Sonntag, 30. Mai 2010

Mainz Museum Night - Buffalo Bill in Mainz 1891

Just came back from the "Mainz Museum Night" last night - all museums were open until at least 1 a.m., with special guided tours, music, and exotic or not so exotic food (like ostrich steaks and sausages), etc.

Interesting exhibits included Celtic influence (in weaponry, etc.) on the Romans and a special exhibit about Buffalo Bill's (William F. Cody's) Wild West Show visiting Mainz, Germany, in 1891, of which, unfortunately, no photographs seem to exist.

During a time period, when the romanticised "Western" novels by popular authors like Friedrich Gerstaecker, Balduin Moellhausen and (foremost) Karl May, the letters of German settlers in the U.S., most notably in the New Braunfels area of Texas (a German colony founded in 1842 and sponsored by the Mainzer Adelsverein) had already created considerable interest in the "Wild West", Buffalo Bill's European Tour of 1891, with "200 Indians, Cowboys, Scouts, Sharpshooters and Horsemen, 175 Ponies, Mules, Wild Horses and Buffaloes" met with considerable interest wherever it appeared, even though the price of admission (1 to 4 Mark) equaled the per diem wage of an average (skilled) worker of the time.

The above announcement of the Mainz engagement includes the passage (meant to generate special interest):

"100 wild Indians, who were involved in the latest uprising and subsequently became prisoners of war, accompany Buffalo Bill by special permission of the U.S. government."

"The latest uprising" refers to the Ghost Dance movement of 1890 culminating in the Wounded Knee Massacre of December 28, 1890 - and "loaning out" some of the surviving troublemakers (including Short Bull, Lone Bull, Mash the Kettle, and most notably Kicking Bear) was seen as rather convenient (by the U.S. government) and as a chance to at least temporarily escape dreary reservation conditions (by the participants), at the cost of being exhibited as wild animals, a concept also employed by Carl Hagenbeck in his highly popular Hamburg zoo more than fifteen years earlier - from Wikipedia:

"In 1874, the younger Hagenbeck traveled around the world collecting animals. Among his collections, however, were also human beings which he exhibited in "human zoos". Hagenbeck decided to exhibit Samoan and Sami people (Laplanders) as "purely natural" populations. The Sami were presented with their tents, weapons, and sleds, beside a group of reindeer.
In 1874, Hagenbeck opened a zoo facility in Hamburg, called Carl Hagenbeck's Thierpark, while he continued exhibiting humans. In 1876, he began exhibiting Nubians all across Europe. He also dispatched an agent to Labrador to secure a number of "Esquimaux" (Inuit)....
Though initially popular, Hagenbeck's shows gradually began to decline in popularity, especially once the photograph became more and more common, and Hagenbeck's exhibits began to look less and less real in comparison.... To counter the declining popularity of his human zoos, Hagenbeck began working on making his displays more realistic, techniques that would later influence the animal zoo...."

Unfortunately, the Buffalo Bill exhibit hardly mentioned these aspects - the emphasis was on a highly romanticised and "exotic" presentation of the "Wild West", the genesis and perpetuation of a mythology relying on a totally distorted view of American history and Manifest destiny.



Buffalo Dance (Thomas A. Edison, 1894, 3.07 MB Divx)

Ghost Dance (Thomas A. Edison, 1894, 4.42 MB Divx)

Annie Oakley (Thomas A. Edison, 1894, 4.22 MB Divx)
Bucking Broncho (sic) (Thomas A. Edison, 1894, 4.61 MB Divx)  
Sentiment on the Cuban Question by Buffalo Bill 
(Thomas A. Edison, 1898, 1.57 MB Mono mp3)

"Insight", KXJZ, Sacramento, CA, Oct 24, 2005 (excerpt)
(29 min., 45 MB Stereo mp3)

Description from
"Buffalo Bill Cody was arguably the world's most famous and best-loved American at the height of his popularity in 1900. Louis Warren, a UC Davis professor of history, joins Jeffrey to talk about the Buffalo Bill he came to know in writing his book, Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show. Warren makes the case that Cody was a master at reading and translating cultural anxieties into a popular show that helped reinforce the west's identity. But, Warren wonders, was Buffalo Bill a real frontiersman, or just a showman?"

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