Annie Oakley Collection at Buffalo Bill Historical Center grows

Saturday, November 05 2011 15:39   Museums
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center (BBHC) in Cody, Wyo., now has one of the largest collections of Annie Oakley memorabilia in existence, thanks to a bequest from the family of the late Hollywood actor/producer, William E. "Bill" Self.

Self's daughter, Barbara Self Malone, on behalf of herself and her brother, Edwin B. Self, has presented a large collection of their father's Annie Oakley memorabilita to the BBHC. Over the years, the elder Self had given much of his Annie Oakley collection to the Center, adding to its extensive Buffalo Bill and western history holdings.

annieoakleyIncluded in the bequest and previous gifts were clothing, letters, gear, firearms, photographs, and other memorabilia.

"We couldn't be more pleased about this acquisition," BBHC Executive Director and CEO Bruce Eldredge said. "With it, we add significantly to our Annie Oakley collection, much of it due to the generosity of Bill Self and his family. These latest treasures are truly extraordinary."

Part of the bequest was a ca.1892 William Cashmore rifle produced by Charles Lancaster & Company.

Malone and her husband, George, formally presented the English-made double rifle - thought to be the first customized to Oakley's measurements with a silver AO on the stock - to U.S. Senator (ret.) Alan K. Simpson, chairman emeritus of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, at a Sept. 23, 2011 luncheon ceremony in Cody.

"Dad always loved heroes," Malone said. "Even as a teenager, he was fascinated by Annie Oakley. She took risks; she excelled; and she had a strong connection to the American West. With his collection, he felt connected to Annie Oakley; and with his early experiences in that Buffalo Bill Museum, he never hesitated in his desire that the collection should one day go to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center."

Bill Self (1921 - 2010) appeared in more than 30 films between 1945 and 1952, including "Red River" directed by Howard Hawks. He went on to produce such feature films as "The Shootist" starring John Wayne and the television series "The Twilight Zone."

He later recollected that when, at the age of 15, he saw actress Barbara Stanwyck as Annie Oakley in 1935 at the Keith Theatre in Dayton, Ohio, he became an Oakley enthusiast.

Annie Oakley's brother, who lived nearby, had loaned some of his Oakley memorabilia for display in the theatre lobby. The 1935 film and the memorabilia fired Self's imagination, and his fascination with Oakley and William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody took root.

oakley_firearmpresent_smlAs the story goes, Bill Self had embraced Annie Oakley's work so much, that after that first movie, he contacted Oakley's brother, and the two became friends. Then, at age 17, he started writing an Oakley biography and persuaded his family to travel to Cody, Wyoming, so that he could study the Oakley scrapbooks in what was then the Buffalo Bill Museum.

He even went so far as to coax the museum's founder and curator, Mary Jester Allen (Buffalo Bill's niece), to name him Assistant Historian-complete with letterhead stationery and business cards! The book he started was never published, but Self's love for Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and the West led to service on the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center from 1984 until his death in 2010.

Simpson said, "Bill Self's love for Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and the West led to his lifelong friendship and service to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. We are so deeply appreciative to his family for this amazing and generous bequest. Oakley was a path-breaking performer and woman athlete who was a role model for girls around the world. This exquisite rifle that she used in Wimbledon and Wild West Show arenas around the world brings that history to life."

According to historian and former Buffalo Bill Curator at the Historical Center Paul Fees, "This epic rifle makes Buffalo Bill's Annie Oakley firearms collection the best and most representative in the world."

In 2012, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center will open a dramatic reinstallation and renovation of its Buffalo Bill Museum focused on the life of W.F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody from his days as a scout, to impresario of the Wild West, to his later years as an entrepreneur/statesman for western economic development.

The new museum in Cody, part of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's collections of western art, Plains Indian artifacts, natural history and firearms, will display selected Oakley artifacts and memorabilia from the collection.

Read more about the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Annie Oakley, and the Buffalo Bill Museum reinstallation at


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