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1872 Buffalo Bill Cody & Texas Jack Omohundro Cabinet Card Photo By Gurney For Sale
VERY RARE and historically important, original, ca1872, Cabinet Card Photograph of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Ned Buntline (pseudonym of Edward Zane Carroll Judson) and John Burwell (or Baker) “Texas Jack” Omohundro - this is an exceptionally rare, original, first generation Photograph that carries the mark of the original photographer - Gurney & Son of New York City!!
This wonderful Cabinet Card Photograph measures approx. 3 7/8” by 5 3/4” and is mounted on its original photographer’s Card Mount (overall size of the card mount is 4 1/4” by 6 1/2”. The Photograph depicts the three stars of the stage production titled “The Scouts of the Prairie” which was based on Buntline‘s Dime Novel of the same name. Ned, Bill and Jack are dressed in buckskin clothing - Omohundro wears leather boots while Cody and Buntline wear Native American moccasins.
The cabinet Card carries the mark of the photographer “Gurney & Sons - on both the front and back of the mount and there is a period manuscript inscription on the reverse that reads simply “Buffalo Bill / center”.
This Photograph is usually found in a copy, CDV format and original Cabinet Card examples are exceptionally rare - Cowan’s sale recently stated that in their many years selling Historical Americana and Western Americana Images, they have only encountered one other example in the original, Cabinet card format!!
This Cabinet card was taken sometime between Dec. 16, 1872 when, at age 26, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody would make his first show business appearance in a rewritten version of by Fred G. Maeder's stage play titled "The Scouts of the Prairie" at Nixon's Amphitheater in Chicago (Cody played himself, of course, as did Bill’s close friend John Burwell "Texas Jack" Omohundro). The play was based on Ned Buntlines Dime Novel titled “Buffalo Bill, the King of Bordermen” and Buntline was instrumental in maneuvering Cody into accepting the starring role of the play.
After reading a nonfiction story about William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in the February 1867 issue of "Harper's Monthly”, Edward Zane Carroll Judson (aka Ned Buntline) made it a point to make his acquaintance. "Buffalo Bill, King of the Border Men", - the tale that launched the persona of Buffalo Bill into the American Pantheon - was published by Buntline in the New York Weekly beginning in December 1869. With encouragement & some help from Buntline, Fred G. Maeder wrote the script of a play based on the serialized “Buffalo Bill” stories. The Play - titled simply “Buffalo Bill” - debuted at Niblo's Garden in New York City in February of 1872 with actor J.B. Studley playing Buffalo Bill. On February 20th, 1872 the Play moved to The Bowery Theater where it played for three more weeks. The Broadside offered here advertises these performances at the Bowery!!
James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald and a friend of Ned Buntline’s, had been on one of General Phil Sheridan's hunting trips for which Buffalo Bill Cody served as guide. Bennett had written Bill up lavishly as "the beau ideal of the plains" and invited him to visit New York. General Sheridan encouraged Cody to make the trip. Ned Buntline may well have planned the visit for purposes of his own; it coincided with the opening of a play based on Buntline’s “Buffalo Bill, the King of Bordermen” written by Fred G. Maeder. Cody was guest of honor at dinners given by Bennett and by August Belmont, although because of drink or naiveté‚ he failed to appear at the Belmont dinner. On the evening of February 20, 1872, Buntline took Cody to the Bowery Theater to see the play. The climax, in the third act, was a hand-to-hand fight between “Buffalo Bill” and “Jake McCanles” in which they used knives reported to be three feet long, and in the stage version Bill married the Irish serving girl (the female lead). The spotlight was turned on the real Buffalo Bill Cody and he was introduced to the audience. The crowd erupted and cheered until Cody agreed to speak. THIS WAS BUFFALO BILL CODY’S FIRST APPEARANCE ON STAGE!! Later the manager of the theater offered him five hundred dollars a week to enact himself in the play. But Cody was too timid to accept the offer. Though first he rejected the proposal, Bill succumbed to the idea in December and asked his best friend, John Burwell "Texas Jack" Omohundro, to join him. Thus began the career of one of the Greatest American Showmen of that or any other time!!!
