The Truth About The Time Annie Oakley Competed At Wimbledon

Annie Oakley is one of the most well-known sharpshooters of the Wild West era, so much so that her name has reached folk hero status. According to History, Oakley, born Phoebe Ann Moses, was a sharpshooting prodigy who eventually caught the eye of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, a popular traveling troupe of the late 19th century. It launched her to stardom. She also competed at Wimbledon, a fun fact that is sure to scratch some heads in the modern day. It had more to do with her proficiency with firearms than a tennis court, however.

The London suburb is not just known for the prestigious tennis tournament that most people would recognize it for today. Back then, Wimbledon hosted a celebrated tournament for a different sport: shooting. When the Wild West Show was touring England as part of Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations in 1887, Oakley took part in the rifle competition, under the watchful eye of the future king of England, Edward. 

Wimbledon became a rivalry showdown

Edward and his fellow audience members were not just treated to excellent marksmanship, but also the intensity and drama of one of Oakley's biggest rivalries spilling over into the Wimbledon competition. According to PBS, Oakley had made her name standing toe-to-toe with the best male sharpshooters of her age, but was most invested in competing against her only true female competitor, Lillian Smith. 

Smith was a younger, bolder, and more flirtatious character than Oakley. She often bragged that she would take down Oakley, dubbed "Little Sure Shot" by Sitting Bull, and become the most famous female sharpshooter. Oakley, who started to claim she was six years younger, was also attacked by several newspapers who took Smith's side in the rivalry. Wimbledon was where Oakley settled things. Oakley was better with shotguns, while Smith was a rifle expert. Nevertheless, Oakley took a dominant victory in the rifle competition that drew personal praise from Edward, then the Prince of Wales. It would be one of her last acts as part of the Buffalo Bill troupe, but Oakley certainly left a Wild West mark on Wimbledon.