Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley was a perfect shot from an early age, outshooting the great Frank Butler, and going on to Star in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Annie Oakley gained fame and fortune as an expert sharp shooter in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. She was likely the best marksman in the United States. She was generous in her support of women who wanted to better themselves. But Annie Oakley wasn't from the Wild West.

Annie Oakley's given name was Phoebe Ann Mozee. She was born in Darke County, Ohio on August 13, 1860 to Jacob and Susan Mosey. (The family changed the spelling of its name several times.) By the age of twelve, Annie could shoot the heads off running quail.

When she was fifteen she met her future husband, Sharp Shooter Frank Butler, by handily beating him in a shooting competition. After The Baughman and Butler Shooting Act performed in Cincinnati, Butler, an exhibition shooter well known for his skill, made a bet that he could beat any local who would compete against him. Arrangements were made for him to meet Annie Oakley in a little town near Greenville, Ohio about ten days later. She won easily. The pair fell in love, married and did sharp shooting demonstrations together- along with their trained dog- around the country for several years, including traveling for a time with Sells Brothers Circus. It was during this time that Oakley first ventured west of the Mississippi River. Butler eventually realized Annie was a better shot, and a better show, than he was, and gave up shooting to be her manager.

The name Annie Oakley was adopted after Annie joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show when she was fifteen years old, in the year 1884. This was when she met real western natives for the first time, and the westerners she met were other members of the show. She amazed audiences in the United States and abroad throughout sixteen years of exhibition shooting stunts. After seeing her shoot the ashes off of cigarettes Frank Butler held in his mouth, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany challenged her to shoot the ashes off his own cigarette. Rumors abounded that he held it in his mouth, but in reality she had him hold it in his hand. Some say that if she had killed him it could have prevented World War I, but that will never be known because Oakley neatly nipped the ash off the cigarette without causing any harm to the Kaiser.

Annie was given the nick name "Little Sure Shot" during her years with the show. As an adult she measured five feet tall. At some point, it is said that another Wild West Show star, Sitting Bull, adopted Annie as his daughter.

Oakley was hurt in a serious train accident in 1901. Several train cars bearing livestock from the Wild West Show were injured or killed. Annie suffered a spinal injury which required repeated surgery and temporarily paralyzed her, but she eventually recovered. She had to give up the Wild West Show, but after her recovery she continued to give shooting demonstrations and in 1922, at the age of sixty-two, Annie Oakley hit 100 clay targets in a row from 16 yards, breaking a record.

Throughout her career, Oakley gave shooting lessons to over 2,000 at no cost to them. She did benefit performances to aid orphans, widows and women who wanted to get an education. She also personally assisted twenty young women financially so that they could go to nursing school or college.

Annie Oakley died of pernicious anemia at the age of 66. A play called "Annie Get Your Gun" commemorated her life on stage. She is a member of the National Women's Hall Of Fame and the Cowgirl's Hall of Fame.

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