On This Day: Ned Buntline, Dime Novelist
Edward Zane Carroll Judson was born on March 20, 1886 in Stamford, Delaware County, New York. He ran away from home as a boy and took to the sea, taking on the name Ned Buntline, which he would use for the rest of his life—a “buntline” is the rope at the bottom of a square sail.
Buntline stayed at sea several years, fighting in the Seminole Wars and achieving the rank of midshipman, before retiring and creating various eastern newspapers, including Ned Buntline’s Own. While in Fort McPherson on a lecture tour, Buntline crossed paths with Wild Bill Hickock and tried to interview him for a dime novel. Hickock refused and ordered Buntline out of town at gunpoint. Instead, the reporter located Hickock’s friend William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, and decided to write about him instead.
The Buffalo Bill Cody-King of the Border Men dime novel series was an enormous success and Buntline followed it with a play, Scouts of the Prairie, which opened in Chicago in December 1872. The two men had severe differences of opinion and temperament, however. As a result, the show closed in June of the following year, and Buntline and Cody went their separate ways.
Buntline continued to write dime novels, but none matched his earlier success—he was close to penniless by the time he died of congestive heart failure in 1886.