To be fair, history might not judge him too kindly.
Being known as an “Indian fighter” and a key figure in the slaughter of North America’s bison population isn’t going to win any awards these days, but Buffalo Bill Cody is still a western legend.
This week sees the 100th anniversary of his death at his home in Denver, Colorado, and whilst his name will live on, few are aware that Cody and his world-famous wild west show visited Dundee.
It was August 1904 and his huge entourage was touring the UK, thrilling thousands with displays of horsemanship and recreations of life on the untamed US frontier.
Tales of cowboys and Indians, banditos and the US Cavalry had already captivated generations and so to see the real deal in all their gun-smoked glory down at Magdalen Green was simply astonishing.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show had entertained vast crowds in Kirkcaldy before the entire ensemble was hauled north to set up in Dundee.
There were two shows a day over three days involving some 12,000 men and horses with riders from across the world – Indians, Bedouins, Mexicans, Cossacks – and even the famous sharp-shooter Annie Oakley.
The huge cast included members of the Sioux tribe who set up traditional camps to show their disappearing lifestyle and culture with some actual veterans of the Indian Wars.
Dundee Corporation organised trams to ferry the populace to the shows which were visited by an estimated 74,000 people — the occupants of the Training Ship Mars watching from their oak prison as the pops of rifle fire drifted across the Tay.
Dundee Boys’ Brigade also got into the act by offering tickets as prizes for members.
The Evening Telegraph reported at the time: “The fact that between 20,000 and 30,000 persons visited the exhibition yesterday is a tribute not only to the display given by the Rough Riders of the World but also to the popularity of the central figure — the famous Buffalo Bill.
“Colonel Cody has for the past 20 years enabled the world to realise by means of his ‘Wild West’ the romantic and daring life led by the indomitable band of men who pioneered the great western frontier of America.
“The one-time frontier life with all its dangers is brought home by several displays.
“Chief of these is a representation of General Custer’s last fight on the Little Big Horn and there are also pictographs of Indian attacks on a prairie emigrant train and the Deadwood mail coach.”
Buffalo Bill’s Scottish adventure saw shows being performed across the country. As well as big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow he also visited Perth and even Forfar.
He was a superb ambassador for his country and was actually ahead of the game with regard to viewing his former foes, the Indians, as equals. His trip wasn’t without incident, of course.
One of the Indians got a few days in Barlinnie for being involved in a pub fight and one of the crew managed to start a small fire in Dundee’s goods yard.
For someone like Buffalo Bill, it was hardly a drama.
Images of the Dundee show are extremely rare but a Lochee photographer named JW Pritchard did take a few.
He ran a business in Marshall Street at the time but the pictures disappeared for many years.
A number resurfaced in Cincinnati, Ohio, a few years ago and are now in the hands of the McManus Gallery.
Gareth Jackson-Hunt, museum services section leader at The McManus, said: “Buffalo Bill’s visit to Dundee would have been a really significant event at the time and the images are really quite remarkable.
“We’re delighted to have them in the city’s collection which ensures evidence and the story of his visit lives on for future generations.”