ROGUES and ADVENTURERS
who turned to
Caravaggio's self-portrait as sick Bacchus, god of wine and pleasure in Greek and Roman mythology, combines artistic virtuosity and palpable suffering. He painted it in 1593-94, soon after his arrival in Rome.
The Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio was an artist-rebel whose tempestuous life matched the drama of his paintings. Even as he attempted to capture divine light on canvas, the sublimely gifted artist descended onto a vortex of criminality and violence.
Enraged, Caravaggio stood on the beach at Porto Erozle, on the Tuscan coast, and hurled abuse at the ship disappearing over the horizon with all his belongings on board. Sailing from Naples to Porto Ercole to await a papal pardon that would allow him to return to Rome, he had clearly walked into a trap. No sooner had he come ashore than he was arrested and held in custody. Now he found himself with no money and no papal reprieve to bring his four-year exile to an end. By midday, his rage had become a fever. For the next few days the artist fought for his life, but died on July 18, 1610, his colourful and violent career at an end.
A BRAWLER, PHILANDERER AND GANGSTER
Accounts of the final months of the life of the painter known as 'Il Caravaggio' after his birthplace are very contradictory. What is certain is that just as the artist displayed a masterly use of light and shade in his paintings, so his life was characterised by dramatic ups and downs. Tellingly, the principal source of information about Caravaggio's life and character are police reports of the period, full of charges including insults to honour, illicit love affairs, brawling and even manslaughter.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born near Bergamo in Lombardy, northern Italy, on September 28, 1571. Just before his 13th birthday, he was apprenticed to the painter Simone Peterzano. His career as an independent artist only began after his move to Rome, in around 1590. Caravaggio's paintings showed talent from the very beginning. But he was one among many struggling young artists in the city, and was often too poor to buy food. He also made enemies by pouring scorn on his colleagues' artistic efforts and showing no respect for recognised masters. In spite of his arrogance, before long Caravaggio secured powerful patrons in Rome's aristocratic and ecclesiastical circles, who supplied him with major commissions.
FAME AND RECOGNITION
By the end of the 1590s it was impossible for the artistic establishment in Rome to ignore Caravaggip. His early subjects were scenes from everyday life which, in their naturalistic depiction of human figures, shunned the idealization that was conventional at the time. Within a few years, Caravaggio had found his characteristic style. His use of chiaroscuro (dramatic contrasts of light and shade) typified all his major worked. His painting became dominated by themes from Christian history. Between 1599 and 1602 he produced three large canvases for the Chapel of Cardinal Contarelli in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesci. The Inspiration of St Matthew, The Martyrdom of St Matthew and The Calling of St Matthew were consummate expressions of his skill. He also created his celebrated works, The Crucifixion of St Peter and Conversion on the Road to Damascus, in the Chapel of Tiberio Cerasi in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.
Artists' trials and tribulations
. The Dutch artist purchased so many objets d'art, costumes and rare collectors' items for his own art collection that he was forced to declare himself bankrupt in 1656.
Although his hands had been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, in the final years of his life the French painter Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) continued to turn out a large number of paintings and bronze sculptures.
In 1889, after suffering a series of fits, and cutting off part of his ear, the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh voluntarily committed himself to an asylum.
OUTLAW ON THE RUN
But despite his divine subject matter, Caravaggio was a drinker, womaniser and a hot-blooded brawler. In May 1606, in a duel following either a disputed tennis match score - or over a prostitute whose services both men sought - he fatally wounded the painter Ranuccio Tommasoni. Caravaggio fled Rome with a price on his head. He went to Naples and then Malta, where he was given a hearing by Alof de Wignacourt, Grand Master of the Order of St John Hospitaller. He was even received into the order as a Knight Second Class. But before long, after insulting and wounding one of his superiors, he was held in Valletta's fortress. He managed to escape, fleeing to Sicily, fearing pursuit by vengeful knights.
In exile Caravaggio continued to paint, his art becoming darker and more deeply shadowed. He longed to return to Rome, but only the Pope's pardon could end his desperate exile. Encouraged by news that influential people were interceding on his behalf, Caravaggio moved north to Naples in the autumn of 1609. There he was attacked and so seriously disfigured that it took him months to recover, all the while hoping for eventual forgiveness by the Pope. So it was that in July 1610 he sailed to Porto Ercole. By a cruel irony of fate, a letter containing the papal pardon arrived from Rome just three days after his death.
across the ICE
A pioneer of Arctic aviation, Umberto Nobile designed and piloted the first airship to fly over the North Pole. On his return he was acclaimed a hero - only to be later reviled as a coward. What went wrong?
It was a sight that polar bears would certainly never have seen before: by the light of the midnight sun on May 11, 1926, an airship more than 100 metres long appeared above the Arctic pack ice. The Norge had a single goal - to reach the geographical North Pole. At 2.20 am on the following day, the airship flew over its objective. For Lincoln Ellsworth, it was the perfect way to celebrate his 46th birthday. On board with him were 15 other crew members, including the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen and the Italian engineer Umberto Nobile.
Ellsworth, a wealthy American had funded the expedition. It embarked from Kongsford on the island of Spitsbergen, north of Norway, and ended some 3200 miles later, in Alaska. Nobile, designer of the Norge, was also its captain. Amundsen, who 15 years earlier had won the race to the South Pole against Captain Robert Falcon Scott, was the most experienced crewmember. Having spent decades on research expeditions across the Arctic and Antarctic, he was in charge of navigation - especially vital on an Arctic flight since the magnetic North Pole pulls the compass needle in the 'wrong' direction, causing navigational errors. Explorers also had to provide evidence that they had actually reached the Pole, or risk being branded as frauds.
The race to the poles
The Norwegian was the first person to reach
the South Pole, on December 14, 1911.
Robert Falcon Scott
The next month, on January 18, 1912,
the Englishman reached the South Pole.
According to his own account, the American was the first person to fly over the North Pole, on May 9, 1926.
The airship Norge
Three days later, on May 12, 1926, the airship Norge, with Umberto Nobile, Roald Amundsen and the American millionaire Lincoln Ellsworth on board, passed over the North Pole.
TENSION AMONG THE CREW
On board the Norge, Amundsen made no secret of his dislike for Nobile and criticised every aspect of the expedition, including the fact that Nobile had brought his terrier Titina along, grumbling that the dog was 'unnecessary ballast'.
