Buffalo Bill Cody vs. Wild Bill Hickok

Who’s who? Do you know the difference?

If you don’t know the difference between the two men here are some entertaining facts about each to help you know who is who:

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody was born in Le Claire, Iowa in 1846. In 1883, Buffalo Bill created the Wild West show. The circus-like attraction was successful for decades and played to massive crowds all over the world. The popularity of the show made Buffalo Bill the most famous American at the time. Cody is attributed as the inventor of our national idea of the Wild West and was an inspiration for early Western movie makers like the iconic director John Ford and the incomparable John Wayne. Many of the scenes that played out in his Wild West shows: Circling the wagons, Indian attacks, and trick shooting were eventually mimicked on film. Before his time as a showman, Buffalo Bill earned a reputation as a rugged frontiersman while supposedly riding with the Pony Express in 1860, hunting buffalo for the Kansas Pacific Railroad (which earned him his nickname), and as Chief of Scouts for the Third Cavalry during the Plains Indian Wars (where he eventually received a Medal of Honor in 1872). Buffalo Bill also earned the respect of the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull and was an early advocate of equal pay for women. He died in 1917 at the age of 70 in Denver, Colorado.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was born in Homer, Illinois in 1837. In 1861, because of a "sweeping nose and protruding upper lip" Hickok received the nickname “Duck Bill” from local bully and supposed outlaw David McCanles. McCanles, after having a financial dispute with Hickok, would be the first man reputed to have been shot to death by "Wild Bill." After McCanles’ death, Hickok grew a mustache and began referring to himself as “Wild Bill.” Throughout his lifetime, Hickok would work as a wagon-master for the Union Army during the Civil War, serve as a sheriff and city marshal, and kill at least six men in gunfights. A voracious gambler all his life, Wild Bill would collect his final reward at a poker table in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876, murdered by an assassin’s bullet. Hickok is widely regarded as the greatest gunfighter who ever lived, is the winner of the first recorded quick-draw duel, and was posthumously inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979. Legend has it that at the time of his demise, Hickok famously held the “dead-man’s hand” (aces and eights, all black, and a “hole” card). As a side note, both Hickok and Cody were friends and in 1873 acted together in a play before going their separate ways. If you want to know more go here and search the library's photographs and manuscript collections for these two western icons. 

There should be a caption that tells who is who. Thank you.

Is there anyway to get a copy of that photo? My understanding of the people in the photo from left to right are;. Elisha P. Green, James Butler Hickok, William F Cody, John B "Texas Jack" Omolundro, and Eugene Overton.
Please let me know, thank you.

While Calamity Jane is buried in Deadwood next to Wild Bill Hickok, the local museum has a photo of her on horseback performing in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. I see now that Cody and Hickok were friends, so it all makes sense.

I have a photo of Wild Bill Cody and my great grandfather on tin type. Is it worth anything?

Hi Sandra,

It's hard to have any degree of certainty without actually seeing the item. And are you sure you don't mean Buffalo Bill Cody? Or do you mean Wild Bill Hickok? They are two different people. The item would have to be authenticated as to who is actually in the photo as well.

Hello from Canada

Thanks for the article about these two individuals.

My mother told me that her father told her that he remembered sitting on his fathers knee while he was speaking to Buffalo Bill Cody. Apparently my great grandfather sold horses to Bill Cody for his Wild West Show. Mom says her father was born in a sod shack on the North Platte River. She was born in Arcadia Nebraska.

There is no way of knowing how accurate this old family story is but gives me a feeling of connection to the old west.

In reply to by Doug (not verified)

Thanks for sharing, Doug. Regardless of accuracy, it's a lovely family story.

My Native American friend has a photo of his grandfather , a Shaman, flanked on either side by Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill.

I am proud to say that Buffalo Bill or William Cody is a direct relative of my grandmother who was born in 1889. Her name was Romenta Chamberlin George.
It’s a known fact among my family way before all these DNA tests. But Granny said the family was always ashamed of him and were not proud of being related to him. They kept it hidden at the time. I guess he did not meet their approval. But I think it’s cool.
I tell this to my daughter and grandchildren and they say “Buffalo Bill Who?”

