A collaboration of the history department, University of Nebraska — Lincoln and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, that explores and analyzes the written and visual image of ideal manliness as portrayed by Buffalo Bill Cody, various groups of Rough Riders, and the Wild West Show generally from 1893 to 1903. Each of the themes below connect into ideas concerning the characteristics and traits that made up the best type of man, or the crafting of a manly image according to Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.
The Congress of Rough Riders
This section examines the introduction of the Congress of Rough Riders of the World in Buffalo Bill's Wild West and to the American public in 1893 coinciding with the Chicago World's Fair. Further, the documents, visualizations, and analysis explore the constituents of the Congress and their performance, which narrated a story that helped build an image of international masculinity concentrating on equestrians. Simultaneously, the Congress comprised a place for comparison of men globally and as such helped construct and demonstrate the image of the American man, represented by the cowboy, as superior. Finally, this thematic section analyzes the connections between race and manhood as demonstrated by the Congress.
Roosevelt's Rough Riders
This section inspects further the connection between imperialism and manliness, in particular white American manhood and U.S. expansionist ventures. It explores the meaning the public took from Roosevelt's Rough Riders' actions in the Spanish American War and from the portrayal of them in Buffalo Bill's Wild West. By leading the expanding nation on the front lines, as white pioneers had done in the West, Roosevelt's Rough Riders represented the control, dominance, and power of American manhood on a global stage. From 1898, the year of the Spanish American War, to 1903, the last year for performing the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Wild West show, Roosevelt's Rough Riders represented the growing sphere of influence for American civilization and manhood. Lastly, this section highlights the memory continued by members of Roosevelt's Rough Riders who also performed in Buffalo Bill's show.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West and the Manly Image
This section illustrates the portrayal of manly characteristics in the show, particularly as embodied by Buffalo Bill. It also explores the extending of that image to the public via the notion of the exhibition as popular history. The widespread appeal of Buffalo Bill, his Wild West, and his worldwide fame and recognition make his portrayal of manhood important to the changes in gender notions during the Progressive Era. Buffalo Bill's rugged, masculine, western exterior combined with a civil, genteel core that spoke to all American men, and perhaps to men around the world, who could imagine their manhood as a combination of civilized values or actions and strength or hardiness. People respected Cody in all things Western and gained respect for the western man as the ideal type of man as recognized in the white American cowboy as one of the most enduring symbols of American masculinity in the modern American consciousness.