The combined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East came apart in 1913 in a dispute about an alleged overdue bill for printing services. The show was attached and sold at auction in a very messy series of legal actions. The enterprise was largely owned by Gordon Lillie, aka Pawnee Bill, and a partner named Tom Smith. The prelude to the Denver debacle was that Cody had signed a contract to leave the “Two Bills” outfit to appear with the Sells-Floto Circus in 1914-1915. He then moved on to the 101 Ranch for 1916, his last active employment. He passed away on January 17, 1917. His name was used with the Jess Willard (Himself) and the Buffalo Bill Show Inc. in 1917. It’s likely that your relation was an employee of the Willard outfit. An illustrated article about it was published in the White Tops, the journal of the Circus Fans Association, in the March-April 1965 issue, pages 3-8. Also see message 2435 on this board. Further information can be found in online issues of the New York Clipper and Billboard, as per other postings on this message board. Your relation apparently felt that he had a physical condition that disqualified him from service. That criteria can likely be found somewhere online. Posting the name of your relation might lead to the discovery of additional information.
Fred Dahlinger Jr., Curator of Circus History, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
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