Queen Victoria and Hull – Buffalo Bill

Posted: 15th January 2023

Humber Museums Partnership - Queen Victoria and Hull – Buffalo Bill

As part of the Ferens Art Gallery winter exhibition, Queen Victoria and Hull, Hull and District Local History Research Group have been researching Victorian Hull. This blog is the latest in a series revealing the hidden stories of Victorian Hull.


I think most people have heard of Buffalo Bill.

He had an outstanding military career, joined the pony express and became a buffalo hunter which is how he got his name, but at heart, Buffalo Bill was a showman and in 1883 organised his first wild west extravaganza.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show began in Omaha in 1883 with real Cowboys and Indians and his first shows included Annie Oakley and chief Sitting Bull

The show toured successfully for over 30 years, about 20 years in the United States and10 years travelling across Europe

In 1887, the show came to England as part of the American Exhibition held at Earls Court in London. (American Exhibition of the Arts, Industries, Products and Resources of the United States). It opened on the 28th of April 1887, then travelled to Birmingham in the November and then to Manchester from December to April

On the 14th of April 1887, The Hull News reported that negotiations were in progress to invite Buffalo Bill to perform in Hull as a major attraction in the city as part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

It was already planned that  the company would sail from Hull to New York in the first week of May on the Wilson Liner Persian Monarch, and it was hoped that they could give a performance for the Hull celebrations before departing.

If an agreement was reached, the event would take place at Hull Football ground on Holderness Road, and it was reported that Mr Levi Parker, Col Cody’s representative was already inspecting the ground. It was also reported that trips would be run by the railway companies.

The show would be transported to Alexandra Dock in Hull by the Lancashire and Yorkshire and the Hull and Barnsley railway companies before being loaded on the Persian Monarch

The negotiations were successful and the Hull News of April 24th 1887 announced that this internationally recognised show was coming to perform in Hull.

Posters were displayed throughout the town




Last Performance in England.

Saturday May 5th 1887, at 3.00pm

Hull Football Ground, Holderness Road

General Stand Accommodation of 3,000 people

Witnessed and endorsed by Her Majesty the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales and all the Royalty who visited the show in London during the jubilee

Great entertainment including

100 North American Blanket Indians

40 Cowboys, 26 Mexicans, 15 Scouts

All the lady riders; all the sharpshooters

All the daring Wild Western Riders

The exciting and genuine buffalo hunt

The original Deadwood Stage

100 horses, 18 wild buffalo, elks. Burrows, deer and bucking horses

Admission price 1s

Reserved Stand 1s 6p extra,

 other stands 6p extra

Excursions will be available on the Hull & Barnsley, Lancashire & Yorkshire, North- Eastern, and Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Companies



The first train carrying the Deadwood Stage and personal baggage, pulled into Alexandra dock on the evening of May 3rd and the arrival of the performers caused great excitement with hundreds of people flocking to see them

An 18-waggon cattle train arrived on the Friday afternoon carrying buffalo, deer, horses, ponies, and other stock.

At precisely 2.20 pm, Colonel Cody arrived together with his general manager, Mr Barker. assistant manager Mr Shybell, Buck Taylor, King of the Cowboys. Bronco Bill the chief interpreter of the Sioux Nation, and the orator Mr Richmond.

As soon as he arrived, Cody boarded the Persian Monarch to inspect the ship and travel arrangements before travelling across the city to the Station Hotel where he was to stay.

Most of Cody’s staff stayed at the Queens Hotel and the Manchester Hotel, but the performers were accommodated in the emigrant shed at the dock!

However, apparently, Mr Jones, the proprietor of the Station Hotel was upset by Cody’s language or accent and the fact that his style of dress did not meet with the strict dress code of the hotel. Cody was asked to move to another hotel. He did so and stayed at the Imperial where apparently his host Mr Bainton, found him both friendly and agreeable.

The 5th of May, at about 2.00pm the procession of performers left the Alexandra dock, arriving at the showground on Holderness Road shortly before 3.00pm

Holderness road had been full of traffic since before noon with tramcars, waggonettes, and cabs making a continuous line from Saville Street eastwards, and a large police presence along the route controlled both traffic and pedestrians.

An excited crowd had arrived at the ground well before the procession and were kept entertained by various bands

The audience in the grandstand included many of Hulls’ civic dignitaries and important citizens and apparently, there were many excited young ladies in the audience!

The performance followed its usual format opening with a grand procession of performers who galloped into the arena through the west gate. They were introduced to the crowd by Mr Richmond and finally Cody entered the arena on a beautiful grey horse and dressed in traditional Mexican hunting attire.

The spectacle was described as a unique picture of Indians with flowing locks streaming in the wind, and Mexican cowboys in their broad brimmed felt hats.

The first event was a race between Mexican cowboys and Indians on bronco ponies.

Next was a Demonstration of pony express riding with the rider changing horses whilst galloping at full speed this was followed by some clever sharpshooting by Jonny Baker, the Cowboy Kid, and for the next 20 minutes, there was a daring display of stunt riding, lariat throwing and riding bucking broncos.

Miss Lillian Smith, The Californian girl dressed in a dark blue velvet gown and a broad brimmed felt hat demonstrated her sharp shooting skills and Miss Emma R Hicock delighted the crowd with her expert equestrian skills.

One of the highlights of the show was the Indian attack on the Deadwood Stage but Cody saved the day!

More races between Sioux Indians riding bareback and Mexican thoroughbreds were followed by snapshots of traditional Indian life including ritual and war dances.

Cody gave a superb display of mounted marksmanship, followed by a realistic buffalo hunt.

The finale was the attack on a lone scout with Buffalo Bill coming to the rescue.

The show was an unrivalled success, with excited people marvelling at what they had seen. The only complaint seems to have been that it was over too quickly, lasting little over an hour.

After the show, the performers rode the animals back to Alexandra dock followed by excited, enthusiastic crowds of people.

The performers and animals boarded the Persian Monarch with the help of the Wilson Line staff, and by 11.00 pm the crowd finally dispersed.

The Persian Monarch set sail for New York about 3.00am

There was some speculation that one of the cowboys had a local connection, being the son of the late Mr Taylor, auctioneer and landlord of the Admiral Hawk in Hessle but this was never confirmed

Buffalo Bill died in 1917 and is buried in a tomb blasted out of solid rock at the summit of Lookout Mountain near Denver Colorado.


Written by Mike Readhead.


You can visit the Queen Victoria and Hull exhibition at Ferens Art Gallery from 20 October 2022 until 19 February 2023.

The image is a Children’s annual book ‘Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual’, written by Arthur Groom and illustrated by Denis McLoughlin. The annual contains several wild west stories with illustrations. There is a handwritten name “Edwin Mawthorpe” on the title page, and inscription “To Edwin, with Best Wishes from Bacon Garth Farm” on the next page. The front cover has an illustration of a cowboy with guns. Printed and bound By Jarrold and Son Ltd, Norwich. It is held in the Wilberforce House Museum collection.