Known as “Little Sure Shot”, Ms. Oakley had a unique combination of speed and accuracy in her shooting, and with the help of Buffalo Bill’s coaching, she became an expert performer as well.
Annie Oakley was born in August, 1860 in the town of Greenville, Ohio. From a young age, she became interested in shooting, but initially as a necessity: her father died when she was six years old and this left her family in desperate poverty. Annie began hunting and trapping and would sell surplus game to locals. Her skills gained larger attention when she won a shooting match with marksman Frank Butler at age 15. Not only would she go on to marry Mr. Butler, but the pair would travel together and join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Her family would never want for food again.
Known as “Little Sure Shot”, Ms. Oakley had a unique combination of speed and accuracy in her shooting, and with the help of Buffalo Bill’s coaching, she became an expert performer as well. She and her husband toured together for many years before settling down in North Carolina. Ms. Oakley did performances for locals well past her 60th birthday. Here is a brief pictorial history of her life…
These two cabinet card portraits from the mid 1880s show Annie and her husband Frank. They married around 1876. This is the first appearance of what would become Ms. Oakley’s trademark “hat and bangs” look!
This 1888 Carte-de-Visite shows the “Little Sure Shot” name as Annie displays her full Wild West costume. These cards were handed out to promote the traveling show. Note the fine embroidery of her dress!
This portrait from around 1889 was likely taken in advance of the Paris Exposition of 1889, an event she featured prominently in. She was quite the surprise to all who saw her perform — people were amazed that such a demure, kind-looking girl could achieve such feats!
One of the most interesting things about Annie’s life is the many stories and anecdotes about situations when she would take on a dare or a challenge. Many of these stories involve stuffy European figures or Native American Indian Chiefs. This photo captures one of those scenes. Annie isn’t in costume and it isn’t an event – she’s taking the time to show this guy what she’s made of!
Well in advance of the women’s suffrage movement, Ms. Oakley became a model for strong, capable women. While the Wild Bill show could have marketed her as a more masculine figure, they chose to do the opposite by capturing her softer side. This poster does good service to Ms. Oakley and is an example of how she became a hero for young girls around the nation.
While many traveling shows provided their performers meager accommodations, the Wild Bill show made a point to set Ms. Oakley up as a true VIP. Here you see her posing outside of her tent during one of the show stops.
After Ms. Oakley and her husband moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina, they became more involved in public life. While many performers slink from performing later in life, Ms. Oakley certainly did not. This photo from Feb 11, 1917 shows her putting on a show with clay pigeons for an audience of about 200.
One great thing about North Carolina is the great hunting. Here you see Ms. Oakley later in her life with her loyal hunting dog. They appear to be hunting quail.
Ms. Oakley delighted in performing well past her 60th birthday. This photo from 1922 shows her at age 62 stopping to pose for a photo during a women’s shooting training in North Carolina.
Annie and Frank would have a good life together in North Carolina. She passed away in 1925. This photo of the happy couple and their favorite dog is likely the last photo we have of the peerless, inimitable Annie Oakley.