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Wild West Show Memorabilia Features Great Names of the American West

by Larry Kellogg (11/23/09).

This large size Kelty photo of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shows Col. Tim McCoy and His Congress of Rough Riders of the World. McCoy was featured in the after-show during the 1935 season. This photo is valued at $300-400.

This large size Kelty photo of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shows Col. Tim McCoy and His Congress of Rough Riders of the World. McCoy was featured in the after-show during the 1935 season. This photo is valued at $300-$400.

Collecting wild west show memorabilia is as important to circus collectors as collecting circus memorabilia. The history of the wild west show brings to mind names of great traveling shows and their attractions—Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World, Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West, 101 Ranch Wild West Show, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and Chief Sitting Bull.

Buffalo Bill Wild West postcards can be bought for as little as $25 to $30. This one was printed and sold during the 1903 European Tour.

Buffalo Bill Wild West postcards can be bought for as little as $25 to $30. This one was printed and sold during the 1903 European Tour.

This card was taken from a Rosa Bonheur painting and has a printed signature.

This card was taken from a Rosa Bonheur painting and has a printed signature.

This Buffalo Bill Wild West postcard shows buffalo in the open air arena.

This Buffalo Bill Wild West postcard shows buffalo in the open air arena.

From the late 1800s through the early 1940s, more than 100 different wild west shows traveled across America. Most wild west shows appeared in open air arenas instead of under the canvas of the big top. However, the logistics of moving the wild west show was not unlike moving the circus. Large shows traveled by railroad. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West had elephants. There were many combinations of circus and the wild west. Adam Forepaugh (1831-1890) made his circus famous in the late 1800s and in 1888 his show traveled under a couple of different names—Forepaugh and Wild West Combination and sometimes Combined Wild West and Forepaugh Exhibitions. The show featured a spectacle titled “Custer’s Last Rally.”

This printed card has a simulated autograph printed below the image. It was produced by the Courier Co. Value is $75-100.

This printed card has a simulated autograph printed below the image. It was produced by the Courier Co. Value is $75-100.

This is the Buffalo Bill Souvenir Program for the 1895 season. Note that the back says “Where We Were in 1894.”

This is the Buffalo Bill Souvenir Program for the 1895 season. Note that the back says “Where We Were in 1894.”

The reverse of the 1895 Buffalo Bill program. The value of this program is $300-350.

The reverse of the 1895 Buffalo Bill program. The value of this program is $300-350.

Even up through the middle of the last century, circuses featured wild west stars in their shows or in the after-show. The after-show, sometimes called the concert, was scheduled immediately following the main circus performance. For an extra fee the audience was allowed to stay in their seats for this show. The after-show was not always a wild west performance, but that was the norm. In 1935 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey designed special posters promoting Col. Tim McCoy, Idol of American Youth.

Ken Maynard was a famous western star appearing in nearly 100 motion pictures. In 1936 he took out Ken Maynard’s Diamond K Ranch Wild West Circus and Indian Congress.

Ken Maynard was a famous western star appearing in nearly 100 motion pictures. In 1936 he took out Ken Maynard’s Diamond K Ranch Wild West Circus and Indian Congress.

The reverse of the Ken Maynard’s Diamond K Ranch Wild West Circus and Indian Congress. This herald is valued at $50-$75.

The reverse of the Ken Maynard’s Diamond K Ranch Wild West Circus and Indian Congress. This herald is valued at $50-$75.

Among the most sought-after circus collectibles are route rooks. The same can be said for wild west show collectibles. See my article on Circus Route Books – A Record of the Past.

This is a route book for the 1896 season of Buffalo Bill’s Real Wild West. The listing of staff members inside includes James A. Bailey as Director of tour. This is the same James A. Bailey of who teamed with P.T. Barnum. Charles R. Hutchinson is listed as Treasurer and Dexter Fellows is listed as press agent. Both had a similar job on Barnum & Bailey in later years. Value is $450-500.

This is a route book for the 1896 season of Buffalo Bill’s Real Wild West. The listing of staff members inside includes James A. Bailey as Director of tour. This is the same James A. Bailey of who teamed with P.T. Barnum. Charles R. Hutchinson is listed as Treasurer and Dexter Fellows is listed as press agent. Both had a similar job on Barnum & Bailey in later years. Value is $450-$500.

For those interested in collecting Wild West Show memorabilia, I recommend these books as good reference points:

• “The Wild West, A History of Wild West Shows,” by Don Russell. Copyright 1970 Amon Carter Museum of Western Art.
• “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, An American Legend,” by R.L. Wilson with Greg Martin. Copyright 1998 Random House.
• “The William F. Cody Buffalo Bill Collector’s Guide With Values,” by James W. Wojtowicz. Copyright 1998 Collector Books.

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Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.

