By John Busbee
Buffalo Bill. Those two words, William Frederick Cody’s famous nickname, evoke images of buckskins, bison and the Old West. Many amazing people have been born in Iowa. Cody was one such person, though from his humble birth in Le Claire, overlooking the Mississippi River, he became one of the most influential figures of his time and his legacy lives on today.
From a series of conversations with two Iowans who studied this historical figure and knew his story well, Buffalo Bill took on a much more complex, complete look. Linda Robbins Coleman and her husband, the late Dr. William S.E. Coleman, devoted years to better understanding the legendary Buffalo Bill. Their meticulous research resulted in an incredible collection of information, artifacts and photographs about him. Coleman’s multimedia lecture, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” was given throughout the U.S. and Europe, and he served as a consultant to museums, collections and scholars.
“Buffalo Bill created the world’s view of the Old West,” said Linda Robbins Coleman. “First, as an actor in Border Dramas, then in his outdoor exhibition, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, then with motion pictures. He lived during an incredible era. His life, from 1846 to 1917, went from a world of primitive conveniences to many incredible inventions. When he was born, photography was in its infancy. He lived to see telephones, electric lights, automobiles, airplanes and movies.”
Although Cody left Iowa when he was eight, he returned many times throughout his life. From the late 1870s until less than two years before his death, he entertained tens of thousands of Iowans. Late in his life, he would even work with another famous Iowan — bandmaster and composer Karl King. His international legacy began in the country, overlooking the Mississippi River, near the Iowa town of Le Claire.