Calamity in Buffalo . 1901

Calamity in Buffalo . 1901

Calamity Jane and the Pan America Exposition . Buffalo . 1901

The following entry and photos are taken directly from “Doing the Pan” website:

The content has little to do with “Remembering Wicks”, other than his daughter Ruth being on record in “Who’s Who in America”, 1914 as favoring Women’s Sufferage. This entry really condenses the essence of life in 1901 for women. Women were either a part of a side-show of some degree or another, or were lucky enough to be born & bred to marry well. The right to vote is still 16 years away. It also reveals the surprisingly sad ending of Calamity Jane.


Women’s Building . Pan Am Expo

Calamity Jane

Martha Jane Canary, the maiden name of “Calamity Jane,” had no intention of visiting Buffalo in 1901. By that time, she had become a legend in the minds of people “back East” as a woman of the old West. In reality, she was no longer the fearless, strong woman in a man’s world that she had once been portrayed by magazine writers, but a homeless alcholic in search of a party and place to sleep.

But the Exposition publicity department wanted to have the real Calamity Jane on their Midway and so they hired Mrs. Josephine Brake, a newspaperwoman, to go west and entice her to come to Buffalo for the season. Here is what the Buffalo News reported on July 12:



Report That a Buffalo Woman Has Offered the Famous Old Plainswoman a Home.

Noted Black Hills Character in Her Day and Had Many Friends in the Army

[Anaconda, Mont., Associated Press) Mrs. Josephine Winfield Brake, of Buffalo, N.Y., author and newspaper correspondent, has been in Montana for the past week searching for “Calamity Jane,” the plainswoman. Yesterday Mrs. Brake discovered “Calamity Jane” in the hut of a negress at Horr. The poor woman was broken in spirit. The scene that followed the offer of Mrs. Brake to take Calamity to her own home in Buffalo where she could spend the remainder of her days in comfort was pathetic in the extreme and the noted frontierswoman wept like a child.

Calamity has been on the frontier since she was a young girl. She was in the Black Hills at the time of the killing of “Wild Bill” (William Hickock) and it is said that it was she who captured his murderer. She rendered valuable services to Custer, Reno, Egan and other Indian fighters. Of late years she has drifted about the State from place to place, making a livlihood as best she could. The newspapers printed columns about her through means of which the attention of Gen. Egan and many other friends of the woman was call to the plight of their friend of former years..



The Aged Celebrity, Overcome by Liquor, Arrested, and Released on Suspended Sentence.

Mrs. Mattie Dorsett, the original “Calamity Jane” of Wild West fame and who has been with the Indian Congress at the Exposition during the last month, spent last night behind prison bars.

Patrolman Charles P. Gore of the Austin Street Station found the old woman on Amherst street, near the Exposition gate, last night. She was reeling from side to side and did not appear to know where she was. The woman had been drinking and Gore placed her under arrest.

She spent the night in the matron’s custody at the Pearl Street Station, was taken before Judge Rochford this morning and released on suspended sentence. Mrs. Dorsett said it was the first time she had been arrested.


Calamity Jane appears to have left Buffalo sometime in September, heading back to Montana by way of Chicago. Buffalo Bill is quoted in Buffalo as having said, “I expect she was no more tired of Buffalo than the Buffalo police were of her.” He is reputed to have given her a ticket and expense money to return to Montana.

She had only 2 years left to live, dying of the effects of her alcholism on August 1, 1903, less than 2 weeks after the photo at the top of this page was taken. She asked to be buried beside Bill Hickock in Deadwood, South Dakota, and her wish was granted.

For more information, see the book, “Calamity Jane; a study in historical criticism”, Vivian A. Paladin, editor.


Pan-American Women

The Exposition was a magnet for all kinds of   people, particularly women. As the Buffalo Evening News observed in August   1901, “Every railroad station in the city was crowded nearly to the     limit yesterday…Many women were in the crowds. They exceeded the men     by a large majority, probably because the latter could not leave their     occupations to attend the Exposition. The women, it appears, cannot be     kept away.”

The American scene in 1901 was one of great   activity regarding women as business owners, growing members of the clerical   workforce, suffrage activists, civil rights activists, social activists.   Women in New York state could own real estate which their husbands had   no rights to; this was not the case elsewhere. Women could vote in Wyoming,   Colorado, Utah and Idaho, but universal women’s suffrage was another 16   years away. Social rules regarding manadatory marriage were being challenged   by graduates of the women’s colleges who found their education could bring   them a living wage, freeing them of the necessity of marrying in order   to have shelter and food.

Those whose lives intersected with the   Pan-American Exposition represent a fascinating survey of American women   at the beginning of the 20th century. The Exposition women entertainers,   exhibitors, or celebrity visitors have been forgotten by history, remembered   continually as cultural icons or, in some cases, were forgotten and re-discovered   in the last 30 years.

Apologies to those who may be offended by content of “Calamity”, by todays standards some references are insensitive, incorrect and just plain mean spirited – the world of 1901 innocent in so may ways, still had some growing up to do.


About Stories, Old & New

My background is in Public Relations with a B.S. from Syracuse University. I would like to publish "Rabbitwild - A Shelter in the Wilderness", written by my Great Grandfather, William S. Wicks, a gifted early American Architect and Naturalist. Wicks, a member of the first group to purchase 100,000 acres of Adirondack Wilderness with the idea that it should remain a "forever wild" preserve, in fact designed and built "Rabbitwild" within the Adirondack League Club. And so, this blog isn't about me at all, but about remembering Wicks, his legacy, love and loyalty to natural design. By happenstance, he created the same appreciation in me for all that is beautiful, by nature.

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