Two Rough Riders : Buffalo Bill and Theodore Roosevelt's enigmatic relationship

  • Jeremy Johnston

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This dissertation examines the social, political, and cultural connections between Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and William F. “Buffalo Bill Cody.” Due to their advocacy of American Exceptionalism through the frontier process, the complexities of both men are covered with a veneer of myths and legends, leading many to believe both men were personal friends and political allies. As an actor, Buffalo Bill appealed to America’s middle and working classes, conveying a strong message of American exceptionalism through his dramatic recreations in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Yet despite their shared advocacy for the American western experience, there is little documentary evidence to demonstrate the two men were close friends and divided by their class and regional differences. While both men agreed on the political issues of conservation and military intervention in overseas conflicts, they often disagreed on a professional level. Both men found fault with one another over their differing methodologies used to accomplish their similar goals. Buffalo Bill clearly sought financial gain through political support of Roosevelt, practicing the methods reflective of machine politics. Roosevelt, prone to use Buffalo Bill’s support publicly to promote his administration’s policies, advocated a more professional, bureaucratic approach that defined the emerging Progressive Era. Although the strife between Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill was evident in their professional correspondence and government records, the two men realized their public personas complimented one another, and neither spoke ill of the other publicly.Through this detailed investigation of their personal, professional, and public relationship, a more nuanced view of both men emerges. Comparing their complex views of race, land-use, masculinity, and militarism at the turn of the century – all of which was often overshadowed by the popularity of the frontier myth generated by Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill – offering an intriguing view of global influences of the American West.
Date of Award21 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorMark Ellis (Supervisor) & Matthew Smith (Supervisor)

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