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Buffalo Bill Rides Again in Old Poster

History: Billboard promoting 1878 appearance found behind crumbling wall.

July 05, 2002|From Associated Press

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. -- The crumbling brick facade of a downtown building revealed a long-forgotten secret: a 124-year-old billboard promoting a dramatic appearance by Buffalo Bill Cody.

Experts say the 26-by-10-foot billboard, uncovered when workers began removing the wall last month to prevent its collapse, is among the earliest graphic representations of the Wild West legend.

Pasted to wood sheathing behind the bricks was the paper poster of Cody waving his hat to a crowd, announcing "Buffalo Bill in his new theatrical drama ... May Cody" on March 14, 1878.

"We knew we had to act quickly," said Keith Schmitt, acting director of the Chautauqua County Arts Council, which quickly began preservation work on the fragile paper.

Schmitt and volunteers photographed the pieces and collected those that were removable as historians began researching the performance at the Allen Opera House in this city 60 miles south of Buffalo.

Historian Karen E. Livsey found that the show was part of a sixth anniversary tour of "The Buffalo Bill Combination," an early theater troupe organized by and starring Cody. "May Cody" depicted the Mormons' early settlement in Utah.

William F. Cody was a Pony Express rider and Civil War veteran who later hunted buffalo to feed railroad construction crews.

Cody became a national folk hero in the pages of the "Buffalo Bill" dime novels of Ned Buntline, who persuaded Cody to take to the stage to tell stories of the Wild West.

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