Title: The American Exhibition

Periodical: The Morning Post

Date: May 5, 1887

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On Monday next, at three o'clock, the American Exhibition at Earl's-court will be opened to the general public. The work which has been done there during the past week has been amazing, and is another proof, if one were wanting, of what can be achieved by proper organisation when a body of 2,000 men are employed by day and night in completing an edifice which would in other times not so far back have taken as many years as it has now taken months to build. Already the principal gallery of the nave is completed, and, decorated as it is with flags and banners, presents a very gay appearance. Exhibits are coming in daily, and there is every reason to believe that when everything is finished the result will be imposing. The building is mainly constructed of a rather novel material; to wit, old rails, struts, and cast iron, with wrought-iron tie rods. The columns, which have by no means an inelegant appearance, are throughout composed of rails, and the roof is of galvanised iron with glass skylights skilfully introduced so as to produce as much light as possible while avoiding glare. The nave is 1,140ft. long by 120ft. wide, and the principal refreshment room, situated to the left of the main entrance, is 90ft. in breadth by 250ft. in length. In addition to these, a Fine Art Gallery has been constructed consisting of eight separate rooms, each 40ft. by 40ft. There are two electric light sheds, 120ft. by 60ft. There are, in various parts of the building, four principal entrances, all under cover, and no less than seven bridges crossing the numerous lines of railway which intersect the grounds. These lines, together with the Metropolitan Railway, form at West Brompton a kind of junction, which will be a great convenience to people arriving from all parts of the country, and who may wish to visit the Exhibition only. A bridge, under cover and of great length, leads from the Exhibition proper to the grand stand, whence some 25,000, comfortably seated, can behold the much-talked of "Wild West" sports. In the extensive gardens is a club house, a Tobogganing slide, a switch back-railway 400ft. long, a pavilion containing a panorama of New York, and several large restaurants. The principal contract for the supply of refreshments has been granted to Messrs. Bertram and Co., who have arranged with several leading American firms to supply Yankee drinks and specialities.

The Exhibition itself is not in any way supported by the American Government, for the obvious reason that it would be impossible for the Government of one country to select the capital of another as the place wherein to make a grand demonstration of its natural, commercial, and artistic products and resources. Under such circumstances it is necessary, nay, imperative, that the Exhibition should be considered purely as a private enterprise, conducted, however, by gentlemen high in authority in the United States—the president being Colonel H. S. Russel, [1] and the general manager Mr. J. R. Whitley, assisted by Mr. J. G. Speed, [2] Mr. F. C. Penfield, [3] and Mr. Applin [4] —who have devoted the last three years to the selection of exhibits which it has been determined shall be of a most representative character. In this manner the principal nave will be filled with a highly interesting collection of cereals, minerals, and manufactured goods. In short, so far as the space and the unofficial character of the undertaking will permit, the Exhibition will be as representative as possible of the actual progress and commercial condition of the United States. This is assured from the fact that the applications for space have been so numerous that the management have been enabled to select only those exhibits in which America excels. The Fine Art Gallery is, fortunately for the Exhibition, under the superintendence of one of America's foremost connoisseurs and critics, Mr. Sartain, [5] whose perfect knowledge of art, both in this country and his own, has proved of so much value to America during the past 50 years. Although in his 80th year, Mr. Sartain is as bright and active as many a man of half his age, and his energy has been so great that it is mainly due to him that the Art Galleries are likely to prove quite as attractive as the "Wild West" show. The principal picture to be exhibited is the famous Battle of Gettysburg, by Peter F. Rothermel, which is loaned by the State of Pennsylvania, and is of such value that it is insured for $30,000. It is 32ft. long, by 16ft. in height. In all, there will be about 1,000 pictures by American artists. Mr. Healey sends a very fine collection of portraits, including those of M. Gambetta, Mlle. Nordica, M. Thiers, Mr. H. M. Stanley, the King and Queen of Roumania, and Lord Lyons. Mr. Bierstadt sends five pictures; Miss Dodson contributes 10 large and small works; and Carl Webber is also represented; and so also will be Sontag, Ward, Clifford, Greeson, J. R. Tait, J. B. Waugh, W. L. Picknell, W. R. Boyle, Addison, Hutton, Saul Sartain, C. Schussel, F. M. Boggs, and other well-known American artists. Mr. J. R. Brown sends eight miniatures of unrivalled beauty and immense value, the case containing them being insured for no less than £8,000. In the Art Gallery will also be found a most curious and interesting collection of hunting trophies, lent by an influential committee of sportsmen and others, at the head of which is Mr. E. North Buxton.