In reply to by Janet Faubert (not verified)

hello, your story brought tears to my eyes, i have been searching for one person for months, found a family tree of over a thousand, and still nothing for the one man. Who was a horse rancher, and a bar owner, near Mellette, and what i know for sure is that nothing makes sense. maybe you can help me.

When I was barely five years old in 1952, shortly after the death of King George VI and before the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, our family lived in a house called Elibank on St Mary's Hill in South Ascot, Berkshire, England. My father was an officer in the Royal Horse Guards and based in nearby Windsor at Combermere Barracks. He drove to Windsor in an old Austin 7 car, probably a 1937 model. Our garage was a former stable block and a ladder led up to the hay loft which had been converted into a flat for an old man who rented it for £2.50 a month and lived there alone. He was American and his name was Mr Ford, he was about 90. I don't know if we ever knew his first name. He was tall and gangly and had a wide droopy moustache and hair tied behind in a pony tail. Our mother didn't like us talking to him for some reason but he was always OK with us, not grumpy or bad tempered at all.
When he had been younger he had worked for Pony Express and the Wells Fargo Company, later being hired by William F Cody and coming to England as a cowboy in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He regaled my two brothers and I with his stories of the pioneering days in Nebraska and Dakota and I recall him showing us his pistol, which to me was very heavy. I couldn't lift it up. He had no bullets but showed us how the revolving chamber worked. I don't think it was a Colt 45 as the barrel seemed too long, as I recall it. My older brother had a toy cap gun and a cowboy outfit and his pistol seemed puny besides the real thing. I wish I'd been old enough to diary some of the things he told us about street fights and cattle rustling and the kind Indian people he had met. He held them in high esteem and not at all like the savages depicted in old cowboy movies. Mr Ford would walk to our church on Sundays, a good mile distant, without any walking stick though he walked slowly. My parents and us three boys went in dad's small car and there was no room to give him a lift, which always made me sad for him, especially in winter. Sometimes when it rained Dad would go back for him after bringing us home. I can still see him standing proud and tall, like a Clint Eastwood character I guess. I don't know what became of him or if he had any family. Funny how memories and impressions of people can be sustained across generations like that. I hope he is enjoying Happy Hunting Grounds somewhere.

In reply to by Tim Clarke (not verified)

What a great comment and what a wonderful memory for you. Hopefully you'll get to come back to Denver someday (after all this pandemic business ends) and enjoy the city and state again.

Just to add, I have been to Denver but sadly didn't know about the Denver Public Library. I was attending a training seminar for Herbalife with John and Susan Peterson, who lived up in Steamboat Springs back then, this was in about 2002 or 2003. It was amazing to have the opportunity to hire a car and drive out of town and spend a few days driving around Colorado. I visited Boulder and remember coming to a point in the road not far from God's Garden National Park. I crested a hill and there before me was a long straight road all the way to the horizon with absolutely o sign of civilization as we know it. No houses, No cars or trucks. No telegraph poles or wires. Nothing. Just as it was back in the 1800's except for the road surface and a wire fence. I stopped the car and got out to savour the timeless scene. After a few minutes I nearly jumped out of my skin when an animal snorted near by. I looked across the road and there were two buffalo standing there, by the fence, staring at me intently as though I'd come down in a UFO. They were absolutely massive, just as Mr Ford had told me they were. I could smell their breath on the breeze, not a bad smell really. I could just imagine what it must have been like to see and feel the ground shake under a stampede of hundreds of these magnificent creatures with hunters, white or native Indian in pursuit. The Far West. It was an iconic moment for me.

I grew up in NC with a neighbor named Dr Fink. He was a vet and very old at the time but I was told he worked in one of those western shows but I dont remember which one. It was a pleasure to have known him.

I grew up in NC with a neighbor named Dr Fink. He was a vet and very old at the time but I was told he worked in one of those western shows but I dont remember which one. It was a pleasure to have known him.

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