Rare "Buffalo Bill" Smoking Automaton By Vichy, C.
Rare "Buffalo Bill" Smoking Automaton by Vichy, c. 1890
Modelled as the Western hero William F. Cody, with cigarette-holder in one hand, the other resting nonchalantly on the muzzle of his gun, with articulated mouth and eyelids, carved bone teeth, flowing blonde mohair wig, sheepskin beard and moustache, the going-barrel mechanism and bellows in the body causing Buffalo Bill to raise a lighted cigarette to his lips, turn his head, blink, open his mouth to exhale and tilt his head back as though savouring the experience, dressed in bead-trimmed suede jacket with fur collar, breeches, boots and felt hat, height 28 in. (71 cm) with hat, with Vichy key and "acorn" stop/start. This automaton commemorates William F. Cody, born in Iowa in 1846. A sometime cattle-herder, wagon train driver and gold prospector, Cody served as a soldier in the Seventh Kansas Calvary and as Chief of Scouts in the Fifth Calvary during the American Civil War, however it was his prowess hunting buffalo to feed the crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad that earned Cody his title. In 1882 Cody began touring "Buffalo Bill's Wild West", often featuring other famous acts, including Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. Performances in England for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 ensured that Buffalo Bill remained a celebrated household name on both sides of the Atlantic long after his death in 1917. A rare example of an automaton depicting a named person, Buffalo Bill was a modèle despose in the Vichy catalogue. An impressive smoker in excellent restored working order as well as a fascinating piece of Americana. - Literature: Bailly, "Automata, the Golden Age", p. 107.