Annie Oakley: The History of The Circus A History Podcast For Kids

“Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.”
— Annie Oakley

Welcome to this weeks I Can't Believe that Happened your history podcast for kids or curious grownups so I thought that we would start today with the more unusual circus act and unusual is just because it wasn't traditionally what you would think of when you're thinking of a circus act there were no elephants but that that doesn't make this woman any less impressive her name was Annie Oakley and she was born in 1860 and things did not start out easy for her.

Annie was born in Ohio and her father died when she was really young and she sent off to a farm when she with ten. Annie was treated really badly by the people who are taking care of her and she ran away and found her mother so she supported her family by going out and hunting and shooting game in the woods and selling the meat to a shopkeeper and she was an amazing shot. She was fantastic with a gun and her skills actually paid off the mortgage on her mother's house and she would enter shooting matches and toured as a champion.

This is part of her story is problematic for me I have I have a teenager and I have children. Annie went into a match and shot against a champion name Butler and At 15 she beat him in the competition and he fell in love with her and they got married the next year. I was struggling on whether I should include that part of this or not but it is part of history and that is what happened I don't feel terribly comfortable with that part of her story but history very rarely makes me comfortable.

Around 1882 is when Annie took the name Oakley and she join the vaudeville circuit which was known to be kind of a very low brow sort of entertainment but she really distinguished herself because she insisted on wearing more conservative costumes and at what are the events in St. Paul Minnesota and 1884 she attracted the attention of Sitting Bull who gave her the name t I am so sorry I am horrible pronunciation but translates to little sure shot and she rose through the show business ranks and joined the Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Circus and 1885 where she stayed for 17 years.

We think of circus is as kind like a cool thing this show was so important and so exciting and it helped her become an absolute legend but she was also I will see you the whole United States and the world Annie Oakley with the Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show with even taken to London in 1887 where she got to meet Queen Victoria who called her "a very clever a little girl." and she absolutely was the British invasion in reverse. Annie Oakley was all over the British papers.

Annie did leave the Wild West show for a few years because she had a real issue with a fellow sharpshooter at Lilian Smith and things got so bad that Oakley departed and left the show at the end of the London engagement and she returned to the stage and she also toured with a different wild West show. When Smith left the Buffalo Bill's show Annie rejoined them for another three-year tour of Europe that began in 1889 at the Paris Exposition.

You might remember at the beginning of this that Annie Oakley began life incredibly poor and had a very difficult childhood and she was known for being so against spending money that she would actually siphon off lemonade and carry it back to her own tent. She's known for saying things like" I've made a good deal of money and my time but I never believed in wasting a dollar of it." She was an incredible person for giving to charities they gave money to orphans and she was really fantastic she did earn more money than any performer in the show except for Cody.

Annie Oakley was actually known for doing things like shooting the cigarette out of her partner's mouth she is unparalleled in her marksmanship definitely worth a look over and amazing person.

Sometimes you might hear things about the newspapers and telling stories got it back in the early 1900s there was very little that stopped news reporters from saying whatever they really wanted to and I'm sure that's gonna be another episode to you because there's a lot of talk about that now. In 1910 a very famous newspaperman called William Randolph Hearst published a fake article claiming that she was in jail for stealing. This hurt Annie tremendously because her highest ambition was to be considered a lady and she did file a lawsuit against the newspaper for liable.

In 1913 she decides to retire and with her husband Butler that the man she had been married to for a very long time and they set up in Maryland and North Carolina. She would give hunting and shooting lessons to other women and performed at charity events. Entering into World War I Annie offered to raise up a group of amazing female sharpshooters but the government ignored her so instead she raise money for the Red Cross and by giving shooting demonstrations at army camps and all around the country. Annie died November 3, 1926, and I and her husband who she's been married to for 50 years passed away 18 days later.