Looking back, it might seem inevitable that Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack would become stars. They were handsome, fearless, and photogenic. Ned Buntline had introduced them to the world in his dime novels, and news of their efforts pursuing Minniconjou raiders had been reported in papers across the country months earlier.
But the truth is that their meteoric rise to fame was the result of a very specific series of events—disparate trails and diverse people converging on the small frontier outpost of Fort McPherson, Nebraska, in 1872. In 2022 we celebrate the 150th (sesquicentennial) anniversary of the most remarkable and pivotal year in the lives of John B. Omohundro and William F. Cody. That year started with a buffalo hunt for one of the most famous and important men in the world.
This story comes from the December 15, 1871, issue of the Chicago Tribune. One year later, that paper would be advertising the premiere of The Scouts of the Prairie, proving just how far Cody and Omohundro would rise.
The Grand Duke
Arrangements for His Reception in This City.
Two Floors of the Tremont House Secured for the Prince and His Suite.
General Sheridan's Plans for a Grand Buffalo Hunt on the Plains---Spotted Tail's Indians Engaged to Assist.
Of course, everybody knows that the Grand Duke Alexis is coming to Chicago. Such was his object in first planning the trip to America. To See Chicago as she was before the fire had been for years a desire of the Muscovite Prince; but to see Chicago after the fire was of vastly more importance to him, and he has been gradually molding his arrangements to the end that he might reach our city at a time when the great metropolitan wonder of modern times exhibited both the picturesque ruins of its former splendor and the remarkable spectacle of solid rebuilding in midwinter.
He will come soon after Christmas, and it is his express desire that his leisure may not be impaired by the wearisome formalities of a great public reception. He will submit to these inflictions at Milwaukee and St. Louis, which cities, having nothing in themselves of interest to anybody, are fain to supply their painful deficiencies by a grand splurge. In Chicago, Alexis has arranged to have his spare time to himself, in order that he may derive, by close personal examination, a fair idea of what the city really is and was. He feels, too, that it would not be just the right sort of thing for Chicago to divert from the funds necessary to restore the city, and provide for her destitute people in the meantime, the outlay which would be incurred by a big display in his honor, for he knows that if Chicago should undertake the reception business at all, she would not do it by halves, but would organize an affair which would cast wholly in the share all the attempts so far made in that direction.
Therefore, as has been said, His Imperial Highness will exclusively reserve for Chicago the honor of a visit solely of observation and interest, so that when he gets back to St. Petersburg and tells the "Governor" about his trip, he will say, in his frank and unaffected way, that there's some style to a city like Chicago, where the people let a fellow alone, and give him a chance to look around and learn something.
While in this city the Grand Duke will interpose his total extremities beneath Mr. Drake's mahogany at the Tremont House, corner of Michigan Avenue and Congress streets. Here to entire floors will be set apart for the imperial party, which Mr. Drake is advised will be made up as follows: His Imperial Highness, the Grand Duke Alexis; His Excellency, C. Catacazy, Russian Minister; His Excellency, Vice Admiral Possiet; His Excellency, W.F. Machim, Councillor of State; Count Olsoufief; Mr. B. Bodisco, Consul General of Russia to the United States; Count Shouvaloff; Dr. Condrin; Lieutenant Tudeer, of the Imperial Navy; and Mr. Shirkoff, Secretary of Legation, together with a retinue of light attendants. The apartments reserved for the party will be six parlors, with bedrooms and bathrooms adjoining, a private dining room for the Grand Duke and suite, and eleven bedrooms.
No extra effort at elaborate ornamentation will be made in the rooms, which will simply be rendered as elegant and comfortable as anybody could desire. Those of the Grand Duke will be in the northeast corner on the second floor, commanding a magnificent view of the lake harbor and the ruined portion of the South Division. Mr. Drake will exercise his accustomed good taste and judgment in providing for the comfort of the party during their stay, and it is fair to presume that they will not have to complain of having been lodged in a hotel conducted on the "burnt-out" plan. Alexis will pass a day in this city, thence going to Milwaukee for a day, then returning to remain another day here, and then departing for St. Louis.
His course, thenceforward, is not fully arranged and will be affected by his conclusion as to the acceptance of General Sheridan's invitation to participate in a grand buffalo hunt on the plains. The General has already forwarded the proposition and now awaits a reply. It is his purpose to proceed, with the Russian party, and a few of his staff officers, by way of the Union Pacific Railroad to Fort McPherson, Nebraska, seventeen miles from Platte Station. This distance will be traversed in ambulances, and from the fort, the party will proceed sixty miles south, on horseback and by ambulance, to the point where buffalo now exist in almost unparalleled numbers. The camp will have been previously sent forward from Fort McPherson, so that everything will have been made snug and comfortable by the time the party arrive.
A thousand Sioux Indians, under Spotted Tail and Whistler, will be on hand to participate in the hunt, and to show the Grand Duke how buffalo are killed en regle. Such a spectacle has rarely, if ever before, been witnessed, and it is doubtful if its like would ever occur again. The opportunity is one worth a thousand times the trouble, and Alexis may rest assured that if he fails to avail himself of it he will forgo one of the most remarkable and interesting affairs conceivable. Some fears of unfavorable weather seemed to be entertained by the Grand Duke, but General Sheridan pledges his extended experience on the plains in going assurance that he will see to it that neither trouble, discomfort, nor delay arise on this account. He is in receipt of the following letter from the officer in command at Fort McPherson, under date of December 10:
DEAR GENERAL: I enclose you a note from Mr. Todd Randall, agent with Spotted Tail. The weather is delightful here now. The days are almost as warm as Indian summer. Yours truly,
E.M. Hayes, Lieutenant U.S.A.
The enclosed letter, referred to by Lieutenant Hayes, is dated Black Wood, December 5, and is as follows:
SIR: Spotted Tail will meet the party coming at the crossing of Wilson Creek. Please inform me when the party will be there and I will have them in readiness. The Indians are all doing well and are perfectly satisfied.
Todd Randall, U.S. Sub-Agent