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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Buffalo Bill & Queen Victoria, at her Golden Jubilee, 1887

For those who may have missed it, we re-present for Native American Heritage Month an article from this past Spring, on how comic periodicals covered the 1887 tour of England by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Bill and his show, filled with Native Americans, had been sent as America’s main contribution to the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (her 50th year as soverign). Though the article is focused on Bill, it also provides an example of how Native Americans and the “Conquest of the West” (i.e., stealing the natives’ lands) were then being presented to white Americans and Europeans, as entertainment.

Click on any picture, to see an enlarged and/or expanded version.

American comic periodicals were filled with anticipation of the meeting of Bill and Victoria, and how she and the English public would receive him, Annie Oakley, Chief Red Shirt, and the troupe of cowboys and native americans. (Warning, there is some definitively politically incorrect material coming up.) The above cartoon by F. G. Attwood, from the May 26, 1887 issue of Life, accompanied the article Buffalo Bill at Windsor (which you can read in its entirety by clicking on the picture). A facetious review of the meeting, both article and cartoon were created before the performance actually took place.

Also created and published in advance of the event was the below Puck centerspread by Frederick Burr Opper, April 13, 1887. It’s note at the bottom — “We are sorry to get ahead of Mr. Du Maurier, of Punch, in this way, but business is business” — revealed the anticipation of American cartoonists to see what their British counter-parts would do with the event.

The British reaction, however, was different. The below left cartoon, in the April 13, 1887 issue of Judy, accompanied a brief notice (click on the picture to read it), the high point of which is, “The idea of a horde of untamed savages running amuck down Fleet Street and the Strand tomahawking and scalping harmless newspaper men makes one nervous.” While written in jest, it likely played upon actual sentiments then being voiced.

The advertising cartoon below right by J.R. Williams, collected in the 1889 American Barker’s Illustrated Almanac, picked up on the theme of British fright, showing a native in the background saying, “Be nofraid Vickey no scalpe you.”

American artists happily placed Queen Victoria and Buffalo Bill together in the same cartoons, with Judge magazine having the additional temerity (below left) of showing heir apparent, the Prince of Wales, telling Bill, “I’ll never be King of anything if the old lady holds on much longer” (cartoon by Zim, from a detail in Judge’s June 25, 1887 centerspread).

British artists however, despite the hopes of Opper and Puck, solidly avoided depicting Queen Victoria or any other royal, in any cartoon involving Buffalo Bill. Du Maurier illustrated nothing on the subject, and leading Punch competitor Fun, completely ignored the Wild West Show’s visit. (I surveyed all the leading British comic periodicals from March through July 1887, except for Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday, which I truly regret not having access to for that period, as in my head at least, I can’t imagine artist W.G. Baxter not doing a wild and beautiful cover showing Ally dressed up as Bill, or in native costume, or… something.)

What British cartoonists did do, was show Prime Minister Gladstone interacting with Chief Red Shirt (center, by Archibald Chasemore, from the May 11, 1887 Judy magazine; and, right, from the May 7, 1887 Punch, cartoon by Edward Linley Sambourne, accompanying a small text piece titled Chiefs in Council — click on picture to read it).

They also showed Buffalo Bill’s troupe in interactions with the public. Below left, Getting It Hot, from the June 15, 1887 issue of Judy, by G. Renaud. Below right, a Chasemore cartoon accompanying a comic poem titled A Derby Romance, and What Came of It (click on picture to read it), again from Judy, May 25, 1887. It involves a brief romance between Buffalo Bill and a female jockey. Reputedly, there was quite a bit of “brief romancing” going on, surrounding the Wild West Show’s tour of England. And below right, from Moonshine, May 21, 1887, British artists depicted the popularity and celebrity of Buffalo Bill amongst the public, satirizing its effects.

As for the critics, there are the somewhat negative reviews found in the May 21, 1887 Moonshine, below left, referring to the Show as simply an overly large and slow circus; and the far longer review, With the Indians on the Derby Day, in the June 4, 1887 issue of Punch (below right, click on picture to read).

Judy, instead, took the far more fun angle of presenting a serialized review (supposedly) written by an enthusiastic youngster. Click on the below texts, from left-to-right, to open up each of the three weekly installments, On the Wild West (June 15, 1887), On the Wilder West (June 22), and On the Wildest West (June 29).

Meanwhile back in the Colonies, as the Brits parodied the influence of Buffalo Bill upon England, American cartoonists were wondering how England might influence Bill & his troupe by the time of their return. Below left, C.J. Taylor‘s cover art for the May 25, 1887 issue of Puck; and below right, one week later, from inside the June 4, 1887 issue of Judge, what certainly appears to be a poor knockoff by Mitchell, of same concept of a returning, Anglicized Buffalo Bill and Chief Red Shirt.

Artist J. Saulsbury, in the June 23, 1887 Life, took the above satires one step further, having the Anglicized Buffalo Bill of Puck and Judge, returning to England, only to find that Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales had gone Wild West…

Finally, Fred Opper, who had taken the earliest shot at the event, wrapped things up, in his June 29, 1887 Puck speculation, Why Wouldn’t a “Wild East” Show be Popular, Too?

Next Monday, another new entry in this series. For prior posts hilighting Native American History Month, click here.

Doug Wheeler


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One Response to “Buffalo Bill & Queen Victoria, at her Golden Jubilee, 1887”

  1. Ben Says:

    I’m doing research on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in England. Where did you find the cartoons from Moonshine? Are they available to the public anywhere?

I.T.C.H is looking forward to your thoughts. Please, no flame. Thanks!