THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL
THE WILD WEST IN ENGLAND.
When the season of 1882-1883 closed I found myself richer by several
thousand dollars than I had ever been before, having done a splendid
business at every place where my performance was given in that year.
Immense success and comparative wealth, attained in the profession of
showman, stimulated me to greater exertion and largely increased my
ambition for public favor. Accordingly, I conceived the idea of
organising a large company of Indians, cow-boys, Mexican vaqueros,
famous riders and expert lasso throwers, with accessories of stage
coach, emigrant wagons, bucking horses and a herd of buffaloes, with
which to give a realistic entertainment of wild life on the plains.
To accomplish this purpose, which in many respects was a really
herculean undertaking, I sent agents to various points in the far
West to engage Indians from several different tribes, and then set
about the more difficult enterprise of capturing a herd of buffaloes.
After several months of patient work I secured the services of nearly
fifty cow-boys and Mexicans skilled in lasso-throwing and famous as
daring riders, but when these were engaged, and several buffaloes,
elk and mountain sheep were obtained, I found all the difficulties
had not yet been overcome, for such exhibitions as I had prepared to
give could only be shown in large open-air enclosures, and these were
not always to be rented, while those that I found suitable were often
inaccessible by such popular conveyances as street cars. The expenses
of such a show as I had determined to give were so great that a very
large crowd must be drawn to every exhibition or a financial failure
would be certain; hence I soon found that my ambitious conception,
instead of bringing me fortune, was more likely to end in disaster.
But having gone so far in the matter I determined to see the end
whatever it might be.
In the spring of 1883 (May 17th) I opened the Wild West Show at
the fair grounds in Omaha, and played to very large crowds, the
weather fortunately proving propitious. We played our next engagement
at Springfield, Ill., and thence in all the large cities, to the
seaboard. The enterprise was not a complete financial success during
the first season, though everywhere our performances were attended by
NATE SALSBURY JOINS ME AS A PARTNER
Though I had made no money at the end of the first year, the profit
came to me in the way of valuable experience and I was in no wise
discouraged. Flattering offers were made me by circus organisations
to go on the road as an adjunct to their exhibitions, but I refused
them all, determined to win success with my prairie Wild West Show or
go down in complete failure. The very large patronage I received
during my first season convinced me that if I could form a
partnership with some one capable of attending to the management and
business details that the enterprise would prove a magnificent
success, a belief which I am glad to say was speedily realized.
My career on the stage threw me in contact with a great many
leading stars, and I came to have an acquaintanceship with nearly all
my contemporary American actors. Among those with whom I became most
intimate was Nate Salsbury, a comedian whose equal I do not believe
graces the stage of either America or England today. Aside from his
popularity and wealth, acquired in legitimate comedy, I knew him to
be a reliable friend, and withal endowed with a rare business
sagacity that gave him the reputation of being one of the very best,
as well as successful, managers in the show business. Knowing his
character as such, I approached him with a proposition to join me as
an equal partner, in putting the Wild West entertainment again on the
road. The result of my overtures was the formation of a partnership
that still continues, and under the new management and partnersmp of
Cody & Salsbury, the Wild West has won all its glory.
The reader will pardon a digression from the general scope of this
autobiography for the probably more interesting, though all too
brief, allusion to the career of my esteemed partner, who has won
success in life by struggles quite as difficult and trying as any
through which I have passed.
Nate (Nathan) Salsbury was born in Freeport, Ill., in 1846, when
his parents were in such humble circumstances that his early training
was all in the direction of "digging sand and sawing wood." As there
was little to bind his affections to the home of his nativity, when
the war broke out Nate joined the Fifteenth Illinois, with which he
remained, as a private in the ranks, sixteen months. In 1863 he again
enlisted and participated in a dozen battles and was wounded three
times. His career as an active participant was terminated by his
capture and incarceration in Andersonville prison, where he remained
subjected to all the horrors of that dreadful pen for a period of
seven months. Being at length exchanged he returned home and entered
the law office of Judge Beck, now Chief Justice of Colorado, with the
idea of becoming a lawyer. A few months of office study and
attendance at commercial school only served to impress him with the
idea that the profession would still have a fairly large membership
even though his name were not added to the list. Abandoning his
former expectations he went to school for a time and in the class
exhibitions and amateur theatricals of his town developed a desire to
go on the stage.
The first experience Nate had in search of a crown for his
greatest ambition was far from a pleasant one. Having saved up less
than a score of dollars he went to Grand Rapids, Mich., and there
made application of the Opera House managers, Johnson, Oates &
Hayden, for a situation. Mr. Oates asked him his line of business to
which Nate modestly replied "Oh, anything." "Well," said Oates, "what
salary do you expect?" "Oh, anything," was the equally prompt
response. Seeing that the applicant had evidentlv not yet passed the
threshhold of the profession, Oates said to him, in an indifferent
manner. "I will give you twelve dollars a week and you'll be
d&emdash;d lucky if you get a cent." He didn't; but he entered the
profession, which was the next best thing.
From Grand Rapids Nate went to Detroit, where he remained three
months without advancing himself either financially or
professionally. Somewhat discouraged he returned to his Illinois
home, but only to stay a few months, when his restless ambition
prompted him to try his fortune in the East. Accordingly he went to
Baltimore, and thence to Boston, where he secured a situation at the
Boston Museum with a salary of twelve dollars per week. Here his
talent was soon discovered by the management, who raised his salary
to a twenty-eight dollars per week. Others also saw the budding
genius of Nate and after playing a season at the Museum he accepted
the position of leading heavy man at Hooley's theater in Chicago.
His progress thenceforward was rapid, as his popularity grew apace
and his salary rose with every new engagement. But there was too much
originality in the man to permit of him remaining a member of a stock
company, so at the conclusion of his second season at Hooley's he
conceived and constructed a comedy entertainment, with eight people
in the cast, to which he gave the title of "The Troubadours." For
twelve years this organization, as originally formed, with very
slight changes, continued on the road and played repeatedly in all
the largest cities with splendid success.
