Here’s how he did it:
- He forged durable brands. Besides coining the term “rough riders,” which Teddy Roosevelt later snatched for himself, Cody created the modern rodeo. Even now, a pale shadow of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West celebrates the 100th anniversary of its first European tour this year at Euro Disney in France. The original U.S. show hit its high-water mark in 1893.
- He hired brilliantly. Cody’s best-known hire, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, was arguably his best. But Cody hired sharp business managers, too, including James Bailey, the quieter half of the Barnum and Bailey circus team.
- He kept an open mind. Although he stretched the truth to portray himself as an Indian-slayer, Cody hired far more Native Americans than any other showman (landing him in frequent trouble with Uncle Sam) and paid them adequately.
- He capitalized on new technology. His first really successful tour in 1885 hit more than 40 cities using new railroads and ocean liners.
- He behaved generously. Black Elk, a homesick Sioux whom Cody sent home from Europe at considerable expense, praised Cody for his “strong heart.”