William F. Cody

The Life of Buffalo Bill

The 1879 autobiography of William F. Cody, more commonly known as Buffalo Bill, detailing his early life in the American West.

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The popular history of William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody remains more myth than anything else, yet it’s undeniable that he was a central figure in the American Old West. Pony Express rider, stagecoach driver, trapper, soldier, bison hunter, scout, showman—his résumé reads like the quintessential record of all that makes up the Old West mythology, and it’s all documented in this, his original 1879 autobiography.

While The Life of Buffalo Bill is rife with the dramatic stylings of the dime novels and stage melodramas so popular at the time, in it Cody presents his version of his life: from his boyhood settling in the newly-opened Kansas territory, to his early life as a frontiersman. It was written when Cody was only thirty-three years old, just after he started his career as a showman and a few years before he created his world famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Originally titled The Life of Hon. William F. Cody Known as Buffalo Bill the Famous Hunter, Scout, and Guide: An Autobiography, it is an arguably more accurate account of both his life and the American West than the later 1917 autobiography The Great West That Was: “Buffalo Bill’s” Life Story which was ghostwritten by James Montague and published after his death. Although it makes many claims that are disputed today, The Life of Buffalo Bill reveals much about both the historical William F. Cody and the Buffalo Bill of American legend, and gives insight into the history of the American West.