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Annie Oakley, born as Pheobe Ann Moses [Mosey] on August 13th, 1860 was a legendary

sharp-shooter in the Wild West Shows that developed in America during the 1870s. Annies life
can hardly be described as easy; she was born into a poor family in Darke County, Ohio. Her
parents, Susan and Jacob Moses, owned their own farm when Annie was born, a place they
accquired after their tavern which previously existed in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania burned
down. Jacob Moses, her father, was thirty-three years older than Annies mother, Susan. The
family struggled throughout Annies young life to provide for themselves and this situation
worsened that much more after Jacob Moses premature death, which occured when he was at
the age of 67 years old in the year 1866, just six years after Annie was born. Born with inherant
skill, talent, and cunning, Oakley employed these skills to help her family get by and these same
skills enabled Oakley to assume a successful, almost seamless performing career. Though she
was not from the West herself, Annie Oakleys life embodied many of the essential ideals: Most
significantly, Oakley did not assume the typical womans role but, instead, created her own
position within the Wild West Show. Oakley also embodied the sense of freedom and
opportunity that the Wild West provided for people. Finally, Oakleys life also captured the
sense of adventure that was inherant with the thought of moving out West: the consistant
transitions and longing for travel embraced by Oakley mirrored that same wanderlust displayed
by the travellers who migrated West; people who were seraching for opportunity, advernture,
and who were not afraid to work hard to get what they could get from the world around them.
After her father died when Oakley was six years old, the Oakley family struggled to
provide for themselves. Annie assisted in providing food for her family early on by teaching
herself to trap birds and other small animals. This learned skill greatly influenced the difference
between hunger and starvation for the members of the Moses family. By age seven, Annie had

begun to experiment with her fathers rifle in an effort to catch more game for her family. Annie
later boasted about her natural skill for hunting with a rifle, including an innate skill of perfect
aim: even at such a young age and with little to no instruction on how a firearm is supposed to be
used, Annie was able to shoot all of the game she hunted directly in the head so that the meat of
the animal was not destroyed or spoiled by buckshot.
This skill, on its own, also was given the chance to double in purpose as Oakley was also
able to sell the game that she caught to outside buyers. For example, Charles Katzenburger, a
merchant, bought most of the game that Annie did not catch for her family and would sell the
meat for her. Much of the meat was sold to hotels and restaurants in Annies area so talk of
Annies natural ability at shooting game became a part of everyday, local conversation. In a way,
this business deal really began the publics recognition and aprreciation for Annies talent and
fostered the formation of the foundation for Oakleys fan base which would follow and support
her into the Wild West Shows.
Still in financial turmoil despite the familys efforts, Susan Moses was forced to make
desperate decisions in order to keep her family alive. Susan did assist as a nurse for many local
families and also completed housework and cooking for these families as well, for which she
recieved $1.25 a week. Although this also helped, Mrs. Moses was still desperate to find a way
to pay for her large family. When Oakley was seven or eight, an offer was made by the Edington
family to reward Mrs. Moses handsomely if she would allow Annie to work in their home.
Originally, they informed Mrs. Moses that the workload was light so Annie would not be
overworked within their home. However, after Annie agreed and moved into the family home to
help with the children, conditions worsened intensely. Instead of just looking after the baby,
which was stated previously as her only responsibility within the home, her responsibilites were