Nobile suffered numerous humiliations and found himself increasingly sidelined. On May 12, 1926, Amundsen's antipathy was aggravated by the news that he had been thwarted in his goal to be the first aviator to reach the North Pole: the American Richard Byrd had flown over the Pole in an aeroplane three days ahead of him. Amundsen vented his disappointment on Nobile. Even after they returned safely, he continued to slander him in public. The two former travelling companions became bitter enemies. Nationalistic undertones were never far from the surface of this acrimonious dispute. Once the Norge reached the North Pole known as Tigishu (the Great Nail) by the indigenous Inuit - three countries' flags were dropped from the airship: the Italian and Norwegian flags and the American Stars and Stripes. On his return to Italy, Nobile was feted as a national hero, promoted to the rank of General, and shamelessly exploited by the Fascists for propaganda purposes - although all his life his political sympathies had tended to the left.
AN ITALIAN 'CONQUEST'
Umberto Nobile was born in Lauro, near Naples, on January 21, 1885. His study of maths, physics and engineering science led to an interest in aeronautical engineering. During the First World War, he worked as a designer in factories that built dirigibles for the Italian armed forces. He avoided active war service because he was declared physically unfit on three occasions by the conscription board. Yet a strong will lurked within Nobile's slight frame, fuelling a dream that progressively took shape from the mid-1920s onwards: Nobile was determined to reach the North Pole by airship.
After his painful experiences on the Norge, Nobile's second trip to the Pole two years later was conceived from the outset as an almost exclusively Italian venture. The airship was called the N2 Italia. Following a flight from Milan to Spitsbergen, the craft lifted off from Kongsfjord on its polar journey on May 23, 1928. Nobile first headed west then, on reaching a longitude of 27W, turned due north. Aided by a stiff southerly breeze, the N2 Italia made rapid progress to its goal. But the joy of the crew members was soon tempered: if that strength of tailwind was maintained, then their return journey would be into a strong headwind which would slow their progress and drain fuel reserves. They could only hope for a change of wind speed and direction. The airship reached the North Pole on May 24 at around 12.50 pm and circled it for about two hours.
Umberto Nobile in full military uniform, with airship blueprints rolled up under his arm. His first polar flight won him acclaim and promotion from Colonel to General. After the failure of the 1928 expedition, he was forced to resign his commission and faced ignominy.
Although the original plan to land on the Earth's most northerly point was abandoned because the deeply fissured surface of the pack ice made it impossible, the crew of the N2 Italia savoured their triumph. They dropped the Italian tricolour, the city banner of Milan (the airship's home base), a small medallion depicting the Virgin Mary, and a large wooden cross given to the expedition by Pope Pius XI. With the mission completed, they awarded themselves a ration of egg-nog.
The Italia crash prompted
an international search
and rescue operation.
Six countries contributed
planes and ships. Yet the
survivors spent seven
weeks stranded on the
rapidly disintegrating polar
ice flow with minimal
protection against the
cold. Among them was
a Czech explorer.
NIGHTMARE FLIGHT INTO THE UNKNOWN
Nobile was keen to set off south again, but the next morning the return flight ended in disaster. The wind direction had not changed and it was now blowing even more fiercely, burning up more fuel and causing the airship's internal framework to shake violently. The greatest danger they faced was icing. As the N2 Italia flew through freezing clouds, ice formed on the exterior surfaces. At intervals, chunks of ice broke loose, threatening to tear holes in the airship's envelope.
The greater risk was that the control surfaces would freeze up. Eventually, the elevator jammed, the nose of the airship dipped and, out of control, she headed straight for the pack ice. The captain ordered the engines to be set at full revs, which gave the airship greater lift and raised her nose just enough to avoid a crash. Yet the second time this happened, repeating the manoeuvre failed to correct the ship's altitude and the N2 Italia dropped like a stone straight onto the pack ice, with her nose pointing skywards.
On impact, most of the crew of 16 were flung out of the airship's gondola onto the ice. Nobile suffered several broken bones, but the most seriously hurt was Chief Engineer Vincenzo Pommella, who died of internal injuries. Only the dog Titina escaped the crash unscathed. As the crew who had been thrown clear of the ship lay dazed at the crash site, the second act of the tragedy unfolded. Six men were still trapped in the gondola, which was hanging from the holed and crumpled fuselage. Before they could react, the wind picked up the damaged N2 Italia and carried it off over the ice floes. The men on the ice could only look on as the wreckage with their comrades inside disappeared into the distance. They were never seen again.
MAYDAY CALLS FOR HELP
The crew trapped in the gondola must have realised immediately that they had no chance of survival, and so threw out cans of fuel, food and various pieces of equipment onto the ice. Their selfless act gave their comrades a slim chance of survival. When they went down, Chief Petty Officer Giuseppe Biagi had instinctively seized the emergency radio transmitter. Once he had regained consciousness, he signalled 'SOS Italia, SOS Italia', hoping that the mayday call might be picked up by their supply ship, Citta di Milano, lying at anchor in the Kongsfjord.
The crash had occurred at roughly 81°N and 25°E, some 60 miles off Nordaustlandet Island in the Spitsbergen archipelago. The ice floe, on which the survivors put up a red tent, drifted due south before floating off on a tortuous course through the sea of ice. Hungea; the intense cold and the injuries they had sustained, coupled with the constant fear that the ice floe might break up, made this enforced voyage a torment for the shipwrecked men. On June 6, 1928 a Russian radio ham picked up their distress calls. He alerted the world to their plight, prompting an international search and rescue mission.
SEARCH AND RESCUE
One of those who took part in this mission was Roald Amundsen. On June 18, he and ten companions took off on a reconnaissance flight from northern Norway on board a French seaplane. The continuing feud between him and Nobile would explain why Amundsen was not put in charge of the better-equipped official Norwegian search team. As a further tragedy, Amundson lost his life on this mission: a few hours after take-off from Norway, his plane radioed its last signal before disappearing without a trace into the sea of ice.
Eventually, on June 20, an Italian pilot who had spotted the red tent dropped food supplies and blankets to the survivors. Three days later, the Swedish pilot Einar Lundborg landed his aeroplane, equipped with skids, on the treacherous surface of the ice floe. He could take only one passenger with him and selected the badly injured Nobile. On his return for more survivors Lundborg damaged his plane and he had to be rescued.
Three of the men then set off to try to reach Spitsbergen. Only two were later picked up, one, Finn Malmgren having dug his own grave in the ice before he lay down to die. The other two men survived a further 12 days without food, leading some to conjecture that they may have been forced to eat their dead companion. It was three weeks before the remaining five members of the airship's stranded crew were rescued. On July 12, 1928, they finally embarked on their homeward journey on board the Soviet icebreaker Krassin.