Following "The Troubadours," Nate wrote another comedy, called
"Patchwork," which had a run of eighteen months, and then he brought
out his most successful comedy, "The Brook" which he wrote entire in
eight hours, and at a single sitting. This piece he played
continuously for five years, making a large amount of money and
pleasing millions of people, until he joined me and took the active
management of the Wild West Show, which compelled him to withdraw
from the stage.
A BIGGER SHOW PUT ON THE ROAD
Immediately upon forming a partnership with Salsbury we set about
increasing the company and preparing to greatly enlarge the
exhibition. Nearly one hundred Indians, from several tribes, were
engaged, among the number being the world famous Chief Sitting Bull,
and several other Sioux tat had distinguished themselves in the
Custer massacre. Besides these we secured the services of many noted
plainsmen, such as Buck Taylor, the great rider, lasso thrower and
Kind of the Cowboys; Utah Frank, John Nelson, and a score of other
well-known characters. We also captured a herd of elk, a dozen
buffaloes and some bears with which to illustrate the chase.
THE SHOW IS DUMPED INTO THE MISSISSIPPI
Our vastly enlarged and reorganized company gave daily exhibitions in
all the large cities to enormous crowds during the summer of 1884,
and in the fall we started for New Orleans to spend the winter
exhibiting at the Exposition Grounds. We accordingly chartered a
steamer to transport our property and troupe to the Crescent City.
Nothing of moment transpired on the trip until we were near Rodney
Landing, Miss., then our boat collided with another and was so badly
damaged that she sank in less than an hour. In this accident we lost
all our personal effects, including wagons, camp equipage, arms,
ammunition, donkeys, buffaloes and one elk. We managed, however, to
save our horses, Deadwood coach, band wagon, and &emdash;ourselves.
The loss thus entailed was about $20,000.
As soon as I could reach a telegraph station I hastily sent a
telegram to Salsbury, who was with the Troubadours at Denver, as
follows: "Outfit at bottom of the river, what do you advise?" As I
learned afterwards, Salsbury was just on the point of going upon the
stage to sing a song when my rueful telegram was handed him. The news
hit him hard, but in no wise disconcerted him; stepping to the
speaking tube connecting with the orchestra he shouted to the leader,
"Play that symphony again and a little louder, I want to think a
minute." As the music struck up he wrote out the following message:
"Go to New Orleans, reorganize and open on your date," which I
received and promptly complied with his instructions.
In eight days I had added to the nucleus that had been saved a
herd of buffalo and elk, and all the necessary wagons and other
properties, completing the equipment so thoroughly that the show in
many respects was better prepared than at the time of the accident
&emdash;and we opened on our date.
A SEASON IN NEW YORK
The New Orleans exposition did not prove the success that many of its
promoters anticipated and the expectations of Mr. Salsbury and myself
were alike disappointed, for at the end of the winter we counted our
losses at about $60,000.
The following summer we played at Staten Island, on the
magnificent grounds of Mr. Erastus Wiman, and met with such splendid
success that our losses at New Orleans were speedily retrieved. So
well satisfied were we with New York that we leased MadisonSquare
Garden for the winter of 1886-87 and gave our exhibition there for
the first time in a covered space. We gave two performances every day
during the entire winter and nearly always played to crowded houses,
though the seating capacity of the place was about 15,000.
AN AMBITIOUS BUT HAZARDOUS UNDERTAKING
The immortal bard has well said, "ambition grows with what it feeds
on.' So with Salsbury and I, our unexampled success throughout
America with the Wild West show excited our ambition to conquer other
nations than our own. Though the idea of transplanting our
exhibition, for a time, to England had frequently occurred to us, the
importance of such an undertaking was enlarged and brought us to a
more favorable consideration of the project by repeated suggestions
from prominent persons of America, and particularly by urgent
invitations extended by distinguished Englishmen. While inclined to
the enterprise we gave much thought to the enormous expense involved
in such a step and might not have decided so soon to try the rather
hazardous experiment but for an opportunity that promised to largely
increase our chances of success.
Several leading gentlemen of the United States conceived the idea
of holding an American Exhibition in the heart of London and to this
end a company was organised that pushed the project to a successful
issue, aided as they were by several prominent residents of the
English capital. When the enterprise had progressed so far as to give
flattering promise of an opening at the time fixed upon, a
proposition was made to Mr . Salsbury and myself, by the president
and directors of the company, to take our show to London and play the
season of six months as an adjunct of the American Exhibition, the
proposition being a percentage of the gate receipts.
After a mature consideration of the offer we accepted it and
immediately set about enlarging our organization and preparing for a
departure for England.
A great deal of preliminary work was necessary, but we set
manfully about the task of securing the services of a hundred
Indians, representative types of the Sioux, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee
and Ogalallas tribes, and succeeded in getting the required number,
none of whom had ever been off their reservations prior to joining my
show. Among the prominent chiefs thus engaged was Red Shirt, a
redoubtable warrior and second only in influence to Sitting Bull
himself. A short while before his engagement with us he had quelled
an uprising among his people, instigated by a pretender to the
chieftainship of the tribe, by invading the pretender's camp with
only two of his followers and shooting the leader dead before the
eyes of his affrighted wife. This fearless act had served to elevate
him very much in the eyes of his people, who thereafter accepted him
as a leader. When, therefore, he decided to join the Wild West show,
under the flattering offers I made him, his influence aided us very
much in procuring our complement of Indians, not only from his own
tribe, but from others as well.
