Annie Oakley Bike Rider
Ohio’s famous orphan sharpshooter lived in Cincinnati for a time in the 1880’s. It was at a local sharpshooting contest that she met her future husband Frank Butler after beating him in a target shooting contest. Born Phoebe Mozee in Darke County Ohio (Northwest of Dayton on the Indiana border), she took the stage name Anna, or Annie Oakley. Using Cincinnati as their home base, the sharpshooting team of Frank and Annie toured the country with the Sells Circus – and later with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with an act that gave trick shooting exhibitions. As part of her act Annie would ride her bicycle and shoot clay pigeons thrown into the air by assistants.
She designed her riding costume herself; hooking her skirt to her leggings so it wouldn’t ride up as she pedaled her bike with both hands on her rifle shooting targets. Her first wheel was a 35 pound woman’s “Premier” bicycle that she bought in Glasgow. The press began calling her the “Little Cycling Sure Shot.” She took to riding enthusiastically – riding errands in London, touring in the morning when she had the time, and planning tricks for her show that would incorporate her bike. When she was living near New Jersey neighbors described seeing her practicing shooting targets from her bicycle as she road around in fields.
It was rumored at the time that she was planning a tour a-wheel from New York to Chicago, but there’s no record of her making this trip.
Even with her travels, she remained attached to the Queen City. I’ve not been able to find a record of her riding our roads with her bicycle, but the city boasted several women’s cycling clubs (the largest was the Queen City Bicycle Club) and I would like to think that she explored the countryside of Northern Kentucky or Hamilton County with some of these ladies when she was in town. It’s certain that many of her old neighbors traveled up to Chicago to see her bicycle trick shooting at the World’s Fair.