SHUNNED AND BETRAYED
On his return to Italy, Nobile, who had aged significantly during the weeks he spent drifting on the ice floe, faced further ordeals. He was shunned even by his former Italian Air Force comrades, accused of conducting a series of foolish manoeuvres that led to the airship crashing. Many Italians regarded the accident as a national disgrace and wanted a scapegoat. It was seen as particularly shameful that Nobile had allowed himself to be rescued from his icy prison before the others. It stood to reason that only a coward would have allowed such a thing to happen. The extent of his injuries was not considered by his critics.
Relieved but suffering from severe exhaustion, Umberto Nobile and his dog, Titina, celebrate their rescue from the ice flow on June 20 by the Swedish pilot Einar Lundborg.
In 1931 following the death of his wife and having resigned his air force commission, Umberto Nobile left Italy for Russia. He initially acted as an adviser to the Russian airline Dobroljet, working on the Soviet semi rigid airship programme. In 1936, he came back to Italy, then in 1939 moved to the United States where he taught aeronautical engineering. He returned to Rome in 1945. In 1945 the Italian air force cleared him of all charges and promoted him to the rank of major general. He then taught at the University of Naples until his retirement.
Nobile died on July 30, 1978, at the age of 93, surrounded by memorabilia from his polar expeditions and the embalmed remains of his four-legged companion Titina who, in contrast to his compatriots, had remained loyal to him to the last.
The knightly virtues - loyalty, courage, justice and humility - are an integral part of what we understand by chivalry. Yet in the Middle Ages, supposedly noble knights seldom fought unless there was something in it for them. In reality, they ruthlessly pursued their own interests.
In the early months of 1462, the forces of Count Ulrich of Wurttemberg, the Margrave of Baden, the Bishop of Metz and the Bishop of Speyer cut a swathe of destruction through the territories belonging to Frederick I, the Elector Palatine, as they advanced towards the city of Heidelberg. No town, village or farmstead was safe from the ravages of their troops and only their defeat and capture at the battle of Seckenheim on June 30 put an end to their rampages.
To their surprise, Elector Frederick treated the captives with respect. At his castle in Heidelberg, he entertained them in a manner befitting their noble rank, only refusing them bread. When they questioned this, he pointed towards the scorched fields and burned villages that could be seen from the city walls, saying: "Now, tell me whose fault it is that the provisioning of my daily bread is in such a bad state. You will have to remain here until you have sowed my fields and seen their recovery.'
Although the battle itself and the events that preceded it are historical fact, what is commonly referred to as the 'Heidelberg Banquet' is actually legend. However, it vividly illustrates how the feudal system could break down and degenerate into more-or-less private wars between feuding groups of nobles and their supporters. Such abuses resulted in those who once had been seen as pure and chivalrous knights now being denigrated as nothing more than avaricious robber barons.
FROM KNIGHTS TO ROBBER BARONS
The term 'robber baron' probably originated in Germany in the 12th and 15th centuries. During the Interregnum - the period in the history of the Holy Roman Empire when there was no emperor on the throne - some powerful feudal lords along the Kirer Rhine took advantage of the absence of authority to levy unauthorized and exorbitant tolls on the shipping that plied the busy river. They were prepared to back up their demands by force. Iron chains would be stretched across the river just below the surface to prevent ships getting past the castles they had illegally constructed on the riverside. Nor were these greedy pirate lords above stealing the actual ships, stripping them of their rich cargoes and kidnapping their passengers. It was lawlessness on a grand scale.
Eventually the Rhine League put the robber barons of the Rhine out of business after laying siege to their castles and destroying them. But the German experience was by no means unique. Throughout medieval Europe, many noblemen made
A party of medieval travellers is set on by a band of outlaw knights. Weak rule often led to the breakdown of law and order and the emergence of over-powerful nobles, impelled by self-interest and personal ambition.
their livings by robbing unfortunate travellers who crossed their vast estates, or worse, imprisoning them in their castle dungeons until a ransom was paid.
WEAK KINGS AND AMBITIOUS NOBLES
In France, the first Capetian kings were weak rulers who failed to master their kingdom for a century. As a result, dukes and counts ran their own regions almost wholly independently. The resulting disorders grew to such an extent that the kings, fearing for their lives, rarely left the safety of Paris. Only with the accession of Louis VI, who reigned from 1108 to 1137, did the French robber barons begin to be brought under royal control.
The situation was similar in England, with barons quick to take advantage of weak kings, notably Stephen, to usurp royal authority and fight each other - and the king - using their castles as their bases. It was little wonder that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described Stephen's reign as the time 'when Christ and his saints slept'. A similar sequence of events was repeated later under Henry III, Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI.
CHIVALRY AND REALITY
Baronial power was particularly strong in the area between England and Wales known as the Marches. The Marcher Barons enjoyed more power than lords anywhere else in the country. They were allowed to build castles without royal permission and to wage war against the Welsh without the king's assent. As a result, they could keep any land they conquered for themselves. They were ruthless men, who were ruthlessly ambitious.
What happened to chivalry in all of this? The short answer is that, at least as depicted in romanticised form, it never really existed. The notion was essentially the invention of medieval poets, while the 19th-century Romantic movement, with its love of Gothic castles and other chivalric symbols, ensured its continued survival. Even the robber barons turned into folk heroes. Not for the last time, what people wanted to believe was at odds with the unvarnished historical truth.
tragic obsessions of a tycoon
The entrepreneur and movie producer Howard Hughes could afford anything he wanted. He was a legendary aviator, movie mogul and womaniser. Yet he spent the last quarter of his life as a recluse, addicted to drugs and teetering on the brink of insanity.
Born on December 24, 1905, in Houston, Texas, Howard Hughes learned from an early age that money talks. His millionaire father owned the Hughes Tool company, which manufactured equipment for the oil industry and he had a comfortable childhood. Yet Hughes never graduated from high school and was only able to attend classes at the California Institute of Technology because his father gave a generous endowment to the Institute.
Pictured in 1936, Hughes was associated with Hollywood's most glamorous actresses and the American public was fascinated by him.
James Hall and Jean Harlow in a still from Hughes's epic war film Hell's Angels (1930). Directed by Hughes, it was the most expensive movie of its time, at a cost of $3.8 million. Although it lost $1.5 million at the box office, the film made Howard Hughes a major Hollywood player.
