Annie Oakley


Annie Oakley was a gifted sharpshooter who hailed from Ohio. Oakley gained widespread fame and national recognition at a very early age, thanks to her exceptional shooting skills.

She later featured as one of the most prominent members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

Early Life

Oakley was born in a rural county of Ohio in a log cabin. Her parents were Quakers. She was still very young when her father died after having fought in the War of 1812. She received irregular education during her early years.

At an early age, she was sent off to live with another family and worked for them for wages. She was mistreated by this family and later called them ‘the wolves’.

At the age of seven, Annie Oakley started hunting game. She started shooting a year later and soon became an excellent sharpshooter.

Start of Career as Sharpshooter

Annie Oakley started her career as a sharpshooter at the age of 8. A few years later, she was hunting game professionally and later started selling it to hotels, restaurants and shopkeepers.

By age 15, Oakley had hunted and sold enough game to pay the mortgage on her mother’s farm. Her skills became known far and wide.

When a shooting act was organized in Cincinnati in 1875, Oakley was invited to perform and compete with the famed Irish marksman, Frank E. Butler.

Shooting Match with Frank Butler

The shooting match between Oakley and Butler took place on the Thanksgiving Day in 1875. It came about as a result of a bet between Butler and a local hotel owner.

The hotel owner invited Oakley to compete with Butler. In the shooting match that followed, both participants continued to hit their targets until Butler missed on the 25th shot.

Annie Oakley was declared the winner. Soon after their match, Butler and Oakley fell in love and married.

Performance in Buffalo Bill’s Show

In 1885, Oakley and Butler jointed the famous Wild West show of Buffalo Bill Cody. She performed all around U.S. as a part of the show.

This brought her national recognition and fame. She also embarked on an international tour as a part of the show, performing in cities all across Europe.

As a part of her career as a performer in the show, Oakley performed in front of many European notables. These included Queen Victoria, King Umberto I of Italy, President Carnot of France and German Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Shooting Abilities

Annie Oakley was known for the exceptional accuracy of her shots. She famously shot the ashes off a cigarette held by Wilhelm II, a feat she often performed for her husband. She could shoot any card placed edge-on at 30 paces.

At the same distance, she could riddle a card with bullets if tossed into the air. On the set of the Wild West show, Oakley would snuff out candles with her shots and knock corks off bottles.

Her shooting prowess earned her the nickname of ‘Little Sure Shot’ from the famous Indian chief Sitting Bull.

Annie Oakley: Young Markswoman (Childhood of Famous Americans) Paperback – November 30, 1989