Annie Oakley, 1922, shortly before coming to Daytona. Library of Congress image. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00651800/
Annie Oakley, 1899. Richard Kyle Fox, photographer. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2009631997/
When my wife was a three-year-old little girl, she loved the Annie Oakley TV show; and as the music would begin she would mimic Annie Oakley by running across the room and jumping onto her “horse,” which occasionally would be her dad on his hands and knees without a real saddle on his back.
The real Annie Oakley came to Daytona in 1922, but she came either to recuperate or to die.
Many of us today are unaware that at one time Annie Oakley was the most famous woman in the United States, possibly the most famous woman in the entire world. Today we may know her from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun, but she was not just the best marksman the world had ever seen, she performed before the royalty of Europe, she was received by Queen Victoria, she was such a trusted shooter that Kaiser Wilhelm agreed to her shooting a cigarette from his mouth. She would shoot a dime held by her husband between his finger and his thumb, and she would shoot while riding and also by laying the rifle on her shoulder, shooting over her back, using a mirror; and she beat all men in shooting competitions and became internationally known in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in which she performed with Sitting Bull. Her career took her far and wide, but what brought her to Daytona was a car wreck.
After a hiatus in her 38-year career, Annie Oakley returned to shooting performances in 1922, and her biographer Shirl Kasper has written that Oakley’s popularity was so great that in October at the Brockton, Massachusetts, annual fair she was paid $700 for doing five exhibitions that each lasted only five-minutes. Although it was an unseasonably sweltering hot October 5th, one hundred thousand people came to the fairgrounds–a chance to see Annie Oakley’s shooting was not to be missed.
A month later Annie Oakley and her husband took a boat to Jacksonville, Florida, where they sent their beloved dog, Dave, by train on ahead of them to Leesburg, and on Thursday, November 9, they continued their trip with their friends J. J. Stoer and his wife. The Daytona Morning Journal reported the following Saturday that they were in a”big Cadillac” driven by “a Mr. Young,” the Stoers’ chauffeur, heading south toward Daytona on their way to Leesburg for the winter (Kasper 229)
Cadillacs were luxurious even then, and they all came equipped with a powerful V8 engine. The year before this, 1921, two Cadillacs (a sedan and a touring car) had raced in the prestigious Monaco Concours d’Elegance. Touring cars were open-bodied, seating four or more people, and they were especially popular until closed bodied cars became less expensive during the 1920’s. In 1920 the Cadillac factory in Detroit had 77 buildings and 6,000 employees. The 1921 Cadillac models included a 7-passenger touring car, a 7-passenger open car, and a 5-passenger sedan–automobiles that sold for as much as $5,090 the year that the Model T Ford cost $370. For $5,000 in 1921 a person could buy an entire farm. Annie Oakley was riding in style.
Traveling at what must have been a high speed, the Cadillac’s tires likely were growling a whirring noise as they raced over the red bricks of the Dixie Highway about 46 miles north of Daytona when they passed another vehicle and the tires slipped off the bricks into what was likely a soft shoulder alongside the highway, which caused the chauffeur to lose control; and as he attempted to steer the huge car back onto the bricks, the Cadillac careened into the roadside and “turned turtle,” pinning Annie Oakley under the massive car.
The Daytona Morning Journal reported, instead, that their car was “forced into the sand by a passing machine” and that Oakley was “in a critical condition.”
Oakley was barey five feet tall, and during most of her years in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show she weighed only a little over 100 pounds. The Cadillac which weighed more than two tons fractured her hip and her right ankle. What may have saved her, though, was that behind their car was “a Mr. B. Benson of Fort Pierce” who helped free her and drove her hurriedly to Daytona (Kasper xv, 229).
Daytona’s Dr. Clyde C. Bohannon, a well-respected physician had practiced medicine in Daytona for many years, and Annie Oakley was admitted to his hospital, Dr. Bohannon’s Hospital and Sanitarium, on the north side of town at 50 First Avenue (on the north side of the street) between North Ridgewood Avenue (today’s U.S. 1) and North Beach Street. The site was a few hundred feet east of North Beach Street where some years later sand dredged from the Halifax River was deposited, making the spoil island known today as Manatee Island.
When Oakley was stabilized, her husband went to Leesburg to retrieve their dog, and the husband and dog then rented a room “across from the hospital.” Dave was “a black, tan, and white English setter” that was loved by this couple who had no children. I’ve located nothing about how the three of them spent their days in Daytona, but Oakley’s biographer Shirl Kasper notes that Oakley’s husband, Frank Butler, wrote and published The Life of Dave, As Told by Himself, written as though the dog were speaking: “She looked very feeble and could only put out one hand to stroke my head. . .By putting my feet on a chair I managed to get close enough to lick her ear. . . .I didn’t like the nurses there, as they seemed rough and hurt my mistress when they moved her” (Kasper 229).
After Oakley had recuperated for several weeks through November and December, she was released from Dr. Bohannon’s care, but she was forced to wear a heavy metal brace on her right leg, and she still had to walk with crutches when she, her husband, and their dog finally left Daytona. In Leesburg, Florida, ten months later on October 8, 1923, she once again stunned the crowds with her rifle, and although she had to set aside her crutches and stand entirely on her good left leg, she “winged pennies tossed in the air at twenty feet,” and several times she tossed five eggs at once into the air with her left hand and shot every one before it hit the ground. Sixty-three-year-old Annie Oakley was still the greatest marksman in the world (Kasper 229-230).
To write this I used these sources:
“1921 [Cadillac].” The (new) Cadillac Database. 19 Feb. 2012. 19 Feb. 2014. <http://www.cadillacdatabase.org/Dbas_txt/Cad13-21.htm>
“Annie Oakley.” Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. 19Feb. 2014. <http://www.rnh.com/bio/10/Oakley-Annie>
“1921 Ford Model T News, Pictures, Specifications, and Information.” Conceptcarz from Concept to Production. 19 Feb. 2014. 19 Feb. 2014. < http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z1680/Ford-Model-T.aspx>
Daytona City Directory, 1920-1921, Vol. III. Jacksonville, Florida: R. L. Polk and Company, 1920.
Florida State Gazetteer and Business Directory. Jacksonville, Florida: R. L. Polk and Company, 1918. Internet Archive. 20 Feb. 2014. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://archive.org/stream/rlpolkcosflorida01rlpo/rlpolkcosflorida01rlpo_djvu.txt>
“Frequently Asked Questions about Annie Oakley.” The Annie Oakley Center Foundation, Inc. 29 Jan. 2014. 19 Feb. 2014. < http://www.annieoakleycenterfoundation.org/faq.html>
Kasper, Shirl. Annie Oakley. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.
Pistorius, Brando. “1921 Cadillac Suburban.” My Hemmings. 19 Feb. 2014. 19 Feb. 2014. <http://www.hemmings.com/users/80417/story/869.html>
Sanford Fire Insurance Company Map of Daytona, Florida. 1916. 20 Feb. 2014. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/1622353/Sheet+008/Daytona+1916/Florida/>
“Touring Car.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2014. 19 Feb. 2014. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touring_car>