Hughes returned to Texas and enrolled at the Rice Institute in Houston, but when he was 18 his father died - and he left without his degree. His father's will decreed that Hughes was to take over the Hughes Tool Company at the age of 21. But after having himself declared to be of legal majority, Hughes appointed former racing driver Noah Dietrich as the company's head of finance. It was a stroke of genius; over the next few years, Dietrich was instrumental in driving the company's prosperity.
MOVIES AND WOMEN
Besotted by the burgeoning movie industry, in 1925 Hughes went to Hollywood. He produced three films, then turned to writing and directing. In his first film, Hell's Angels, the largest private airforce in the world was used to re-create aerial dogfights from the First World War. Two of his later films tested the limits of public morality. Scarface (1932) was censored because of its violence and Hughes had to sue to allow its release. The Outlaw (1941) was controversial for its sexually explicit advertising and content, featuring a sensational decolletage worn by its star Jane Russell. Hughes had used his engineering expertise to create the half-cup bra modelled by Russell. In 1948 Hughes took over the RKO studio. During the McCarthy era, as Hollywood was investigated for its supposedly pro-communist leanings, he was staunchly anti-communist. The studio was closed for six months while the politics of his employees were investigated - and completed pictures were re-shot if Hughes felt that their anti-communist politics weren't sufficiently clear.
Hughes's affairs with women were legendary. Although married to Ella Rice, a Houston socialite, in 1925, from 1928 he was linked to a string of movie
'I can buy anyone I like in the world.'
stars: Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Terry Moore, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and Janet Leigh.
There were also rumours of gay liaisons with a number of actors. He divorced Rice in 1929. In 1957, he married actress Jean Peters, but they divorced in 1970.
ROUND THE WORLD IN RECORD TIME
Towards the end of the 1920s, Hughes acquired a fleet of aircraft. In 1932 he formed the Hughes Aircraft division of the Hughes Tool Company. The firm went on to pioneer many innovations in aerospace technology. Hughes had acquired his pilot's licence during the filming of Hell's Angels. From then on, the most exhilarating hours of his life were spent in the air. A childhood illness had left him with tinnitus and a continual ringing in his ears. Too proud to wear a hearing aid, only in the cockpit of a plane did the ringing cease.
Flying became an obsession. Hughes set a number of world records, often in aeroplanes designed by himself. In 1935 he reached a speed of 350 miles per hour in the H-1 Hughes Racer. In 1938, he flew round the world in 3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes. But in 1946, Hughes was piloting an experimental US Airforce spy plane, the XF-11, when it developed an oil leak. Crash-landing to save the plane, he suffered numerous injuries included a crushed collar bone, six shattered ribs and third-degree bums. Only morphine made the pain bearable and Hughes became dependent on the drug for the rest of his life.
FLYING INTO TROUBLE
As a designer, Hughes constantly strove for superlatives. In 1942, with government support, he decided to build a series of huge flying boats to ferry troops and military equipment to Europe. But his obsessive perfectionism hindered the project; only one such aircraft was ever completed - after the end of the war. In
Hughes and his team designed a single hull flying boat capable of carrying 750 troops, with eight 3000 horsepower engines, a mammoth fuel storage and supply system, and wings 6 metres longer than a football field. Few people believed that the Spruce Goose could actually fly. On November 2, 1947, Hughes piloted the giant flying boat across a 3-mile stretch of water at Long Beach, California.
1947, in Long Beach Harbor, California, he made a test flight to prove that his flying boat - the largest aircraft in the world - really was airworthy and stop a Senate investigation. That short hop remained the only flight it ever made. The monster aircraft, the H-4 Hercules, became known as the Spruce Goose.
In 1939, at the urging of Jack Frye, president of Trans World Airlines (TWA), Hughes purchased a majority share for nearly $7 million and took control of the company. In 1956, seeking to take TWA into the jet age, he placed orders for a fleet of Boeing 707s at a cost of $400 million. To cover the cost, his outside creditors required Hughes to cede total control of TWA. He was unwilling to relinquish power and his empire began to crumble. In 1960, he was forced out of TWA, although he still owned 78 per cent of the company and battled to regain control. In 1966, he was ordered by a US federal court to sell his shares, netting him a profit of $547 million.
During the Second World War Hughes turned his aircraft company into a major defence contractor and developed close links with the government and the CIA. In 1957, he appointed Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent, head of company finance without having met him. Through Maheu, Hughes placed bribes to influential politicians, and became a CIA contractor and facilitator.
He granted Vice-President Richard Nixon's brother a loan of $205,000 that was not repaid, and Nixon lost the 1960 presidential election largely because of the scandal over the debt.
In 1966, Hughes decided to move to Las Vegas to become a casino baron. He took over the top two floors of the Desert Inn. After only ten days, the owners asked him to leave, because he was taking up suites intended for high-rolling gamblers. So he bought the hotel for $13,250,000, twice its market value. Over the next two years he acquired several other hotels and casinos from the Mafia, effectively ending mob control of the gambling city. A campaign donation of $100,000 to Nixon in 1971 ensured Hughes an easy ride from a Congressional hearing on cartels.
LONELINESS AND OBSESSION
As early as the mid-1950s, Hughes' paranoid fear of germs began to rule his life. Before touching anything, he had to wipe it with paper towels. He spent days on end sitting naked in a white leather armchair that he called his 'germ-free zone'. From 1958 he was not seen in public and restricted communication to telephone calls and letters. He eventually became a complete recluse, locked away in darkened rooms in a drug-induced daze.
Hughes died on April 5, 1976. The official cause of death was kidney failure, but he was malnourished and dehydrated, with broken hypodermic needles in his arms. His appearance had changed so dramatically over the years that the FBI had to take fingerprints to confirm his identity. Hughes did not leave a will, and there were 400 claimants to his estate. His fortune of $2 billion was shared out among his 22 cousins. But all his wealth and talent could not save Hughes from obsessions that must have made his life a living hell.
Founded the Hughes Aircraft Company.
Takes control of the airline TWA. He sells it in 1966.
Buys film studio RKO. He sells' it in 1955.
The Hughes' Medical Institute is established. All shares in Hughes Aircraft transferred to the foundation, so making the aviation company tax-exempt.
Foundation of Hughes Space and
Sale of Hughes Tool shares and renaming of the firm as the Summa Corporation signals Hughes' withdrawal from business life.
on the throne of RUSSIA
Why did Peter the Great become an apprentice shipwright in the Netherlands? On the surface, it was a strange decision - none of his predecessors had ever left Russia in time of peace, let alone taken up a trade - but it fitted in with his dream of learning from the West so that he could modernise his backward country.
