See biography by J. Monaghan (1952).
Ned Buntline (March 20, c. 1821 – July 16, 1886), was a pseudonym of Edward Zane Carroll Judson (E. Z. C. Judson), an American publisher, journalist writer and publicist best known for his dime novels and the Colt Buntline Special he commissioned from Colt's Manufacturing Company.
Edward Judson was born in Stamford, Delaware County, New York. As a boy, Ned ran away to sea. "Buntline" is a nautical term for a rope at the bottom of a square sail. As a seaman, he fought in the Seminole Wars, though he saw little combat. After four years he resigned, having reached the rank of midshipman. Buntline spent several years in the east starting up newspapers and story papers, only to have most of them fail. An early success that helped launch his fame was a gritty serial story of the Bowery and slums of New York City titled "The Mysteries and Miseries of New York." An opinionated man, he strongly advocated nativism and temperance. Through his writing and his association with New York City's notorious gangs of the early 1800s, he was one of the instigators of the Astor Place Riot which left 23 people dead. He also had an involvement in a nativist riot in St. Louis—an involvement that would later come back to haunt him. Although a heavy drinker, he traveled around the country giving lectures about temperance. It was on one of these lecture tours that he encountered Buffalo Bill.
While traveling through Nebraska, Buntline heard that Wild Bill Hickok was in Fort McPherson. Having read a popular article about the Wild West figure, Buntline hoped to interview Hickok with the desire to write a dime novel about him. Finding Hickok in a saloon, he rushed up to him saying "There's my man! I want you!". By this time in his life, Hickok had an aversion to surprises. He threatened Buntline with a gun and ordered him out of town in twenty-four hours. Buntline took him at his word and left the saloon. Still looking to get information on his subject, Ned took to finding Hickock's friends. It is likely that this is how he first met "Buffalo Bill," whose real name was William Cody. Traveling with Cody on an Indian scout, Buntline became enamored with the gregarious man. He gave up his desire to write a novel about Hickok and he decided to write one on Cody instead.
Cody at first was a reluctant hero. Buntline's dime novel series: Buffalo Bill Cody—King of the Border Men was a fantastic success. Buntline immediately began cajoling Cody to come east and take part in a stage play. Cody at first resisted, but after an eastern trip financed by wealthy newspapermen, decided he enjoyed the spotlight after all. Buntline wrote a play titled "Scouts of the Prairie," which opened in Chicago in December of 1872. Although panned by critics, the play was a great success, and it was performed to packed theaters across the country.
While successful, Cody found he couldn't keep the money he made, nor stand the eccentricities of Buntline. At the height of its popularity, the show closed in June 1873, and Cody and Buntline went their separate ways.
Buntline continued to write dime novels, though none were as successful as his earlier work. He settled into his home in Stamford, New York, where he died of congestive heart failure in 1886. Although he was once the wealthiest author in America, his wife had to sell his beloved home "The Eagle's Nest" to pay the bills.