Annie Oakley

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Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley by Baker's Art Gallery c1880s-crop.jpg
Oakley in her twenties (1880s)
BornPhoebe Ann Moses
(1860-08-13)August 13, 1860
North Star, Ohio, U.S.
DiedNovember 3, 1926(1926-11-03) (aged 66)
Greenville, Ohio, U.S.
Spouse(s)Frank E. Butler (1850–1926) (m. 1876–1926)
ParentsSusan Wise (Moses) (1830–1908), Jacob Moses (1799–1866)
Sitting Bull (adopted father)
SignatureAnnie Oakley Signature.svg
 
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For other uses, see Annie Oakley (disambiguation).
Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley by Baker's Art Gallery c1880s-crop.jpg
Oakley in her twenties (1880s)
BornPhoebe Ann Moses
(1860-08-13)August 13, 1860
North Star, Ohio, U.S.
DiedNovember 3, 1926(1926-11-03) (aged 66)
Greenville, Ohio, U.S.
Spouse(s)Frank E. Butler (1850–1926) (m. 1876–1926)
ParentsSusan Wise (Moses) (1830–1908), Jacob Moses (1799–1866)
Sitting Bull (adopted father)
SignatureAnnie Oakley Signature.svg

Annie Oakley (August 13, 1860 – November 3, 1926), born Phoebe Ann Moses,[1][2][3] was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Oakley's "amazing talent"[4] led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Her timely rise to fame[5] allowed her to become one of the first American women to be a superstar.

Perhaps Oakley's most famous trick was her ability to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground, while using a .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet (27 m).[6]

Early life[edit]

Phoebe Ann (Annie) Moses was born August 13, 1860, in "a cabin less than 2 miles northwest of Woodland, now Willowdell, in Darke County, Ohio", a rural western border county of Ohio.[7] Her birthplace log cabin site is about five miles east of North Star. There is a stone-mounted plaque in the vicinity of the cabin site, which was placed by the Annie Oakley Committee in 1981, 121 years after her birth.

Annie's parents were Quakers of English descent from Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania: Susan Wise, age 18,[8][9] and Jacob Moses (1860 U.S. Census shows his father's name as Mauzy) born 1799, age 49,[1] married in 1848. They moved to a rented farm (later purchased with a mortgage) in Patterson Township, Darke County. The move occurred sometime around 1855. Her sister Sarah Ellen was born in Darke County in 1857.[citation needed]

Born in 1860, Annie was the sixth of Jacob and Susan's seven children.[10] Her father, who had fought in the War of 1812, died in 1866 at age 65, from pneumonia and overexposure in freezing weather. Her mother married Daniel Brumbaugh, had one more child, Emily, and was widowed for the second time.

On March 15, 1870, at age nine, Annie was admitted to Darke County Infirmary, along with elder sister Sarah Ellen. According to her autobiography, she was put in the care of the Infirmary's superintendent, Samuel Crawford Edington and his wife Nancy, who taught her to sew and decorate. Beginning in the spring of 1870, she was "bound out" to a local family to help care for their infant son, on the false promise of fifty cents a week and an education. The couple had originally wanted someone who could pump water, cook, and who was bigger. She spent about two years in near-slavery to them where she endured mental and physical abuse. She would often have to do boys' work. One time the wife put Annie out in the freezing cold, without shoes, as a punishment because she had fallen asleep over some darning.[11] Annie referred to them as "the wolves". Even in her autobiography, she kindly never told the couple's real name.[12] When, in the spring of 1872, she reunited with her family, her mother had married a third time, to Joseph Shaw.

Because of poverty following the death of her father, Annie did not regularly attend school. But later, she did receive some additional education. She rendered her surname as ending in "ee", while it appears as "Moses" on her father's gravestone[13] and in his military record; it is the official spelling by the Annie Oakley Foundation maintained by her living relatives.[3][14] Variations in the accepted surname spelling ("Moses") have included "Mosey", "Mosie", and "Mauzy". There is no known record to substantiate Annie's vehement assertion that the correct spelling is "Mozee".

Annie began trapping at a young age, and shooting and hunting by age eight to support her siblings and her widowed mother. She sold the hunted game for money to locals in Greenville, as well as restaurants and hotels in southern Ohio. Her skill eventually paid off the mortgage on her mother's farm when Annie was 15.[15]

Debut and marriage[edit]

The Amateur Circus at Nutley (1894) by American illustrator Peter Newell. The scene depicted in the center is of Annie Oakley, standing on horseback, demonstrating her shooting ability.

Annie soon became well known throughout the region. On Thanksgiving Day 1875,[16] the Baughman and Butler shooting act was being performed in Cincinnati.

