100 years ago, on May 30, 1913, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West finally came to Winston-Salem. The video above is a compilation filmed by Thomas Edison in 1902 of the pre-show parade, Annie Oakley in action, a couple of American Indian dances and and a “Bucking Broncho”, all available at the Library of Congress website. Click on the start arrow to watch.
The show was heavily advertised in the local newspapers, the kickoff being the parade from downtown to “Wheeler’s show ground”, in east Winston at the site of the then under construction City Memorial Hospital.
Admission was 50¢, $1 for grandstand seats, children under 9 for half price, rain or shine. The ads stated that all seats were protected by an “Immense Waterproof Canvas Canopy”. The Winston-Salem Journal reported that there was an immense crowd, but others complained that there were many empty seats, probably because of a conflict with commencement exercises in the local schools and colleges, which will be reported in a coming post.
Another reason for attendance problems might have been that Annie Oakley was no longer with the show. She was severely injured in a train wreck in 1901 and after along recuperation, never returned.
Just moving the show from town to town was an immense undertaking. There were hundreds of people and animals; cowboys, American Indians, other performers and crew, horses, bison and others. The operation required two railway trains, each with its own kitchen car to feed the workers.
Just after midnight on October 29, 1901, the two trains carrying Buffalo Bill’s Wild West pulled out of the Charlotte station, cleared for Danville, Virginia. Southern Railways freight train #75 had been ordered to remain on the siding at Lexington until the two trains passed. Sometime around 3:00 AM, the first unit went through Lexington. But the Southern train order had only included one train number, so #75’s engineer, Frank Lynch, eased his freight out onto the mainline, headed south to Charlotte.
The two trains collided near Linwood, NC. Dozens of animals were killed and many more had to be shot. No crew or show workers died, but Annie Oakley was temporarily pinned in the wreckage and suffered severe spinal injuries. Some newspapers reported that she had been killed.
She was taken to the Twin City Hospital on Brookstown Avenue in Winston-Salem, then transferred by train to New York. In later years, she and her husband lived for a time in Pinehurst and conducted a shooting school out of the Carolina Hotel there.
Top picture, Annie Oakley bird hunting with a pointer. The location of the picture is unknown, but the terrain looks suspiciously like the NC Sandhills.
Bottom picture, Annie Oakley, in white, center, shooting at the Pinehurst Gun Club, ca 1911.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was out of business for some time. Despite a $65,000 settlement from the Southern Railroad, it never recovered. Buffalo Bill remained in debt for the rest of his life. By the time the show arrived in Winston-Salem in 1913, he had handed over control to creditors and the show was a mere shadow of its former self, joined with Pawnee Bill’s lesser show and incorporating such acts as “Auto Polo” (the forerunner of “Demolition Derby”?), horseback football and a live fox hunt, things which bore no resemblance to Buffalo Bill’s beloved Wild West.
Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull