DescriptionWilliam Walls/W. F. Cody archive. This lot comprises a full 41 items.
There are several ways to consider the collection. For instance, we might note the stationery. The showbusiness letterheads include the Sells-Floto Circus (with Buffalo Bill, "Himself"), Buffalo Bill's and Pawnee Bill's "Two Bills" show, and the Shan-Kive and Round-up. "Shan-Kive" was a curious contrivance that Buffalo Bill and the Miller Brothers applied to the 101 Ranch Show's 1916 appearance in Chicago. And hotels? The letterheads range from The Waldorf in New York to The Irma in Cody and, in between, The Grand in Billings, Montana.
We might consider the autographs.
Judge" William L. Walls (1865-1935) was a long-time W. F. Cody acquaintance and Buffalo Bill's principal attorney in Wyoming. Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel opened in 1902; on the corner directly north, Walls erected a matching building from the same native sandstone. He later served as Wyoming's attorney-general and died in a traffic accident in Cheyenne. In addition to the carbons of letters from Walls to Cody and to W. R. Coe, there is a "warranty deed" executed on Cody's behalf and signed by Walls
W. F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody truly needs no introduction. This collection includes a dozen hand-written letters from W. F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody signed in full; two signed "Father;" and two typed letters signed in full, "W. F. Cody." There is much about money (he always needs more) and lawsuits (they seem to be endless). One of the most musical statements of Cody's optimism is the certainty expressed in one of these letters that he soon will be in a position to "walk into a bank and get a smile." He also hand wrote and signed (on Sells-Floto letterhead) a statement or deposition regarding a lawsuit, and there is a signed promissory note to his niece Mayme (Mary Jester Allen who founded the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming, in 1927). One of the letters signed "Father" (to son-in-law Fred Garlow) is addressed from the Pine Ridge Reservation in October, 1912, where he was recruiting Lakota people for the show. The other "Father" signature closes a fabulous letter to Cody's wife, Louisa, in which he tells her of the liability insurance the Wild West carries and tries to explain why, despite the insurance, he's encumbered by so many lawsuits.
William Robertson Coe (1869-1955) was an insurance magnate, a member of the Standard Oil Company family by marriage, and a great and discerning collector of western Americana. The Coe Library at the University of Wyoming and the Beinicke Library's great western collection at Yale University owe their existence to W. R. Coe. He bought Buffalo Bill's Carter Mountain Ranch near Cody, Wyoming, in 1911. It's still known locally as "Coe Lodge." By bequest, Coe established the endowment for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center that helped it become a great western museum. The deed to Coe Lodge is here, and there are 5 TLS along with a highly amusing full page ALS to Judge Walls concerning Coe's "comedy of errors" visit to Cody in 1910.
Gordon William "Pawnee Bill" Lillie (1860-1942) first tasted show business when he hired on as interpreter for Pawnee Indians in the inaugural Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883. His partnership with Buffalo Bill from 1909 to 1913 saved the show financially. He was considerably more prudent in his spending than Cody, and he amassed a sizable fortune in Oklahoma as a successful rancher, developer, and banker. His ALS to Walls mentions the enclosure of an "exemplified" (that is, certified) copy of Buffalo Bill's and Pawnee Bill's "Certificate of Incorporation" and closes with this remarkable expression of affection and respect for his old mentor, " Anything further I can do for the Col. command me." And of course, those incorporation papers for the Two Bills show are included with this lot.
J. H. Peake (1848- 1905) may not have as big a name as the above, but his personality and accomplishments were quite as large and impressive. He was a Virginian who fought for the Union as a young volunteer during the Civil War. Afterwards he went west as a pioneer newspaperman and, among other things, established the North Platte Enterprise in 1874 to serve Fort McPherson and the growing civilian community (including Bill and Louisa Cody) nearby. He later went to Washington, D. C., where his old friend Buffalo Bill encountered him and persuaded him to establish another Enterprise in the new town of Cody, Wyoming. But Peake was as outspoken a Democrat as Buffalo Bill was a Republican, and the Cody Enterprise continually embarrassed Bill with the Republican powers-that-be in Cheyenne. He wouldn't fire Peake, but he could unload his partisan albatross by selling the paper to his editor. The deed of sale (1903) is here.
Finally, we might consider the rich history of land disputes, water rights litigation, torts and liability, and political intrigues in the settlement of the West and how they are reflected in this trove of correspondence. Buffalo Bill's Wild West supposedly chronicled the past, but when journalist Charles Wayland Towne first saw Cody in 1902, he called it "boomtown," a place hardly removed from its frontier past, where "everybody and everything hustled - including the wind." Towne's description, below, will make clear some of the desperation implicit in the correspondence in this collection, and it will convince us that it was only on the strength of their pioneer optimism that Judge Walls, Peake, Coe, and even Buffalo Bill Cody would bet on the future of such a place. All he found, Towne wrote, were:
A town hall, post office, railroad station, livery stable, blacksmith shop, two water wagons, two churches, three newspapers, four hotels, six saloons, a dozen stores and shops, 44 bronchos, half a hundred dwellings, 450 residents one brothel, three chained bears, one corralled elk, and a caged eagle.
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