The 39 Clues


The encyclopedic guide to useless facts on the internet.
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Annie Oakley


Annie was born on a farm in Ohio in 1860—when Ohio was the western frontier. Her father died when she was young, and she began hunting to help her family survive. Soon she had paid off the mortgage on her mother’s house by selling her hunting trophies, and was known in the area as a sharpshooter. A marksman act came to the nearest town, offering $100 ($2,000 in today’s money) to anyone who could outshoot Frank Butler, the star. After he missed his 25th shot, Annie won. She and Frank were wed in 1882, when she was 21. Does anyone else think he had a secret reason for marrying her? You know that saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?


In advertisements for the Wild West Show, Annie was called “Little Sure Shot”—the nickname Chief Sitting Bull, her costar, had given her. She would hit the edge of a playing card from 90 feet, and shoot it five or six more times before it hit the ground. The show went to Europe, where she performed for Queen Victoria and shot the ash off a cigarette that the prince of Prussia, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, was holding. I don’t think it’s a coincidence she had the chance to point a gun at the Kaiser’s head. I think she was a hired assassin! Ok, that’s just crazy talk.

In 1898, during the Spanish-American war, Annie wrote a letter to President William McKinley, offering to raise a company of female sharpshooters who would go to war with the men and use their expertise. She was refused. For some reason, McKinley did not like the idea of Annie Oakley becoming involved with a European war. Maybe this is because Annie had her own plans!

In 1901, Annie Oakley was badly wounded when Buffalo Bill’s train collided with another and went up in flames. Though she was paralyzed and had to undergo five back surgeries—in an era before penicillin was discovered—she somehow managed to make a full recovery.


Annie was in a car crash in 1922, which made her old injuries flare up, and she never shot or walked again, but did work on an unfinished autobiography. In 1926 she died, followed eighteen days later by her husband, Frank Butler.