Traveling show marksman and former dog trainer Francis E. Butler (1850–1926), an Irish immigrant, placed a $100 bet per side (worth $2,148 today) with Cincinnati hotel owner Jack Frost, that he, Butler, could beat any local fancy shooter. The hotelier arranged a shooting match between Butler and the 15-year-old Annie saying, "The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year old girl named Annie."[16] After missing on his 25th shot, Butler lost the match and the bet. He soon began courting Annie, and they married on August 23, 1876. They did not have children.[16]

Career and touring[edit]

Aim at the high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you'll hit the bull's-eye of success.


— Annie Oakley , Annie Oakley exhibit at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas

Annie and Frank Butler lived in Cincinnati for a time. Oakley, the stage name she adopted when she and Frank began performing together,[3][17][18] is believed to have been taken from the city's neighborhood of Oakley, where they resided. Some people believe she took on the name because that was the name of the man who had paid her train fare when she was a child.[citation needed]

Oakley circa 1899

They joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1885. At 5 feet tall, Oakley was given the nickname of "Watanya Cicilla" by fellow performer Sitting Bull, rendered "Little Sure Shot" in the public advertisements.

During her first engagement with Buffalo Bill's show, Oakley experienced a tense professional rivalry with rifle sharpshooter Lillian Smith. Oakley temporarily left the Buffalo Bill's show but returned after Smith departed.

In Europe, she performed for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, King Umberto I of Italy, President Marie François Sadi Carnot of France and other crowned heads of state. Oakley had such good aim that, at his request, she knocked the ashes off a cigarette held by the newly crowned German Kaiser Wilhelm II.[19]

The Annie Oakley Foundation suggests that she was not the source of a widely repeated quip related to the event: "Some uncharitable people later ventured that if Annie had shot Wilhelm and not his cigarette, she could have prevented World War I."[19] After the outbreak of World War I, however, Oakley sent a letter to the Kaiser requesting a second shot. The Kaiser did not respond.[20]

Wild West show poster

Oakley promoted the service of women in combat operations for the United States armed forces. She wrote a letter to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898, "offering the government the services of a company of 50 'lady sharpshooters' who would provide their own arms and ammunition should the U.S. go to war with Spain."[21]

The Spanish-American War did occur, but Oakley's offer was not accepted. Theodore Roosevelt, did, however, name his volunteer cavalry the "Rough Riders" after the "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World" where Oakley was a major star.

The same year that McKinley was fatally shot by an assassin, 1901, Oakley was also badly injured in a train accident, but she recovered after temporary paralysis and five spinal operations. She left the Buffalo Bill show and in 1902 began a quieter acting career in a stage play written especially for her, The Western Girl. Oakley played the role of Nancy Berry and used a pistol, a rifle and rope to outsmart a group of outlaws.[8]

Following her injury and change of career, it only added to her legend that her shooting expertise continued to increase into her 60s.

Throughout her career, it is believed that Oakley taught upwards of 15,000 women how to use a gun. Oakley believed strongly that it was crucial for women to learn how to use a gun, as not only a form of physical and mental exercise, but also to defend themselves.[9] She said: "I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies."

Shooting prowess[edit]

Biographers, such as K. Shirl, repeat Oakley's own story about her very first shot at the age of eight. "I saw a squirrel run down over the grass in front of the house, through the orchard and stop on a fence to get a hickory nut." Taking a rifle from the house, she fired at the squirrel, writing later that, "It was a wonderful shot, going right through the head from side to side".[22]

The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that:

Oakley never failed to delight her audiences, and her feats of marksmanship were truly incredible. At 30 paces she could split a playing card held edge-on, she hit dimes tossed into the air, she shot cigarettes from her husband's lips, and, a playing card being thrown into the air, she riddled it before it touched the ground.[23]

RA. Koestler-Grack reports that, on March 19, 1884, she was being watched by Chief Sitting Bull when:

Oakley playfully skipped on stage, lifted her rifle, and aimed the barrel at a burning candle. In one shot, she snuffed out the flame with a whizzing bullet. Sitting Bull watched her knock corks off of bottles and slice through a cigar Butler held in his teeth.[24]

Libel cases[edit]

In 1904, sensational cocaine prohibition stories were selling well. The newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst published a false story that Oakley had been arrested for stealing to support a cocaine habit. The woman actually arrested was a burlesque performer who told Chicago police that her name was "Annie Oakley". The original Annie Oakley spent much of the next six years winning 54 of 55 libel lawsuits against newspapers. She collected less in judgments than were her legal expenses, but to her, a restored reputation justified the loss of time and money.[25]

Most of the newspapers that printed the story had relied on the Hearst article, and upon learning of the libelous error, they immediately retracted the false story with apologies. Hearst, however, tried to avoid paying the anticipated court judgments of $20,000 ($503,000, adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars) by sending an investigator to Darke County with the intent of collecting reputation-smearing gossip from Oakley's past. The investigator found nothing.[25]

