Buffalo Bill Cody – Westward Expansion Hero



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ELA 8 – Launch / Heroism Unit


Name _______________________________________________ Date __________

Buffalo Bill Cody – Westward Expansion Hero by Hal McGintry, Bio.com

At a time when most American youngsters worked on the family farm – or continued to work in a family business such as carpentry, masonry, or trade – William F. Cody took a daring yet lonely path in search of thrill and adventure. Born in Iowa in 1846, the famous William “Buffalo Bill” Cody rode on the Pony Express at the age of 14, fought in the American Civil War, served as a scout for the Army, and was already an Old West legend before mounting his famous Wild West show, which traveled the United States and Europe.

Born in Scott County, Iowa, William F. Cody worked for a freight company as a messenger and wrangler before trying his luck as a prospector in the Pikes Peak gold rush in 1859. The next year, at age 14, Cody joined the Pony Express, the country’s fastest horse-driven mail service that carried written communication from coast to coast before the establishment of the transcontinental railroad. Buffalo Bill must have felt he fit the job description which called for "skinny, expert riders willing to risk death daily."

Cody later served in the American Civil War, facing combat in Tennessee and Missouri. In 1867 he began buffalo hunting (to feed constructions crews building railroads), which would give him the nickname that would define him forever. His own assessment puts the number of buffalo he killed at 4,280, in just over a year and a half.

In 1868, Cody returned to his work for the Army as chief of scouts (and his ongoing work with the military garnered him the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872, which was subsequently stripped and then reinstated), all the while becoming a national folk hero thanks to the dime-novel exploits of his alter ego, "Buffalo Bill.” In late 1872, Cody went to Chicago to make his stage debut in The Scouts of the Prairie, one of Ned Buntline’s original Wild West shows (Buntline was also the author of the Buffalo Bill novels). The next year, "Wild Bill" Hickok joined the show, and the troupe toured for ten years.

In 1883, Cody founded his own show, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," a circus-like extravaganza that toured widely for three decades in the United States and later in Europe. Besides Buffalo Bill himself, the Wild West show starred sharpshooter Annie Oakley along with famed Native American Chief, Sitting Bull.



A champion of women’s rights and a lifelong soldier, Buffalo Bill Cody was more than just a Wild West showman and buffalo hunter. But his larger-than-life persona, at times real and at others fictitious, is what lives on in the hearts and minds of fans of the frontier West.

Short Response Questions:

  1. Do you consider Buffalo Bill to be a hero? Explain by supporting your answer with examples from the text.

  2. Based on last week’s discussion and notes, does the author present mostly observations and evidence about Buffalo Bill, or does he make more judgments (opinions)? Use examples from the text to support your answer.

  3. Word study: Find three sophisticated or unfamiliar words. Write the definition for each word as it is used in the sentence.

  4. (Extension) What “judgment” could you make about the time period that Buffalo Bill lived in? How was their culture different from or similar to our culture today?

The time period Buffalo Bill lived in could be characterized as _________________. This is because…


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