Nearly a century after William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s death, his legend still continues to generate interest in the Old West. A bear-claw necklace and Colt model 1873 revolver once owned by the famous showman recently sold for more than $40,000 each at auction in Dallas. The items were auctioned off during Heritage Auctions’ “Legends of the West” event on June 14, which also included hundreds of photographs, lawmen badges, and other memorabilia. According to the Daily Mail, both the bear-claw necklace and the six-shooter sold for the same price: $40,625.
The necklace is believed to have been gifted to William Cody by Chief Sitting Bull, a Lakota tribal leader famous for his actions during the Great Sioux War of 1876. Sitting Bull often toured with Cody on his signature Wild West Tours along with other notable historical figures like Annie Oakley.
“The gift of this necklace from Sitting Bull to Buffalo Bill was an emblem of deep respect,” Tom Slater, Director of Americana Auctions at Heritage, said in a press release. “The bear claw necklace was a symbol of the bond these two frontier icons shared – a unique bond unlike any other encountered in the settling of the American West.”
The necklace consisted of 10 grizzly-bear claws measuring from three to four inches and connected by beads strung with animal sinew. It was one of several gifts from the well-known—and at the time notorious—chief. The necklace was eventually given to Cody’s sister Julia and passed down through her family. At auction, the necklace sold for well beyond its initial estimate of $12,000.
Cody kept the Colt revolver for himself, possibly one of many firearms he collected during his time with the Wild West Tour. Experts are unsure whether the revolver was actually used or served as a prop gun, as Cody owned at least five Colt Single Action Army revolvers.
“This revolver is one of the few Cody himself didn’t give away,” Slater said. “Cody’s generosity was unmatched, much like that of the Indian leaders he so respected. Barely a handful of his unembellished handguns are known in public or private collections.”
It is believed that Cody bought the revolver for his personal collection from the Hartley & Graham gun shop in New York during the winter of 1883.
A soldier, hunter, scout, showman, and rancher, William Cody was perhaps best known for the raucous shows that forever ingrained a romantic image of the Old West on the American imagination. After he stopped touring, he settled down to found the town of Cody, Wyoming and write his autobiography. The famous showman also supported conservation and modern hunting regulations.
Images courtesy Heritage Auctions