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TOEPPERWEIN, ELIZABETH SERVATY [PLINKY]

TOEPPERWEIN, ELIZABETH SERVATY [PLINKY] (1882–1945). Elizabeth Servaty (or Servanty) Toepperwein, sharpshooter, was born at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. At eighteen, while working in a Winchester factory, she met Adolph (Ad) Toepperweinqv, a member of a vaudeville-circuit shooting act who was also employed as an exhibition shooter by the Winchester arms company. After they married in 1903, Ad gave Elizabeth her first shooting lessons and discovered she was a "natural." Within three weeks, as part of his act, she was shooting one-inch pieces of chalk from between his fingers and empty shells off his fingertips. By 1904 the Toepperweins were 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. She and Ad 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 gun. She was inducted into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame, Vandalia, Ohio, in 1969. 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 rifle, pistol, and shotgun. The celebrated shooter Annie Oakley, also a member of the Trapshooting Hall of Fame, 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. Her only child, Lawrence, newspaperman and artist, died at the age of thirty-six in 1940. Elizabeth 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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

W. H. Depperman, "Texas Triggerman," Collier's, June 8, 1946. 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). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Adolph Toepperwein). Norman Wiltsey, "Riflemen in Retrospect," Frontier Times, September 1964.

Donna P. Parker

Citation

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

Donna P. Parker, "TOEPPERWEIN, ELIZABETH SERVATY [PLINKY]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fto43), accessed October 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.