Preservation Thursday: Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers: Buffalo Bill’s Little Known Business Partner

Preservation Thursday: Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers: Buffalo Bill’s Little Known Business Partner

Preservation Thursday is a monthly educational series at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center highlighting the people, places and history of Deadwood and the Black Hills. 

It’s a story of how the Wild West almost wasn’t. The May 2024 Preservation Thursday topic at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood is titled Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers: Buffalo Bill’s Little Known Business Partner. 

Author Kellen Cutsforth will give a presentation on his book, “Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers: An Englishman's Journal of Adventure in America”. Cutsforth’s book is a transcribed and edited account of Evelyn Booth’s travel journal, recounting the wealthy young Englishman’s adventures (and scandals). 

The presentation is from noon to 1 p.m. on May 2, 2024, at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood. It is free for members, and $5 for non-members. Visit the event page for more information. 

Booth’s adventures included raucous revelry and cavorting with some of the best-known celebrities of the late 19th century, including world champion boxers John L. Sullivan and Jack “Nonpareil” Dempsey, jockey Fred Archer, and the successful scout-turned-entertainer Buffalo Bill Cody. 

One of the Old West’s greatest icons, Cody started herding cattle at the age of 11 before becoming a wagon train driver, according to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave. Cody also spent time as a fur trapper, gold miner, and rider for the Pony Express. After the Civil War, he became a scout for the U.S. Army and hunted buffalo to feed railroad workers – where he earned his nickname. He caught the attention of a dime novelist named Ned Buntline, who soon made Cody famous. 

Buntline kickstarted Cody’s life as a showman when he wrote a play that gave Cody a starring role. A natural showman, Cody didn’t pursue acting but soon formed his own troupe that eventually became the Wild West Show. One of his earliest troupe members included his good friend, Wild Bill Hickock. (Hickock did not remain in the troupe for long, but the two men stayed friends until Hickock’s untimely death in a Deadwood saloon.)

Cody’s Wild West show lasted for 30 years and performed all over the country, even traveling to England and performing for Queen Victoria. Its performances featured live buffalo, elk, and other animals, and a Deadwood stagecoach from the Black Hills. Some of its most notable performers were sharpshooter Annie Oakley and the revered Hunkpapa Lakota leader, chief, and medicine man Sitting Bull. 

But it wasn’t an easy beginning for the show. In an ironic twist, it was the young English rake Booth who met Cody on his cross-country adventures and saved the Wild West show from an early financial death. Cutsforth's presentation will focus on this little-known business partnership and the early days of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. 

Preservation Thursday is a monthly educational series at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center highlighting the people, places and history of Deadwood and the Black Hills. 

While you’re here, why not stay a while? To book a room at First Gold, visit our website or call 605-578-9777.
Photo credit: Deadwood History, Inc
Martha Jane Canary “Calamity Jane” seated with a gun, undated. Deadwood History, Inc., Adams Museum Collection.

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