“Buffalo Bill’s America” by Louis S. Warren
Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show is a biography of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, written by Warren in 2005. This book offers an in-depth exploration of the life of one of the most famous Americans of the nineteenth century. In his work, Warren focuses on different sides of Cody’s personality – his life as a soldier, a hunter, and a showman.1 Warren’s arguments reveal an interesting description of Cody’s life experiences, as he tries to examine whether all myths surrounding the showman’s persona are real or fake. The writer arranges the book in three sections, separating them into time periods of Cody’s life as a soldier, as a rising and then a successful showman, and as a man, whose decline left him without money and audience’s attention.2 Furthermore, as a central concept of the book, Warren explores the Wild West show and its correlation to Cody’s life, whose showmanship skills allowed him to create a story from reality and make reality an exciting tale.
According to the author, it was always hard for scholars to back Cody’s authenticity with reliable facts.3 In fact, Warren urges the reader not to trust every tale told by the showman himself, doubting the truthfulness of his narration. The scholar, however, bases many of his conclusions on theories, instead of relying solely on proven facts. For instance, in the introduction, Warren starts to make assumptions about stories that come from the very beginning of Cody’s career, making them seem unreliable and exaggerated.4 While it may be impossible to prove the author right or wrong, his intention to make Cody seem dubious is disenchanting as it may be more entertaining to look at his persona through the lens of showmanship.
The author continues to make numerous assumptions, only briefly mentioning scholars’ failing attempts at proving the facts about Cody’s life. The author continues to make Cody seem complete or, at least, partially artificial, stating that “the seam between the truth and fiction … was so artfully sewn as to be all but invisible.”5 Here, the author makes a point that criticizes the showman and judges his audiences at the same time. Throughout the book, Warren’s judgment of Cody’s personality and his ability to sell a story to every American also offers a comparison between the man’s real and fictional lives.
The author strives to make parallels between Cody and Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Bill and America, and America and the world. His statement that the US was at some point “Buffalo Bill’s America” explores the effect that Cody’s stories had on the minds of the American audience.6 Warren believes that Buffalo Bill was able to appeal to almost everyone with his created view of a Western man, tapping into the traditional values of the country while also making it seem progressive. The narrative in the third part of the book offers a different picture, according to which Cody struggled to retain the same mood of the Wild West show while trying to adapt to the new course of the nation.
All in all, Warren’s book offers some interesting points about Cody and his experience as Buffalo Bill. Furthermore, the author also attempts to draw parallels between the events that happened (or did not happen) in the life of the showman and the changes that occurred in America at the same time. Warren makes many assumptions and draws various conclusions from his personal logic, often disregarding the lack of information about the subject of his book. However, his arguments may be seen in the same light as the life of Cody itself, which assumingly mixes reality and fiction and uses the skill of “artful deception.”7
Warren, Louis S. Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.
- Louis S. Warren, Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), ix.
- Ibid., xxi.
- Ibid., xiv.
- Ibid., xiv.
- Ibid., 218.
- Ibid., 358.
- Ibid., 397.