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31 Responses to “Wild West Show Memorabilia Features Great Names of the American West”

  1. Bill McCann says:

    My maternal grandfather worked for Buffalo Bill . I don’t know in what capacity . I would love to know . He was born in Cheyenne . I have a picture of him at the 101 Ranch when was just a boy , His name was Horace Maloney . I wish I had known him . He passed in my first year of life .

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      Bill,

      Did your grandfather also work for the 101 Ranch Show? Do you know what year(s) he worked with Buffalo Bill or 101 Ranch? If you know those year(s) I can do a little research to see if I can find his name listed in a Route Book.

  2. Wondering Researchers says:

    hello. we are researchers wondering why the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show was important to those watching it, during the Gilded Age. thanks. reply will be needed quickly.

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      What type of research are you doing? This is a very general question. First, the title of the exhibition was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Some posters called it Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. It was never called a “Show” or “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.” Cody insisted that it was not a “show” but a recreation of the “real” Wild West. William Cody was an American Hero, an American Legend. I suppose many came to see him and the other “stars” of the day like Annie Oakley. There was also a romance about the real wild west which was fading during this period. Attending Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was an opportunity to see it before it was gone forever. There are some excellent books which I mention at the bottom of the article.
      Larry Kellogg

  3. D.E says:

    I have an original Buffalo Bills Combination Show Program. I believe it dates from 1877 or 1878 as it is the “May Cody” show. It is 4-Pages and lists all of the actors and their parts played etc. I haven’t been able to loacte any information as to how many of these “Combination” programs exist yet today. I have other Buffalo Bill, Pawnne Bill, 101 Ranch etc. Wild West Programs but only have this single Combination Program.

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      D.E.
      Your program is for a stage show which was titled “May Cody” or “Lost & Won” which appeared in 1877. Buffalo Bill was associated with a number of stage shows between the early 1870s and 1886.
      Larry Kellogg

  4. S A Holmstrom says:

    I have what appears to be a very old program from a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West combined with Pawnee Bill’s Far East Farwell show. It is not in mint condition; can you tell me where I could go to find the value. There are quite a few pictures and about 30 pages. It is all paper and includes Buffalo Bill’s farwell proclamation.
    Thank you
    Sue Holmstrom

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      If you will click on the “Research Your Items” tab you will find two ways to find advice about value—the “Worthopedia – Price Guide” and “Ask a Worthologist – Expert Advice.”

  5. J.T. Deweese says:

    I have a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show Jubilee belt buckle that I think is the real thing. On the back of the buckle it says: “Earls Court Exhibition”. My research found that this buckle was made in London and the subject matter was taken from a Rosa Bonheur painting. There were three types of buckles made in the 1880′s to 1890′s, two by American foundries and one English. The most desired is the English version. There are reproductions of this buckle out there, that were made in the 1970′s, however the verbiage on the back calls out the foundry and the belt clasp and loop are different from the one I have. I am interested in selling the buckle, but need to research the value range a little further. Any information you can provide will be appreciated. Thank you. P.S. I am thinking of taking the buckle to the Autry Western Museum for review and valuation.

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      You can research value on the Worthpoint site. If you will click on the “Research Your Items” tab you will find two ways to find advice about value—the “Worthopedia – Price Guide” and “Ask a Worthologist – Expert Advice.”

  6. Cheryl says:

    Is there any known contact info or website for James W. Wojtowicz, the author of The W.F. Cody Buffalo Bill Collectors Guide With Values? I was hoping he might have a website. I just came across some couriers and a hardback book that I’d like to see if he has an interest in.

    Thank you.

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      I would suggest writing to him in care of the publisher, Collector Books, P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, Kentucky 42002-3009.

    • Mike says:

      Viewing his book on Amazon you can find the following

      Collectors with questions or information to share may contact the author but please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Write to James W. Wojtowicz, P.O. Box 0042. Bensenville. IL 60106.

      I also have some Buffalo Bill items.
      Would you have any interest or know of collectors that would like the set?
      These items (plus non Buffalo Bill) can be view following the hyper link below and go to folder Circus7_Wild West.
      https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=d5e3015d7a113a3b&resid=D5E3015D7A113A3B!120&id=D5E3015D7A113A3B!120

  7. I have an old picture, my mother said belonged to my step dad’s family. My mother has passed away so can not ask her any questions and at one time she said she knew nothing about the picture. The picture is of a lot of Indians, and White people. Some of the Indians are white men dressed as Indians. There seem to be two women in the picture also. The pictue was taken it looks like under an overpass or train tracks over head. I’ve tried to look up old pictures of the Wild West show, but can not find any thing that looks like mine. The only thing that even has a picture of the old west is on this page, and the people look cleaner and better dressed than my picture. If you know any thing could you please tell me about it. Thank you. Janice

