August 4 - Happy Birthday, Lillian Frances Smith

Posted on August 4, 2018

Annie Oakley
If you asked me to name a female sharp shooter, I'd immediately think of the "Old West" of the late 1800s - and Annie Oakley.

But Oakley had a rival: a girl eleven years younger than Oakley...
...a "champion California huntress"...'s famous birthday, Lillian Smith!

Lillian Smith
Both Oakley and Smith were trick shooters who performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Even though Smith, who was born on this date in 1871, was younger than Oakley, both of these sharp shooters got their shot at fame at age 15. I wondered why I had only heard of one of them...?

It turns out that the two were not very similar. Lillian Smith was quite the braggart, and she even announced, incorrectly, that Oakley "was done for." Not surprisingly, the two didn't become friends. 

Smith was into flashy clothes and flirting with men - and even marrying and divorcing a handful of them. (She married and divorced at least five men and was romantically involved with at least one more.)

On the other hand, Oakley was a conservative dresser who married marksman and performer Frank E. Butler and stayed married to him her whole life.

This 19th-Century engraving
portrays Smith showing her rifle to
English Queen Victoria.
Apparently, when Smith and Oakley traveled to Great Britain with the Wild West Show, Oakley performed well but Smith did not. Both the British press and London crowds were unimpressed with Smith. When a friend of Smith's tried to publicize the performance in the U.S. as a triumph for Lillian Smith, the "fake news" was refuted very publicly, by trustworthy sources. 

Of course, that made Smith look bad.

Smith left the show soon after that. She ended up moving to
Oklahoma and performing as Princess Wenona, a fictional Sioux princess, in the Miller Brothers Ranch Wild West Show. 

Smith's grave was unmarked from her death in 1930 until 1999, when an Old Timers Association marked it with a monumental headstone complete with photos and shooting records!

Also on this date:

U.S. President Barack Obama

Sandcastle Day
(First Saturday in August)

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