Frank E. Butler

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Frank E. Butler
Frank E Butler c1882.png
Butler circa 1882
Born (1852-02-25)February 25, 1852
County Longford, Ireland
Died November 21, 1926(1926-11-21) (aged 74)
Ferndale, Michigan
Cause of death
Resting place
Brock Cemetery in Greenville, Ohio
Nationality Irish American
Occupation Sharpshooter, show business manager
Spouse(s) Annie Oakley

Frank E. Butler (February 25, 1852 – November 21, 1926) was a marksman in Wild West variety shows. He was married to sharpshooter Annie Oakley. While his birth date is listed on his and Annie's U.S. Passport application as February 25, 1852, it is possible he was born in 1847.


Butler was born in County Longford, Ireland and moved to the United States at the age of 13. After a series of odd jobs, he developed a shooting act and toured with variety shows. After meeting at a shooting competition in Cincinnati, Butler and Oakley married on August 23, 1876, although Butler would later claim the date as June 20, 1882.[1] They developed their shooting act in 1882 when Oakley stood in for Butler's sick partner.[2] In 1884, the Butlers joined the Sells Brothers Circus, and from 1885 to 1901 were a fixture on Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.[3] As Oakley became the star attraction, Butler became her manager and wrote articles and press releases. Oakley said that the financial part was always in her husband's hands.[4] Oakley returned to performing between 1911 and 1913 with Vernon Seaver's "Young Buffalo Show", with Butler again as her manager.[5] Butler also worked as a representative of the Union Metallic Cartridge Company and as a salesman for the Remington Arms Company.[6]

After they retired, Butler and Oakley spent part of the year at Pinehurst, North Carolina, and Cambridge, Maryland.[7]

On November 3, 1926, Annie Oakley died. B. Haugen reports that Frank stopped eating after Annie's death, which caused his own death from starvation eighteen days later, on November 21, 1926.[8] However, according to Shirl Kasper, the death certificate said that he had died of "Senility".[9] Frank was living with Annie's younger sister, Hulda, in Ferndale, Michigan at the time of his death.

The musical Annie Get Your Gun is loosely based on the lives of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler. Ray Middleton originated the role of Frank in the musical opposite Ethel Merman as Annie, Howard Keel starred in the film version, Bruce Yarnell played Butler in the 1966 Lincoln Center revival of Annie Get Your Gun, with Ethel Merman again as Annie Oakley and Tom Wopat played the role in the 1999 Broadway revival. In 1957, a television production starring Broadway legends Mary Martin and John Raitt was broadcast on NBC.


  • Riley, Glenda. "The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley" (2002), University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-3506-9
  • Shooting Star Annie Oakley. Frank E. Butler: Credits Retrieved, Oct. 1, 2014.
  • Dayton Daily News (November 24, 1926), page 7. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2014.


  1. ^ "Frank Butler. Annie Oakley.", accessed June 22, 2012
  2. ^ "Frank Butler, accessed July 14, 2009
  3. ^ Buffalo Bill Historical Center, accessed July 14, 2009
  4. ^ Riley, p. 55, 62
  5. ^ Riley, p. 62
  6. ^ Sayers, Isabelle S. "Annie Oak and Buffalo Bill's Wild West" (1981), Courier Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-24120-3, p. 41
  7. ^ Kasper, Shirl (2000). Annie Oakley. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 196, 205–206. ISBN 0-8061-3244-2. 
  8. ^ Haugen, B., Annie Oakley: American Sharpshooter, Capstone, 2006, p. 88.
  9. ^ Kasper, Shirl (1992). Annie Oakley. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 243. ISBN 0-8061-2418-0. 

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