Graham & Butler, America's Own Rifle Team and Champion All Around Shots, Rare Poster by Strobridge Litho Co.
Chromolithographed poster, 18.5 x 28 in., promoting Graham & Butler, America's Own Rifle Team and Champion All Around Shots. The fanciful poster beautifully illustrates difficult trick shots like the original back bending shot where the shooter contorts his back behind and fires upside down, and the harrowing original double reaction shots where the pair shoots an apple off their heads with four rifles. This is the same show in which Annie Oakley made her stage debut. The only other example that has been found is housed at the Cincinnati Historic Society. Printed by the Strobridge Litho. Co., Cincinnati, OH, 1882.
Frank Butler was a sharp-shooting vaudeville performer who captured the heart of female marksman, Annie Oakley. He lost a shooting contest to her when she was 15, "I was a beaten man the moment she appeared," said Butler, "for I was taken off guard." He might have lost the match, but he won her hand in marriage. The couple toured the country and Butler profited from his skills in a circus act with his partner, Baughman, while Annie watched from behind the curtain. In 1882, however, Butler's contract with the circus finished and he began his own show with a new partner, John Graham. The two produced the Graham & Butler Rifle Team.
One night before a show in Springfield, OH, Graham was too sick to perform. Desperate, Butler asked his young wife to hold the targets. Either rattled by his partner's illness or building suspense for the audience, Butler repeatedly missed the targets. Out from the stands a lone voice shouted, "Let the girl shoot!" Butler gave Annie her gun. They marveled at her performance. "The crowd went into an uproar," explained Butler, "and when I attempted to resume my act I was howled down and Annie continued." She was an instant sensation.
Recognizing opportunity, Butler dropped Graham and partnered with his wife creating the Butler & Oakley show. Annie's star continued to rise while Butler's stagnated. He became her manager and never shot against her in public again. Unlike modern celebrity relationships, however, the two stayed devoted to each other. Butler recognized that her success helped them both. They were married for 50 years until Annie's death. Distraught over the loss of his love "with rain drops in her eyes," Butler followed her to the grave 18 days later.
Linen backed with brilliant color in very good condition, minor toning of the white margins and partially trimmed at the top.