After a short season on stage, Bill and Jack returned to the Western Plains in the Spring of 1873. The following winter (1873-4) Cody organized his own troupe, "The Buffalo Bill Combination". The troupe’ show "Scouts of the Plains" included Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack Omohundro, and Cody’s old friend "Wild Bill" Hickok. Wild Bill and Texas Jack eventually left the show, but Cody continued staging a variety of plays until 1882. That year the Wild West show was conceived. The Photograph offered here dates from the first year of Buffalo Bill’s stage career (before Wild Bill Hickok joined the troupe) and is perhaps the very earliest “theatrical” Photo of the consummate showman available.
This exceptionally rare and important, mid 19th century “Buffalo Bill” Theatrical Cabinet card Photograph is in very good condition. The Photograph itself is clean and crisp exhibiting sharp focus, strong contrast and rich, warm tonality. The card mount has a strong crease at the lower left hand corner that affects the very corner of the Photograph itself. There are also three tack holes at the center of the upper edge of the card mount - two of these slightly affect the top edge of the Photograph itself. Overall the Photograph is exceptionally well preserved and with a quality matting and framing it will display beautifully!!!
An exceptionally rare and important, 1872 Western America Cabinet Card Photograph of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Ned Buntline (pseudonym of Edward Zane Carroll Judson) and John Burwell (or Baker) “Texas Jack” Omohundro and worthy of a place at the center of even the most advanced, museum quality collection!!!
What follows is a description of Buffalo Bill Cody’s experience at the Bowery Theater on February 20, 1872 - these are his own words taken from his Autobiography - “The Life of Hon. William F. Cody”:
“MY ALTER EGO ON THE STAGE
Ned Buntline and Fred Maeder had dramatized one of the stories which the former had written about me for the New York Weekly. The drama was called "Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men." While I was in New York it was produced at the Bowery Theater; J. B. Studley, an excellent actor, appearing in the character of "Buffalo Bill," and Mrs. W. G. Jones, a fine actress, taking the part of my sister, a leading role. I was curious to see how I would look when represented by some one else, and of course I was present on the opening night, a private box having been reserved for me. The theater was packed, every seat being occupied as well as all standing-room. The drama was played smoothly and created a great deal of enthusiasm.
The audience, upon learning that the real "Buffalo Bill" was present, gave several cheers between the acts, and I was called on to come out on the stage and make a speech. Mr. Freleigh, the manager, insisted that I should comply with the request, and that I should be introduced to Mr. Studley. I finally consented, and the next moment I found myself standing behind the footlights and in front of an audience for the first time in my life. I looked up, then down, then on each side, and everywhere I saw a sea of human faces, and thousands of eyes all staring at me. I confess that I felt very much embarrassed - never more so in my life and I knew not what to say. I made a desperate effort, and a few words escaped me, but what they were I could not for the life of me tell, nor could any one else in the house. My utterances were inaudible even to the leader of the orchestra, Mr. Dean, who was sitting only a few feet in front of me. Bowing to the audience, I beat a hasty retreat into one of the cañons of the stage. I never felt more relieved in my life than when I got out of the view of that immense crowd.
MY FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE
That evening Mr. Freleigh offered to give me five hundred dollars a week to play the part of "Buffalo Bill" myself. I thought that he was certainly joking, especially as he had witnessed my awkward performance; but when he assured me that he was in earnest, I told him that it would be useless for me to attempt anything of the kind, for I never could talk to a crowd of people like that, even if it was to save my neck, and that he might as well try to make an actor out of a government mule. I thanked him for the generous offer, which I had to decline owing to a lack of confidence in myself; or as some people might express it, I didn't have the requisite cheek to undertake a thing of that sort. The play of "Buffalo Bill" had a very successful run of six or eight weeks, and was afterwards produced in all the principal cities of the country, everywhere being received with genuine enthusiasm.
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1872 Buffalo Bill Cody & Texas Jack Omohundro Cabinet Card Photo By Gurney: $1,525