  8. I will take a picture and put it on here when my sister comes over. Thank you.

  9. Lorie says:

    I have a vintage 21″ by 28″ poster featuring a cowboy on a bucking horse. I has a bright yellow background and red and black lettering. The poster reads in large lettering, “Miller Bros.” “101 Ranch” “Real Wild West and great Far East”. In small lettering on bottom of poster, “Lithographed in U.S.A.” “National T.G.G. Eng. Co.~Chicago~New York~St. Louis~015719A”. Can you tell me it’s age and if it appears to be an original? When was it used? Any additional info you can provide would be appreciated. Thank you

  10. JUDY GILBERTI says:

    Hello

    I am an Indian Wars teacher. Usually too busy to think of collecting. My teaching hours cut to half, so now I’m looking, very disappointed in Auctions. Can you email any dealers with Buffalo Bill items for sale, Thanks Judy

    • Gregory Watkins Gregory Watkins says:

      Hi Judy,

      You might want to check out Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati; it is holding an auction now that has a lot of native American photos & etc. that is closing on Feb. 14. I have seen many Buffalo Bill items go through that house.

      http://www.cowanauctions.com/auctions/catalog.aspx?SaleId=207

      - Editor

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      Judy,

      There are always lots of items (new and vintage) on eBay. Do a key search with these words – buffalo bill wild west. I got 485 hits with those search words today.

    • Duke (FRANCE) says:

      Hi Judy, Hi All

      I’m french,my name is DUKE.
      I’m a Collector on the Old West and I resell my Collection now.
      I own two programmes of Buffalo Bill when he was in FRANCE.
      They’re ORIGINAL 1889 (the first time B.Bill is gone with his Wild West only in PARIS , LYON & MARSEILLE) and an ORIGINAL 1905 He run in ALL FRANCE.
      Both are in very good shape !

      If you’re interested by those,let me know please .

      Thanks a lot & God Bless

      Duke

  11. Ed Kaiser says:

    I recently came into an extensive collection of 101 Ranch Post Cards & Photo’s…If you have some interest please let me know..Thanks…Ed

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      Ed,

      I’ve sent you an email.

      • Ed Kaiser says:

        Larry, Please contact me…I have an original Photo (in original frame) of the 1915 101 Ranch Group (245 people in pic.)..picture includes..Tom Mix, Chief Iron Tail, EW Marland, Joe Miller & Bill Pickett..very good condition. I also have many 101 Ranch Post cards..excellant condition..Please let me know if you know someone of interest in these items…Thank You..Ed Kaiser

  12. Christine says:

    Is there a location where I can find a list of members of buffalo bills wild west.

    • Candice says:

      Christine – As I understand from my research, a list of members does not exist. Is there someone in particular you are looking for? I’ve done a lot of research on my relative who was a drummer with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Cowboy Band from 1887-1895. If you are looking for someone in that time period, I could check my research notes.

      You could also check with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, I think they may have a database of some of the performers.

  13. dianna says:

    hi, i have been wondering about this for years. a long time ago, i went to an estate sale and bought a cloth. it has an indian on one side and wild bill on the other with a horseshoe in the middle and the falls. i found out there were shows at horseshoe falls. i truly believe this cloth is a souvenier of that time. how can i find out about this for sure? thank you very much, diane

  14. Heikki Majamaa says:

    Dear all,
    I’m looking for information on the brother of my grandma, Hugo Alexander Helander who seems to have worked for 101 Ranch in 1907 and Barnum Bros in 1917. He was a baritone (?) player. “Billboard, May 11, 1907, pp. 18, 23, 24. Roster, Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch” seems to list him as a member of the Cowboy Band.
    I wonder if there is anybody able to locate additional information on my great uncle?
    Sincerely,
    Heikki Majamaa
    Finland

    • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

      Heikki,

      An article about circus musicians by Sverre Braathen written in May 1971 for Bandwagon ranked Hugo Helander with other top players of the baritone. In a section of that article about baritone player Russell Alexander, Braathen writes: “Russell Alexander must be ranked with Karl L. King, Frederick Alton Jewell, Charles Sanglear, Hugo Helander and Noble Howard as a great baritone player.”
      I was also able to find that Hugo Helander played a baritone in the band of John Robinson Circus in 1929.

      • Heikki says:

        Dear Larry,
        Thanks a lot – the 1929 information was new to me. May I ask what is the source for this piece of information, and if there’s any additional info available?
        Regards from Finland,
        Heikki

        • Larry Kellogg Larry Kellogg says:

          Heikki,

          The 1929 information came from a May-June 1987 issue of Bandwagon. Bandwagon is the official publication of the Circus Historical Society. Here’s a link to their website. http://www.circushistory.org/index.htm
          The article in that issue was about the 1929 season of John Robinson Circus, written by Joseph T. Bradbury. The article goes into great detail about the makeup of the Robinson show including a listing of most of the personnel.

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