Advance work : art and advertising in Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This analysis of the visual record of Buffalo’s Bill Wild West posters in the United States provides the first scholarly interpretation focused on the commercial print production and related cultural impact of the show on American and international audiences, and is divided into two sections: Inventing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and Visualizing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Part One interprets the history of the art, advertising, and commercial prints developed for the Wild West. Part Two includes overview and analysis of the visual culture of the Wild West for U.S. tours, the importance of the Strobridge Lithographing Co. and the city of Cincinnati as a commercial printing hub, and the Wild West diplomacy and international perspectives of the program following the successful 1893 season.The evolution of the art and advertising of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West is linked to the highly publicized life of William F. Cody, and his exposure to the art and landscape of the American West. Chapters in each part of this study consistently incorporate elements of Cody’s life, his interest in American art, and his friendships with successful artists. Chapter One, The Art of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, William F. Cody, and the American West, presents a biography of Cody within that context: his celebrated life and times, and the art of the American West that influenced him.Chapter Two, Advertising the Wild West: Cody and Cooke, introduces the professional relationships crucial to Cody’s success as a performer and entrepreneur leading the Wild West team, including the impact of general publicity agent Louis E. Cooke on Cody’s artistic and business decisions over several decades. Chapter Three, The Wild West Company and Commercial Printers, establishes significant advances in lithographic printing following the American Civil War, introducing the printing firms contracted with the show, and the artists and photographers instrumental in advancing the art of the Wild West.Chapter Four, The Visual Culture of the Wild West in the United States, defines the history of the three most prominent printing companies in the development of color lithographic posters for the Wild West—A. Hoen & Co., of Baltimore, MD; Courier Lithographic Co., of Buffalo, NY, and Enquirer Job Printing Co., of Cincinnati, OH—and the unique poster art developed through the relationships between Cody, the owners, and artists at the companies. Chapter Five, The Strobridge Lithographing Company and Cincinnati Show Printers, explores the prominence of the city of Cincinnati on American lithography and Strobridge and Enquirer as leaders in circus and traveling show poster production, including those for the Wild West.Chapter Six, Wild West Diplomacy and Going Global, expands on the changes in the Wild West with the introduction of the Congress of Rough Riders of the World, and considers Cody’s ongoing role in promoting international peace and diplomacy amid America’s emerging imperial role in the world.Numerous artists, photographers, and lithographers collaborated to create the dynamic and effective imagery for Cody and the Wild West between 1883 and 1913. Newly accessible digital and archival collections provide new opportunities for the analysis and documentation of the art created to advance the celebrity of 'Buffalo Bill' and foster the national and international success of the Wild West. The artwork conveyed a carefully crafted and sometimes nuanced version of how the West was won, in which Cody, himself, was always central.The surviving posters and photographs, programs, newspaper accounts, personal correspondence and expense records, confirm the process and intent behind the Wild West advertising phenomenon that fixed the performers and performances into the national memory and American history.
Date of Award1 Mar 2017
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorChristopher Ellis (Supervisor) & John Young (Supervisor)

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