Title: The Wild West | The Greatest Attraction of the American Exhibition in London—"Buffalo Bill's" Camp in the Heart of the British Metropolis—Royalties Paying Homage to a Sovereign of the American Prairies

Periodical: San Francisco Bulletin

Date: September 5, 1887

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The Greatest Attraction of the American Exhibition in London—"Buffalo Bill's" Camp in the Heart of the British Metropolis—Royalties Paying Homage to a Sovereign of the American Prairies.

There have been three events which have combined to make the Wild West the most popular and best-paying show for the same length of time and the money expended in its planting that has ever been seen in London—the first being its picturesque and realistic character, the second its patronage by the royal family and the best people in London generally, and the third and phenomenally fine weather that has prevailed during the whole time from its opening to the present day, there having been but one storm in ninety odd days—and that only lasted a few hours—so that performances have been given day and night without impediment for more than three months. It is no uncommon remark for a traveled Englishman to say to a Californian: "Why, you have brought your climate with you."


Before preparing this letter I accepted an invitation from "Buffalo Bill" to accompany him through camp, and was afterward entertained by Major Burke, the general manager. I learned from Major Burke that the inclosure of the Wild West took in seven acres right in the heart of London, east of the Thames, at or near a locality called Earl's Court, through which passed several steam railroads; the "underground" and many "bus" lines. I saw that much work had been performed so that the camp should have good drainage and good tenting grounds, and I learned that for these two purposes alone 25,000 cart-loads of gravel and soil had changed places; and I saw that there were surface and underground systems of drainage; separate lavatories, etc., for Indians, cowboys, Mexicans and staff, and that all were furnished with hot and cold water, marble basins, porcelain baths, and that everthing pertaining was clean, healthful and inviting, and particularly those set apart for the women, nearly all of whom are married, I may add. There are 215 people in all in the company—ninety-one Indians, twenty-five half-breeds, twenty Mexicans, fifty cowboys and other Western men, and about twelve women, not including squaws, there being ten of the latter. The Indians occupy tents of the old Sibley pattern, and all the others wall-tents of the army regulation size each. The cowboys, the Mexicans, the herders, Indians, women and staff having villages of their own. Then there is a big dining wall-tent each for the whites and the Indians, who have three meat meals a day of the best of beef and mutton, and cooked as well as at the Metropole. They eat no pastry, but have as choice butter, cheese, cream and milk as the Queen has at Windsor. The larder showed canned fruits and vegetables from California and elsewhere, and as white a lot of bread as anyone ever saw in St. Paul, and tea, coffee, sugar, and all the other concomitants, and an ice machine quietly at work. Buffalo Bill's dining-tent has seen some very excellent viands and wines put out of the way, and such personages as General and Lord Beresford, Hartington, Churchill, and hundreds of their kind, have dangled their lower limbs under Cody's improvised mahogany. He can seat eight at his table, and the interior is illuminated by incandescent lights, tapers and gas, and sometimes presents a really oriental and brilliant appearance.

Colonel Cody's living tent and reception room is a most attractive place, constructed of two large wall tents, and furnished a la Wild West, in which the hides and horns and antlers, and woods and roots and implements of prairie life and savagery have been uniquely manipulated and transformed into tables, chairs, lounges, carpets, rugs, drapery, flower-stands, picture-frames, etc.


Here Colonel W. F. Cody, better known as "Buffalo Bill," receives his friends and other callers. In this tent he has received the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales, the Princess, her two sons and three daughters, Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg and hundreds of other royal or otherwise noble and distinguished people. He also receives a good many Americans daily; and by the by, I dropped in yesterday morning and who should be there but Simon Cameron, General Hawley (the genial Senator from Connecticut), Sanders Johnston, Richardson of the Baltimore Sun, Perry of the Boston Herald, Potter Palmer of Chicago, and George Alfred Townsend, better known, perhaps, as "Gath."

There are 150 horses in all, and as finely stabled as at any race-track, and fountains of drinking-water all over the grounds. The pistols and guns are all loaded by the armorers, 500 of which are discharged at every exhibition, or about a thousand a day. All the cartridges except those for the Winchester rifles, and all the clay-pigeons and composition balls are made on the grounds by experienced and trustworthy employés brought from America. There is also a powder magazine erected under the supervision of a London law office.


The arena is one-third of a mile in circumference, and contains an iron grandstand which holds 20,000 people, all of whom pay a shilling (24 cents) for general admission, and then from 1 to 5 shillings for choice seats and from 20 to 35 shillings for boxes. On Monday last there was received alone for reserved places from the 20,000 people present $7,000, and the popcorn-stand took in 3,400 sixpences, or nearly $500. Over 300,000 Buffalo Bill books and upward of 400,000 Buffalo Bill programmes were sold at sixpence each, which figures up into a good many tens of thousands of dollars, a sixpence being 12 cents. Then there is a bar or a series of bars 900 feet in length where 300 kinds of American drinks are named and said to be made. Cigar-stands, soda fountains, Indian curiosity stores and photograph stands, the latter sometimes selling 1,000 a day, the greatest number being of "Buffalo Bill," and the next of "Red Shirt"—a wonderfully fine-faced Indian, "as fine as has ever been seen in England," so the Prince of Wales says and many others; "a mixture of Napoleon's and Wellington's features," a number of good judges think. Buffalo Bill is, undoubtedly, one of the handsomest men in face and physique to be met with anywhere. And he is abundantly supplied with good sense and superior reasoning faculties, and has been glowingly indorsed by Sherman, Sheridan and a hundred others of our officers. His is an unerring shot, a superior rider, and can take a bouttonaire off a man's coat with a lariat. Beside, he has fine manners, a good, sweet, sonorous voice, and is so much a lion that society seeks him from all its high places, he having received as many as a hundred invitations of various kinds in one week. So much from behind the scenes. —B.C.T. [1]

Note 1: B.C.T. is not further identified, except as "an occasional correspondent" in the subheading above. [back]

Title: The Wild West | The Greatest Attraction of the American Exhibition in London—"Buffalo Bill's" Camp in the Heart of the British Metropolis—Royalties Paying Homage to a Sovereign of the American Prairies

Periodical: San Francisco Bulletin

Date: September 5, 1887

Also appeared as:

  Title: The Wild West | The Greatest Attraction of the American Exhibition in London

  Periodical: Daily Evening Bulletin

  Date: September 5, 1887

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American Indians Arenas Buffalo Bill's Wild West Company Cowboys Firearms Horses Kings, queens, rulers, etc. Mexicans Winchester firearms

People: Alexandra, Queen, consort of Edward VII, King of Great Britain, 1844-1925 Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg, 1857-1944 Beresford, Charles William De la Poer Beresford, Baron, 1846-1919 Burke, John M., 1842-1917 Cameron, Simon, 1799-1889 Churchill, Randolph Henry Spencer, Lord, 1849-1895 Devonshire, Spencer Compton Cavendish, Duke of, 1833-1908 Hawley, Joseph R. (Joseph Roswell), 1826-1905 Henry Maurice, Prince of Battenberg, 1858-1896 Palmer, Potter, 1826-1902 Perry, Edwin A Red Shirt, 1845?-1925 Richardson, Francis A. (Francis Asbury), 1843-1926 Sheridan, Philip Henry, 1831-1888 Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891 Spencer-Churchill, Lord Rancolph Henry, 1849-1895 Townsend, George Alfred, 1841-1914 Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901

Places: Earl's Court (London, England) London (England) Thames River (England)

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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