Congress of Rough Riders

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Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders Russian Cossacks For the First Time in America by Permission of the Czar

In Chicago for the 1893 season, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody premiered a new name for his equestrian stars – “The Congress of Rough Riders of the World.” In addition to Mexican vaqueros, American cowboys and cowgirls, and Lakota warriors, Buffalo Bill included Arab and Syrian horsemen along with trick riders from the Russian province of Georgia identified as “Cossacks.” Along with traditional riding cultures, Buffalo Bill’s Congress of Rough Riders included companies of the 6th United States Cavalry, the First Guard Uhlan Regiment of His Majesty King William II of Germany, French Chasseurs a Cheval de la Garde Republique François, and the 12th Lancers of the British Army. The original cosmopolitan group of horseback riders performed twice a day next to the grounds of the Columbian Exposition and marked the most successful year of performances for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, earning profits estimated between $700,000 and $1,000,000. In later years, Buffalo Bill added South American gauchos and Japanese Cavalry to his Congress of Rough Riders.

The Congress of Rough Riders of the World was an extension of the 1887 and 1889-1892 European tours of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West that showcased life on the American frontier to millions of Europeans. Now Buffalo Bill demonstrated the riding skills of the Europeans before American audiences, marking a significant transition in the Wild West’s program, representing a more diverse and international panorama. Buffalo Bill’s Congress of Rough Riders returned to Europe in 1902-1906, further elevating North American equestrian groups such as the Lakotas, cowboys, cowgirls, vaqueros, and gauchos as international heroes who demonstrated their skills and daring before millions of adoring fans. The Congress of Rough Riders also reflected the shift of the United States from a growing domestic nation shaped by westward Manifest Destiny to an imperial power competing with other imperialist countries across the globe.

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