There is no question that the entertainment which proved so immensely popular throughout the Eastern States of America, and known as the "Sports of the Wild West," will prove quite as attractive here. Curious to say, the windows of London booksellers are already full of editions of Fennimore Cooper's novels "The Path-Finder," "The Deer Stalker," "The Last of the Mohicans," "Leather Stocking," and, in short, all that series of delightful romances which have placed the name of the American novelist almost on the same level with that of Sir Walter Scott. And now encamped in West Brompton are these very same Indians, Sioux, Pawnees, and Ogallalas. It is very strange to see these people living under tents, rudely painted with outlines of animals and birds, with here and there a grotesque figure of a human being. It is not unlike a military camp with its headquarters under canvas, and everything is conducted with almost soldierly precision. The Indians, draped in their crimson and deep blue blankets, stand about, their heads bedecked with feathers and beads, and with spears in their hands, in unconsciously picturesque attitudes. There are no restrictions upon visitors, who are allowed to enter the tents, chuck the Indian babies under the chin, watch the squaws at work, and even interview that august personage "Red Shirt," the Sioux chief, elected by these strangers to be virtually their king. "Red Shirt" is a man of about 35, whose regular features are so strikingly like those of the first Napoleon that everybody must at once notice the resemblance. Many of the other men have features of singularly regular outline. They are a silent and observant people, and rarely speak among themselves if a stranger is by, but as soon as his back is turned, they become very communicative indeed. On Monday, owing to the unsatisfactory state of the weather, "Red Shirt" pronounced anything but a blessing upon our climate, and very sensibly informed—through an interpreter—Miss Ellen Terry and her sister, who had come to visit him, that he preferred the bitterest cold of the plains to the unstable, smoky atmosphere which then surrounded him. These Indians have a very curious theological belief. They worship two Gods, a bad and a good. The good one is to be prayed to, because he provides all the good things in life—warmth, food, joy, success in love, distinction in war, all come from him. The bad, on the other hand, is the enemy of all, and as such he is to be propitiated and kept in good humour. Of course, all the Indians believe in the immortality of the soul, and that they will all live hereafter in the Happy Hunting Field, unless, indeed, they happen to die by strangulation, in which case their spirits are destroyed, inasmuch as they are convinced that the soul escapes by the mouth into eternity. When all the 120 Indians are on horseback, and rush wildly into the arena, their feathers blowing in the wind, and their bright cloaks flying round them, the scene is certainly extremely exciting. It is very curious to see with what precision the number of horses are suddenly brought in a line abreast, the chiefs in front gesticulating in the wildest manner, whooping and hollowing, whilst their feathers and war paint glimmer in the whirl. Nothing like this has ever been seen in Europe before—at least not since the days when our own painted ancestors perhaps yelled and whooped in the same manner, and perchance on the same spot, long before Augustine came to preach Christianity among us. Then there are the cowboys, who, by the way, have really excellent musicians amongst them, and a band which will be very well worth hearing. The other morning a herd of a dozen buffaloes were let loose into the arena, and hunted round and round by the Indians and cowboys, without, however, in any way hurting the animals, who seemed rather to enjoy the run than otherwise, and were to be seen a few minutes afterwards peaceably eating their noontide meal. One of the most exciting episodes of the entertainment will be the attack on an old stage coach, drawn by six mules, which comes rattling round the arena. An ambuscade of yelling redskins pounce upon it, and it is for some time fiercely attacked, and then, with a loud cheer and a clatter, come the cowboys, headed by Buffalo Bill, to the rescue; the Indians are driven away, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. All this is so cleverly managed and so very realistic that the other day an amateur volunteered to enact the part of a passenger. He was so alarmed by his varied experiences in the besieged coach that when the performance was over it was discovered that he had fainted. The lassooing of ponies, extraordinary trials with untrained horses, races, marvellous shooting feats, are likewise included in the programme, and prove what skill, tact, and endurance men can acquire who gain their livelihood on the plains. The great advantage that these actors have is that every one of them has been in his or her day trained from sheer necessity to perform the part in real life which they now enact in mimic. In other words, this entertainment is nothing more nor less than a sample of what a large number of men are obliged to go through every day of their lives if circumstances oblige them to live on the great borderland. The strictest discipline is maintained in the camp, and it requires the commanding presence, the undaunted courage, of such a man as Buffalo Bill, who has in a rare degree the power of winning affection and commanding respect. The Hon. W. F. Cody, known to the world as Buffalo Bill, was born in Scott County, Ohio. At a very early age he was employed as a herder, waggon-master, and pony express rider. In Kansas, in 1861, he was a Government scout and guide, and in 1862 he served as a scout and guide for the 9th Kansas Cavalry, and participated in several battles. At the end of the war he was honourably discharged, and in 1867 he contracted to deliver all the buffalo meat that would be needed as food for the labourers on the Kansas-Pacific Railway. For this purpose, in less than 18 months, he killed no less than 4,280 buffaloes, and this feat gained him the name of Buffalo Bill. In 1868 he again entered the Government service as a scout, and performed many dangerous rides through a country infested with hostile Indians. Later on Mr. Cody was assigned duty with the 3d Cavalry, with which regiment he served until 1872, when he was elected a member of the Nebraska Legislature, which gained him the title of honourable. He soon, however, resigned his seat, and shortly after made his first appearance as an actor in a drama entitled "The Scouts of the Plains," winning an instant success. From this date he continued in the theatrical profession, and his latest enterprise in this direction is the organisation now at West Kensington, in which he has the assistance of Mr. Nate Salsbury and Major John M. Burke, his general manager. The magnificent appearance of Buffalo Bill and the almost legendary stories of his valour, have made him one of the most popular personages in contemporary American history. And there are other interesting characters in the troupe, as, for instance, Mr. Nelson,who pioneered the Mormons across the plains to their settlement in Utah, and who has married an Indian "Princess." "Buck Taylor," who stands 6ft. 4in., is famous all over the plains as a huntsman, from Idaho to the Rio Grande. He is the "King of the Cowboys." And there are Miss Lillian Smith, a Californian huntress and champion rifle shot; and Miss Annie Oakley, the champion "markswoman of America; and Antonio Esquivel, [6] the King Vaquero of Mexico; and "Mustang Jack," [7] the greatest jumper in the world; and "Broncho Bill," and "Broncho Charlie," [8] whose perfect acquaintance with the various dialects, as well as of several European languages, makes him invaluable as an interpreter, as none of the Indians speak a word of English.