SEEKING NEW WORLDS TO CONQUER
Our arrangements having at length been completed, by collecting
together a company of more than two hundred men and animals,
consisting of Indians, cowboys, ( including the celebrated Cowboy
band,) Mexican wild riders, celebrated rifle shots, buffaloes, Texas
steers, burros, bronchos, racing horses, elk, bears, and an immense
amount of camp paraphernalia, such as tents, wagons, stage coach,
etc., we chartered the steamship State of Nebraska, of the State
line, Capt. Braes, and were ready to set sail to a country that I had
long wished to visit, &emdash;the Motherland. Accordingly, on
Thursday, March 31st, 1887, we set sail from New York, the piers
crowded with thousands of our good friends who came down to wave
their adieux and to wish us a pleasant voyage. Our departure was an
occasion I shall never forget, for as the ship drew away from the
pier such cheers went up as I never before heard, while our Cowboy
band played "The Girl I Left Behind Me" in a manner that suggested
more reality than empty sentiment in the familiar air. Salsbury and
I, and my daughter Arta, waved our hats in sad farewells and stood
upon the deck watching the still cheering crowd until they faded in
the distance, and we were out upon the deep, for the first time in my
THE INDIANS' FEARS ARE EXCITED
Before starting on the trip several of the Indians expressed grave
fears that if they trusted themselves to the great waters a horrible
death would soon overtake them, and at the last mornent it required
all our arts of persuasion to induce them to go on board.
Red Shirt explained that these fears were caused by a belief
prevalent among many tribes of Indians, that if a red man attempted
to cross the ocean, soon after beginning his journey he would be
seized of a malady that would first prostrate the victim and then
slowly consume his flesh, day after day, until at length the very
skin itself would drop from his bones, leaving nothing but the
skeleton and this even could never find burial. This gruesome belief
was repeated by chiefs of the several tribes to the Indians who had
joined me, so that there is little reason for wonder, that with all
our assurances, the poor unlearned children of a nature run riot by
neglect, should hesitate to submit themselves to such an experiment.
On the day following our departure from New York the Indians began
to grow weary and their stomachs, like my own, became both
treacherous and rebellious. Their fears were now so greatly
intensified that even Red Shirt, the bravest of his people, looked
anxiously towards the hereafter, and began to feel his flesh to see
if it were really diminishing. The seal of hopelessness stamped upon
the faces of the Indians aroused my pity, and though sick as a cow
with hollow-horn myself, I used my utmost endeavors to cheer them up
and relieve their forebodings. But for two days nearly the whole
company was too sick for any other active service than feeding the
fishes, in which I am not proud to say that I performed more than an
ordinary share. On the third day, however, we all began to mend so
far that I called the Indians together in the main saloon and gave
them a Sunday address, as did also Red Shirt, who was now recovered
from his anxiety about the future.
After the third day at sea we had an entertainment every
afternoon, in which Mr. Salsbury, as singer and comedian, took the
leading part, to the intense delight of all on board. On the seventh
day a storm came up that raged so fiercely that for a time the ship
had to lay to, and during which our stock suffered greatly, but we
gave them such good care, and had such excellent luck as well, that
none of our animals, save one horse, died on the trip.
At last as we cast anchor off Gravesend a tug boat approaching
attracted the entire company on deck, for we were expecting to meet
our advance manager, Jno. M. Burke, with general instructions as to
our landing, etc. It turned out, however, to be a government boat
loaded with custom-house and quarantine officials, under whom we were
to pass the usual inspection. Another official accompanied them, with
whom arrangements had been made for the passage of our arms, as a
restriction was placed upon the landing of our ammunition, of which
we had brought a large quantity, the English government regulations
requiring that it be unloaded and turned over to the arsenal
authorities, in whose charge it was kept during our stay in London,
we drawing on them daily for our supply as needed. I feel in duty
bound to acknowledge here that the English government, through its
different officials, extended to us every kind of courtesy,
privileges and general facilities that materially assisted in
rendering pleasant the last few hours of a remarkable voyage. The
bovines and buffalo that were a part of our outfit were inspected,
and a special permit granted us to take them to the Albert dock, the
place of our debarkation, and after holding them in quarantine there
for a few days they were allowed to join us in camp.
Recent disastrous outbreaks of rinderpest, foot and mouth disease,
and other ills that bovine flesh is heir to, necessitate the law
being very strict as regards importation of cattle, all foreign
beasts being required to be killed within twenty-four hours after
SOME ANXIOUS REFLECTIONS
During this delay time was given me for reflection and gradually as
my eyes wandered over the crowded waterway with its myriads of crafts
of every description, from the quaint channel fishing-boat to the
mammoth East India trader and ocean steamers, topped by the flags of
all nations and hailing from every accessible part of the known
world, carrying the productions of every clime and laden with every
commodity, I thought of the magnitude of the enterprise I was engaged
in and wondered what its results would be.
The freight I had brought with me across the broad Atlantic was
such a strange and curious one that I naturally wondered whether,
after all trouble, time and expense it had cost me, this pioneer
cargo of Nebraska goods would be marketable. In fact, it would take a
much more facile pen than mine to portray the thick crowding thoughts
that scurried through my brain. Standing on the deck of a ship,
called the "State of Nebraska," whose arrival had evidently been
watched for with great curiosity, as the number of yachts, tug boats
and other crafts which surrounded us attested, my memory wandered
back to the days of my youth, when in search of the necessaries of
existence and braving the dangers of the then vast wild plains, a
section of which comprised the then unsettled territory of Nebraska.