increased intensely after the first month. In her 1925 biography, Oakley related the following
about the experience:
The girl would have no work, he said, except to watch the three month old baby boy.
...All went well for a month. Then the work began to stack up. I got up at four oclock in
the morning, got breakfast, milked the cows, fed the calves, the pigs, pumped water for
the cattle, fed the chickens, rocked the baby to sleep, weeded the garden, picked the wild
blackberries, got dinner after digging up the potatoes for dinner and picking the
vegetables--and then [I] could go hunting and trapping.
Annie attempted to run back home to her family, but the family that she worked for kept
her prisoner for two full years. She affectionately coined the term, the wolves, in reference
of this family and how they treated her. Finally, at approximately eleven or twelve years of age,
Annie ran from that family to the train station, where a kind man [whom Annie was never able to
identify] heard her story and also provided her with secure passage home before returning her to
her Mothers house. Her mother had remarried once in another effort to save the family, but the
man, Daniel Braumbaugh, who was twenty-two years older than Susan, died shortly after Susan
gave birth to his child. Susan married yet again, but this man, Joseph Shaw who was thirty years
older than Susan, did not bring a lot of wealth to the match either, so the Moses family continued
to struggle, although they were able to, after this marriage, able to purchase a larger house after
their marriage as Susan wanted to be able to provide a house for all of her children that they
could come to whenever they needed to.
This struggle only continued, however, for three more years past this point within
Annies history. In 1875, Annie was given the opportunity of a lifetime, though she, perhaps,
might not have known it as such at the time. A hotel owner in Cincinatti who knew of Annies

skills as a shooter [based on the fact that he bought the meat that Annie caught] extened an
invitation. The hotel owner decided to invite Annie to his hotel because of a shooting contest that
he knew that was going to occur between Annie and his most prestigious guest, Frank E. Butler.
Butler at the time was on a tour with a couple of other marksmen and Butler was known
to stop in each town and challenge all of the local men to a shooting contest. Annie and one of
her brothers scraped together the fifty dollar fee that they had to submit in order to participate in
the competition. It is said by reports that Butler laughed the second he found out that young
Annie would be shooting against him.
During the competition, each participant was challenged to shoot, and successfully kill,
twenty-five helpless birds. Butler finished the competitiion having shot twenty-four of each of
the birds while, Annie, poor darling, was able to shoot all of the birds and thus stunned the
crowd, and Butler, with her win. Apparently, however, Butler was not offended by her victory
but was, rather, in awe of her and it and subsequently he began to court Annie that same year.
Annie, at the time was fifteen years old.
Butler, himself, was ten years Annies senior. He was born in Ireland in 1850 and, as is
stated by the Annie Oakley Center Foundation, was able to work his way into the United
States by working many odd jobs. By his early twenties however, Butler was a credible sharpshooter and began touring with other marksmen across the United States. Butler officially
became a U.S. Citizen in the year 1877, exactly two years after he and Annie had met.
The way that Butler pursued Annie Oakley, one could say, has fabulous merit as to how
eloquently the commencement into a personal relationship was established by Butler despite
Annies own young age at the time as well as the ten year gap also lying between them. Very
sweetly, Butler had discovered that Annie had created a particular affection for Butlers dog,

George, and Butler would then write letters to Annie in order to court her, but aign that each of
the letters were from George. Oakley and Butler were married the very next year on August
23rd, 1876, when Oakley was a tender sixteen years of age.
Despite the fact that these were indeed times in which the males ran the show per se,
Butler was consistent in his support for his wife and the career that they would develop together.
Annie first appeared in a performance with Butler on May 1st, 1882 due to his usual male partner
being incredibly sick. Annie took his place in the act and held things for Frank Butler to shoot at.
She also included some of her own shooting in the act. The Butlers dog, George as well, got in
on the action. The dog quickly became an important and recognizeable aspect about the Butlers
performances. Annie would set apples on his head and he would have to slowly remain in that
spot until Annie decided to shoot them off.
A performance, however, in 1884 in St. Paul, Minnesota would again set the lives of the
Butlers on a slightly varied course. At this point, Butler and Oakley were given the opportunity
to meet Sitting Bull, the chief of the Native American tribe that had fought against General
Custer in the Battle at Little Big Horn (1976). Sitting Bull was fascinated by Annie Oakley and
decided to adopt her, affectionate titling her, Little Sure Shot, a name that Annie would later
utilize for advertisement for their shows. The Butlers joined the Sells Brothers Circus as
champion rifle shots in 1884. They stayed with this company for one season before leaving
due to dangerous working conditions.
After again advertising and performing their act on their own for a brief period of time,
Butler and Oakley were finally casted into Buffalo Bills Wild West Show in 1885. The Wild
West show proved profitable for both Oakley and Butler. However, the success of the Wild West
show depended heavily on the novelty of Annie Oakley, so Butler became more of a manager to

