I’m sure this must have been an odd sight to Philadelphians back in the day. It’s a posed group photo of famed soldier and showman William F. Cody with the members of his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” traveling show. Click for the full-size version.
That’s Buffalo Bill seated roughly in the middle of the picture, behind a group of Native American children. Cody started his first Wild West show in 1883, and he toured the world with it until it went bankrupt in 1913. Many people hold the belief that when Cody died in 1917 at the age of 70, it marked the end of the Wild West in America.
The rather imposing building behind the group is the famed Wanamaker’s, the first department store in Philly and one of the first in the United States. You can see some interested onlookers peering through the window near the top of the photo.
It seems likely that Cody’s show was invited to the city by Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, son of the store’s founder and a vocal proponent of preserving Native American culture. Wanamaker sponsored three high-profile photographic expeditions between 1908 and 1913 that were intended to document the way of life of the “vanishing” American Indians.