Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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August 13th
Annie Oakley
Today is the birthday of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Moses in 1860 in a cabin in Darke County, Ohio. She took her first shot at age eight (“one of the best shots I ever made,” she later said) and soon began shooting rabbits to help feed her destitute family. Around age fifteen she started shooting game for a nearby grocer, who sold it to hotels. She earned enough to pay off the mortgage on her widowed mother’s house.

When expert marksman Frank Butler passed through the area, Annie entered a shooting match against him. “I almost dropped dead when a little slim girl in short dresses stepped out to the mark with me,” Butler recalled. They each shot at 25 pigeons. Butler hit 24; Annie hit all 25. “Right then and there I decided if I could get that girl I would do it,” Butler said. They courted and married. She adopted the stage name Annie Oakley, and they performed together in shooting exhibitions.

Buffalo Bill hired them for his Wild West show. Crowds lined up to see her shoot the flame off a distant candle, or the heart in the ace of hearts. She shot apples from her husband’s head and the ashes off cigarettes in his mouth. Sometimes she shot backward looking into a mirror.

The Sioux chief Sitting Bull called her “Little Sure Shot” and admired her so much that he adopted her. When touring in Europe, Germany’s crown prince (the future Kaiser Wilhelm) invited her to shoot a cigarette out of his mouth. She demurred but did shoot a cigarette out of his hand.

The Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, with songs by Irving Berlin, is based on Annie Oakley’s life. Will Rogers called her the “greatest rifle shot the world has ever produced. Nobody took her place. There was only one.”

American History Parade
1784
The U.S. Congress meets for the final time in Annapolis, Maryland, temporary capital after the Revolutionary War.

1860
Annie Oakley is born in Darke County, Ohio.

1918
Opha Mae Johnson becomes the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve.

1960
The first two-way telephone conversation by satellite takes place, via the balloon satellite Echo I.

1981
President Reagan signs a package of tax and budget reductions that mark a historic change in direction for the federal government.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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