LiveAuctionTalk.com Highlights Vintage Buffalo Bill Posters Sold Rosemary McKittrick unearths the stories behind objects sold and brings the art, antique and collectible world to life. Visit the site. Sign up for a free weekly subscription.
News-Antique.com - Oct 29,2007 - Oct. 29, 2007--As soon as Buffalo Bill stepped onto the stage for the first time in 1872 he forgot his lines. In the drama he played an idealized version of himself as a scout.
“The Scouts of the Prairie” opened to a full house in Chicago and the audience didn’t seem to notice his embarrassment. They were too busy staring at his buckskin shirt and leggings, his rifles, revolvers and knives.
Dressed to the hilt, Bill didn’t realize it at that moment, but he looked the part of the heroic knight of the frontier to the letter.
Before his debut that fretful night he said to his wife, “I don’t know just how bad I’d be at actin’. I guess maybe I’d better find out.”
If he was awful, he figured he could always go back to scouting. It wasn’t long before his skill as a showman overshadowed his stage fright. Bill’s acting ability improved but even more important—the crowd was really buying his western hero shtick.
Separating fiction from fact was the hard part. Bill had a way of incorporating real news into his stage shows which blurred the lines of truth even further for audiences.
While Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was on the road it cost $4,000 a day to keep it all afloat. To generate that kind of money advertising was critical.
Handbills, flyers and posters were circulated all over town before the show arrived. For a one-night stand as many as 6,000 to 8,000 posters of various sizes and quality were posted.
Nowadays these old lithographic posters created in the latter part of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century have become prized collectibles. Value depends on quality, subject matter, size and condition.
On June 21 and 22, 2007, Cody Old West Auction, Cody Wyo., featured a selection of Buffalo Bill posters in its 18th annual auction. A woodcut; “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West”/ Besieged Cowboys”; scarce; Calhoun Printing Co., circa 1885; 28 inches by 41 inches; sold for $23,000.
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