The news spread like wildfire. People came in droves from all over the country to the small town of Saardam - now Zaandam - to see if the amazing story they had heard was really true. A famous person from abroad, so it was rumoured, had arrived in town and was living and working there as an apprentice in the shipyards under an assumed name. Nobody wanted to miss the chance of catching even a glimpse of this extraordinary figure, always assuming that the gossip was true.
Presently, the narrow streets were packed with curious onlookers. Then, suddenly, a hush fell as they stared in respectful silence at an imposing young man - he was 2 metres tall - who was edging his way forward, through the crush. It was Peter the Great, tsar of all the Russias, dressed as a humble workman on
Amsterdam, where tsar Peter undertook his apprenticeship as a shipbuilder, was one of the wealthiest cities in the world in the 17th century. Ships sailed from her harbour to North America, Africa, present-day Indonesia and Brazil and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. By 1700, the city's population had grown to almost 200,000.
his way to spend another day learning how to be a ship's carpenter. Could it really be true? How had the ruler of the largest empire in the world hit on such an idea?
Anyone visiting Russia at this time would have thought they had taken a step back in time into the Middle Ages. The reins of power were firmly in the grip of the Orthodox Church and the reactionary boyar aristocracy and neither saw the need for any form of change as long as they continued to prosper. Peter had other ideas. His childhood experiences - as a young boy he feared for his life during a violent rebellion involving the rival Naryshkin and Miloslavsky families as they battled to control the throne - left him with an abiding hatred of the traditionalists and
The tsar opened up a window on Western Europe for Russia.
everything they stood for. Peter was set upon modernising his country root and branch. This meant doing away with the old institutions, or at the very least bringing them firmly under his personal control. He was also determined to win his country access to the Black, Caspian and Baltic seas. Achieving this aim became the driving force behind his foreign policy. It involved turning his country into a modern military power by reforming and expanding his army and building Russia's first fleet. He wanted to create an army and a navy that would be feared and respected throughout Europe.
The rebellion also had other consequences for the future tsar. Afraid to stay on in the Kremlin, his mother, with Peter and his younger sister, took up residence at a modest hilltop estate in the village of Preobrazhensky, just outside Moscow. Peter spent the rest of his childhood and early youth there, returning reluctantly to Moscow only for important state occasions. Such was his dislike of the Kremlin and all it stood for that he and some friends founded the 'Most Drunken Council of Fools and Jesters' to ridicule court ceremonial and church ritual.
On the whole, Peter enjoyed a carefree and independent childhood, exploring the woods outside the capital and making friends with foreign tradespeople and craftsmen who had been allowed by the authorities to take up residence in the suburbs. For the most part Dutch and German emigres, they taught the young prince masonry, joinery, printing and bookbinding and how to turn ivory and wood. In the evenings, Peter would sit around with his European friends and listen eagerly to the stories they told about their homelands. He had an insatiable appetite for tales about this far-off world.
THE SHIP IN THE BARN
One day, while on a ramble through the countryside, the 16-year-old Peter and Franz Timmerman, his Dutch friend and tutor, came across a barn. Forcing open the doors they discovered the decaying hulk of a small sailing boat. Familiar with the broad-beamed, clumsily built barges that plied their trade on Russia's rivers, Peter had never seen anything like this before. Enthralled, he decided there and then that he was going to learn to sail.
Karsten Brand, another Dutch friend, repaired the boat and taught Peter how to handle her. From then on, Peter spent every free moment that he had sailing on Lake Pleshcheyevo, some 50 miles north of Moscow. It was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea.
Peter the Great, in a portrait from the 18th century, became tsar in 1682, though he shared the throne with his half-brother until 1696. He fought tirelessly to ensure that Russia caught up with developments in the West.
FROM MOCK CONFLICT TO A MAJOR WAR
These were not Peter's only obsessions. From his earliest childhood, he loved playing soldiers, organising his playmates from his mother's and neighbouring estates into mock armies. It was little wonder that, when he became the sole ruler of Russia after the death of his sickly half-brother, with whom he had been forced to share the throne, his first move was to march south into
During the time he spent working as a ship's carpenter in Saardam, tsar Peter lived in Spartan conditions in a worker's tenement dwelling.
the Crimea and attack the Tatar vassals of Turkey there. Though the campaign failed, he was not discouraged. In 1696, Peter's forces captured the town of Azov on the River Don, the first step towards winning Russia access to the Black Sea.
The struggle was by no means over, for the Turks were still a formidable military power, not prepared to accept defeat. Faced with the prospect of a long, expensive war that Russia could not afford to fight alone, Peter turned to western Europe in search of allies. This was the official reason for the despatch of a 250-strong 'Grand Embassy' to the west in March 1698. Peter urgently needed to gain western support to avoid losing the port he had just captured. He was also determined to see what the west had to offer Russia in technological and other forms of know-how. He was particularly keen to take part in the mission himself, since it gave him an opportunity to get to know the countries he was scheduled to visit at first hand.
Peter still found the pomp and circumstance of court life awkward and uncomfortable and preferred to blend into a crowd. During the victory parade to celebrate Azov's capture, spectators were amazed to witness their tsar marching as a humble drummer in the midst of the common soldiery. For his visit to Europe, Peter similarly wanted to remain incognito and so avoid having to attend wearisome official functions. If he had to meet fellow rulers on the trip, he was adamant that he would do so in private. But Peter had forgotten one thing. His very physique and general appearance made him highly conspicuous.
In Europe, Peter's reputation went before him and rumours circulated about the impending visit long before the Russians arrived. Yet Peter would not abandon his plan to become a carpenter. With six companions, he peeled off from the main delegation as soon as it crossed the Dutch frontier and went to Saardam, attracted by the town's shipyards, which built many of the 4000 vessels launched in the Netherlands each year.
On his arrival, Peter met up with Gerrit Kist, who had worked for him in Moscow and rented two rooms from him. The next morning, using the alias, Pyotr Mikhaylov, he signed on as a carpenter's apprentice at the Lynst Rogge shipyard. No one outside Peter's party, apart from Kist, who was sworn to secrecy, knew the real identity of Pyotr Mikhaylov.
THE TSAR UNMASKED
The secret could not be kept for long. Another of Peter's former Dutch workers set the ball rolling. He wrote to his father in Saardam, not only revealing the news that Peter was intending to travel incognito to Europe, but also describing his appearance in detail. As well as his height, he mentioned that the young tsar had a conspicuous wart on his face and sometimes suffered from a nervous facial tic. The father broke the news to his cronies at the local barbers. As they were debating, a tall stranger walked in, with a slight twitch and a wart. As one, they followed the newcomer as he made a hasty exit down the street.
