This colored print depicts an outdoor scene in which tree trunks spell out the word "FRAYNE." Various figures surrounding the word; some are rescuing people, some are performing stunts with guns, others are being executed as an example of frontier justice. In addition to the words “The Great Kentucky Rifle Team,” the print contains a caption reading “The Great Sensation of the Age” at the top and “Chas. A. Wing / Business Manager” at the bottom. The word “Champions” is printed vertically on the left side and “Of the World” runs vertically along the right.
Frank I. Frayne (1839-1891) was an actor and expert marksman born in Danville, Kentucky. He got his start as an actor performing on stages in Cincinnati, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana. After the Civil War he headed to the mining regions of the American West, where he became an expert shooter. When he returned to the East, he formed a rifle team and began presenting shows that combined shooting tricks with animal stunts involving dogs, ponies, a bear, a lion and hyenas. One of his most famous presentations was Si Slocum, in which he portrayed a ranch proprietor locked in a vicious battle to keep his land. Frayne used live ammunition for his tricks, which included shooting a pipe out of a ranch hand's mouth, extinguishing a candle with a gunshot, and shooting an apple off another performer's head while standing backwards and sighting his target with a mirror. His act went tragically wrong during an 1882 performance in Cincinnati, Ohio, when Frayne shot and killed his fiancé and partner in a William Tell type performance, actress Annie Von Behren (1857-1882). He claimed his rifle accidentally discharged, and he was absolved of responsibility for the death when an examination of his three foot long single breechloading rifle proved the firearm was damaged and not firing properly.
Charles W. Wing was buisness manager for the Frank Frayne Combination in the 1870's and 1880s.
This lithograph was produced by the Metropolitan Printing Company and E. Rothengatter. Emil Rothengatter (1848-1939) was a German-born artist and designer of circus posters who worked in cities including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1896 he won a contest to design the flag of Cincinnati for a work he called “Zero of Burnet Woods.” However, controversy over whether Cincinnati should have a flag delayed the design’s formal adoption until 1940. Emil Rothengatter also wrote a book entitled Art of Poster Making in the United States, published in 1911. He died in New York.
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