Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1874 Am. buffalo hunter
Subject: buffalo hunter, army scout
Culture: frontier American
Setting: buffalo trade, Great Plains 1868-1889

Event Photos

* Chapel 1961 p271-272
"The white man never needed the buffalo; but he made a good thing out of it for about a decade, during which millions of buffalo hides supplied fur robes and heavy leather good to the East.  Yet despite the magnitude of the slaughter, the buffalo hunters probably earned only about two and a half million dollars from it -- a paltry return for the rugged lives they led and the destruction of the twenty million bison that remained west of the Mississippi.  Most of these brought no benefit to anyone except the poorest settlers who collected their calcined bones a few years later and sold them for fertilizer.
"Much of the slaughter was wanton and frivolous; it attracted some of the most trigger-happy adventurers who ever lived.  But the professional buffalo hunter was a shrewd tracker and an expert marksman.  Uncouth, bearded, dirty -- in fact, literally lousy -- he could be spotted in frontier towns by the way he scratched his back with one hand and his leg with the other; but he was a vigorous, canny, generous, and good-tempered man, with the courage and the open heart that were the hallmarks of the old Westerner.  An adventurer and a rover, he was not restricted by ranch or farm, but lived crudely out of doors and took rough pleasures -- such as whiskey and ribald talk -- beside the campfire, amid the stench of freshly killed flesh and drying hides.  His career was a brief one -- about a decade and a half was the span of the great buffalo drive, and the men whose careers prospered beyond that, such as Buffalo Bill Cody, were few.  His active years as a hunter were divided between the open range and the railroad boom towns from which buffalo hides were shipped."

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Field Notes