Burke, John M.

Buffalo Bill’s famed press agent, one of the great public relations legends

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Description:
(“Major”, “Arizona John”, d. 1917) Buffalo Bill Cody’s promotions manager, press agent in chief, advance man, fixer, and perhaps his best and most loyal friend 1884-1917. The promotion of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show incorporated advertising, public relations, and integrated marketing communication strategies and tactics. Burke increased the “brand equity“ of the Buffalo Bill product through effective and strategically sound advertising and public relations campaigns. For example, building upon the long circus tradition in American folk culture, Burke staged parade events headed by Buffalo Bill to generate major press coverage when the Wild West Show arrived in local communities. Prior to meeting the great showman, Burke served a valuable apprenticeship as a newspaperman, a stock company actor, manager of an acrobatic troupe, and manager of Guiseppina Morlacchi, an Italian dancer who introduced the cancan to America in Boston in 1867. Once he joined the Show, he served as Cody’s buffer and apologist, retrieved his blunders, and occasionally was the lightening rod for Cody’s wrath. He was the keeper of the flame, a role he regarded as near sacred. He knew show business and his crowning glory was establishing Buffalo Bill in the public mind as the epitome of the plainsmen, credited with conquering the West. Burke had “a way” with Indians, it was said, and he closely honored his promises to them. It was perhaps this reputation for fair-dealing that got Burke an audience with Sitting Bull in 1885, at the time living at the Standing Rock Indian Agency in Dakota Territory. Burke journeyed to the reservation in June, and discussed the possibility of Sitting Bull joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Sitting Bull had been badly used the previous year by a showman named Colonel Alvarez Allen, yet Burke was convincing and did not make any promises that he would not or could not keep. He paid Sitting Bull $50 a week, an advance, a bonus, and all expenses; Sitting Bull had a codicil added so he would have the sole right to sell photographs and signatures, and would be allowed to charge to have photographs taken with him. Burke and Cody treated him fairly and did not renege on any of their promises to him. He wrote an 1893 biography of Cody, "'Buffalo Bill' from Prairie to Palace," 1st book-length biography written by a public relations practitioner. He died 4 months after Cody. Pencil ALS on 8 ½ x 6 thin tan paper, no place, no date, to “My dear Captain”, in full: "Did I or did I not – if not why did you not – call up that [?] but I think if I have forgotten hotels – do forgive me. Enclosed find apology. See you tomorrow morning. Yours truly [signed]”. Uncommon autograph!

Condition: Good, a tape repair on verso causes small stain afects one word; few tiny edge nicks
Type:Letter






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