I contrasted that epoch of my life, its lonely duties and its
hardships, and all its complex history, as the home and battle-ground
of a savage foe, with its present great prosperity and its standing
as the empire State of the central West. A certain feeling of pride
came over me when I thought of the good ship on whose deck I stood,
and that her cargo consisted of early pioneers and rude, rough riders
from that section, and of the wild horses of the same district,
buffalo, deer, elk and antelope &emdash;the king game of the prairie,
&emdash;together with over one hundred representatives of that savage
foe that had been compelled to submit to a conquering civilisation
and were now accompanying me in friendship, loyalty and peace, five
thousand miles from their homes, braving the dangers of the to them
great unknown sea, now no longer a tradition, but a reality
&emdash;all of us combined in an exhibition intended to prove to the
center of old world civilisation that the vast region of the United
States was finally and effectively settled by the English-speaking
OUR RECEPTION IN ENGLAND
This train of thought was interrupted by the sight of a tug, with the
starry banner flying from her peak bearing down upon us, and a
tumultuous waving of handkerchiefs on board, evoking shouts and
cheers from all our company.
As the tug came nearer, strains of "The Star Spangled Banner,"
rendered by a band on her deck, fell upon our ears, and immediately
our own Cowboy band responded with "Yankee Doodle," creating a
general tumult on our ship as the word was passed from bow to stern
that friends were near. Once alongside, the company on board the tug
proved to be the directors of the American Exhibition, with Lord
Ronald Gower heading a distinguished committee accompanied by Maj.
Burke and representatives of the leading journals, who made us feel
at last that our sea voyage was ended.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF LONDON
After the usual introductions, greetings and reception of
instructions, I accompanied the committee on shore at Gravesend,
where quite an ovation was given us amid cries of "Welcome to old
England" and "three cheers for Bill," which gave pleasing evidence of
the public interest that had been awakened in our coming.
A special train of saloon carriages was waiting to convey us to
London and we soon left the quaint old Kentish town behind us, and in
an hour we arrived at Victoria station. The high road-bed of the
railroad, which runs level with the chimney tops, was a novel sight,
as we scurried along, through what seemed to be an endless sea of
habitation, and I have scarcely yet found out where Gravesend
finishes and London commences, so dense is the population of the
suburbs off the "boss village" of the British Isles, and so numerous
the small towns through which we passed. The impression created by
the grand Victoria station, by the underground railroad, the strange
sights and busy scenes of the "West End," the hustle and the bustle
of a first evening view of mighty London, would alone make a chapter.
My first opinion of the streets was that they were sufficiently
lively and noisy to have alarmed all the dogs in every Indian village
in the Platte country, from the Missouri river to the headwaters of
the Platte, in its most primitive days.
A short trip on the somewhat dark and sulphurous underground
railroad brought us to West Kensington, a quiet section of the West
End, the station of which had been already connected by special
bridges, then nearly completed, with the grounds as yet unknown to
London, but destined to become the scene of several months'
continuous triumphs. Entering the headquarters of the exhibition we
found a bounteous repast set and a generous welcome accorded us. The
heartiness of my reception, combined with the natural sense of relief
after such a journey and the general indications of success, proved a
happy relaxation of the nervous strain to which I had been subjected
for several weeks. Speeches, toasts and well wishes, etc.,
accompanied the spirited and spirituous celebration of the occasion.
My genial hosts' capacity for the liquid refreshments would have made
me envy them in the 60s, and led me to suspect that there might be
accomplishments in England in which even western pioneers are
PREPARING THE EXHIBITION GROUNDS.
After brief social converse, and a tranquilizing smoke, we made a
casual visit to the grounds, where the preparations for the stabling,
the arena and the grand stand, with busy hundreds of workmen
hastening their completions by night by the aid of lucigen lights and
bon-fires, presented an animated scene, and a display of energy
rarely witnessed in connection with an amusement enterprise. These
operations were dealing with the expenditure of $125,000, including
the fencing in of an arena more than a third of a mile in
circumference, flanked by a grand stand filled with seats and boxes,
estimated to accommodate 20,000 persons. Sheltered stands for 10,000
more were also being erected; it being understood that room for
40,000 spectators in all should be provided at each performance. For
the Indian encampment a large hill had been thrown up by spare labor,
and this was already decorated by a grove of newly planted trees. The
stables for horses, mules and mustangs, and the corrals for
buffaloes, antelope, elk, etc., were all in simultaneous course of
construction. Everything so far impressed me very favorably and I
began to feel that if we did not command success we would, with our
advantages of location, surroundings and novelty and realism, at
least deserve it.
The interest evinced by the British workmen in my presence
detracting somewhat from their attention to business, caused us to
retire after a brief inspection. This same curiosity however was as a
straw indicating which way the wind blew. I was now, for the first
time, introduced in its own habitat to that world-famed vehicle, the
London hansom cab. In one of them I was whirled through the West End,
past the famous Hyde Park, through Piccadilly, around Leicester and
Trafalgar squares, to that central resort and theatrical hub of this
vast community, the Strand. This narrow street, in its relation to
the great city, reminded me of one of the contracted passes in the
"Rockies," to which traffic had been naturally attracted, and usage
had made a necessity. The density of its foot traffic, the thronging
herd of omnibuses, the twisting, wriggling, shouting, whip-cracking
cabbies, seemed like Broadway squeezed narrower, and I realized at
once the utility and necessity of the two-wheeled curio in which I
was whirled through the bewildering mingle of Strand traffic. With
but one or two hub-bumps we were soon landed at the magnificent hotel
Metropole, in Northumberland avenue, where I met many American
gentlemen from different cities, who recognized me on sight and gave
me hearty greeting. I retired early, determined to retrace my steps
to Gravesend at daylight and ascend the Thames on board the Nebraska,
as my great anxiety was the successful debarkation.
ARRIVAL AT LONDON
On an early tide that at its flood I now felt would lead on to
fortune, with flags flying we entered, amid a perfect ovation, the
great port of London. The ship's officers pointed out to us as we
steamed by them the places of historical interest.
