"Men Who Have Led the Rough Riders of the World in Civic and Military Conquests" included are (from left to right) Colonel W.F. Cody, Lt.-Col. R.S.S. Baden-Powell, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, and General Petrus Joubert. Image from page 2, The Rough Rider Illustrated Periodical, Volume 3, 4th Edition, Season of 1901.
From 1893 to 1903, ideas of international manhood and projecting an image of ideal American manliness became principal preoccupations in the public display of Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. In each of the official programs during these ten years, William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) the show's main attraction, received description as "Young, sturdy, a remarkable specimen of manly beauty, with the brain to conceive and the nerve to execute, Buffalo Bill par excellence is the exemplar of the strong and unique traits that characterize a true American frontiersman." Buffalo Bill's Wild West made or shaped many longstanding images. Today, when people think of some of the most manly men, they think cowboys and soldiers. In fact, the cowboy remains one of the most enduring symbols of American masculinity. The popularity of this image or idea in the modern American consciousness is due in large part to Buffalo Bill Cody and his arena for public education that helped invent and foster understanding of the characteristics and traits that made up the heroic, manly cowboy image. American conceptions of perfect manhood, as espoused by Buffalo Bill and the performance associated with him, found great reception amongst the United States public. Cody's show also exported these ideas to an international audience. The message of Cody's Wild West from the performance to the performers truly had a global reach.
Cody first used the term "Rough Rider" to indicate precisely the class of frontiersman associated with his Wild West, one that displayed the characteristics of a civilized gentleman while mixing in natural power, often in the form of horse power. In most comparisons, typically made by Wild West promotional materials, the American cowboy always stood as the paragon of American manliness; Buffalo Bill himself represented the essence of the American cowboy. In one magazine article Cody stated, "It may seem that a natural prejudice in favor of my own country predisposes me in favor of our own riders, but such is not the case. There are many fine riders in the world besides the Americans, men who ride with skill, with daring, and with intelligence, but the growth of our country has developed a race of modern centaurs who are the equals, if not the superiors, of the horsemen of any clime." The 1893 program further indicated that no better rider or man existed anywhere but in the American West. It states, "The appearance of these brave, generous, free-hearted, self-sacrificing rough riders of the plains, literally living in the saddle, enduring exposure, hunger, risk of health and life as a duty to the employer, gave him his first communion with society beyond the sod cabin threshold, and impressed his mind, as well as directed his aspirations, to an emulation of the manly qualities necessary to be ranked a true American Cowboy." This source and the other documents in this section suggest that while many have taken such comments as demonstrating white racial superiority, they equally reveal white manly superiority.