Arago: 15-cent Cody

15-cent Cody

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody — scout, showman, and raconteur of the Wild West — was the subject of the new addition to the Great Americans stamp series. The Postal Service issued the new postcard rate definitive on June 6, 1988, in Cody, Wyoming. The dedication ceremony was held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, which houses a vast collection of Western art and memorabilia.

Central to the stamp design is a classic engraved profile of Cody, adapted by Jack Rosenthal from an illustration once used on a dining car menu for a special train from Denver to Cody.

In an era of many larger-than-life figures, William Frederick Cody was the most famous and flamboyant American in his native country and in Europe as well. He typified the West for more people in more parts of the world than anyone else and played a major role in opening the region he so successfully romanticized.

Inspired by an 1883 Independence Day celebration in North Platte, Nebraska, Cody organized Buffalo Bill's Wild West, an elaborate exhibition that dramatized the Western scene. It was an immediate and unprecedented success. Cody presented the show around the world, including performances at Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887, in Paris at the 1889 dedication of the Eiffel Tower, and at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Cody's Wild West was a delightful spectacle of every component of familiar Western mythology, including cowboys, Indians, scouts, and sharpshooters, and featured a tiny Ohio farm girl who became the greatest shot of all. Phoebe Anna Oakley Mozee — or Annie Oakley, as she came to be known — sold almost as many tickets as Cody, exploding targets from horseback, clipping ashes from cigars clenched in the teeth of trusting spectators, and snapping pennies from between her husband's fingers.

Every president from Grant to Wilson consulted Buffalo Bill on Western matters, and he counted among his friends such artists and writers as Frederic Remington and Mark Twain. He was honored by royalty, praised by military leaders, and feted by business tycoons. Yet, as Annie Oakley put it, he was the simplest of men, as comfortable with cowboys as with kings.

The stamp was engraved through the intaglio process by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and issued in panes of 100.


Postal Bulletin (June 2, 1988).

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