Social Victorians/1887 American Exhibition

The American Exhibition Featuring Buffalo Bill's "Wild West"Edit


  • When: opened on 9 May 1887 at a venue built just for it and for future exhibitions and fairs.
  • Where: located in fairgrounds built in Earl's Court in West Kensington, London, especially for this exhibition.
  • Weather: William F. Cody, in his Story of the Wild West and Camp-fire Chats, says of the weather, "A glorious change in the weather. Sunny skies and balmy breezes ushered in the morning of May 9" (Cody 730).
  • The most popular exhibit was William F. Cody's (Buffalo Bill's) "Wild West" show.
  • The organizers and Welcome Council were involved beginning several years before the Exhibit opened in 1887, and its members managed and attended many of the events.

Lead-up to the Arrival of William F. Cody and the Cast of the "Wild West"Edit

23 March 1887: Oscar Wilde published, in "The American Invasion" in the Court and Society Review, the following comment:

A terrible danger is hanging over the Americans in London. Their future, and their reputation this season, depend entirely on the success of Buffalo Bill and Mrs Brown-Potter. The former is certain to draw; for English people are far more interested in American barbarism than they are in American civilisation. When they sight Sandy Hook, they look to their rifles and ammunition; and after dining once at Delmonico's, start off for Colorado or California, for Montana or the Yellow Stone Park. Rocky Mountains charm them more than riotous millionaires; they have been known to prefer buffaloes to Boston. Why should they not? The cities of America are inexpressibly tedious. The Bostonians take their learning sadly; culture with them is an accomplishment rather than an atmosphere; their 'Hub,' as they call it, is the paradise of prigs. Chicago is a sort of monster-shop, full of bustle and bores. Political life at Washington is like political life in a suburban vestry. Baltimore is amusing for a week, but Philadelphia is dreadfully provincial; and though one can dine in New York, one could not dwell there. Better the Far West, with its grizzly bears and untamed cowboys, its free, open-air life and its free, open-air manners, its boundless prairie and its boundless mendacity! This is what Buffalo Bill is going to bring to London; and we have no doubt that London will fully appreciate his show. (Wilde 66) [Asterisks refer to explanatory notes in the text that reprinted this article.]

Related EventsEdit

One of the challenges of thinking of the opening of the Wild West Show as a single event is that many of the English visitors, especially highly ranking and aristocratic visitors, attended a number of performances, some, perhaps (perhaps Jack Yeats) every day.

Prior EventsEdit

Major Events of the Exhibition ItselfEdit

Later EventsEdit

  • 12 May 1887: Command Performance for the Queen
  • 20 Jun 1887: Prince of Wales Brings Visitors of Victoria's Jubilee to the "Wild West"
  • 22 June 1887: Command Performance at Windsor Castle
  • The Indigenous People Visit the Savage Club at the Savoy
  • At Some Point, Cody Presents General Marmaduke to the Earl of Lonsdale and Lord Harrington
  • Sometime in the Summer of 1887, "Souvenir program" sent by "messenger boy"
  • 31 October 1887, The Wild West Closes and Moves to Manchester (Bridger 343)
  • Summer 1892, The "Wild West" Returns to London from the U.S. (Kasson 83)
  • 1 October 1892, The Workingmen's Association Visits the "Wild West": According to Burke,

    On Saturday evening, October 1, 1892, a conference of delegates from the various branches of the London Workingmen's association was held at the Wild West, when an illuminated address was presented to Col. W. F. Cody. (Burke 269)

Who Was in the AudienceEdit

At Least at the Opening and Possibly at Other Times as WellEdit

In alphabetical order for lack of a better way to organize this:

