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TOEPPERWEIN, ELIZABETH SERVATY [PLINKY]

Donna P. Parker
Elizabeth [Plinky] Toepperwein (1882–1945).
Elizabeth "Plinky" Toepperwein was one half of the famous Toepperwein exhibition shooting team. Her accomplishments included the world endurance trapshooting record of 1,952 of 2,000 targets in five hours and twenty minutes. Famed shootist Annie Oakley described her as the "greatest shot" she'd ever seen. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. Alamo

TOEPPERWEIN, ELIZABETH SERVATY [PLINKY] (1882–1945). Elizabeth “Plinky” Servaty  Toepperwein, sharpshooter, was born at New Haven, Connecticut, on January 23, 1882. She was the daughter of German immigrants Jacob and Catherine Servaty. In 1902 she was an employee at the Winchester factory in New Haven, and during this time she met Adolph (Ad) Toepperwein, a sales representative and exhibition shooter for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Toepperwein, a native of Boerne, Texas, made his home in San Antonio. They married in 1903, and their only child Lawrence Clark was born in 1904.

Adolph and Elizabeth Toepperwein.
Adolph "Ad" Toepperwein and his wife Elizabeth "Plinky" Toepperwein toured as exhibition trick shooters for approximately forty years. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Soon after the couple married, Ad gave Elizabeth her first shooting lessons and discovered that she was a "natural." Within a short time, as part of his act, she was shooting one-inch pieces of chalk from between his fingers and empty shells off his fingertips. The Toepperweins (with their name Americanized as the “Topperweins”) began working as a team professionally; their first appearance as a famous husband and wife team was at the St. Louis World's Fair. Elizabeth acquired the nickname "Plinky" during her early shooting lessons. After several tries, she shot a tin can, which made a "plinking" sound. Elizabeth exclaimed, "I plinked it"—perhaps the first use of this echoic verb now common in shooting publications. 

Promotional flyer.
Promotional flyer for the "Wonderful Topperweins" (note the Americanized spelling of their name). Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Ad and Plinky Toepperwein performed in a career that spanned forty years. Their displays of expertise included shooting while standing on their heads and while lying on their backs. They could also break two targets simultaneously, one in front and one behind, with the aid of a mirror. Some of Plinky's aerial targets included marbles, metal discs, apples, oranges, and eggs. Not only did she perform spectacular, crowd-pleasing stunts, she also captured some shooting records in the process. She was the first woman in the United States to qualify as a national marksman with the military rifle and the first woman to break 100 straight targets at trapshooting, a feat she repeated more than 200 times, often with a twelve-gauge Winchester model 97 pump-action shotgun. She also held the world endurance trapshooting record of 1,952 of 2,000 targets in five hours and twenty minutes. Although trapshooting was her main interest, she was equally proficient with a pistol. The celebrated shooter Annie Oakley once said to Plinky, "Mrs. Top . . . you're the greatest shot I've ever seen." Plinky was also well-known in San Antonio and Texas bowling circles. 

The Toepperweins’ son Lawrence, newspaperman and artist, died at the age of thirty-six in 1940. During World War II the couple toured military installations; their last tour together occurred in 1943. Elizabeth “Plinky” Toepperwein died in her home in San Antonio, with her husband at her bedside, on January 27, 1945. She was buried in Mission Burial Park, San Antonio. She was inducted into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame in Vandalia, Ohio, in 1969.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

W. H. Depperman, "Texas Triggerman," Collier's, June 8, 1946. Tim Price, Shooting for the Record: Adolph Toepperwein, Tom Frye, and Sharpshooting’s Forgotten Controversy (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2016). San Antonio Express, January 28, 1945. Paul Soderberg et al., eds., The Big Book of Halls of Fame in the United States and Canada (New York: Bowker, 1977). “THE TOEPP GUNS OF ALL TIMES (THE SHOOTING TOEPPERWEINS),” Friends of PLANTAnswers, PLANTanswers.com (http://www.plantanswers.com/toepperwein.htm), accessed February 18, 2018. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Adolph Toepperwein). Norman Wiltsey, "Riflemen in Retrospect," Frontier Times, September 1964.

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Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Donna P. Parker, "TOEPPERWEIN, ELIZABETH SERVATY [PLINKY]," accessed September 20, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fto43.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 21, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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