Chapter 7: Guns 'n Roses of a Different Kind
Updated: Jul 22
Women and Wild West Shows
In the book, Clara mentions that she spent years as a trick shooter in a Wild West show (first with the Cummings and Mulhall Wild West Show and then with L. O. Hillman’s Wild West Aggregation). For those who have never heard of Wild West shows, Wikipedia describes them best: "Wild West shows were traveling vaudeville performances in the United States and Europe that existed around 1870–1920. The shows began as theatrical stage productions and evolved into open-air shows that depicted romanticized stereotypes of cowboys, Plains Indians, army scouts, outlaws, and wild animals that existed in the American West. While some of the storylines and characters were based on true events, others were fictional or sensationalized. Native Americans in particular were portrayed in a sensationalistic and exploitative manner. The shows introduced many western performers and personalities, and romanticized the American frontier, to a wide audience."
Although compared to the men there weren't many women in Wild West shows, several became famous for their skill with shooting, notably Calamity Jane, Lillian Smith, and of course, Annie Oakley. They did tricks like shooting playing cards and dimes tossed into the air (Oakley would also shoot cards through the edge to prove the accuracy of her aim), the lit end of cigarettes in someone's mouth, corks out of bottles, and snuffing candles by shooting just above them. Oakley was also known for shooting backward over her shoulder using a mirror. By 1923, however, Wild West shows were in decline. Buffalo Bill's Wild West, probably the most famous of the shows, went bankrupt in 1913, and most of the others were gone, too. L. O. Hillman’s Wild West Aggregation shut down in 1920, and only a few shows lasted longer than that.
Based on my research, it seems a trick shooter like Clara might have carried a Colt Single Action Army revolver, aka the Peacemaker. Yes, that's the same gun model Wynonna Earp uses on Syfy's eponymous show. Unlike Earp's long barreled revolver, however, Clara might have carried the Bisley model, which was created for target shooting. I'm no expert, but I think that would have been better for trick shooting. I found this gun on an auction website. It was made in 1906, which would have been consistent with the time Clara would have been just getting settled into Wild West shows. I liked the look of it, so decided this is what she would carry in Egypt. Here's a video of the Bisley in action.
As a final note about gunslingers and trick shooters, here's an interesting article about the accuracy (or in this case inaccuracy) of guns at the time.
The Bee's Knees
Upon retiring back home at the end of a long day, the lady adventurers have a cocktail. This was the Bee's Knees, a novelty cocktail created in the 1920s. The ingredients are as follows:
2 ounces gin
¾ ounce honey
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
A Fun Walk Down Lesbian History Lane
While reading Wikipedia's entry on the history of lesbianism, I came across the interesting story of Berenice and Mesopotamia. It's an unusual fictional story written in the second century AD by a Syriac Greek, which I include here for readers who enjoy arcane bits of historical literary trivia: https://www.alpennia.com/blog/several-funerals-and-maybe-wedding-berenike-and-mesopotamia. The author of that blog post posits that the ancient Egyptians must have allowed gay marriage, a theory that seems to be confirmed by the following, also from the Wikipedia article: Between 1170 and 1180, Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbis in Jewish history, wrote in the Mishneh Torah:
For women to be mesollelot [women rubbing genitals against each other] with one another is forbidden, as this is the practice of Egypt...The Sages said [in the midrash of Sifra Aharei Mot 8:8–9], "What did they do? A man married a man, and a woman married a woman, and a woman married two men."
Now you know. Gay marriage totes happened in Egyptian antiquity. As a final note, here's a cool video of Egypt taken in 1927.