Born Phoebe Ann Mosey in a log cabin in Darke County, Ohio in 1860. Legend has it that she started taking her first shots at the age of eight and by the time she had turned twelve, was such an accomplished hunter that she was able to provide food for her family. In fact, she killed so much wild game that she was able to sell the surplus to a local Cincinnati hotel and pay off the families mortgage.
The Family That Shoots Together…
These were the years when vaudeville was at its peak and it marked Annie’s introduction into show business. It seems that a troupe was traveling through Annie’s hometown and a noted marksman by the name of Frank Butler was along for the ride. A challenge ensued and Annie, much to the surprise of the on-lookers, bested the noted Butler. As it turns out, Butler was bested in more than one way. He fell in love with her and a year later they were married.
Fearing that they would face difficulties performing as a married couple, Butler coaxed Annie into taking another name. She chose the name “Oakley” after a neighbor of hers who had helped her and her family during rough times. Butler then noticed that Annie was garnering far more attention with her marksmanship skills and he decided to drop from the act and concentrate on managing her career. As it turns out, a wise move.
He managed to hook her up with the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and a legend was about to be born. While the Show was touring Europe, Annie gave performances to Queen Victoria, (twice) and defeated the Grand Duke Michael of Russia. The most memorable moment came was when she was able to shoot a cigarette from the lips of Kaiser Wilhelm.
They Say The Neon Lights Shine Bright…
After being involved in a train accident in 1901, Annie was forced to retire from the Wild West show. It wasn’t long before Broadway came a callin’. She was cast in a play called “The Western Girl” which ran for a couple of years.
So How Good Was She?
Damn good. From a distance of 30 paces she was able to shoot a dime from between her Franks thumb and forefinger with a .22 rifle. In a rapid-fire demonstration, she was able to pick off 943 out of 1000 flying balls. This was all in addition to her marksmanship (markswomanship?) skills she regularly displayed by shooting holes in playing cards from long distance.
After the Broadway play closed, Annie remained visible in the public eye
. She was often seen appearing at charity
events that benefited orphan
ed young girls or actors and actresses. Even though Annie left Broadway, Broadway wouldn’t leave her. It seems that during her time, any complimentary tickets that were passed out had holes punched in them that resembled the holes in the cards Annie used for target practice. The name stuck and to this day the term Annie Oaklies is still used when referring to freebies..
Annie went back to Ohio and died in Greenville on November 3, 1926 at the age of 66. Perhaps heartbroken, her husband Frank died a mere eighteen days later. They are buried next to each other in Brock Cemetery, a few miles from her original birthplace.