Russia breaks through to the Baltic
Under Swedish control
At the end of the 17th century, the Baltic Sea was under the control of King Charles XII of Sweden.
Russia gains control of the Baltic
In the Great Northern War of 1700-21 Russia succeeded in putting an end to Sweden's supremacy and in decisively extending its sphere of influence over the countries that bordered the Baltic.
A leading trading nation
Thereafter it did not take Russia long to become one of the leading players in east-west trade.
The Treaty of Nystad
The Treaty of Nystad, concluded in 1721, confirmed Russia's rise to trading prominence. It was the crowning achievement of Peter I's power politics.
In the following days, the ranks of onlookers swelled. Peter was pursued by a crowd of yelling children who forced him to take refuge in a guesthouse. The mayor of Saardam had heard the rumours and Peter asked him for help. Though the mayor appealed to his fellow citizens to leave their visitor in peace, soon Peter could scarcely make it out of his front door. Barely a week after his arrival in the town, he left Saardam for Amsterdam.
A DREAM BECOMES REALITY
Once in the great port city, everything was done to help accommodate the eccentric tsar's wishes. In the shipyards of the Dutch East India Company, high walls surrounded its sheds and slipways. Peter's desire to live like an ordinary person was also respected. He secured lodgings at a master sailmaker's house and the carpenter Gerrit Glaes Pool took him on to teach him the basics of shipbuilding.
To give Peter the chance to learn the trade from the bottom up, the keel of a new frigate was specially laid down. For the next four months, from the crack of dawn, Peter swung his hammer alongside his workmates. In the evenings, when the day's work was done, he chatted with sailors and shipwrights. He also visited sawmills, museums, laboratories, printing presses and the city's botanical gardens. During his stay in the Netherlands the tsar engaged many skilled workers such as builders of locks, fortresses, shipwrights and seamen. Cornells Cruys, a vice-admiral, was to become the Tsars most important advisor in maritime affairs.
After four months, Peter travelled to England, where he stayed in a house belonging to John Evelyn, the writer and diarist, at Deptford, close to the East India Company dockyards. Evelyn was far from happy with his tenant. His steward reported that Peter's party was full of 'right nasty people' who had wrecked the house and gardens. William III was more impressed. He gave Peter a ship called the Royal Transport, one of the most modern in the British fleet, and compensated Evelyn for the damage Peter and his companions had caused.
What William would not contemplate was joining Peter in his fight against the Turks and so the tsar returned to Europe - this time to Austria, which he hoped would become his ally. The Austrians also turned him down, so he prepared to move on to Venice. As he was about to depart, news arrived that a serious rebellion had broken out against him and he quickly left Vienna for home. By the time he reached Moscow, he had been away from Russia for 17 months and 17 days. Though the uprising was crushed while he was travelling, he ordered the public execution of 1200 of the rebels, exiled many more to Siberia and sent his half-sister Sophia, whom the rebels had attempted to place on the throne, to live in a convent.
RUSSIA'S GATEWAY TO THE WORLD
Fresh from his visit to the West, Peter proceeded to remodel Russia and its people along European lines. He ordered his nobles to shave their flowing beards, get rid of their traditional kaftans and smoke tobacco. He drew up plans for a new capital at the mouth of the River Neva on the Baltic Sea, to which Russia gained access as a result of Peter's victory over the Swedes at the Battle of Poltava in 1709; Though the Great Northern War dragged on until 1721, Russia emerged from it as an unquestionably great power.
Work on St Petersburg, as Peter's new city was named, started in 1705. It officially replaced Moscow as the Russian capital in 1712. The work took many years to complete - and cost the lives of thousands of labourers - but eventually it became the great 'window on Europe' of which the tsar had dreamed. He had succeeded in his ambition of transforming his country.
THE CREATOR OF THE KILLER WHALE
Hermon Melville made his adventures at sea into the stuff of literature.But most of his efforts won him little recognition in his own lifetime. It was long after his death that Modby Dick, his greatest novel, finally won immortality as one of the glories of 19th-century American literature.
In a raging sea, after months of fruitless searching, the lookouts on board the whaler Pequod finally sighted the hump of the notorious white whale Moby Dick. A life-and-death struggle ensued. The fanatical Captain Ahab, who had lost one of his legs in an earlier clash with the beast, ordered his men to take to their whaling boats to exact his vengeance. Yet nature rather than man prevailed. Moby Dick turned on his attackers, dragged the captain down into the ocean depths and sank the Pequod. Ismael, the only survivor, told the story to the world as the narrator of Herman Melville's most celebrated novel, Moby Dick.
When Melville started to write the story of Captain Ahab's quest for revenge against the great white whale in 1850, he was well acquainted with his subject, having served on several whaling ships. His colourful life provided the source material for exciting tales of adventure: sea voyages, mutiny, desertion, and several sojourns among the exotic islanders of the South Seas.
FROM BANK TELLER TO CABIN BOY
While still a young man, Melville had embarked on more careers than most people manage in a lifetime. From an early age, he had to earn his own living. From the time of his birth, in August 1819 in New York, his once prosperous family found themselves in straitened financial circumstances. The trading company on which their fortunes depended fell deeper into financial difficulty, finally going bankrupt in 1830. Melville's father died insane two years later. The young Herman first tried his luck as a bank teller and later helped out on his uncle's farm. He spent a couple of weeks as a schoolteacher before starting to train as a land surveyor. When he failed to secure the job he hoped for, he decided to go to sea. In 1839, he signed on as a cabin boy on the St Lawrence, which sailed the transatlantic passage between New York and Liverpool.
ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH SEAS
Thus began Melville's lifelong fascination with the sea, which survived even through some dreadful early experiences of life on board ship. In 1841, he joined the crew of the whaler Acushnet, which was sailing to the South Seas, only to discover that its captain was a tyrannical despot. After 18 months, Melville and another sailor jumped ship while the Acushnet was anchored off the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Once onshore, Melville and his companion stumbled into an amazing adventure. In a remote valley on the island, they came across the mysterious Typee tribe, who were reputed to be cannibals. The two sailors did not appear to be suitable sacrificial victims so, though they were in constant fear for their lives, they spent several months among the natives without coming to harm. An opportunity for escape came in the form of the
There he blows! A hump like an iceberg
captain Ahab in Moby Dick
Australian ship Lucy Ann. Melville then sailed to Tahiti where he served time in jail for deserting the Acushnet. For a short while, he worked on a farm on the island before signing on as a crew member on another whaler, the Charles and Henry. Later, he enlisted in the US Navy and served on the frigate United States, finally stepping ashore again in Boston in October 1844.
