American soldier, bison hunter, and showman, Buffalo Bill Cody became internationally acclaimed after founding “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” a touring vaudeville showcase featuring scenes of the American frontier and performances by the likes of Annie Oakley, Wild Bill Hickok, and even Sitting Bull.
By 1887 Buffalo Bill’s troupe was touring Europe, performing for foreign royalty, and exhibiting for prestigious events such as the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France which featured the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower. While in Verona, the Wild West performed in the ancient Roman Amphitheater. His tours were so successful at home and abroad that by the turn of the century he was regarded as the most recognizable celebrity on earth.
Aside from creating Buffalo Bills Wild West, Cody founded the town of Cody, Wyoming where he built hotels and ranches; he had a hand in early water reclamation, irrigation, and animal conservation, and was an early supporter of rights for both women and Native Americans.
Cody died of kidney failure on January 10, 1917, surrounded by family and friends in Denver, Colorado. Upon the news of his death, tributes were made worldwide, by figures such as King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Imperial Germany, and President Woodrow Wilson.
Though Cody was buried on Colorado’s Lookout Mountain, a site selected by his wife and sister, the city of Cody, Wyoming, demanded a “return” on his body, feeling he should be buried within the town he founded. A rumor started that Cody’s actual body was exchanged for a look-alike indigent, and he had been taken to Cody for burial. Considering that the funeral was open casket and attended by thousands, including close family and friends with photos taken of those same family and friends next to the casket, someone swapping Cody’s body is hard to believe. The controversy became so heated that a guard was mounted over the grave until a deeper shaft could be blasted into the rock below.
The controversy continued with Cody’s niece claiming officials had exchanged the body following the death of Cody’s widow in 1925. Cody’s foster son, Johnny Baker, ordered Cody and his wife be disinterred and reburied under tons of concrete to prevent anyone from stealing their bodies.
Today Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave can still be found at the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado. A small museum resides nearby and is owned by the City and County of Denver, CO.