The Scouts in Richmond
On Monday Evening, October 18th, 1875, the "Original Select Combination" starring Buffalo Bill Cody, Texas Jack Omohundro, and the Peerless M'lle Morlacchi played the Richmond Theatre. Anticipation for the show was high, especially amongst the town's young men and boys.
One paper reported that "an unusual number of boys have applied to our office during the past week to sell papers. Their motive was at once apparent, and they did not hesitate to express their reasons for it—they said they wanted to make money enough to buy tickets to see Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack."
While the boys were hustling to make enough to see the famous scout Buffalo Bill and the famous cowboy Texas Jack, their parents were excited for a chance to see Texas Jack's famous wife, the Italian ballerina Giuseppina Morlacchi. They had read reviews of the show in newspapers like the Wilmington, North Carolina, Daily Review, which said "The charming little danseuse and actress M'lle. Morlacchi sustained four different parts in the first piece, in each of which she was received with tumultuous applause, and her supporters added spirit and interest to the scenes. "The Morlacchi" as a danseuse is simply excellent. The versatility of M'lle Morlacchi proves her the possessor of considerable talent, and her dancing was especially pleasing."
The Richmond Theatre was packed to capacity that night, just like theatres in the twenty-some-odd cities the show had played since opening at the end of August in Philadelphia. That October night in Richmond, it is likely that neither Texas Jack nor Buffalo Bill knew that this tour would be their last one together. The tour would continue into the following year, and as the winter of 1875 turned into the spring of 1876, Buffalo Bill's son, Kit Carson Cody, would die of scarlet fever on April 20th at the age of five. Devastated by the loss, Cody was committed to finishing the tour, which played more than 80 cities after that October show in Richmond, ending on July 3, 1876, in Wilmington, Delaware. By that night, the final time Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack would step on stage together, Cody was ready to leave his showman life behind for good, settling down following the loss of his son to spend more time with his wife and his daughters. The death of General George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn at the end of the month and Cody's subsequent involvement in the pursuit of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull spurred him back towards the stage, but without the help of his best friend and stage partner Texas Jack.
They had launched the first stage western together at the end of 1872, neither entirely confident and neither, by all accounts, a capable actor. But the scout Buffalo Bill and the cowboy Texas Jack had combined their former professions, their experiences in the American West, and their personalities into something that would outlast them both. They created the western, the great American story that had been told and retold from the moment they stepped off the western frontier and onto the stage together, and the story they began is still being told today.