Later years and death[edit]

Oakley in 1922

Oakley continued to set records into her sixties, and she also engaged in extensive, albeit quiet, philanthropy for women's rights and other causes, including the support of specific young women that she knew. She embarked on a comeback and intended to star in a feature-length silent movie. In a 1922 shooting contest in Pinehurst, North Carolina, sixty-two-year-old Oakley hit 100 clay targets in a row from 16 yards (15 m).[26]

In late 1922, Oakley and Butler suffered a debilitating automobile accident that forced her to wear a steel brace on her right leg. Yet after a year and a half of recovery, she again performed and set records in 1924.[27]

Her health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio, at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926.[28][29] She was buried in Brock Cemetery in Greenville, Ohio.[30]

Butler was so grieved by her death that, according to B. Haugen, he stopped eating and died just 18 days later, on November 21, 1926 in Michigan.[31] However, K. Shirl reports that the death certificate said that he had died of "Senility". Butler was buried next to Annie.[32][33]

After her death, her incomplete autobiography was given to Fred Stone, the stage comedian,[34] and it was discovered that her entire fortune had been spent on her family and her charities.[citation needed]

She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Little Sure Shot of the Wild West[edit]

Annie Oakley's 1894 "exhibition of rifle shooting at glass balls, etc.", in an Edison Kinetoscope movie

When Buffalo Bill performed, he decided to hire someone else instead of Annie. In 1894 Oakley and Butler performed in Edison's Kinetoscope film, The "Little Sure Shot" of the "Wild West," an exhibition of rifle shooting at glass balls, etc.[35] Filmed November 1, 1894, in Edison's Black Maria studio by William Heise (0:21 at 30 frame/s; 39 ft.),[36] it was about the 11th film made after commercial showings began on April 14, 1894.[37]

Oakley's early movie star opportunity followed from Buffalo Bill's friendship with Thomas Edison, which developed after Edison personally built, for the Wild West Show, what in the 1890s was the world's largest electrical power plant.[27] Buffalo Bill and fifteen of his show Indians appeared in two Kinetoscopes filmed September 24, 1894.[38]

Eponym[edit]

During her lifetime, the theatre business began referring to complimentary tickets as "Annie Oakleys". Such tickets traditionally have holes punched into them (to prevent them from being resold), reminiscent of the playing cards Oakley shot through during her sharpshooting act.

Representations on stage, literature and screen[edit]