With each horseman looking after his own mount, we were unloaded
with a rapidity that astonished the old officials and hands on the
docks. Our entire outfit was as quickly loaded upon three railway
trains, for we were yet twelve miles from our future camp, and
speedily we were delivered, people and property, at the Midland
railway depot, alongside the grounds. By 6 p. m our canvas city had
sprung up in the heart of the West End of London, and from our
flagstaff "Old Glory" floated in the British breeze. The Cowboy band
rendered "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the vast crowds that had
gathered at all available lookouts gave a storm of cheers. This was
gratifying, and as an evidence of appreciation and gratitude the band
gave them "God Save the Queen. "
Thus the Wild West and Bill Cody of Nebraska, U. S. A., were at
home in camp in London.
The dining tents not being up yet, our first meal was taken in
full view of our kindly and curious visitors The meal was finished by
7 o'clock, and by 9 the tired occupants of the camp, Indians,
Mexicans, cowboys, scouts, men, women and children were peacefully
and snugly reposing after a long and arduous voyage.
HELPFUL INFLUENCE OF DISTINGUISHED PERSONS
Henry Irving, the great actor; his genial friend, John Toole; Miss
Ellen Terry, Justin McCarthy, M P.; Minister Phelps, Consul General
Walter and Deputy Consul Moffet assisted us greatly in the ceremonies
of landing. Our own Mary Anderson, Mrs. Brown Potter, Henry
Labouchere, Chas Wyndham, and, in short, all the prominent members of
the local literati and theatrical profession, took immense and
friendly interest in our enterprise.
Lord Ronald Gower and hundreds of other lords, knights and ladies
of high degree, besides a host of distinguished American residents of
London, visited our camp and stables before the regu lar day of
opening to give expressions of friendship, good-will and
Our motley and strange people, living in their primitive style,
and feats of our horsemen in their daily exercises were deeply
interesting to our visitors and the innate English love of
horsemanship presaged the success that came to us.
The press was generous to us to an extent probably never known
before. Its columns teemed daily with such eulogistic matter
concerning us and our enterprise that I almost feared we might not
come up to the expectations thus raised.
Beside the daily newspapers and literary magazines, Punch and the
other humorous periodicals did their best for us, after their manner,
and the poets were melodious about us. Shortly I began to discover
that my lines had fallen into the pleasant places that London society
ascribes to what it is pleased to term "the distinguished foreigner."
I also discovered that, at least in such cases as mine, one should
have as many lives as a stack of black cats, all working at once, or
else have the attribute of ubiquity, to keep the pace that was set
for "Buffalo Bill," "Col. Cody," "Bill Cody," "Mr. Cody," et al. id
omne genus &emdash;whatever that is.
TOO MUCH LEO
I was invited in one or the other of these characters, continuously
and numerously, to breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, suppers, garden
parties, athletic layouts, midnight doings, soirees, matinees,
dedications and, in short, was overwhelmed with social attentions.
Of course, all this was pleasant to me as one who loves to live,
but I had business to attend to also, and very strenuous business,
for the Wild West, and I did my best to meet the demand. Then I was
made an honorary member of nearly all the clubs, social, festive,
artistic, fashionable, and many of them were distinctly
distinguishing. Notably the Reform Club, where I met the Prince of
Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and other royalty. Then there was
luncheon at the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress;
dinner at the Beaufort Club, where that fine sportsman, the Duke of
Beaufort, was host; a memorable evening at the Savage Club with Mr.
Wilson Barrett &emdash;just home from an American tour
&emdash;presiding, with such choice spirits present as Henry Irving,
John L. Toole and a host of others of the art, literary and
histrionic element of London and the world. The Duke of Teck
entertained me at United Arts Club, Lord Bruce and other lords at the
St. George's Club. The list of all these as shown by my diary would
be exhaustive of the peerage book and the blue books and would also
exhaust the reader, as it came near exhausting "Buffalo Bill," "Col.
Cody," etc. And yet the rounds were delightful and I appreciated the
honors done me and my beloved country. Through these I met frequently
such charming and distinguished persons as Chas. Wyndham of the
Criterion, Mr. Lawson of the Daily Telegraph, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar
Wilde, Madame Minnie Hank, Mrs. Navarro, who was our own Mary
Anderson; Miss Emma Nevada, Mrs. Brown-Potter, and hundreds of the
kindred kind. One of the most delightful affairs was a visit to Mr.
Henry Labouchere on the occasion of a glorious garden production by
the Laboucheres of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
These are decimatingly few of the many social courtesies extended
me, and I must say that considering the exacting demands upon me by
the preliminary arrangements for so large an exhibition as we were
preparing to give with the Wild West, and polite attention to the
social demands, it has since been a wonder to me how we succeeded in
giving such a great and acceptable a performance on the opening day,
and thereafter, for the show went on for months and the social
amenities kept gait and pace. To make the situating more exacting, as
to my personal work, the hundred or more Indians with us from the
Pine Ridge Agency were all new to the show and were of the wild
variety; besides, we had a hundred new ponies from the plains of
Texas that had never been bridled or saddled, much less shot over,
and all these had to be brought into at least Wild West discipline,
and largely under my personal supervision.
THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS OF WALES
A communication from Marlborough House of April 26, 1887, resulted in
an arrangement for a special performance for their Royal Highnesses
the Prince and Princess of Wales, although everything about the Wild
West buildings was incomplete, the track unfinished and held back by
rainy weather and the hauling of huge timbers, all combining to make
the condition of the grounds unspeakably bad. But for all this, I
determined to pull through, as the Wild West always suited me the
better the more raw and wild that it was.
I retired the night previous to the visit, aching to the core with
care and fatigue, but with the hunter's pleasant anticipations after
striking a country where water is plenty and grazing good, two
circumstances that always bring the frontiersman renewed confidence
and mental as well as bodily repose.
