History of Annie Oakley
One of the first and most well-known female show sharpshooters to perform in history was a woman known by the name of Annie Oakley. Annie Oakley gained notoriety as the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She is known in history for her shooting dexterity and precision, as well as for establishing a path for women’s acceptability in traditionally male-dominated fields. Annie Oakley paved the way for women’s acceptance in history and motivated many to pursue their goals. She is also renowned for her kindness toward the needy and support for women’s educational rights.
On August 13, 1860, Phoebe Ann (Annie) Mosey, who would become known later as Annie Oakley, was born in a log cabin in Darke County, Ohio. She was the fifth of seven children. When Oakley was born, her father was 61 years old. He developed hypothermia during a blizzard, and eventually passed away from pneumonia.
DID YOU KNOW?
Annie Oakley was the fifth of seven children.
Young Annie Oakley had excellent shooting abilities, although her widowed mother had financial difficulties. After her father passed away, the family fell into hardship. To aid her family, Annie Oakley learned how to set traps around the age of seven. By the age of eight, Annie Oakley had fired her first gun and knew how to efficiently hunt. She would hunt then sell to locals who would ship her game out to different cities.
Annie Oakley was unable to consistently attend school. She was admitted to the Darke County Infirmary when she was just nine years old. Oakley ultimately decided to work for a family in return for receiving an education. After serving a brutal household as a servant, Oakley came home as a teenager and carried on with hunting. She made enough money from selling the meat to Ohio stores and shops to cover her mother’s mortgage by the time she turned 15 years old.
Annie Oakley and Frank Butler
On Thanksgiving Day in 1875, the Baughman & Butler shooting show was being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. Irish immigrant and traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler bet a Cincinnati hotel owner $100 (approximately $2,500 now) that Butler could outshoot any fancy shooter in the area. The hotel owner set up a shooting competition between Butler and Oakley, age 15 at the time. Butler lost the competition and the bet after missing his 25th shot. After this, he immediately started courting Oakley, and they eventually got married. There were no kids born to the couple. For a while, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler resided in Cincinnati. The name “Oakley” is said to have been taken from the city’s Oakley area, where she and Butler lived when they started performing. In 1885, they became part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
Wild West Show
Annie Oakley, standing five feet tall, was given the stage name “Watanya Cicilla” by fellow performer Sitting Bull. Oakley’s name was “Little Sure Shot” in the promotional materials. She and rifle shooter Lillian Smith engaged in a contentious professional rivalry during Oakley’s debut appearance with the Buffalo Bill show. Smith led Annie Oakley to briefly leave the show. When Smith left the Buffalo Bill show two years later, Oakley joined it again, just in time for the 1889 Paris Exposition!
DID YOU KNOW?
Oakley’s name was "Little Sure Shot" in the promotional materials.
Except for Buffalo Bill himself, Annie Oakley was the performer in the Wild West show who made the most money. She was capable of pulling off tricks such as firing a cigarette in her husband’s lips, shooting things while gazing through a mirror, splitting cards on their edges and more. European kings and queens would watch Annie Oakley’s show. For extra money, Oakley also participated in several shows on the side.
Work with Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison hired Annie Oakley in order to film her shooting, because he was curious to find out if his Kinetoscope could capture the smoke from a rifle.
Annie Oakley and Frank Butler appeared in the 1894 Kinetoscope film The “Little Sure Shot” of the “Wild West” by Edison, directed by William Heise. The film included a demonstration of a rifle shooting at still and moving targets. It was the ninth movie created after April 14, 1894.
Late in Life
Annie Oakley kept breaking records well into her 60s while also actively supporting young women she knew, along with other causes related to women’s rights.
Butler and Oakley were involved in a car accident in late 1922, which resulted in Oakley having to wear a steel brace on her right leg. After rehabilitating for more than a year, she ultimately resumed performing and continued to break records in 1924.
In 1926, her health deteriorated and she passed away in Greenville, Ohio, from pernicious anemia at age 66. Frank Butler and Annie Oakley were wed for 50 years up to her passing on November 3, 1926. Her husband allegedly starved himself to death 18 days after she passed away due to being so distraught. Annie Oakley’s wealth was left to charities to which she had a relationship with during her life.
There is a movie based on Annie Oakley’s life. In 1935, actress Barbara Stanwyck made her Western film debut with the film Annie Oakley. Although it was based on Annie Oakley’s life, there were several historical inaccuracies. Instead of focusing on Annie Oakley’s career as a sharpshooter, the movie mostly centers on her love connection with Toby Walker, who plays Annie Oakley’s real-life spouse Frank E. Butler. Additionally, it does not illustrate how Butler, who was a proficient marksman himself, voluntarily gave Oakley the spotlight in the Wild West exhibitions. Many of the movie’s sequences were probably created to appeal to modern audiences’ preferences and desired outcomes.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 1935, actress Barbara Stanwyck made her Western film debut with the film Annie Oakley.
Annie Oakley’s Impact on History
Annie Oakley took the initiative to train more than 15,000 women to shoot because she thought it was important for young ladies to be able to handle a gun. Annie Oakley is remembered in history for believing that women should be able to take part in the military. After all, she was a huge advocate for women’s education and freedom.
During the Spanish-American War, Annie Oakley made more women’s history by offering to form an army of female sharpshooters. She wrote to the president and promised to send 50 female sharpshooters to fight for the United States in the Spanish-American War, using their own weapons and ammo. Sadly, she never heard back. Similarly, she reached out to the American Secretary of War in 1917 to offer her experience in preparing a battalion of female soldiers for World War I combat. She visited army bases, donated money for the Red Cross and worked with military organizations because she didn’t hear back. Although President McKinley didn’t acknowledge her request, Theodore Roosevelt gave his volunteer army the title of “Rough Riders” in honor of Oakley’s show.
Annie Oakley became the first female celebrity in America and had a significant impact on the “cowgirl” stereotype. She demonstrated that women can accomplish just as much as men if allowed the same opportunities. Annie Oakley has received inductions into a number of halls of fame, including the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.
What was Annie Oakley’s cause of death
At the age of 66, Annie Oakley passed away from pernicious anemia.
Why is Annie Oakley famous?
Oakley was among the initial and most famous female sharpshooters to perform in front of crowds. She gained notoriety as the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and is praised for her dexterity and precision as well as for forging a path for women’s acceptability in traditionally male-dominated fields.
When did Oakley start shooting?
She was eight years old.
When did Oakley meet Frank Butler?
Oakley first encountered Butler after defeating him in a shooting contest. On Thanksgiving, when Oakley was 15 years old, she engaged in a shooting competition with the professional Irish-American marksman who would later become her husband. Butler lost the $100 bet he had made when the young woman outshot him by one clay pigeon. Butler was taken aback and courted Oakley instead of feeling humiliated or diminished by his defeat. The next year, the two were wedded.