But Twain disagreed

The Wild West Show could also, as “Hamilton” does now, become a lightning rod for political concerns.  Consider what happened on April 2, 1901, when a new version of the show featuring a reenactment of a 1900 battle fought in China premiered at Madison Square Garden.  Like the “Hamilton” performance that Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended in November, there was a famous man in the crowd that night, Mark Twain. The audience loved the show, but Twain disagreed with Buffalo Bill’s interpretation of the Boxer War.  The next day, newspapers wrote that Twain walked out of the show in disgust, with an expression “as sour as a German pickle,” as one journalist put it. A leading voice in the anti-imperialist camp of the day, Twain viewed the anti-Christian Boxers as “patriots” fighting foreign encroachment on China, whereas Cody portrayed them as bloodthirsty fiends.

–Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Buffalo Bill–A Truth-Bending Showman for Our Times?

Unless Twain, pausing as he left after the show to listen to a tendentious speech specifically addressed to him by Buffalo Bill, and having applauded with apparent sincerity during the performance several times, had been booed by half the crowd upon entering and walked out smiling anyway, the contexts and particulars Wasserstrom cites are so different that it’s tough to detect any insight here, apart from the idea that famous political figures, then as now, occasionally attend performances that may challenge their worldviews.


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