The Lowry Theatre stands today on Salford Quays to provide entertainment but just over one hundred and thirty years ago, another event staged where it now stands brought the American Wild West to the City.
William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill had come a long way to perform.Born in Iowa in 1846 and later moved with his family to Kansas, he left home aged 11 to herd cattle and work as a driver on a wagon train. He went on to fur trapping and gold mining, and joined the Pony Express in 1860.
His nickname came from the fact that he scouted for the army after the American Civil War.
Over six feet tall he claimed to have fought Indians and by the age if 26 was already on stage moving to the concept of a Wild West show which included such celebs as Custer’s nemesis Sitting Bull.
Cody’s 1st foray into the entertainment business was a 1872 show called ‘The Scouts of the Prairie’.Cody then organized his own troupe, the Buffalo Bill Combination. The show included Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok and staged several plays until 1882 when the Wild West outdoor spectacle was born.
The highlight of the show was a reinactment of General Custers last stand, featuring the some of the original fighters and Cody marching onto the stage with the flag saying too late.
The show toured Europe and came to Britain,Queen Victoria was a big fan-attending the show three times and it began her own idea for using her own Indians from the colonies as servants, and arriving in Salford on the banks of the River Irwell.
A huge auditoruim was built and it was said that 10,000 people turned up, flocking from miles around to see the show which apart from the actors included 180 horses, 18 buffalo, 14 mules and donkeys, 10 elk and two deer.
It returned in 1903 and would leave a legacy in Manchester as a 26-year-old Sioux chief called Charging Thunder stayed behind and would raise a family in Gorton marrying Josephine one of the American horse trainers in Buffalo Bill’s show and changing his name to George Edward Williams, after registering with the British immigration authorities to enable him to find work.
As for William Cody,he was later to embrace the culture of the native population having earlier vowed to bring a Sioux scalp to his early shows and became a convert to conservation despite having been involved in his early life as almost hunting the bison to near extinction.
By 1913 though Cody was bankrupt forced to playing himself in a travelling circus.He died four years later in January 1917.