45 Amazing Vintage Photos of Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley is a famous markswoman known for her sharpshooting. During her lifetime she traveled with her husband across the country and abroad showing off her skills with a rifle. She became a star in a male-dominated sport, and legendary throughout the world.

Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses on August 13, 1860 in Darke County, Ohio to Jacob Moses and Susan Wise Moses. When she was six years old, her father died from pneumonia, and her mother was left to care for her and her five siblings. Her mother remarried, but her second husband also died suddenly, leaving the family with a newborn baby. Because the family did not earn much money, they lived in a poor house, and Oakley who went by “Annie,” was sent to live with the Edington family. Oakley worked with the Edington family at the infirmary where she learned how to sew and helped with the younger children. She later stayed with an abusive family, whom she referred to as “the wolves.” At the age of eight, Oakley started hunting. She would sell the game she shot to local restaurants to help earn money for her family.

When she was fifteen, Oakley went to Cincinnati to compete against marksman Frank E. Butler. He travelled around the country challenging people to shooting competitions. During the competition, Oakley shot all twenty-five shots, and Butler missed one, making Oakley the winner. Butler was impressed by her skills, and soon they began courting. They were married August 23, 1876.

The happy couple toured around the country, and Butler continued to perform as a marksman. Oakley acted as his assistant and held up items for Butler to shoot. She would also do some shooting. As she became more popular, she adopted the stage name of “Oakley.” On May 1, 1882, Butler’s shooting partner became ill, and Oakley filled in. From that moment, Oakley became part of the act. In March 1884, she met Sitting Bull, the Lakota Sioux leader who defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He gave her the nickname “Little Sure Shot” after seeing her perform in St. Paul, Minnesota.

After touring for a year with the Sells Brothers Circus, Butler and Oakley joined the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The couple performed as partners, but Oakley quickly rose to fame. Butler chose to support his wife and work as her assistant and manager. Oakley became the star of the show. She would shoot glass balls out of the air, shoot through playing cards, and shoot cigarettes out of her husband’s mouth. As the headliner of the show, Oakley chose to wear simple, modest clothes instead of flashy costumes, so they wouldn’t detract from her feats as a markswoman.

Butler and Oakley stayed with the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for sixteen years. During these years, they traveled around the country and abroad. They performed for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in England. They also toured in Spain, Italy, and France. Over the course of her career, Oakley showed people around the world that women were capable and able to handle firearms and even out-shoot men. She encouraged women to learn how to use pistols that could be kept in purses in order to protect themselves. She was passionate about empowering women, and helping children.

After returning to the United States, Oakley and Butler began touring less and finally ended touring after a train wreck in 1901 which injured Oakley’s back. Two years later, Oakley found herself in a legal battle. It was reported in Chicago that she had been arrested for stealing a man’s trousers to sell them to buy cocaine. Other newspapers across the country also began to print the same story, however the report was entirely false. Oakley did not use drugs, nor did she steal anyone’s trousers. She and her husband were also living in New Jersey at the time, therefore she was nowhere near Chicago when the crime took place. It was discovered that the woman who was arrested was Maude Fontanella who used the false name “Any Oakley.” The real Annie Oakley was angered by the newspaper reports ruining her reputation, and she sued every paper that ran the false story. Over the course of seven years, Oakley successfully won 54 out of 55 cases against the newspapers.

In 1913, they moved to Cambridge, Maryland and then to Pinehurst, North Carolina in 1917. At the beginning of World War I, Oakley wrote to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and offered to fully fund and raise a regiment of women volunteers to fight during the war. She also offered to teach soldiers how to accurately shoot. Both her offers were not accepted.

In 1922, Oakley planned to begin touring again, however she and Butler were in a car accident which put her plans on hold. After a year of recovery, she returned to touring. Soon after, she became sick and in 1925, she moved back to Ohio to be closer to her family. Annie Oakley died November 3, 1926. Her beloved husband died three weeks later. They had been married for fifty years.

Annie Oakley is an iconic figure, especially for women interested in shooting sports. Her skills made her famous.She is remembered as the legendary frontwoman for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and an advocate for women to learn a sport that was primarily dominated by men. By Ashlee Anderson

The Wild West heroine Annie Oakley was actually born and raised in Ohio and her birth name was Phoebe Ann Moses.
“Annie,” as her siblings called her, lost her father around the age of six and began helping the family by trapping small animals for food.
She fired her first gun at eight as a means to feed her impoverished family. The unlucky victim was a squirrel outside her home.
When her mother found out she’d used her father’s gun, she was forbidden to touch it again for eight months.
At age nine, Annie Oakley and her older sister were sent to the Darke County Infirmary when her mother became too poor to care for them.
After about a year in the infirmary, she went to be the live-in help for a farm family with a baby. They treated her horribly; later she’d refer to them only as “the wolves.”
She ran away after staying there for two years, finally making it to a train station where a man took pity on her, buying her some food and a ticket home.
After returning home, she paid off her mother’s mortgage by selling game she’d shot to grocery stores for cash.
At age 15, Annie Oakley entered a shooting match against professional sharpshooter Frank Butler. She won, and Frank, impressed instead of angry, courted her and they later married.
Oakley replaced Frank’s ailing partner in his shooting act, and soon she was the star of the show.
“She reportedly once shot the ashes off the cigarette of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II — while he was holding it. She later remarked that, had she missed, she could have prevented World War I.”
Her extraordinary marksmanship allowed her to hit playing cards and dimes thrown into the sky.
Before joining Buffalo Bill Cody’s show, Oakley and her husband were with the Sells Brothers circus.
She made her own costumes, as she learned to sew at the infirmary as a child.
A member of the Quaker religion, she made her costumes very conservative and refused to wear makeup.
Oakley’s career flourished nationally in 1887 when she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody at the American Exposition in London.
Annie Oakley scorned the use of any trickery in shooting shows, instead relying only on her skill.
In 1884, Oakley met legendary Native American warrior Sitting Bull, who adopted her as a member of the Hunkpapa Lakota and gave her the nickname “Watanya Cicilla,” or “Little Sure Shot.”
In London, Oakley met Queen Victoria, who famously called her a “very clever little girl.”
Oakley competed at Wimbledon — before the London suburb hosted the famed tennis tournament. She was part of the rifle competition at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee there in 1887.
Her diminutive stature helped her stand out in the world of sharpshooting — she was only 5 feet tall.
She sued newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst for libel, forcing him to pay her $27,000. Hearst had printed in the Chicago papers that a broke Oakley stole a pair of men’s pants as a means to buy cocaine.
She was (rather obviously) a proponent of women’s rights to bear arms and to defend their countries via military service.
She tried to convince the government to let her assemble a team of women sharpshooters to fight in World War I, but no public figure would allow it.
Annie Oakley helped fund the care and education of orphaned children in the United States.
After Annie Oakley died in 1926 from pernicious anemia at age 66, Frank refused to eat and died 18 days later.

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