  1. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales
  2. Alexandra, the Princess of Wales
  3. Lady Alice Bective, "whom the Indians presently named 'The sunshine of the camp,'" came by before the opening. Burke says "Lady # Alice Beckie," but otherwise exactly the same description (Cody 717; Burke 203).
  4. Lord Charles Beresford came by before the opening; "Then I remember riding in great style with Lord Chas. Beresford in the Coaching Club parade" (Cody 717, 725).
  5. Mrs. Brown-Potter [Canonical name: Cora Urquhart?] came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  6. Lady Randolph Churchill
  7. Colonel Clark came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  8. Sir Cunliffe Owen came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  9. Sir Henry De Bathe
  10. Hughie Drummond
  11. Archdeacon Farrar
  12. William S. Gilbert
  13. Mr. Dan. Godfrey "and the band of the Grenadier Guards" ("The American Exhibition." Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, April 16, 1887; pg. 440; Issue 2504, Col. B)
  14. Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, "honorary chair of the American Exhibition," came by before the opening and accompanied Gladstone on 25 April 1887; at the performance Victoria attended (SellWeybright 194; Cody 717, 722, 735).
  15. Colonel Hughes-Hallett
  16. Irving: Henry Irving came by before the opening (Cody 716).
  17. Sir Francis Knollys, "private secretary to the Prince of Wales," came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  18. Mr. Henry Labouchere, M.P., came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  19. Cardinal Henry Manning
  20. Mr. Justin McCarthy, M. P., came by before the opening (Cody 716).
  21. American "Deputy Consul Moffat (to whom we are greatly indebted for assistance rendered us in landing)" came by before the opening (Cody 716–717).
  22. Lady Monckton came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  23. Colonel Montague came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  24. Lord Henry Pagett, came by before the opening [Paget?] (Cody 717).
  25. U.S. Minister Phelps came by before the opening (Cody 716).
  26. Shaw: George Bernard Shaw (by his own account, Shaw 76)
  27. Lord Strathmore came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  28. Arthur Sullivan
  29. Wilde: Oscar Wilde was at the opening; Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilde, dinner for Cody (Cody 725)
  30. Charles Wyndham, came by before the opening, was at the opening, and met Cody at the Criterion Club (Cody 717, 724)
  31. Yeats: Jack R. Yeats; the Yeats family lived in Earl's Court in the Summer of 1887 and had a season ticket as compensation for the inconvenience; Jack Yeats went every day (Pyle 24)
  32. Mrs. Humphrey says, <quote>In one group were collected the delightful authoress of a charming book, an actress who draws tears and smiles at will from her crowded audiences, a dignitary of the Church, a great legal luminary, the latest fashionable beauty, and a dramatist well known to fame.</quote> ().
  33. "and indeed everyone who is known in London’s innermost literary and dramatic circles" (Kasper 71)

British Who Are Thought to Have Seen the Show at Some PointEdit

  1. Lord Aberdeen, at whose villa is a dinner party at which Gower convinces the Gladstones to visit the American Exhibition (Gower 55)
  2. The three daughters of Albert Edward, the Prince, and Princess of Wales, Princesses Louise, Victoria and Maud (Cody 726)
  3. Miss Mary Anderson, came by before the opening and "an enthusiastic Wild Wester," dinner for Cody (Cody 717, 725)
  4. Mr. Applin, one of the secretaries of the American Exhibition, Gower presented him to Victoria (Gower 56)
  5. Lady Ardelsun, dinner for Cody (Cody 725)
  6. the Duke of Argyle (withdrew sponsorship [Swaine 420])
  7. Mr. Wilson Barrett, "a memorable evening at the Savage Club, with [Barrett] (just back from America) presiding" (Cody 724)
  8. M. Bartholdi, desighed the diorama of the New York Harbor (The American Exhibition. Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, April 16, 1887; pg. 440; Issue 2504, Col. B)
  9. their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, at the show Victoria saw (Cody 735; Gower 56)
  10. the Duke of Beaufort, "dinner at the Beaufort Club, where that fine sportsman ... took the chair" (Cody 724)
  11. Mr. and Mrs. Brandon (Cody 724)
  12. the Breadalbanes were at the dinner party at which Gower convinced the Gladstones to visit the American Exhibition (Gower 55).
  13. John Bright (Cody 738)
  14. Lord Bruce, "at the St. George's Club" (Cody 724)
  15. Mr. E. North Buxton, "at the head of the committee having charge of [the] interesting collection of hunting trophies" displayed in the Art Gallery (The American Exhibition.Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, April 16, 1887; pg. 440; Issue 2504, Col. A)
  16. the Hon. Ethel Cadogan, at the show Victoria saw (Cody 735)
  17. Duke of Cambridge, social event before opening (Cody 724)
  18. Lady Frederick Cavendish was at the dinner party at which Gower convinced the Gladstones to visit the American Exhibition (Gower 55)
  19. Lord Randolph and Lady Churchill, Lady Churchill came by before the opening, dinner for Cody; attended performances (Cody 717, 724, 739). Also, Winston Churchill, then 12, convinced his mother to let him leave school in Brighton and see the Wild West show (Gilbert 9).
  20. Colonel Clarke (Cody 726)
  21. Lady Cole (Cody 726)
  22. Donovan: Hon. Cecil and Mrs. Donovan (Cody 724)
  23. Mrs. Drew, née Mary Gladstone, was at the dinner party at which Gower convinced the Gladstones to visit the American Exhibition (Gower 55)
  24. Mr. Herbert Gladstone, "at the St. George's Club" (Cody 724)
  25. William Ewart Gladstone, accompanied by his wife (Sun. Apr. 29, 1887 [Swaine 420]). Cody says 27 April 1887 (Cody 722).
  26. Lord Harrington (Cody Autobiography 39)
  27. Miss Knollys (Cody 726)
  28. Mr. Henry Labouchere, M.P., came by before the opening. Also, Cody says, "I visited Mr. Henry Labouchere on the occasion when Mr. and Mrs. Labouchere gave their grand garden production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'" (Cody 717, 725)
  29. Mr. Lawson, of the Daily Telegraph, to meet the Duke of Cambridge (Cody 725)
  30. Mrs. Frank Leslie may have been there.
  31. Earl of Lonsdale (Cody Autobiography 39)
  32. Marquis of Lorne and Princess Louise (Cody 726, 735)
  33. Lord Lymington, "at the St. George's Club" (Cody 724)
  34. Mrs. J. W. Mackay came by before the opening, dinner for Cody (Cody 717, 724).
  35. "Great Marlow," dinner for Cody (Cody 724)
  36. Mrs. Chas. Matthews, (widow of the great actor), dinner for Cody (Cody 724)
  37. Mr. Justin McCarthy, M. P., came by before the opening; attended the "Rib-Roast Breakfast" (Cody 716, 740).
  38. Lady McGregor, dinner for Cody (Cody 724)
  39. Grand Duke Mikhail of Russia
  40. Lady Monckton came by before the opening; dinner for Cody (Cody 717, 725)
  41. Alfred Norris, minister of Congregational Church the Sioux attended (Moses 46).
  42. Mrs. Courtland Palmer, dinner for Cody (Cody 724)
  43. American Emma Nevada Palmer, dinner for Cody; did she attend? Did her husband, Raymond Palmer (Cody 725)
  44. U.S. Minister Phelps, came by before the opening; dinner for Cody (Cody 716, 724)
  45. Mrs. J. Tandell Phillips (Cody 724–725)
  46. Mrs. Brown Potter, "who was very active in personal interest," dinner for Cody (Cody 725)
  47. Mr. Frank Richmond (Cody 727)
  48. Colonel Henry L. Russell, President of the Exhibition
  49. Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen (Koller 36, note.)
  50. Sir U. Kay Shuttleworth was at the dinner party at which Gower convinced the Gladstones to visit the American Exhibition (Gower 55)
  51. Lord Edward Somerset (Cody 726)
  52. Mr. J. Gilmour Speed, one of the secretaries of the American Exhibition, presented to Victoria (Gower 56; Furlough 203)
  53. Lady Stepney was at the dinner party at which Gower convinced the Gladstones to visit the American Exhibition (Gower 55)
  54. Did Bram Stoker ever go?
  55. Lady Suffield (Cody 726)
  56. Mr. Christopher Sykes, "at the St. George's Club" (Cody 724)
  57. the Duke of Teck, "at the United Arts Club"; and his son (Cody 724, 726)
  58. Lady Tenterden, dinner for Cody (Cody 724)
  59. John L. Toole, Irving's "old friend the genial Jno. L. Toole," came by before the opening (Cody 716).
  60. Mme. Minnie Haukde Wartegg, dinner for Cody (Cody 725)
  61. the Duke of Westminster (withdrew sponsorship [Swaine 420])
  62. Whistler may have been there, done some sketches?
  63. Lord Windsor, came by before the opening (Cody 717).
  64. Lord Woolmex, "at the St. George's Club" (Cody 724)
  65. Yates: Edmund Yates, dinner for Cody (Cody 724)
  66. the Comtesse de Paris (Cody 726)
  67. the Crown Prince of Denmark (Cody 726)
  68. Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, "a civic lunch at the Mansion House" before opening (Cody 724)
  69. the Burlingham Club, dinner for Cody (Cody 725)
  70. "and in fact all of the prominent members of the theatrical profession, and the literati in general" (Cody 717).
  71. "a host of distinguished American residents of London and hundreds of other prominent personages" (Cody 717).