In the meantime, the Melville family's financial situation had improved. His brother had secured a lucrative government posting to London, which gave Melville the breathing space he needed to embark on a new career. In 1846, his first book Typee, A Peep at Polynesia appeared, recounting the tale of his adventures in the South Seas. Though critics assumed that much of the story must have been made up rather than drawn from the author's experiences, the new writer's combination of exciting plot and exotic setting captured the imagination of his readers.
Spurred on by his success, Melville wrote a sequel called Omoo, published in 1847. Its reception was equally enthusiastic. The same year, he married Elizabeth Shaw, the daughter of the Chief Justice of Massachusetts, and started his next book, Mardi and a Voyage Thither. Rather than the straight adventure yarn his readers had come to expect, Melville this time produced a more philosophical book. It was a flop. Hoping to win back his lost audience, he then wrote Redburn (1849), a novel about his time as a cabin boy, and White-Jacket (1850), about his experiences in the navy. Both were only moderately successful.
Melville dreamt of a secure future as a writer and landowner, living on his own country estate. With cash from his father-in-law, he purchased the small farmstead of Arrowhead near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. There, he spent many happy days writing, working on the farm, and occasionally preparing lectures for delivery about his travels. At Arrowhead, Melville got to know Nathaniel Hawthorne, an established writer who lived in seclusion nearby. Hawthorne was to become a close friend and confidant - and he persuaded Melville to embark on his great novel about the whale. 'I hope to have a new work ready for you by the end of this coming fall,' Melville wrote to his London publisher Richard Bentley in 1851, '... an adventure novel based on certain wild legends that abound among those who hunt sperm whales in the southern seas, interspersed with real-life experiences that the author has amassed over more than two years spent as a harpoonist... I am not aware that any novelist or other writer has ever done this subject proper justice.'
For day after day Melville drafted and redrafted. Carried away by the drama of his story, he wrote feverishly about whales, the hunt and the sea and brought to vivid life the fictitious ship's crew, while weaving his own philosophical musings into the
From the end of the 17th century onwards, whalers ventured into the freezing Arctic Ocean in search of their prey. This enterprise could be a deadly business, both for the hunted and for the hunter.
narrative. The book was not a hit on either side of the Atlantic when it was published in November 1851 and was poorly reviewed into the bargain. In the 40 years that passed between its publication and Melville's death, only 3000 copies were sold.
FRUSTRATED AND FORGOTTEN
Failure and overwork gradually wore Melville down. He was also plagued by rheumatism and problems within his family. In the 1850s he took several recuperative breaks in Europe and the Holy Land. His main sources of income were the farm and short stories that he began to write for magazines. But these increasingly failed to provide him and his family with enough to live on. In frustration, Melville sold the farm in 1863 and moved to New York, where in 1866 he was employed as a customs inspector. For the next 20 years this provided his income. Disillusioned by his fiction's apparent lack of success, he began writing poetry, his principal subject being the American Civil War. Yet at the time, he also failed to make any real impact in that field. When Melville died of a heart attack in September 1891, almost no one noticed his passing, save for a few surviving admirers. The New York Times wrote 'There has died and been buried in this city...a man who is so little known, even by name, to the generation now in the vigor of life that only one newspaper contained an obituary account of him, and this but of three or four lines.' None of Melville's books were still in print - indeed, his last great work, Billy Budd, did not find a publisher until 1924, long after his death.
It was around the same time that Moby Dick began to find a growing readership and garner critical acclaim. Over the years, it has become one of the most widely read books in American literature.
A history of whaling
Medieval whale hunts
The hunting of whales for their blubber
began in the Middle Ages.
The Greenland voyages
Whalehunting in the Arctic had its heyday at the end of the 17th century when the renowned 'Greenland voyages' took place.
Whaling moves south
In the 19th century, whaling activity shifted to the South Atlantic and South Pacific. The first factory ships, which could process the catch directly, came in 1925.
Into the Antarctic
From 1934 Japanese whaling ships ventured
into Antarctic waters in the hunt for whales.
Protection for whales
In 1946, the International Whaling Commission gave whales a protected status. In spite of this, all species of whale are today threatened with extinction.
Buffalo Bill and the myth of the Wild West
Acclaimed as the 'King of Prairimen", William F. Cody was a legend in his life time. For millions he embodied the spirit of the Old West, transmuting his personal experiences into a heady picture of frontier life that still captivates the imagination.
For decades, Cody's Wild West Company enjoyed worldwide success, re-enacting vivid scenes and incidents from the Wild West's absorbing story, Cody himself played the role of his alter ego, Buffalo Bill, while other company members included Native American chiefs and cowboys.
William Frederick Cody - better known as Buffalo Bill - gave ordinary people the chance to venture into his extraordinary world, and all for the price of an entrance ticket.
Cody was only 23 when his already eventful life started to become the stuff of legend. As time went by, fictional exploits attributed to him combined with adventures he had actually experienced to create a picture that was part truth and part fantasy. After 1882, when Cody started to tour the USA and Europe with his Wild West Show, he became one of the best-known personalities of the day. By the end of the century, Buffalo Bill was probably the most famous man in the world.
BIRTH OF A LEGEND
Following his father's death in 1857, Cody and his mother moved to Kansas. There he worked as a cattle herder, a wrangler and as a mounted courier for a railroad freight company. In 1859, he tried prospecting for gold during the Pikes Peak gold rush in Colorado before signing on the next year as one of the 200 riders employed by the Pony Express Company, the new mail delivery service, which prided itself on being the fastest in America.
The Pony Express advertised for 'skinny expert riders willing to risk death daily' and at the age of 14, Cody fitted the bill. He then became a scout for the US Cavalry scouting for the army in campaigns against the Kiowa and Apache before serving with the
'I believe that man is closer to God in the great, wide-open spaces of the West.' William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody
Seventh Cavalry during the American Civil War (1861-65), when he saw action in Missouri and Tennessee. After the war, he married Louisa Frederici in St Louis, and continued to scout and serve as a despatch rider for the cavalry detachments stationed at Fort Ellsworth in Kansas.
THE INTREPID 'BUFFALO BILL'
In 1867, Cody entered the service of the Kansas Pacific Railroad Company - then called the Union Pacific Eastern Division - which, in order to feed its hungry construction crews, was advertising for marksmen to hunt American bison (buffalo). Cody claimed to have shot 4280 bison in just 17 months. The nickname 'Buffalo Bill' came as the result of winning an eight-hour shooting contest with a rival buffalo hunter called William Comstock. Presumably, the contest was to decide which of the two deserved the name.
