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Oakley, Annie
Oakley, Annie

Phoebe Ann Mosey (often misspelled as Mozee or Moses) was born in a log cabin in Darke County, Ohio, in 1860. The true life character who inspired the musical ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, she fired her first shot at the age of eight and by age 12 was the chief provider for her large and hungry family. Thanks to her mastery of the rifle and shotgun, she paid off the mortgage on the Mosey homestead through the sale of surplus wild game to a Cincinnati hotel owner.

The fame of this amazing little shooter exploded throughout Ohio and the mid-west when she defeated Frank Butler, vaudeville's champion marksman and trick shot. Butler not only lost the match, he lost his heart to this shy little shooter. One year later, Frank and Annie were married. Frank felt certain husband and wife teams would face difficulty being booked by agents, and he and Annie decided that she should have a professional name. Annie chose "Oakley," after a kind and generous man who had befriended her in an earlier time of crisis. As Annie Oakley's fame grew, Frank realized his bride was attracting far more attention than he as she stunned audiences with her phenomenal accuracy. He soon brought her to the attention of Nate Salsbury, the genius manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Frank withdrew from competition to concentrate on managing Annie's career.

Touring Europe with the Wild West Show in 1887, Annie twice gave private demonstrations for Queen Victoria, defeated Grand Duke Michael of Russia in a match arranged by the Prince of Wales and in Berlin shot a cigarette from the lips of Kaiser Wilhelm. After a tragic train accident in 1901, Annie retired from the Wild West Show. She starred in a Broadway play, THE WESTERN GIRL, in 1902 and '03. She also continued to perform at charity events — Annie Oakley never refused a charity request if the beneficiaries were either orphaned girls, deserving young women, or actors.

Annie Oakley's feats as a sharpshooter are legendary. At thirty paces she shot a dime from between her husband's thumb and forefinger with a .22 rifle.  With this weapon she could hit two-inch flying balls by sighting them in the shiny surface of a bowie knife. Once she hit 943 out of 1000 flying balls in a rapid fire demonstration and, at the age of 56, using three double-barreled guns, punctured in midair six balls sprung from as many traps. Her prowess was immortalized in the lingo of Broadway when, in the pre-computerized days of hard tickets, complimentary tickets identified by the holes punched in them were called "Annie Oaklies," since they duplicated the holes Annie shot in flying playing cards.

Annie Oakley died in Greenville, Ohio on November 3, 1926. Frank Butler died eighteen days later. They are buried side-by-side in Brock Cemetery, just a few miles from her birthplace.

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