Guide Line Review 

Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave

This year it turned out to be a great day – no snow – which had cancelled the group a couple of years ago.  Most of the attending membership arrived early enough to have either a bowl of buffalo chili or a buffalo burger at the Pahaska Tepee and visit their gift shop before the meeting.  Bill Carle, proprietor of Pahaska Tepee, greeted us and provided excellent hospitality.  Thank you so much Bill!!!

Mike Pearl conducted a short business meeting before we toured the new exhibits at the Museum.  Mike noted that Mary Bradley resigned as this year’s Treasurer, citing overwork and health issues.  The Nominating Committee, headed by Barbara Foos, appointed Barbara Johnson (previous Treasurer) to complete 2017 as Treasurer.  Nancy Brueggeman moved that we accept Barbara Johnson’s appointment as Treasurer, Dave Lively seconded.  Since a quorum was present (19 voting members) the motion carried.  Barbara Johnson is the treasurer for the remainder of 2017.  There was a door prize (book) and Dawn Nelson was the recipient. 

Mike Pearl reminded all of the FAM on March 22nd - $25/person – topic will focus on how to choose a venue for a partner if you are organizing your own tours.  Also reminded us about the May 17 FAM to Leadville.

After the business meeting, Larry Foos introduced Steve Friesen, Director of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.  This museum falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Denver, Department of Parks and Recreation.  FYI - Steve was once the Director of the Molly Brown House Museum.  Steve has written three books – the most recent is expected to be launched on May 13th.  His first book was about the oldest German house (1719) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The second was about Buffalo Bill.  And the third is about the Indian performers of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Europe and contains 300 photos, about half of which are in color. 

Steve opened his portion of the evening by giving some background on Buffalo Bill and the significance of 2017.  He also mentioned that Holly Arnold Kinney (The Fort Restaurant) and Buffalo Bill were recently elected to the Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame. 

Buffalo Bill promoted the West, created myths about the West and through his Wild West Show and appearances, encouraged visitors from around the world.  About 15% of the visitors to the Museum and Grave are international visitors.  There are many Buffalo Bill bars, restaurants, etc. around the world, including several in Europe, and such exotic places as Zimbabwe, Thailand, and Brazil.

Buffalo Bill died in Denver on January 10, 1917.  Twenty-five thousand people viewed the casket, which rested in the State Capitol.  His body was kept at Olinger’s Mortuary until the burial on June 3rd, 1917 here on Lookout Mountain.  The first flight over Golden was so that flowers could be dropped on Buffalo Bill’s grave.  In 1927, Johnny Baker made sure the body wasn’t moved by adding several feet of cement on top of it.  Buffalo Bill’s wife is buried next to him. 

Buffalo Bill died of kidney failure, possibly caused by headache powders that he took to alleviate painful headaches.  One of the side effects was kidney failure. 

There are many activities planned for Denver and the Museum for 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Buffalo Bill’s death.  The year started with an event in January at the Stock Show.  Another will be on June 3rd to recreate the Masonic burial.  There are exhibits at Hiwan Homestead, the Railroad Museum in Golden, and BelMar Village that will have Wild West Show posters, movie posters and other memorabilia of Buffalo Bill.  Steve gave each of us a listing of all the events and exhibits that will be available this year. 

Steve gave us a minute tour of the new exhibits at the museum and pointed out many items.  One of the first he pointed out was the head of the last buffalo that Buffalo Bill shot.  Another was Buffalo Bill’s Medal of Honor, awarded to him for his efforts in a battle in 1872.  The gun that Buffalo Bill used in hunting is displayed. 

Buffalo Bill started his career as a US Army scout in 1859.  He was also a buffalo hunter, and a rider for the Pony Express.  He toured the US from 1883-1886.  He was invited to London for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887.  He took Red Shirt (an Indian performer in his troupe) with him on a visit to Parliament.  His fame grew and he again toured the US in 1889 and also appeared at the Exposition Universal in Paris in 1889.  He toured the Eiffel Tower, met Paul Gaugin and Thomas A. Edison at this exposition. 

While Antonin Dvorak was working on his New World Symphony he got inspiration from a visit to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.  Puccini’s opera “Girl of the Golden West” was also inspired by Buffalo Bill.  Buffalo Bill toured in Europe from 1889-1892.  In 1893, he returned to the US and tried to become part of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  He was unsuccessful in becoming part of the Exposition, but was able to buy land just across the way from the Exposition and made a fortune –millions visited his Wild West Show.  Frederick Remington visited Buffalo Bill’s ranch in Wyoming.  Buffalo Bill invested in gold and also in Cody, Wyoming. 

