Lillian Smith (trick shooter)

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Lillian Frances Smith
Lillian Smith 1886.jpg
Born (1871-02-03)February 3, 1871
Coleville, California
Died February 3, 1930(1930-02-03) (aged 59)
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Occupation trick shooter and trick rider

Lillian Frances Smith (3 Feb 1871– 3 Feb 1930) was a young trick shooter and trick rider[1] who joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1886, at the age of fifteen. She was billed as "the champion California huntress,"[2] and was a direct rival to Annie Oakley in the show.[3][4]


Lillian was born in 1871 in Coleville, California, began shooting at the age of 7 and was already competing by the age of 10.[2] In 1886, at the age of 15, she joined Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, where she met her rival, Annie Oakley. Apparently, Smith and Oakley were never on very friendly terms;[5] Smith was a braggart and at one point declared "Annie Oakley was done for."[2] Moreover, in contrast to Annie, who was an extremely conservative dresser, Lillian enjoyed flashy clothing and had a reputation as a "shameless flirt." Both Smith and Oakley traveled to Great Britain with the Wild West Show and met Queen Victoria in 1887. Smith's poor performance at the annual Wimbledon rifle competition (as opposed to Oakley's favorable performance) brought mocking coverage by both the British and American press. A friend of Smith attempted to reverse the roles of Smith and Oakley in his recounting of the competition (and London's reception), but the claims received public responses by reputable sources.[2] Smith left the show in 1889 (when Oakley returned to it).

In 1907, Smith moved permanently to Oklahoma and became a fixture with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show, performing as "Princess Wenona", a fictionalized Sioux princess.[6] However, she continued to perform in other shows like Pawnee Bill's. After another 13 years as a record-setting sharpshooter and performer, Smith retired around 1920 and died in 1930 in Ponca City, Oklahoma, the home town of the 101 Ranch.


  1. ^ Russell Martin (1983). Cowboy: The Enduring Myth of the Wild West, p. 334: "By 1887, a dozen women had joined The Wild West, including Lilian Smith, a trick shot and trick rider; "Ma" Whitaker, who portrayed the settler's wife in cabin attack scenes; Georgie Duffy, "Rough Rider of Wyoming"; and Emma Lake Hickok, ..."
  2. ^ a b c d Biography of Lillian Smith in "Annie Oakley", on the PBS website dedicated to the American Experience series, originally broadcast on 8 May 2006.
  3. ^ Laura Browder (2006). Her Best Shot: Women And Guns in America: "Lillian Smith, whom Buffalo Bill dubbed the Champion Rifle Shot of the World, often received equal billing with Oakley and captured an equal amount of attention from reviewers. Smith joined the show in .., and two years later an article ..."
  4. ^ Ronald W. Lackmann (1997). Women of the Western Frontier in Fact, Fiction, and Film, p. 71: "By 1887, a dozen other women were also being featured in Buffalo Bill's show, but none could hold a candle to Annie Oakley as far as public popularity was concerned. One pretty equestrienne named Lillian Smith, who had joined the show in ..."
  5. ^ Larry McMurtry (2006). The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the ... , p. 153: "Lillian Smith was billed as a rapid-fire shooter; she broke innumerable glass balls or plates in quick succession. Insofar as there was a division of labor in this early stage of the show's evolution, Lillian Smith was the rifle shot, Annie Oakley the genius of the shotgun. Annie, who could shoot either weapon proficiently, decided to up the ante by developing acts in which she herself was in motion."
  6. ^ Wallis, Michael (2000). The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West. St. Martin's Press. p. 672. ISBN 978-0-312-26381-2. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 

See also[edit]