Cody vs. Carver

Showmen William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and William F. “Doc” Carver both had careers as popular entertainers. Cody, after service as a skilled buffalo hunter, army scout, and Indian fighter, later became a stage actor and star of his own traveling troupe. Carver was known as a top marksman. His title, “Doc” Carver said, had been conferred by Indians who, because of his deadly rifle, had named him “The Great Bad Medicine.”

The two men are thought to have first met in Nebraska in the summer of 1874 on a hunting party. In January 1883 they met again in New Haven, Connecticut. Cody, fresh from the success of his Old Glory Blowout the previous July 4 at North Platte, asked Carver to join him in an expanded version of the event to form a touring outdoor show.

The two men became partners in such a venture (although Carver later claimed that the idea was his) and discussed a name for the show. Although Carver liked the phrase “Golden West,” the name finally selected was Cody and Carver’s Wild West.

As the season progressed, the company became aware of a growing rift between the partners, worsened by professional jealousy and poor management. The partnership was dissolved in the fall of 1883. Thereafter shows belonging to Carter and Cody toured independently, both using the Wild West name.

In December 1883 Cody and his new partner, Nate Salsbury, tried to establish legal claim to the Wild West name. After a lengthy series of legal battles Buffalo Bill secured the exclusive right to use the name. He achieved greatness with his outdoor show and was still an attraction up to the time of his death on January 10, 1917.

According to Sandra K. Sagala, author of an article on the Cody-Carver dispute over the Wild West name in the Spring 2004 issue of Nebraska History: “A partnership rooted in the promise of profits for both men had irredeemably soured, never again to be sweetened with the joy of friendship or financial affiliation. Perhaps, had both men been less concerned with their own egos, they would have made a great double act.”

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