Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley is a women I became interested in recently. Looking over pictures of her and reading about her life, she instantly reminded me of a friend. Something about both her spirit and her physical presence.

I wanted to start making posts about individuals and images that I've collected, mostly in my mind but some on my hard drive, so this is the first.

Though she is known as Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter and exhibition shooter was born Phoebe Ann Moses in 1860, in a log cabin on the rural western border of Ohio.

After the death of her father at age six, followed shortly by her mother re-marring and then becoming widowed for a second time , Annie's family (now consisting of nine children and her mother) soon found itself in a dire situation. In 1870 Annie and her sister were admitted to the Drake County Infirmary, also called the "poor farm", when the family could no longer financially support them.

Annie was "let out" to a local family by the poor farm, where she suffered mental and physical abuse before running away and returning home two years later. At that time her mother had married for a third time. The family remained impoverished, and Annie began hunting and trapping (which she had done since a young age), selling the game she caught in town to hotels and restaurants. In this way she was able to support her mother and siblings, and at the age of 15 she had raised enough to pay off the mortgage owing on the family farm.

Of this event she says "Oh, how my heart leaped with joy as I handed the money to mother and told her that I had saved enough to pay it off!"

Annie was such an accomplished hunter that at age 15 she entered a sharpshooting competition against Francis Butler, a travelling marksman. Butler had bet $50 (around $2,000 today) that he could beat any competitor. Surely he wasn't expecting a 15 year old girl as a competitor, and Annie quickly beat him, hitting 25 out of 25 shots in a row (Butler missed on his 25th shot).

This was the beginning of Annie Oakley. Annie became renouned for her sharpshooting abilities, and drew a crowd wherever she performed. One of her most famous tricks was to split a playing card, edge-on, repeatedly, and then put subsequent holes in it, all before it fell to the ground, shooting from a distance of 90 feet.
Later, Annie married Francis Butler, and together they toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. During this period the Lakota Holy Man and Chief Sitting Bull also toured with the show, and they struck up a friendship. It is reported that Sitting Bull adopted Annie, in part to symbolically replace a daughter who had died. Sitting Bull gave Annie the nickname "Little Sure Shot", which she used throughout her career and became part of the identity she created for herself as a women of the wild west.

A rare picture of Annie without her gun.

In the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Texas, Annie is quoted as saying:

"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 performed throughout her life, along with advocating for women's causes and philanthropy work. She continued to set sharpshooting records up until her death in 1926, from natural causes.

Annie in 1922


  1. I only knew of Annie Oakley as a reference for sharp shooting. Interesting. What is it that you find fascinating about her, you think?

  2. This is caroline btw...I never even knew I had a blogger account.

  3. She was very understated in many ways, yet she was doing something so amazing for her time. And it started out so practically (to support her family).
    I think that is what I like about her.