January 1892 

There were probably a fair number of hangovers in Glasgow on the morning of Friday, 1st January 1892. One of these belonged to a twenty-four year-old Lakota Indian named Charging Thunder. To make matters worse, he awoke in a prison cell, and had to make an appearance in the Eastern Police Court to answer for the assault which he had perpetrated on George Crager on the afternoon before. The case was continued until Monday morning, owing to the fact that Mr Crager was still nursing a sore head of his own, although in this instance alcohol was not the immediate cause. When the case was called on Monday morning, Charging Thunder was remanded in custody, and his case was remitted to the Sheriff Court.
When the case came before the Sheriff on 12th January, Charging Thunder pled guilty through an interpreter, who would either have been John Shangrau or else Crager himself. In mitigation, Charging Thunder claimed that his lemonade had been ‘mistakenly’ spiked with whisky! He was however unable to identify the pub in which he had been drinking. The Sheriff sentenced him to thirty days imprisonment in Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie prison.

Several Glasgow newspapers carried accounts of the hearing on the following day, 13th January. Quite remarkably, Charging Thunder was not the only American Indian whose brush with the law was reported on that day. Running Wolf, from Mexican Joe’s show had also fallen foul of the authorities and his hearing, on a charge of assault, also received attention in the newspapers on the same date.
The now semi-derelict building in Tobago Street which housed both the Eastern Division Police Office and the Eastern Police Court. Charging Thunder endured an uncomfortable weekend here at New Year 1892.
On a brighter note, John Shangrau, the mixed-blood Lakota interpreter with the show, was married in Glasgow to Miss Lillie Orr, the daughter of a Liverpool ship’s captain, on Monday, 4th January 1892.

On Friday, 15th January, Buffalo Bill unveiled what were billed as Stupendous Additional Attractions at a special matinee to an audience of invited guests. These would be an integral part of the entertainment during the final weeks of the Glasgow season. An advert in The Bailie for Wednesday, January 27th 1892 read:
From Stanley’s Darkest Africa, in conjunction with the American Indian, for the first time in the World’s History; also LOCKHART’S HERD of BURMESE ELEPHANTS, the most perfectly Trained Animals of their kind. Cowboys will Ride Wild Texas Steers. Sabre Exercise by Detachment of English Lancers.

‘Another Glimpse at the Wild West’. The line drawing (left) is taken from the Evening Times, 25th January 1892. Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized image.

It was a turning point in the history of the Wild West show. Until now, Cody’s entourage had been a Wild West outfit pure and simple but as ever cultural interaction was a two-way process and new elements were gradually brought in. In the following season, in London, Cossacks were introduced, and in 1893 Buffalo Bill unveiled his Congress of Rough Riders in Chicago. By the time that Colonel Cody would return to Scotland in 1904, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World was a highly cosmopolitan entertainment indeed. It was a natural concomitant, however, that from this point on there was a distinct tendency for the show to degenerate into just another circus.

For the Indians, the Africans, and the elephants, this strange new world must have seemed like the phases of a surreal nightmare.

The innovations unveiled to the Glasgow public represent an important stage in the overall evolution of the show, but in the immediate context they were in part intended to camouflage Cody’s departure. The awful Glasgow winter weather, exacerbated by a national epidemic of influenza, had got the better of him, and in the last week of January, he sailed home, to take a much needed-break before the 1892 London season got underway. Besides, the Colonel had important business in Chigago, where the World’s Fair was just over a year in the future.

Next - February 1892


Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Scotland