Buffalo Bill was very successful in Europe and returned in 1902 and was again successful.  Moving pictures were becoming popular then and many of them were Westerns.  In 1913, Buffalo Bill came to the Stock Show.  Harry Tammen, owner of the Denver Post, loaned him $20,000 with a very short period of repayment.  Tammen called the loan, Buffalo Bill could not repay so Tammen seized the assets of the show and sold everything.  Tammen really wanted Buffalo Bill to be part of Tammen’s Floto Circus which Buffalo Bill did not want to do. 

Johnny Baker was a child in 1883 when Buffalo Bill met him – he was about the same age as Buffalo Bill’s late son.  In 1921, after Buffalo Bill’s death, Johnny Baker opened a restaurant here at the grave site.  Many of the items in the museum came from Johnny Baker’s collection.  The museum is still acquiring items relating to Buffalo Bill.  There are some things in storage; including some archival information and photos.  Some items are on loan to other venues. 

One of the new exhibits shows what it would be like if Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show came to your town.  The advance men would paper the town with posters announcing the arrival date.  When the show arrived by train, the cars would be unloaded one by one, the tents rolled out and assembled in a “U” shape with tents all around.  There were as many as 650 people involved in the show – performers, animal handlers, etc.  This would require food for 650 three times a day.  The show would arrive very early in the morning, set up the tents, have a matinee and evening performance, take down all the equipment, load it on the train and head off for the next day’s performances.  The logistics of moving so many people, animals and equipment is monumental.  Admission prices might vary – one poster shows 5 pence for a performance in England.  It might have been 25¢ for a child and $1.00 for an adult.  The show was about two hours long. 

Iron Tail was one of the Indian performers in the show and his headdress is displayed here.  Other famous performers were Annie Oakley and Buck Taylor.  Also Short Bull with the Ghost Dance.  Short Bull said he enjoyed being with the show.  A new exhibit shows Buffalo Bill and his friend, Wild Bill Hickok and displays locks of hair from each. 

 By 1910 the show also included jugglers, contortionists, and performers from every continent except Antarctica.  Buffalo Bill started the Congress of Rough Riders of the World – these riders displayed skilled horsemanship and included Lady Cossacks, Japanese horsemen and gauchos (South America).

Buffalo Bill was an advocate for women’s rights, Indian rights, and equal rights for women in the workplace.  He also tried to redevelop a herd of buffalo and in 1913 the City and County of Denver began a buffalo herd nearby at Genesee Park. 

The museum is open seven days a week from May 1 through October 31 each year from 9 am to 5 pm.  November through April the museum is open six days a week (closed on Mondays and Christmas), again 9 am to 5pm.  

The Pahaska (means long hair) Tepee was started in 1921.  If you are visiting, allow about an hour for a tour of the museum.  The Evergreen Nature Center is about a mile away (uphill) to walk.  The museum is at 7,375’ – may be difficult to walk for some.  The museum is part of SCFD and does get some funding from them.  Sixty-five percent of the museum’s budget comes from admissions.  The gift shop has a separate budget and profits from that are used to acquire art, artifacts, etc.  There are a total of 6 on staff – including 2 on-call part-time.  The museum is located on 64 acres and they have very few volunteers to help clean up trash and graffiti on the grounds and it’s a huge job for the staff to keep up the grounds. 

For more information contact:

Steve Friesen, Director
Department of Parks and Recreation
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave
987 ½ Lookout Mountain Road
Golden, CO 80401
303.526.0744 – phone
303.526.0197 – fax

-- Nancy Brueggeman

Photos by Winston Walker

Content copyright 2017. Rocky Mountain Guides Association. All rights reserved.
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WHAT:  RMGA MEMBERSHIP MEETING – Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave

WHEN:  March 13, 2017, 6:30 pm – Networking, 7:00 pm – Short Meeting, 7:15 pm – History and Tour of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.

WHERE:  987 ½ Lookout Mountain Road, Golden, C0 80401.

PROGRAM:  Steve Friesen, Director, will present the History of the Museum, followed with a tour.  Buffalo Bill passed away January 10, 1917 and is buried on Lookout Mountain. Two new exhibits on display, “A Better Place Could Hardly Have Been Chosen” and “A Visit to the Wild West.” You do not want to miss the opportunity to increase your knowledge of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.WHERE:  144 West Colfax, Denver, CO 80202    

Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave Program