The entertainment to the future King of Great Britain and Emperor
of India, with his royal party, was, of course, to be an exclusive
one and I got the royal box rigged as handsomely as circumstances
would permit and the taste of chosen artists could devise. The
English and American flags were very prevalent in the decorations,
and it was my further object, beside entertaining the Princelings, to
make the occasion a grand, additional dress rehearsal.
The party that was conducted into our precincts was a strong one
numerically as well as in point of exalted rank. The Prince and
Princess of Wales with their three daughters, the Princesses Louise,
Victoria, and Maude, led the way. They were followed by the Marquis
of Lorne and Princess Louise, his wife, the Duke of Cambridge, H. S.
H. Teck and son, the Comptesse de Paris, the Crown Prince of Denmark,
with numerous lords and ladies in waiting. The Prince of Wales
introduced me to his wife, afterward Alexandra, Queen-Consort, and
introductions to the other royal personages followed, in which Nate
Salsbury and Major John Burke were included.
His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, was then a man under
medium height, somewhat inclined to corpulency, mixed with the
indescribable manner that hedges royalty from constant association
with state ceremonials and the teachings of the "divine right" of
kings; there was in the being of this man the simple, plain-spoken
kindliness of a well-bred gentleman. He accepted the evident homage
that surrounded him as a matter of course, but did not act as though
he would exact it.
Many times subsequently I had the pleasure of meeting, and I found
less of the airs of office about him than I have many times seen
displayed by third-rate civic officials, even in our own dearly
beloved and highly-spoken-of democratic republic. But the republic is
not to blame for that, and true Americans rarely show it. The
Princess of Wales was a quiet, self-possessed and gentle lady much
given to innocent merriment and still speaking English with a
slightly-clipped foreign accent.
All my apprehensions of a mishap because of the unfinished
condition of things about the establishment were dispelled from the
moment the signal was given by "command" of the Prince, and the
Indians, yelling like fiends, galloped out from their ambuscades and
swept around the enclosure like a whirlwind.
The effect was instantaneous and otherwise electric. The Prince
rose from his seat and leaned eagerly over the front of the box and
the entire party seemed thrilled effectually by the spectacle.
"Cody," I said to myself, "You 've fetched 'em." From that moment we
were in all right &emdash;right from the word "Go!"
Every day in our aggregation was in capital form and the whole
thing went off grandly.
Our lady shot experts, on being presented at the finish, committed
the little solacism of offering to shake hands with the Princess,
for, be it known, feminine royalty offers the hand back uppermost
which the person presented is expected to lift with finger tips and
salute with the lips. However, the Princess was quick to perceive and
she solved the situation by taking the proffered hands, somewhat
shaded with gunpowder, and shaking them heartily.
The royal party inspected the Indian encampment after the
performance and the Prince had an extended conversation with Red
Shirt &emdash;extended for an Indian. The Princess, through the
interpreter, gave the chief welcome to England to which the chief,
with great dignity, responded: "Tell the Great White Chief 's wife
that it gladdens my heart to hear her words."
The ladies of the suite patted John Nelson's half-breed pappoose
and when all visited my headquarters the Prince showed much interest
in the trappings and decorations there, and especially in the
gold-mounted sword presented to me by generals of the United States
Army with whom I had served in the boisterous years gone and never to
The prince, who was an earnest sportsman and a bold rider to
hounds with the "men folks," visited our stables, where were
quartered more than 200 bronchos and other equine help. He was
pleased, and I never felt prouder of the military methods that
pervaded this department of our aggregation. He quite won my heart by
demanding the full and particular history of my old war horse
Charlie, who, now in his twenty-first year, had carried me through
many dangers many times and once bore me in a flight of 100 miles in
nine hours, forty minutes, when chased by a band of hostile Indians.
Old Charlie seemed to like the attentions of royalty but he was very
democratic just the same.
At 7 that evening the royal visit ended. It had been an eminent
success, and the gratification of Major Burke &emdash;our major domo,
so to speak &emdash;Nate Salsbury, my business partner, and myself
over the outcome of the day presaging a season of unqualified
That the Wild West made a big impression in London could not have
been more emphatically proven than it was by the fact that even Queen
Victoria became interested and to us came the "command" for a special
performance for Her Majesty and suite.
Of course, Royalty does not request, desire or invite persons in
its realm to do this or that, but "commands" it to be done. Thus, "By
command of Her Majesty the Queen," a special performance was given by
the Wild West in order that this Queen of Great Britain and Empress
of India should have a private view of the exhibition.
Since the death of Prince Albert, her husband, which event had
occurred thirty years previous to this "command," the queen had been
more than ordinarily seclusive. She seldom appeared before great
assemblages of her subjects and her visits to even her parliament
were rare. To theatrical performances she never went during that long
period of her mourning. Her latest knowledge of the greatest actors
and actresses of the time was gained by private performances given,
by command, in her court, and these were infrequent.
The Wild West was altogether too big a thing to take to Windsor
Castle, and as in the case of Mahomet and the mountain, as the Wild
West could not go to the Queen it became absolutely necessary for the
Queen to go to the Wild West, if she desired to see it, and it was
evident that she did.
Of course, the entire outfit, Mr. Salsbury, Major Burke and myself
included, felt highly complimented by this unusual and remarkable
departure. The great London public was astonished, almost to the
extent of unbelief, the first impression being that the entire
announcement was simply a Yankee hoax.
Her Majesty was to arrive at five o'clock in the afternoon and I
was informed that she expected to give one hour to seeing all that
the Wild West could supply in the matter of its performances, within
that space of time, and she expected the whole thing. This was a
poser, but we determined to do the best we could.
A dais was erected and a special box constructed that was draped
in crimson velvet and otherwise extravagantly decorated to give
exclusion therein to her Majesty and the exalted notables of her
train. These preparations for the August visit being completed, our
vast company awaited with feelings akin to awe for the royal arrival.
