Today is the birthday of Gordon William Lillie (1860-1942) better known as Pawnee Bill. Lillie was an actual frontiersman working at the Pawnee Indian Agency in Indian Territory when he was hired as a Pawnee interpreter by Buffalo Bill Cody for his wild west show in 1883. In 1886 the newly rechristened Pawnee Bill branched off into his own show with his wife May Manning, “The Champion Girl Horseback Shot of the West.” “Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West” flourished for over 20 years as Buffalo Bill’s principle competition, bedevilling Cody with the similarity of their names, until the two shows (which were both ailing) merged in 1908. The combined show went bankrupt a few months later. For more about Wild West shows go here.
To learn more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc