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  • Matthew Kerns

December 1872

On this date, the first advertisement for what would be the father of the modern Western appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Advertisement from the December 12, 1872 edition of the Chicago Tribune

Note that the play is said to be entitled "Buffalo Bill," but was eventually changed to "The Scouts of the Prairie" by opening day to reflect the fact that neither Buffalo Bill or Texas Jack believed the other man to be subordinate. The ten Sioux and Pawnee chiefs mentioned never made the trek to Chicago, and it seems likely that there was never any intention of them traveling together outside of Ned Buntline's advertising, Sioux and Pawnee being ancestral enemies. The native parts of the play would be portrayed by Chicago supernumaries hired and dressed for the roles. No mention is made of the show's leading ladies. Just a week before their premiere, it is likely that Giuseppina Morlacchi had not yet agreed to join the cast as the Indian maiden Dove Eye. Eloa Carfano, who played Hazel Eye in the production, would not appear until the fourth night.

Announcement for "The Scouts of the Prairie" from the Chicago Inter Ocean, December 13, 1872.

Also on December 12th, Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill arrived in Chicago to meet their partner Ned Buntline. A brief notice in the Chicago Tribune shows that despite the fact that these men were well known on the plains, they were not yet household names.

"Among the arrivals in town yesterday were Col. E. Z. Judson ("Ned Runtline"); T. Cody, ("Buffalo Bill"); and J. R. Omerohunder, ("Texas Jack"). Colonel Judson will give a free Temperance lecture, on sunday night, at Nixon's Amphitheatre. All are invited."


Before the world knew their names.

When the three arrived at Nixon's, where they were supposed to star in a play in four days, Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill were shocked to learn that Ned hadn't even started writing the thing yet. Already unsure of this whole acting thing, the two nervously waited and drank at their hotel while Buntline wrote the entire play in about four hours. Neither Bill nor Jack had ever acted in anything, and they set about learning their lines with only three days until showtime.


Left to right: Buffalo Bill, Ned Buntline, Texas Jack.

As if this schedule wasn't demanding enough, the presence of two famous scouts from the western frontier ensured that interested parties sought them out at the Barnes House hotel while they were trying to practice their parts. One of these interested parties was Constable Slavin, a Chicago police officer who had been tasked with capturing two bears that had been released in Lincoln Park. Though Slavin had initially declined to serve a writ on the bears (as he didn't carry life insurance), after he conferred with Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack (who had more than a little experience with bears), the three headed down to Lincoln Park where they captured the animals, taking time out of their busy schedules with just a few days left before their big premier.


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