This large Buffalo Bill sculpture is on a major street near the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.
History of the Buffalo Bill sculpture
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney created Buffalo Bill – The Scout to honor the town’s most famous resident. The dedication took place on July 4th in 1924.
Buffalo Bill Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, was determined to honor his legacy after he died in 1917. She dreamed of opening a museum recognizing his accomplishments, despite the challenges. With her connections with the Eastern establishment, she convinced Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to create a statue of Buffalo Bill.
Whitney agreed to create the sculpture, but didn’t like the proposed sites for its placement. She bought 40 adjoining acres. Whitney also ended up paying the entire $50,000 cost of the sculpture. The small town of Cody, evidently, could not raise enough to pay her.
A dream of a museum becomes a reality
In 1925, the International Cody Family Association formed. They proposed creating a Buffalo Bill Historical Museum. The town constructed a full-size replica of Buffalo Bill’s ranch home and opened it to the public in 1927. By 1949, the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association made plans to expand the facility. Western history and art, Native American culture, and natural history would be highlighted. A $250,000 donation in 1955 finally made expansion possible. Sonny Whitney, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s son, made that donation. In 1958, The Whitney Gallery of Western Art would become the first part of the world-class Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Sometimes when you research one thing – a statue – you plunge down a rabbit hole and learn much more. I did not know the Vanderbilts, once considered to be the wealthiest family in America, had this connection with William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and his legacy.
Mary Jester Allen would serve the museum in multiple roles from 1927 to 1960. Because of her actions and perseverance, the center now attracts millions of visitors from around over the world.