Beautiful RARE certificate from the Pawnee Bill Oil Co.
in 1918. This historic document has an ornate border around it with a vignette of an oil scene. This item has the signatures of the Company’s President, Gordon W. Lillie (Pawnee Bill) and Secretary, and is over 100 years old.
G. W. Lillie's (Pawnee Bill) signature on certificate
Pawnee Bill (1860–1942) was born Gordon William Lillie, he became famous as a Wild West showman and performer.
Best known for his short partnership with Buffalo Bill, Pawnee Bill was born February 14, 1860 in Bloomington, Illinois. Pawnee Bill and his show made several false starts during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In one of his original shows, Pawnee Bill listed C. W. Lillie as the exclusive manager of the Pawnee Bill Historic Wild West Show Extravaganza. During that period, Pawnee Bill used Chester, Pennsylvania as his winter headquarters. At the time there was easy access to the rail ways there (now abandoned) through Delaware County, Pennsylvania. That rail way line had been running for over twenty years by the time Pawnee Bill took advantage of its location and low rates to connect him and his ever-changing cast to larger railroads and larger cities. No doubt, Pawnee Bill had observed that circus people had been riding the rails since the late 1860s. He was a quick-witted man who generally chose not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to pursue success along tried and true pathways. The US Transcontinental railroad had been a military necessity during the US Civil War. During the Victorian Era in the United States, those same railways were used to transport Wild West Shows, buffalo and other wild animal displays, trick riders, and spectacular reenactments of military might from around the globe. Eventually, Pawnee Bill was invited to collaborate with Buffalo Bill, whose reputation and shows had expanded not only across the North American continent but also to other countries via the railroads.
.Lillie married young and petite May Manning in 1886. In 1888 the Lillies launched their own Wild West show: "Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West". May starred in the show as the “Champion Girl Horseback Shot of the West.” Their first season was a financial disaster. They re-organized as a smaller operation called “Pawnee Bill’s Historical Wild West Indian Museum and Encampment Show.” The show was popular but not lucrative. Gordon Lillie added Jose Barrera to the cast; he was widely popular performing as "Mexican Joe". In 1907 Lillie hired performers from a variety of backgrounds. The show included Mexican cowboys, Pawnee, Japanese performers, and Arab jugglers. The ensemble debuted as “Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show.” In 1908 Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill joined forces and created the "Two Bills' show. That show was foreclosed on when it was playing in Denver, Colorado.
While Gordon Lillie had been on tour, May supervised the buffalo ranch. The Lillies completed work on their Arts-and-Crafts style home on Blue Hawk Peak in 1910. Pawnee Bill invested in banking, real estate, and oil. He operated various business interests and dabbled in film making at his ranch. In 1930 May and Pawnee Bill opened Pawnee Bill’s Old Town near the ranch. They sold Indian and Mexican crafts, and featured annual rodeos. That enterprise burned to the ground in the 1930s and was never rebuilt.
In 1936 the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Taos, New Mexico. In September of that year they attended a local celebration in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While driving back to their ranch that night, Pawnee Bill lost control of their vehicle. May died as a result of her injuries and Pawnee Bill never fully recovered. He died in his sleep in 1942.
History from Wikipedia and
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