A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of August, Solar Year 2018

White Roses

August 13, 1860 was the birthdate of Phoebe Ann Mosey, known to history as the American sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Annie Oakley began trapping before the age of seven, and shooting and hunting by age eight, to support her six siblings and her widowed mother. She sold the hunted game to locals in Greenville, Ohio, such as shopkeepers who shipped it to hotels in Cincinnati and other cities. Oakley also sold the game herself to restaurants and hotels in northern Ohio; she paid off her mother’s house mortgage by the age of fifteen.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1875, the Baughman & Butler shooting act was being performed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Traveling show marksman Frank E. Butler placed a $100 bet per side with Cincinnati hotel owner Jack Frost that Butler could beat any local fancy shooter. The hotelier arranged a shooting match between Butler and the 15-year-old Annie Oakley , saying, “The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year-old girl named Annie.” After missing on his 25th shot, Butler lost the match and the bet. He soon began courting Annie and they married.

Annie Oakley and Frank Butler joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885. This three-year tour only cemented Oakley as America’s first female star. She earned more than any other performer in the show, except for Buffalo Bill Cody himself. In Europe, she performed for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, King Umberto I of Italy, President Marie Francois Sadi Carnot of France and other crowned heads of state. Oakley supposedly shot the ashes off a cigarette held by the newly crowned German Kaiser Wilhelm II at his request.

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 fifty lady sharpshooters who would provide their own arms and ammunition should the U.S. go to war with Spain. Oakley’s offer was not accepted.

In 1901, Annie Oakley was badly injured in a train accident, but recovered after temporary paralysis and five spinal operations. She left the Buffalo Bill show and in 1902 began a less taxing acting career in “The Western Girl”, a stage play written especially for her. Oakley played the role of Nancy Berry who used a pistol, a rifle and rope to outsmart a group of outlaws.

Annie Oakley continued to set records into her sixties. She hit 100 clay targets in a row from 16 yards at age 62 in a 1922 shooting contest in North Carolina. Oakley also engaged in extensive philanthropy for women’s rights and other causes, including the support of young women whom she knew.  Oakley’s health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926. Her husband Frank Butler, greatly grieved, died eighteen days later and is buried next to Annie Oakley in Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio.

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