Cody, William Frederick (1846–1917), a United States frontier scout and showman, known as "Buffalo Bill." His world-famous Wild West shows were a leading factor in romanticizing the American West and especially the cowboy. Adding to this effect were nearly 2,000 issues of dime novels, written by Colonel Prentiss Ingraham and others, telling of imaginary exploits of "Buffalo Bill."
Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa. The family moved in 1854 to the vicinity of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. When his father died three years later, the boy was employed by Russell, Majors, and Waddell, a freight company. He made several trips across the Plains and was a Pony Express rider for the firm. Cody served in the 7th Kansas Cavalry during the Civil War.
In 1867 Cody was employed to kill buffalo to feed workers constructing the Kansas Pacific (now Union Pacific) Railroad. His nickname "Buffalo Bill" dates from this period. As chief of scouts for the 5th U.S. Cavalry (1868–72) and 3rd Cavalry (1872), he took part in 11 expeditions and 12 fights against Indians.
Colonel E. C. Z. Judson ("Ned Buntline") wrote a dime novel about Cody in 1869 and in 1872 persuaded him to appear in his play, The Scouts of the Prairie. Cody continued on the stage for 10 years, returning to his job as scout during two summers. In 1883 Cody started his Wild West exhibition of frontier life. It featured Indians, cowboys, soldiers, the Deadwood coach, and reenactments of historic events, often by the original participants. The show attracted world attention at Queen Victoria's Jubilee in London in 1887. It toured Europe and America for more than 30 years.