Originally featured in Points West magazine in Summer 2018
The Traveling Desk of Nate Salsbury
This mahogany traveling desk served Nate Salsbury as he managed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West during its various tours. He was born in Freeport, Illinois, in 1846, and became an orphan at the age of eight. Salsbury then lived with his stepfather, Jedutha Fuller, but ran away after years of being overworked and abused.
At age fifteen, Salsbury enlisted in the Union Army’s 15th Illinois Infantry as a drummer boy, serving one year. In 1863, he enlisted in the 89th Illinois Infantry and served until mustered out in February 1865. After the war, Salsbury briefly attended a commercial college in Aurora, Illinois, before deciding to become an actor. He later organized the comedy troupe Salsbury’s Troubadours and produced a show titled Black America with an all African-American group of five hundred performers. Salsbury joined William F. Cody in 1884 to form Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and served as vice president until his death in 1902.
Salsbury and his second wife Rachel Samuels had four children: two sons, Nathan and Milton, and twin daughters, Rachel and Rebecca, who were born in England during the Wild West’s second tour of Europe. Rebecca gave this desk to her nephew, Warren James Oakes, shortly before her death in 1968. Oakes donated it to the Buffalo Bill Museum.
Special thanks to Ellen Salsbury, Nate’s great-granddaughter, for contributing the biographical information.
Traveling desk, mahogany, ca. 1898–1905. 1.69.1788