State Historic Preservation Office
Greg Pierce named new State Archaeologist

National Register of Historic Places


Buffalo Bill Statue

Cody, Wyoming

Date Added to Register

Tuesday, December 31, 1974

Smithsonian Number

48PA82

Read all about it

The history of the creation of this statue-memorial commenced one day during the early 1920s when Mrs. Mary Jester Allen, a niece of Buffalo Bill Cody then living in New York City, called at the town house of Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Mrs. Allen had recently helped other interested relations organize the Cody Family, Incorporated, and she had been selected chairman of that corporation's National Museum Committee. She called on Mrs. Whitney to ask that she sculpt a statue of Buffalo Bill. Mrs. Whitney became enthused with the idea of a Buffalo Bill Statue and she adopted and took over management of the entire project. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the granddaughter of another Cornelius (the Commodore) Vanderbilt. She married into another prominent New York family when she became the bride of Harry Payne Whitney. She studied under Hendrick C. Anderson and James Earle Fraser in New York and, later, under Andrew O'Connor and Rodin in Paris. By 1920 she had fully developed her style, and completed works including the Titanic Memorial in Washington, D.C., the El Dorado Fountain in San Francisco, the Aztec Fountain in Washington, D.C., and the heroic statue of Columbus at Palos in Spain.

There were four possible choices of sites for the location of the proposed memorial: in Iowa, where Cody had been born; in Kansas, where he had won the sobriquet Buffalo Bill; in Nebraska where he had established his ''Scout's Rest'' Ranch; and in Wyoming where he had finally chosen to make his home. Mrs. Whitney chose the location in Wyoming. She had also decided that the statue would be an equestrian one depicting the frontier army scout in mounted action. To that end she decided that only models of genuine western origin could validly pose for this work. She arranged to have the horse ''Smokey'' shipped via railway express to New York from Buffalo Bill's T E Ranch; found a local citizen, a tall and lithe cowboy, to pose in the saddle; arranged for him to go to New York also; and then she returned to her studio to sculpt. The statue was finished in early 1924. It was shipped on a railroad flatcar to Cody, where an unveiling ceremony was scheduled for July 4th. Miss Jane Cody Garlow, granddaughter of Buffalo Bill, unveiled the bronze statue which was placed on open prairie on the western fringe of the small town.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources