Wild West Shows

Wild West Shows

Wild West Shows are popular now - and were particularly popular in the days of the Old West!

The American Wild West captivated the early days of the United States populace. This created the desire for these shows! They traveled the country showcasing exciting entertainment. Read their history NOW>

This form of traveling show has dwindled in its wide popularity. Diverse forms of entertainment are available now. That eventually led people's interests away from these pastimes.

This type of show has now become a specialty form of amusement. You'll find Wild West shows at festivals, rodeos, historic events, and county or state fairs. Yet, they are a regular feature in old Western Towns - such as Tombstone Arizona.

Tombstone's Wild West shows are quite popular with visitors. There are a variety of them in town. Let's see what suggestions we have for you...

Tombstone's Wild West Shows

Pay & Enter

O.K. Corral Wild West ShowA Wild West Show at the O.K. Corral
  • The O.K. Corral - A must-see when you're in town. Short entertainment skits go over the Earps vs. Cowboys Gunfight. On Allen Street, between Third & Fourth. More Details>
  • Gunfight Palace - Historical re-enactments. Watch Gunfighters in action! Stop in to their theater on Allen Street between Fifth & Sixth. Shows at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. & 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
  • The Tombstone Cowboys - At the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park. Entrance fee covers the 30 minute Gunfights, which run regularly all day long. Billed as "World Famous Gunfights." Get to the Theme Park Entrance by going South to the end of Fourth Street & crossing over Toughnut Street.
  • Tombstone Gunfighters Old West Show - Open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 128 S 5th Street in Tombstone.
Gunfight Palace Wild West ShowsGunfight Palace on Allen St.
Old Tombstone Western Town Wild West ShowsShows Daily in Old Tombstone

Watch Along Allen Street - For FREE!

Allen Street Wild West ShowWatch a Wild West Show on Allen Street
  • Second, Fourth & Fifth Sundays - Of the month. Starts about noon until 2:30 p.m. Gunfighter skits by the Tombstone Vigilantes. Approximately every 15 minutes. Have your camera ready! Then post your photos For Us To See!
  • Fourth Saturday Evening - Of the month, except for December. Tombstone at Twilight Gunfight by the Blood at Dusk Gunfighters. Tombstone at Twilight is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • First & Third Sundays - Of the month. At 2 p.m. by the O.K. Corral. Hangings and living history gunfights by The Wild Bunch.

Other Wild Western Towns

  • Great American Wild West Show - Don & Sharon Endsley produce this traveling production for arenas:


  • Springtown Texas - They hold a Wild West Festival mid-September in the Town Square, on Saturday. FREE admission! It starts at 10 a.m. with a parade. Lots of stuff to do for the kids, tons of events, plenty of vendors! 
  • Hays Kansas - The Wild West Festival during the July 4th weekend. A great place to be, even for this historical Old West town! See their Historical Walking Tour - Click Here>
  • Branson Missouri - Silver Dollar City Wild West Show, a seasonal treat! Hosted by trick roper, A.J. Silver - you'll see sharp shooters, trick riders, hoop dancers & more! For details on when call them: 1-800-475-9370.
  • Fort Worth Texas - Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. A historical reenactment of that original Wild West Hero! Watch trick roping, shooting & riding. Singing cowboys & historical acts are based on Pawnee Bill's historical performances. Shows at 2:30 & 4:30 p.m., still at this historic Coliseum, 121 E. Exchange Avenue.
  • Lagniappe Productions - A professional Western Entertainment company. Watch Old West comedy, stunts, murder mysteries, Western saloon skits, and cowboy & cowgirl teams. They bring their Western sets and show to you. They also have a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater in Grapevine, TX. For details call (817) 337-1882.

Historic Wild West Shows

Buffalo Bill's Wild West ShowBuffalo Bill's Wild West Show Poster

The Most Famous Shows

The Buffalo Bill StoriesBuffalo Bill Dime Novel

William Frederick Cody was born in Le Claire Iowa on February 26, 1846. He rode for the Pony Express at age 14, when his father died.

He would create the Wild West Show which began a new form of entertainment. This show, which still has the most renown, is Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. His first production began in 1883 in Omaha, Nebraska.

He got his nick-name when hired by the railroad. They needed him to hunt bison. His good aim brought reliable meat supply to feed rail crews. His reputation spread. He started scouting for the army and leading hunters from the East.

Annie Oakley in Wild West ShowsAnnie Oakley was a Regular in Buffalo Bill's Shows
Wild West Show: Greenwood,BrooklynBuffalo Bill's Wild West Show Was All the Way in Brooklyn

A dime novel was published about him - which brought further notoriety. Then it became a play. Eventually, Buffalo Bill Cody played himself in it! That started him thinking...

Cody began his own theater production, which turned into his Wild West Show. His popularity became so great he was named the "Greatest Showman on Earth." Imitators arose - but he held domination in the field of Wild West Shows! He lived to be 70 years of age.


Tombstone's Historic Wild West Show

The Birdcage Tombstone was a venue famous for its shows. The doors opened at Christmastime of 1881. The owners were Lottie and Billy Hutchinson. At first they presented family-type entertainment and a Ladies' Nights. That was a financial flop, soon enough.

They switched to a different entertainment form. It now appealed to the Wild West crowd: the Cow-boys, Ranchers, Miners, Saloon & Brothel patrons. The Wild West Show acts the Birdcage featured were:

  • Female Hercules OR Lady With the Iron Jaw - Mille de Granville Knox (born Alma Hayes) performed strength acts. She lifted heavy things with her teeth and placed a cannon on her shoulders.
  • The Flying Nymph - A woman named Lizette who "flew" above the guests. She was actually attached to ropes that carried her across the room.
  • Mademoiselle Zazel - Called "The Human Cannonball." Her real name was Ella Richter. She was propelled from a cannon by springs, and zoomed about 60 feet across the room!
  • Cross-Dressing Acts - They featured impudent and shockingly flashy humor. Performed by men who wore flamboyant women's clothing.
  • The Human Fly - Very popular in 1889. Skimpily clothed women wore special shoes that held them to ceiling rigging. They roamed upside down above the crowd. But one time the rigging failed, the woman fell and died! 
  • The Happy Hottentots - They specialized in distorted dance motions. They zealously thrashed their legs around. They twisted their bodies beyond belief!1


Other American Traveling Shows

In the Old West, citizens were up for entertainment that entered their town. The idea really bloomed with the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Buffalo Bill's show was there! Many others got on board - got their imagination and entrepreneurial spirit going.

When a traveling show came along, word got around. The "entrepreneur" would set up. They performed out of a wagon, or if larger - out of a tent.

Posters were put up around town. Their "barkers" shouted marketing slogans at the corners and in front of the show entrance. Before you know it, people gathered, listening to the spiel! What types of shows were there?

Traveling Medicine ShowMedicine Show Traveling Through the Old West


  • Old Patent Medicine Show - A barker selling "cure-alls" for what ails you!
  • P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome - The prime draw for his so called traveling circus, which he became involved in about 1875, was the "Freak Show." It gave attention to people with deformities and disabilities. Some may say they were exploited. It also featured animals with the same problems.
Magic Lantern ShowsA Magic Lantern
  • Puppet Shows - The traveling Punch & Judy show was the most famous and the most popular. Loved by children and adults! It originated in 1600s Italy, and was soon adopted by the English. Americans caught on with this crazily funny act, and began their own adapted versions in the 1700s.2
  • Vaudeville Shows - A variety of entertainment acts: singers, dancers, musicians, animal acts, comedians, acrobats, etc.
  • Burlesque Shows - A certain type of variety, with a bit of lewdness to it. Dancing girls, strip-tease acts, comedians with off-color jokes, and shocking novelty acts.
  • Magic Lantern Shows - An early type of projector, which could show still images on a screen.


References

1 Agnew, J.(2011). Entertainment in the old west: Theater, music, circuses, medicine shows, prizefighting, and other popular amusements. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. Inc.

2 McRobbie, L.R. (2013). Are Punch and Judy shows finally outdated? Retrieved 11/24/17 on www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/are-punch-and-judy-shows-finally-outdated-10599519/


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