Note 1: Henry Sturgis Russell (1838-1905), a Civil War general who became president of the American Exhibition. [back]

Note 2: John Gilmer Speed (1853-1909), an American journalist, editor, and author, served as Secretary of the American Exhibition in London, England from 1884 through 1887. [back]

Note 3: Frederic C. Penfield (1855-1922), of Hartford, Connecticut, was Chief of General Staff for the American Exhibition. [back]

Note 4: Vincent Augustin Applin (1850-1895), Executive Secretary for the American Exhibition and a member of the Incorporated Law Society of London and Solicitor of the Supreme Court. [back]

Note 5: John Sartain (1808-1897), who pioneered mezzotint engraving in the United States, served as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for 23 years and held various offices in the Artists' Fund Society, the School of Design for Women, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and was actively connected with other educational institutions; Sartain also served with the art departments for both the 1876 Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia and the 1887 American Exhibition in London. [back]

Note 6: Antonio "Tony" Esquivel (~1850-1914), a champion vaquero from Mexico who performed with Buffalo Bill's Wild West for several years, including two European tours. [back]

Note 7: 'Mustang Jack,' a cowboy performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West, was billed as the greatest jumper in the world for his ability to leap over the backs of several horses from a standing position and land on the opposite side without touching the horses. [back]

Note 8: "Broncho Charlie" Miller (1850-1955), a performer with Buffalo Bill's Wild West, demonstrated the skills of the famed American Pony Express Riders. [back]

Title: The American Exhibition

Periodical: The Morning Post

Date: May 5, 1887

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American bison American Indians Art--Exhibitions Artists Buffalo meat Cowboys Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863 Horses Hunting Kansas Pacific Railway Company Metropolitan Railway (London, England) Mormons Oglala Indians Pawnee Indians Ponies Pony express Scouting (Reconnaissance) Scouts (Reconnaissance) Sharpshooters Shooting Sioux Nation United States United States. Army. Cavalry

People: Applin, Vincent Augustin Bierstadt, Albert, 1830-1902 Burke, John M., 1842-1917 Buxton, Edward North, 1840-1924 Carol I, King of Romania, 1839-1914 Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 Healy, G. P. A. (George Peter Alexander), 1813-1894 Miller, Charlie, 1850-1955 Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821 Nelson, John Young, 1826-1903 Nordica, Lillian, 1857-1914 Oakley, Annie, 1860-1926 Penfield, Frederic Courtland, 1855-1922 Red Shirt, 1845?-1925 Rothermel, Peter Frederick, 1812-1895 Russell, Henry Sturgis Salsbury, Nathan, 1846-1902 Sartain, John, 1808-1897 Scott, Walter, 1771-1832 Speed, John Gilmer, 1853-1909 Taylor, William Levi, 1857-1924 Terry, Ellen, Dame, 1847-1928 Whitley, John Robinson, 1843-1922

Places: Brompton (Kent, England) Earl's Court (London, England) Europe Kansas Kensington (London, England) Nebraska Ohio Pennsylvania

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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