Two years later, Buffalo Bill made his debut on paper, when the first novel featuring him as its hero appeared. Ned Buntline penned the first in a seemingly endless series of romantic tales, inspired by talk and newspaper reports of Cody's heroic exploits. When Cody died, more than a thousand 'dime novels', had been produced, most by Prentiss Ingraham and some by Cody himself.
Cody's reputation for bravery was well founded. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his scouting work, having served as Chief of Scouts with the Fifth Cavalry from 1868 onwards and taking part in no fewer than 16 battles against Native American tribes. The Fifth Cavalry came to regard him as a good luck talisman, as in all the battles that he fought, he was hurt only once - with a 'a slight scalp wound'. Clearly a Native American brave had been out to scalp him.
TAKING TO THE STAGE
In addition to novels, Ned Buntline wrote a play about Buffalo Bill called Buffalo Bill, King of Border Men, which Cody saw in New York in the autumn of 1871. Though Buntline and other theatrical managers tried to persuade Cody to take to the stage, their advances were rejected. Cody wrote, 'I told them I would rather face a thousand Indians' - but Buntline's persistence and the lure of easy cash wore him down. In December 1872 in Chicago, Cody played himself in Buntline's new play The Scouts of the Prairie. It was a runaway success. Buffalo Bill had proved himself a natural showman.
The next year, Cody founded his own theatrical company, the 'Buffalo Bill Combination'. Two other famous scouts, Texas Jack and Wild Bill Hickok, appeared alongside him. Although the two did not remain with the company for long - Hickok had a penchant for 'shooting the supers in the legs with powder to see them jump' - Cody went on playing in melodramas about life in the West for many years. The performances usually took place during the winter, as in summer he was drawn back to the real West, to work as a scout again.
In the summer of 1876, there was heavy fighting between the US Army and the Native Americans, so the Fifth Cavalry sought Cody's help again. But in July, General George Armstrong Custer, the Fifth Cavalry's commander and a popular hero, was killed at the battle of the Little Bighorn and his command decimated. In the massacre's aftermath, Cody is said to have pledged that he would take the scalp of a chieftain in Custer's memory. Shortly afterwards he did indeed scalp the Cheyenne chief Yellow Hair (Cody mistakenly called him Yellow Hand).
To this day, it is unclear exactly what happened. Cody claimed that he shot the chief with a rifle, stabbed him in the heart and finally scalped him 'in about five seconds'. Or it may be that Yellow Hair had already fallen in battle when Cody lifted his scalp. Regardless of the truth, the deed further enhanced Cody's reputation. The papers reported the incident widely and Cody immediately wrote a melodrama based on it: Buffalo Bill's First Scalp for Custer, which was premiered that autumn.
Even though show business was now Cody's main occupation, he did not totally abandon his career as a scout. In 1890, Cody and a number of Native Americans from his troupe succeeded in brokering peace following hostilities between the army and a number of tribes. He was also called upon to help to restore order after the Seventh Cavalry massacred more than 300 Sioux at the battle of Wounded Knee.
Chief Sitting Bull of the Sioux, and the tribes that fought with him, won an overwhelming victory over General Custer and the US Fifth Cavalry at Little Bighorn River in July 1876. Sitting Bull was granted amnesty by the US government in 1881. In later life he toured with the Wild West Show where he would curse the audience in his native Lakota language.
The founding of Buffalo Bill's city
A new town for a new frontier
Bill Cody was a keen proponent of progress in the American West. He had little time for nostalgic memories of what the West had been like in the frontier days before it became civilised.
The establishment of Cody
In 1896, along with a number of other investors, he founded the city that bears his name in Wyoming.
A water source
To supply the new city with water, the Buffalo Bill Dam was constructed in 1904. This, was a key element in its future growth.
The gateway to Yellowstone
Nowadays, the city of Cody is a popular tourist destination, not least thanks to its proximity to the Yellowstone National Park.
THE WILD WEST SHOW
The Wild West Show or the 'Old Glory Blow Out' appeared for the first time in North Platte, Nebraska, in 1882. It was a combination of rodeo, circus, pageant and play performed in the open air.
Dramatic scenes of life in the untamed West were played out - a bison hunt, an Indian attack on the Dead wood Stage involving real Indians, and a Pony Express ride - with each performance ending with a dramatic re-enactment of Custer's Last Stand. Some of the Lakota Sioux who had taken part in the real battle were involved in the restaging, while all the cowboys and cowgirls in the show were equally authentic. What was more, the cowgirls were paid the same as their male counterparts, almost unheard of at that time. A champion of equal opportunities, Cody called for women to be given the vote. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was as much a history lesson as it was entertainment. It satisfied the audience's cravings for sensation while at the same time stirring nostalgic feelings for the old days. By the end of the 19th century the West had been largely settled. Anyone who had never seen the country when it was still 'wild' and 'uncivilised' turned to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to find out what it had been like.
The show ran for 30 years - ten of them touring Europe - and it was a success everywhere. In 1887, it was the main attraction of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Attractions included sharpshooter Annie Oakley and for a season, the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull - billed as 'the slayer of General Custer'. In 1893, Cody renamed the show the 'Congress of Rough Riders of the World' and invited Cossacks and other horsemen to take part.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
In 1908, Cody amalgamated his show with 'Pawnee Bill's Great Far East', a counterpart extravaganza with a vaguely Far Eastern rather than a Wild Western flavour. Two years later he embarked on a grand 'Farewell Tour', only to find that he could not afford to retire. Although he had earned a great deal of money from the show, he spent most of it in ranching, mining, irrigation, publishing and town building schemes that failed to pay off, at least during his lifetime. He was forced to take out a massive loan to keep the show on the road and, when he was unable to pay it back on time, the show had to be put up for auction.
For the rest of his life, Cody had to appear as a hired hand in other people's Wild West shows. But he was by no means a beaten man. In 1913, he founded a movie company to produce films about the Indian Wars. Despite having fought against the Native Americans for much of his life, Cody was an advocate of their cause, as early as 1879 warning the US government 'never to make a single promise to the Indians that is not fulfilled'. He never tired of pointing out that they, as the original inhabitants of America, had had every right to defend their territories.
Cody died in January 1917. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried at the summit of Lookout Mountain in a tomb blasted from the solid rock.
TO BE CONTINUED