In 2014, the folk music group Love.Stop.Repeat released a song titled Annie Oakley, with lyrics about her life and exploits.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "We Hope "Mosey" Ends the Debate". annieoakleyfoundation.org. Summer 2003. 
  2. ^ Edwards, Bess. "Annie Oakley's Life and Career". annieoakleyfoundation.org.  "Born … Phoebe Ann Moses…"
  3. ^ a b c Archived October 15, 2002 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Krohn, Katherine E. (2005). Wild West Women (book). Lerner Publications. p. 55.  "Sitting Bull was deeply moved by Annie's talent. He thought her ability with a gun was amazing."Wills, Charles M. (2007). Annie Oakley: A Photographic Story of a Life (book). DK Children. p. 71.  "Like Annie, Lillian showed amazing talent with a gun at an early age."
  5. ^ Buffalo Bill Wild West Show's champion marksman Captain Bogardus only toured for a year [1], which created a lucky opening for Annie Oakley to replace Bogardus and become a superstar.
  6. ^ "Annie Oakley of the Wild West (book review)". girlswithguns.org. 
  7. ^ "Tall Tales and the Truth: Was Annie really born in 1866?". Annie Oakley Foundation at web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2002-10-15.  (the answer is no: born in August 13, 1860/death November 3, 1960/she was happily married – in a cabin northwest of Woodland/Willowdell)
  8. ^ a b Wukovits, John. Legends of the West: Annie Oakley. Chelsea House Publishers. Philadelphia, 1991.
  9. ^ a b Wills, Chuck. Annie Oakley. DK Publishing. London, 2007.
  10. ^ "Annie Oakley". American Experience. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "August 13, 1860: Annie Oakley is born Phoebe Ann Moses, on the family farm in Darke County, Ohio, fifth [sic] of seven surviving children. Her Quaker parents, Jacob and Susan, have moved from Pennsylvania, where they ran an inn. In Ohio, the family supports itself with subsistence farming. ..." 
  11. ^ Freifeld, Riva (director and producer) (2006). The American Experience: Annie Oakley (in English). Boston, MA: WGBH. 
  12. ^ Whiting, Jim. What's so great about Annie Oakley. Mitchell Lane Publishers. Delaware, 2007.
  13. ^ "Jacob Mosey". FindAGrave.com. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  14. ^ "Tall Tales and the Truth: Born Phoebe Anne Oakley Mozee?". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2002-10-15.  (the answer is "no": "Her mother, Susan, named her Phoebe Ann…"; her father Jacob is surnamed "Moses" in the National Archives War of 1812 military records; "In the 1870 Census, Annie is listed as Ann Moses" – but, several other surname spellings appeared later. "The professional name Oakley was assumed in 1882, when Annie began to perform with Frank Butler; it was not a family name.")
  15. ^ "Annie Oakley". Dorchester County Public Library, Cambridge, MD. 
  16. ^ a b c "Biography: Frank Butler". pbs.org. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Annie Oakley". American Experience. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07. "Narrator: Frank Butler was Annie's ticket out of Greenville. They soon married. For the next six years, while Butler and his new shooting partner John Graham performed on the variety circuit, Annie stayed in the background. That was about to change [when] Butler and Graham were playing a theater in Springfield, Ohio, when John Graham suddenly fell ill. Annie filled in, holding the targets. That night Frank kept missing – until a jeering spectator shouted, "Let the girl shoot!" Frank obliged. Annie hit the targets every time – much to the delight of the raucous crowd. "Butler and Graham" soon ceased to be. Mrs. Butler took a stage name, borrowed from her paternal grandmother – Annie Oakley." 
  18. ^ "Tall Tales and the Truth: Born Phoebe Anne Oakley Mozee?". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2002-10-15.  (the answer is no: "Her mother, Susan, named her Phoebe Ann…"; her father Jacob is surnamed "Moses" in the National Archives War of 1812 military records; "In the 1870 Census, Annie is listed as Ann Moses" – but, several other surname spellings appeared later. "The professional name Oakley was assumed in 1882, when Annie began to perform with Frank Butler; …")
  19. ^ a b "Tall Tales and the Truth: Did she shoot the Kaiser's cigarette?". Annie Oakley Foundation at web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2002-10-15. 
  20. ^ Large, David Clay (1999). "Thanks, But No Cigar". In Cowley, Robert. What if?: the world's foremost military historians imagine what might have been. Putnam. pp. 290–91. ISBN 978-0-399-14576-6. OCLC 41338197. 
  21. ^ The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
  22. ^ Shirl, K., Annie Oakley, University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, isbn 0806124180, p.4.
  23. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, article on Annie Oakley.
  24. ^ Koestler-Grack, RA., Annie Oakley, Facts On File, Incorporated, Infobase Publishing, 2010, pp. 28-29.
  25. ^ a b "Anie Oakley (1860-1926)". pbs.org. 2006-02-14. 
  26. ^ "Annie Oakley". lkwdpl.org Women in History. 
  27. ^ a b "Annie Oakley". dorchesterlibrary.org Dorchester County Public Library. 
  28. ^ "Champion Rifle Shot. Chipped Ash From Wilhelm's Cigarette. Bullets Lifted Home Mortgage.". New York Times. November 14, 1926. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  29. ^ "Little Sureshot". Time magazine. November 15, 1966. Retrieved 2009-04-08. "As it must to all men, Death came to Mrs. Annie Oakley. Butler, 66, most marked markswoman in history, at Greenville, Ohio, after long illness." 
  30. ^ "Famous Ohio Gravesites". ohiotraveler.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  31. ^ Haugen, B., Annie Oakley: American Sharpshooter, Capstone, 2006, p. 88.
  32. ^ Shirl, K., Annie Oakley, University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, isbn 0806124180, p.243 - 244.
  33. ^ Find-a-grave.com, "Annie Oakley". Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  34. ^ "United States". Time magazine. December 6, 1926. Retrieved 2009-04-08. "From Greenville, Ohio, I received a heavy brown pasteboard box, which I carried to the stage of the Globe Theatre, Manhattan, and opened in the presence of a notary public. It contained several scrapbooks, with clippings, photographs, letters and a typed autobiography up to 1890 of my late friend, Annie Oakley Butler, ablest markswoman in history, who died last month. There was no letter of explanation but it seemed apparent that Annie Oakley, with whom I played in a circus some 20 years ago, wished me to be her Boswell." 
  35. ^ As titled/described by Raff & Gammon, Price list of films, ca. June 1895, p. 1 [MI].
  36. ^ DIGITAL ID edmp 4030 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mbrsmi/edmp.4030 Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D. C. 20540 USA.
  37. ^ Chronological Title List of Edison Motion Pictures - Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Washington, D. C. 20540 USA
  38. ^ "Buffalo dance / Thomas A. Edison, Inc. ; producer, W.K.L. Dickson.". Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. 1994-05-13. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 

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