Posted 8 months ago
Chief Iron Tail: Star of the Wild West Show
By Chris Berry
This one-sheet lithograph for the 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show sold at auction in Texas in October 2012 for $10,000.00. In addition the earlier, companion piece for Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill show sold for $1700.00 at the same auction.
Early posters for Wild West Shows often attract high bids, and this 101 Ranch piece, featuring Chief Iron Tail has historic value in that Iron Tail was arguably the most famous American Indian in the world during the early 20th Century. Aside from the fame that he had on both the Buffalo Billl and 101 Ranch shows, Iron Tail and was one of three Indians who posed for the the buffalo nickel which entered circulation in 1913. Early in his performing career Iron Tail billed as being among the Indians who had participated in the battle of the Little Big Horn also known as "Custer's Last Stand" For many years he was a regular on the Buffalo Bill show and over the years became one of Cody's best friends. He traveled with the show on its tour of Europe and while there was promoted heavily, literally appearing before the "crowned heads of Europe". Iron Tail joined the 101 Ranch Show in 1913 and continued with the show until the spring of 1916.
In May 1916, Chief Iron Tail, then 74, contracted pneumonia while the 101 Ranch show was performing in Philadelphia. When the show moved to Baltimore the next day Iron Tail was left alone with doctors and nurses who could barely communicate with him. For whatever reason the hospital put Iron Tail on a train back to his home in the Black Hills of South Dakota and on May 28, 1916 when a train porter went to awaken him near South Bend, Indiana he was found dead. His body continued on to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where he was buried June 3, 1916. After Iron Tail's death, his friend Buffalo Bill promised to place a granite stone on his grave with a replica of the buffalo nickel on it, however Cody himself died just six month later and he was unable to fulfill that promise.