With the punctuality that is conventional with royalty, this great
sovereign and suite came upon the tick of time and their carriages
entered the arena and were driven around to the entrance of the box
that had been prepared.
With her Majesty came their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and
Princess Henry of Battenberg, the Marquis of Lorne, the Dowager
Duchess of Athole, the Hon. Ethel Cadogan, Sir Henry and Lady
Ponsonby, General Lynedoch Gardiner, Colonel Sir Henry Evart, Lord
Ronald Gowen, and a collection of brilliantly uniformed military
attendants and exquisitely gowned ladies, forming a veritable
portiere of living flowers about the temporary throne.
Then another very remarkable incident occurred. Our entire company
of performers having been introduced in the usual manner and the
American flag sent around the arena at the hands of a graceful and
well-mounted horseman, the statement preceded it that this was an
"emblem of peace and friendship to all the world." As the standard
bearer passed the royal box with "Old Glory" her Majesty arose, bowed
deeply and impressively to the banner, and the entire court party
came up standing, the noblemen uncovered, the ladies bowed and the
soldiers, generals and all, saluted.
The incident thrilled, unspeakably, every American present, and
with the impulse of the West our company gave a shout such as had
never before been heard in Britain. Under ordinary circumstances,
that yell would have seemed uncouth; but this was a great event, all
saw it as such, hence the shout blended harmoniously with the
For the first time in history a British sovereign had saluted the
Star Spangled Banner, and that banner was carried by a delegated and
exalted attache of Buffalo Bill's Wild West.
The presence of the Queen gave mighty stimulus to our people and
the performance was admirably given. Every member of the company
seemed determined to excel. The young women did unusually successful
shooting at their targets; my own shooting was the best of its kind
that I ever did; the fight of the cowboys and Indians had greater
vim, even the bucking bronchos seemed to be under the influence of
the contagious enthusiasm and there never had been a more excellent
performance in the Wild West Exhibition from beginning to end and in
every specialty. Moreover, her Majesty instead of staying only an
hour, decided to "sit out" the performance and then she sent the
"command" that Buffalo Bill should be presented to her. The
compliments, deliberate and unmeasured, that she gave me, that
modesty mentioned in the opening of this story forbids me to repeat.
She was a kindly little lady, not five feet high, but a gracious
queen for every inch. I presented Miss Lillian Smith, who was herself
a queen &emdash;with a Winchester rifle &emdash;and the young lady,
with the naivete of the western American girl that she was, talked
with royalty on the solid footing of American sovereignty, showed the
mechanism of the gun with enthusiasm, and Queen Victoria, deeply
interested, evinced that interest.
Then I presented Red Shirt, the Indian Chieftain, who was gorgeous
in war paint and feather trappings. His proud bearing was fetching
among the royal party, and when he spoke through an interpreter,
saying he had come a long way to see her Majesty and "felt glad," the
Queen smiled appreciatively, and as the red man, unconventionally,
but proudly, strolled away with the dignity of a Supreme Court Judge,
she seemed to say, "I know a real prince when I see him."
Then came two Indian women with their brown pappooses strapped to
the shoulders of their mothers. The red babies were passed up and
royalty and retinue petted and patted them and the kids acted as
though they were used to that sort of thing.
Then the Queen and her suite ended their visit and the remarkable
episode in the life of a plain plainsman, who in boyhood had never
dreamed of meeting royalty on such a footing, and who would have felt
that would have been a big thing to meet, in a friendly way, the
mayor of Leavenworth.
But, besides royalty, there came to the Wild West, and my own tent
on the encampment, great men in statesmanship, art, poetry, war and
wealth, and they became my friends for life.
Shortly after this incident of the Queen's visit, came another
affair that was to be the third to royalty of the Wild West
exhibitions. A royal equerry came to Earl's Court bringing a further
"command" from her Majesty. It expressed the demand that on the 20th
of June a special exhibition by the Wild West should be given in the
morning to the kingly and princely guests of Queen Victoria, on the
occasion of her Jubilee.
Never before, since the world commenced, has such a gathering
honored a public entertainment. Caesar and his captive monarchs, the
Field of the Cloth of Gold, nothing in history can compare with that
assemblage of the mighty ones of earth that honored the Wild West
upon this occasion.
The gathering of personages comprised the King of Denmark, the
King and Queen of Belgium, the King of Saxony, the King of Greece,
the Crown Prince of Austria, the Prince and Prineess of
Saxe-Meiningen, the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany, the Crown
Prince of Sweden and Norway, the Princess Victoria of Prussia, the
Duke of Sparta, the Grand Duke Michael of Russia, Prince George of
Greece, Prince Louis of Baden, and the Prince and Princess of Wales
with their children and a host of lords and ladies unnumbered.
Our good old Deadwood Coach, "baptised in fire and blood" so
repeatedly on the plains, had the inanimate honor of carrying on its
time-honored springs, four kings and the Prince of Wales, that day,
during the played attack of the Indians. The Prince said to me:
"Colonel, you never held four kings like these, did you?"
"I've held four Kings," I replied, "but four Kings and the Prince
of Wales make a royal flush, and that is unprecedented."
The Prince took it, for I had taught him the great American game
of draw-poker, and he let off that hair-trigger laugh of his that has
been so well known to his intimates.
Of course, the joke was somewhat obscure to the other four-fifths
of the "hand," and I almost pitied Wales when he tried to explain, in
three languages, the intricacies of the joke. Still I could not blame
them, for experience has taught me that the game really needs a lot
of learning before one can understand it properly.
The crowned heads seemed to be quite satisfied when that ride was
over with, for the Indians did their shooting with aboriginal energy.
After our London engagement closed, which was one of the
pleasantest periods of my life, we made a tour of the "provinces."