her than a partner, although the couple continued to perform rifle related tricks until their
retirement.
In their second year as part of the Wild West show, Oakley and Butler were able to
complete a tour of Europe. The show was also notably performed at the Golden Jubilee for
Queen Victoria. The Wild West shows included such sights as, staged bank robberies, gun
fights, Indian raids, military engagements, and other exhibitions of the crafts required to survive
in the West. (Dorchester Library, p. 5) The Butlers toured with the Wild West show until 1901
when they decided to leave the show largely due to a back injury that she had sustained during a
train accident which hurt her back, effectively causing Annie to have to put herself through five
different operations on her spine in order to correct the injuries sustained.
The Butlers were also always a very generous couple. Having both come from poor
backgrounds, they each understood what it was like to never have enough money and to always
be scraping by. For example, modern day free passes into shows are still occasionally titled,
Annie Oakleys because of the fact that Annie would give out so many free passes to people to
see her shows. The Butlers also donated to orphanages, and they both continued to send money
to support Annies family as well who were able to live a much more comfortable life due to
Annies great success.
In 1913, the couple finally retired from show business and they bought a house in
Cambridge, Maryland. An important aspect of Annies performance persona while she was
performing the Wild West show was that she consistently maintained that she was a lady and so
she always wore modest clothing during her performances and she also was only known as
Annie Oakley while performing; in the private sphere she was always referred to as, Mrs. Frank
Butler. This assisted the couple at this later point in their lives because it also made them very

popular among their neighbors in Cambridge who they would often invite out fishing or hunting
as Cambridge was a great resource for both sports and both halves of the couple greatly enjoyed
these activities.
While living in Cambridge, Annie Oakley was able to write her first autobiography,
Powders I Have Used., which was published in the year 1914. She also wrote articles for
several magazines, encouraging other women to take up shooting not only for the sport that it
was, but also as a means of self-defense. However, Annie quickly became restless with settled
down, retired life so she and Frank began to travel. One of their favorite places to visit was
Pinehurst, North Carolina where they were able to have an active social life as well as the
opportunity for great hunting and fishing (without too many bugs or snakes to deal with: Annie
disliked hunting in environments that were overwhelmed by bugs and snakes.)
In 1917, the Butlers sold their house in Cambridge and moved to Pinehurst. In the same
year, Buffalo Bill Cody died. Despite being in retirement, Annie continued to provide
performances for the public in order to reinforce the existence of the Wild West era which was
slowly deteriorating due to overpopulation. Annie, Frank, and their dog, Dave also were able to
provide assistance during World War I. The Butlers traveled to different training camps to give
shooting demonstrations, and they also put great effort into assisting the American Red Cross by
raising money for the association. Their dog, Dave, assisted with the war effort as well as he
would sniff out the donations from people that they would hide in handkerchiefs for him to find.
Unfortunately, despite their active lifestyle, Annie and Frank were deterred by an
automobile accident in 1922 which severely injured both members of the couple. Annie took
over a year and a half to recover from her injuries. However, spunky as ever, Annie Oakley was

back to performing in 1924. However, she began deteriorating in health again in 1925 so she and
her husband decided to move back to Ohio so that Annie could be closer to her family.
Annie Oakley died on November 3rd, 1926 and her husband Frank Butler followed close
behind her, dying on November 21st, 1926. The power couple were able to spend fifty years
together encouraging each other and helping each other to grow, but also living their life in a
way that made them wonderful role models for the Wild West ideals that they both embodied
and believed in. A true American Dream sucess story through and through, the life story of
Annie Oakley is still inspirational to women today: she was a woman who worked hard for what
she wanted and consistently made strides to improve herself and the world around her and who
never sacrificed herself and who she was in order to be successful.

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