Tall Tales headline Kaiser's cigarette
 
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Many of the stories which have been told about Annie Oakley simply are not true. Some were the products of the creative imaginations of the promoters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. In more recent times, these "enhancements" were the results of writers of popular fiction and television and motion picture screen writers. In most cases, the true stories about Annie are better than the fictitious ones.

Select topics below and read accounts of some famous TALL TALES.

bulletDid they name her Phoebe Anne Oakley Mozee?
bulletWas Annie born in 1866 in Woodland, Darke County, Ohio?
bulletDid Annie meet Frank in a shooting match in Cincinnati?
bulletDid Sitting Bull join the Wild West show to see Annie?
bulletWas Annie a genuine Woman of the West?
bulletDid she shoot the ash from the Kaiser's cigarette?
bulletDid her hair really turn white in just 17 hours?



Annie's name   Born Phoebe Anne Oakley Mozee?
Annie's father, Jacob, fought in the War of 1812. His military records in the National Archives spell his last name Mosey. Her mother, Susan, named her Phoebe Ann, but her sisters preferred to call her Annie. In the Federal Census of 1860, the family name was spelled Mauzy. In the 1870 Census, Annie is listed as Ann Mosey. Annie, herself, promoted the Mozee spelling, but brother John and sister Hulda changed their names to Moses before their dual wedding ceremony in 1884. The professional name Oakley was assumed in 1882, when Annie began to perform with Frank Butler; it was not a family name.
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  Was Annie really born in 1866?
An important part of Annie's professional image was her youthful look of vigor and vitality. In 1886, Lillian Frances Smith joined the Wild West show. Lillian was 15 and Annie was 26. Lillian was bragging around the members of the Wild West troup that Annie Oakley was done for, now that she had joined the show. Lillian was a threat to Annie's image and Annie responded by lying about her age. The truth is that Annie was born August 13, 1860. At that time her family lived in a cabin less than 2 miles northwest of Woodland, now Willowdell, in Darke County, Ohio.
Youthful Annie
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North Star sign   Did Annie meet Frank in Cincinnati?
Legend has it that Annie Mosey beat Frank Butler in a shooting match in Cincinnati on Thanksgiving Day in 1875. The only truth in that statement is that she beat him. The Baughman and Butler shooting act was performing in Cincinnati in the spring of 1881, when Frank bet a hotel owner that he could beat any of the local fancy shooters. Frank was told that they had an unknown who would challenge him ten days later with a bet of $100 per side. As Frank later reported in newspaper accounts, they met in a little town near Greenville. He placed it "18 miles from the nearest station." This was near North Star. They were married on June 20, 1882.
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  Did Sitting Bull join just to see Annie?
Some would say that Arizona John Burke was able to persuade Sitting Bull to ride with the Wild West show only after someone showed a photograph of Annie to the Chief and promised him that he could see Little Sure Shot every day. The truth is that Sitting Bull wanted to see the newly inaugurated president, Grover Cleveland, in the hopes of securing better treatment for his people. The Chief was also promised money. He signed a contract for $50 per week and the right to sell autographs and photographs. He was required to ride in the street parade before each show and to ride in the opening processional. Even though Sitting Bull had adopted Annie as his daughter the year before and was very fond of her, it is unlikely that Burke even knew that they were acquainted.
Chief Sitting Bull
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The Western Girl   Was Annie a real Western Girl?
From November 1902 until March 1903, The Western Girl ran in theaters in New Jersey. It was a play written especially to star Annie Oakley, and it succeeded because of her popularity as a western performer. Years earlier, the Butler and Oakley act had been billed as "The Great Far West Rifle Shots." The fact is that Annie was never west of the Mississippi River until she and Frank began working for the Sells Brothers Circus in 1884. She met her first westerner when Buffalo Bill introduced her to the other members of the Wild West troup in 1885.
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  Did she shoot the Kaiser's cigarette?
In the Butler and Oakley act, Annie often shot corks out of bottles, snuffed out candle flames, and shot the ashes off of cigarettes. One such performance took place in St. Paul Minnesota in March of 1884. Chief Sitting Bull was in the audience. While the Wild West show was performing in Europe in 1890 and 1891, Crown Prince Wilhelm visited several times and watched Annie shoot the ashes off of cigarettes which Frank held in his mouth. Intrigued, Wilhelm asked Annie to shoot his cigarette. Annie put the cigarette in Wilhelm's hand and not his mouth. Some uncharitable people later ventured that if Annie would have shot Wilhelm and not his cigarette, she could have prevented World War I.
Kaiser's cigarette
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Annie's white hair   Did her hair turn white in 17 hours?
On October 29, 1901, two trains collided and derailled near Linwood, North Carolina. Five stock cars of horses and other animals belonging to Buffalo Bill's Wild West show were killed or mortally wounded. Annie and Frank reported that Annie was so traumatized by the accident that her hair turned white within seventeen hours. It was not true. Annie liked to visit an Arkansas Hot Springs resort. On one such visit in late December, 1901 or early January, 1902, Annie was forgotten by her attendant. After about 45 minutes, she fainted in her hot bath. Her hair turned white and her skin was speckled with brown spots. Because of her modesty, Annie and Frank never talked about the incident.
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