royal feathers of his family."

"How are you impressed with the Prince of Wales?"

"He is a splendid man and immensely fond of Americans. Since his visit to our country he has taken the warmest interest in our doings and prospects."

"And the Princess?"

"Well, she is prettier than her daughters, and—"

Here my distinguished interlocutor was interrupted by a party of celebrities—bishops, statesmen, pretty women, etc.—who had come to pay their respects, so I devoted myself to Miss Cody.

Miss Buffalo Bill [14] is a young lady of 19 or thereabouts, inclined to be pretty, but rather conveying the impression that she revels in sucking oranges, chewing gum, etc. She had a little piece of black court blaster stuck artistically at the side of her nose, and seemed to be trying tremendously to make you think she had been accustomed to "this sort of thing" all her life.

"In about three weeks," said she, "I shall take a run to the Continent. I may go down into Africa for a while, too (admiring her patent leather boots). I don't speak much French, you know. I tell folks that I can only parlez-vous (giggling and playing with her diamonds), but I guess I can get on somehow. I think Europe is immense, don't you? and don't care how long pa stays here."

I withdrew, and on my way home pondered on the destinies of man.


Note 1: H. R. H., the princess of Wales, was Princess Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia; 1844-1925) and later Queen Alexandra, consort to Edward VII, King of Great Britain, 1844-1925. [back]

Note 2: The "yellow streaked panther" is likely a puma, also called cougar, mountain lion, yellow cat, and catamount. [back]

Note 3: "Yellowhand" is Hay-o-wei, the Southern Cheyenne Indian sub-war chief killed by Army scout William F. Cody in 1876. The actual translation for the Cheyenne name "Hay-o-wei" is Yellow Hair, who was the son of Cheyenne Chief Cut Nose. [back]

Note 4: Cora Urquhart Potter (1857-1936), an American society woman who became a stage actress in England, married and later divorced James Brown-Potter. [back]

Note 5: Miss Grace Hawthorne (1860-1922), an American actress, became actress/manager/producer at the Princess Theatre and the Olympian Theatre in London, England, during the 1890s. [back]

Note 6: Alice Ellen Terry (1847-1928), an English stage actress, was among the most famous leading ladies of the Victorian era. [back]

Note 7: Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of Cambridge (1833-1897), one of the first Royals to patronize philanthropic endeavors, became the Duchess of Teck when she wed Prince Francis (Paul Louis Alexander), Duke of Teck (1837-1900). They were the parents of Queen Mary (1867-1953), the consort of George V (1865-1936). [back]

Note 8: Princess Louise Margaret Alexandra Victoria Agnes, Duchess of Connaught (1860-1917), daughter of Prince Frederick of Prussia, wife of Arthur William Patrick Albert (1850-1942), Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and daughter-in-law to Queen Victoria. [back]

Note 9: John Sartain (1808-1897), pioneered mezzotint engraving in the United States, served with the art departments for both the 1876 Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia and the 1887 American Exhibitions in London. [back]

Note 10: The "Marchioness of Ely" was Jane Loftus (1821-1890), an English lady of the bedchamber and close friend to Queen Victoria. [back]

Note 11: Mrs. John Bigelow was Mary Dallam Bigelow (1858-1941). [back]

Note 12: James Gillespie Blaine (1830-1893), a teacher, newspaper editor, author, and politician, served ten terms as U. S. Congressman and Senator from Maine and as Secretary of State for Presidents Garfield and Harrison. Blaine helped to organize and was named the first president of the Pan American Congress. [back]

Note 13: William Walter Phelps (1839-1894), a successful merchant and financier in New York City, held a seat in U. S. House of Representatives in 1872 and was re-elected to Congress in 1883, 1885, and 1887. [back]

Note 14: Arta Lucille Cody (1866-1904), the eldest daughter of William F. and Louisa Cody, visited her father in London during the 1887 American Exhibition. [back]

Note 15: Cleveland L. Moffett (1863-1926), an American journalist, author and playwright. [back]