Americans PresentEdit

  1. Mrs. John Bigelow (Gower says, the welcoming committee "had a hearty reception from all on board, including Mrs John Bigelow, the wife of the, at one time, American Ambassador to France," so she came over on the steamer?) (Gower 55).
  2. Colonel Henry L. Russell, American President of the Exhibition; Gower presented him to Victoria (Gower 56; Vincent 38).
  3. Consul-General of the United States, Gov. Thos. Waller, came by before the opening; at the Savage Club (Cody 716, 722, 724).
  4. Blaine: the Hon. James G. Blaine and family (wife and daughters), visited the show frequently (Cody 739)
  5. Cameron: Simon Cameron (Cody 739)
  6. De Pew: Chauncy M. De Pew (Cody 739)
  7. Halstead: Murat Halstead [Halsted?] (Cody 739)
  8. Harte: Bret Harte: "Like the entrepreneurial Buffalo Bill Cody, he reinforced a popular if sensational mythology about the American West that he had helped to invent a generation before. (When Cody brought his Wild West Show to London for the first time in 1887, in fact, Harte attended at leasst two performances at Earl's Court and occasionally dined with the showman.)" (Gary Scharnhorst. Bret Harte: Opening the American Literary West. The Oklahoma Western Biographies. Vol. 17. Norman, OK: U of Oklahoma P, 2000. P. 183)
  9. Hawley: General Joe. Hawley (Cody 739)
  10. Jerome: Lawrence Jerome (Cody 739)
  11. Marmaduke: General Marmaduke (Cody Autobiography 39)
  12. Pulitzer: the Hon. Joseph Pulitzer (Cody 739)
  13. Some Americans are mixed in earlier because of their large role in the show.


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