There were Birmingham, Manchester and other English cities and for
the period of preparation for these I took advantage of the spare
time left to me by the hiatus to visit Italy on a two weeks' vacation
with my daughter Arta. It was a well-earned vacation because from the
day of our opening in London to its close, I had not missed one of
the three hundred performances given during that engagement,
notwithstanding the multiplicity of social affairs that by courtesy I
was forced to observe and which professionally and socially kept me
occupied eighteen hours out of every twenty-four.
A MAGNIFICENT OVATION
On Monday evening, May 1st, we gave the last indoor representation,
in the presence of a vast and one of the most enthusiastic audiences
I ever appeared before; bouquets were presented to various members of
the company and when I appeared I met with one of the warmest
receptions of my life: bouquets were thrown, handed and carried into
the arena to me while the vast audience cheered, waved hats,
umbrellas and handkerchiefs, jumped upon their feet, and in fact the
scene was very suggestive of a pandemonium. It was fully five minutes
before the noise subsided sufficiently to enable us to proceed with
Every act went with a rush and a cheer, and was received by cries
of "bravo," "well done," etc. At the close of the exhibition calls
were made for Red Shirt and myself, in response to which I thanked my
patrons and assured them that the recollection of that evening's
display of kindness would ever be fresh in my memory. Cries of
"bravo, Bill," and the singing of "For he's a jolly good fellow" by
the entire audience brought the demonstration to a close.
On Tuesday afternoon I was given a benefit by the race-course
people, on which occasion I concluded to give our outdoor performance
on the racecourse and despite the unfavorable weather the turn-stiles
showed that nearly 50,000 people had paid admission to the grounds.
This audience, like the one in the building the previous evening, was
also very enthusiastic and the people seemed to vie with each other
in showering applause upon the various acts and features.
A RACE FOR $2,500
Our Wild West performances in Manchester were now at a close, but
having two or three days to spare I concluded to accept a challenge
made some days previously by Mr. B. Goodall, a noted horse breeder of
Altrincham, for an international ten-mile race between his English
thoroughbreds and my American bronchos, for £500 a side. The
riders were J. Latham for Goodall and Tony Esquivel for me, and the
conditions were that each rider should change horses without
assistance at the completion of each half mile. The afternoon was
fine with the exception of one fierce though fleeting rain storm.
At five minutes to three o'clock thirteen of our bronchos, saddled
with heavy cow-boy saddles, were brought into the enclosure and about
ten minutes later nine English thoroughbreds made their appearance.
The men mounted their first horses at 3 :20 and got away well, Latham
at once taking the lead. The Englishman effected his first change
with an advantage, but on the next occasion he lost this and Tony
went to the front. Latham, however, gained a little for some
succeeding minutes. There was no question of the speed of his horses,
but Tony was more adroit in changing, and before many laps were over
he led the Englishman by a good two furlongs. Then for a time Tony
lost ground, but Latham never succeeded in overhauling him and he
passed the post 300 yards ahead, having made the remarkable time of
twenty-one minutes. Wild enthusiasm was manifested throughout the
race by the 20,000 spectators and at the termination of their arduous
task both victorious Tony and defeated Latham were loudly cheered.
AN ENTHUSIASTIC FAREWELL
On Friday morning, May 4th, at 11 a. m., amid the cheers, well wishes
and hand shaking of the vast crowd who had gathered to see us depart,
we pulled slowly out of the Windsor Bridge station of the Lancashire
and Yorkshire Railway en route by special passenger train for Hull,
where after giving our farewell English performance we were to embark
for home. The time of the arrival of our train at the various
stations had become generally known, and all along the entire route
we were met by vast crowds who cheered and wished us God speed. Upon
our arrival at Hull the crowd was so large that it was necessary to
send for a squad of police to enable us to make our way through them
from the station to the conveyances. On Saturday afternoon, May 5th,
we gave our farewell performance in England, at Hull, before an
enormous crowd and that evening at 9 o'clock our entire effects were
aboard the good ship Persian Monarch which, under the command of the
brave, gallant and courteous Captain Bristow, was to leave her
moorings at 3 a. m. the next morning for New York. We had chartered
the ship for this trip and had everything to ourselves, and all
evening the vast crowds who lined the docks cheered, sang songs and
wished us bon voyage. A great many even remained until our departure
and went wild with excitement when they saw us as a company leave
their shores perhaps forever.
A PATHETIC INCIDENT AT SEA
The homeward voyage was marked with one very distressing and pathetic
incident to me in the loss of my favorite horse Charlie, that I had
ridden for fifteen years in sunshine and in storm, in days of
adversity as well as of prosperity and to whose fleetness of foot I
owed my life on more than one occasion when pursued by Indians. He
stood the voyage very well, apparently, until May 14th, and even on
the morning of that day when I visited him he seemed to be as well as
A few minutes after leaving him, however, a groom ran to me and
told me he had a chill. We did everything we could for him, but it
was useless. He had lung fever, and after three days' illness he
died. We could almost understand each other, and I felt very deeply.
The sailors stitched him up in canvas and he lay all day Thursday,
the 17th, on deck, covered with the American flag. At 8 o'clock in
the evening we dropped the body, properly weighted, into the ocean. I
did think of bringing him on here and burying him in his native soil,
but finally concluded not to do so.
I cannot describe my joy upon stepping again on the shore of
beloved America. Though I had received such honors while abroad as
few persons have been favored with, and scored a triumph, both
socially and professionally, that may well excite my pride, yet
"there is no place like home, " nor is there a flag like the old
With the happiness of returning to my own country again came a
double portion of joy in meeting with so many old friends whose arms
opened to welcome me. But of the particular pleasures of these glad
meetings it does not become me to speak now, since the space at my
disposal is already exhausted; suffice it therefore to say, that I am
again before the American public with the Wild West Show which is now
performing for the season, at Erastina, Staten Island, where we
scored such a splendid success in the summer of 1886.