Hey there, welcome to my blog! My name is Kaitlyn and I have a passion for history. I have a master’s degree in history from Oklahoma State University (OSU) and love to write about history tips and museum visits! This post includes some of my favorite museums and historic sites to visit in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For more information about each individual museum or historic site, please click on my blog links or the Instagram posts at the end of each section – let’s get started!
Oklahoma State University – Stillwater Campus
Old Central is the oldest building on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater. It currently houses the Honors College at OSU and I had a few classes in the basement when I was a student. It’s a really neat building that contains so much history!
For more information on preservation efforts and current pictures of the building, see my longer blog post: Old Central
Willard Hall (Left) & Edmon Low Library (Right)
OSU Student Union (Left) & Gundersen (Right)
Thatcher Hall Air Park
The Thatcher Hall Air Park at OSU honors ROTC and veterans. There is a plane, two canons, and several plaques to walk around and see. For more information, see my longer blog post: ROTC Thatcher Hall Air Park
Nancy Randolph Davis Statue
The Nancy Randolph Davis statue stands in front of the Nancy Randolph Davis building on Monroe street (this is the middle of the OSU campus). Her story is inspiring and I hope you’ll read my longer blog post to learn more!
Heritage Hall inside of Gallagher Iba Arena tells the history of Oklahoma State University athletics. This hall covers all sports at OSU and has some of the coolest memorabilia – like the old Pistol Pete head pictured below. Stop by before or after attending an athletic event at OSU or stop by Monday-Friday during business hours.
Oklahoma State University is known for its wrestling program which has won 34 NCAA Championships. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is on the North Eastern corner of the Oklahoma State campus. It’s a neat place to visit with a ton of cool history. Don’t forget your camera so you can take a picture on the podium!
The Oklahoma State University Museum of Art is a small art museum in Downtown Stillwater. Exhibits rotate in and out pretty frequently, so there is always something new to see. The historic building that houses the museum is beautiful!
The Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar is one of my favorite places to visit in Stillwater. The museum tells the story of the founding of Stillwater and how the town has progressed. There is also rotating exhibits so there’s something new to see each month!
There are other historical markers all across Stillwater! I’ll drop the addresses below so you can go find them if you want to!
Last “Boomer” Town (Left) & Land Run Boundary Line (Right)
Fire Station No. 1 (Left) & Captain David Payne Memorial (Right)
Bonus – Transformers
I know the Transformer statues aren’t historical, but they’re fun to see if you’re visiting Stillwater. Bumblebee is on the West side of Stillwater on highway 51 and Optimus Prime is on the East side of Stillwater on highway 51!
I hope you enjoyed looking through all of these super cool historic sites and museums! Make sure to use this post when you plan your next trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma.
If you have any questions about the places I visited, please feel free to send me a message on my contact page.
Hey there, welcome to my blog! My name is Kaitlyn and I have a passion for sharing history. I have a master’s degree in American history and write about history class tips and museum adventures.
This post includes some of my favorite museums and historic sites to visit in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. For more information about each individual museum, please click on the blog links at the end of each section. There is a lot more information and links to the museum websites in those posts. Let’s get started!
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. You’ll find Western history, Native American history, art, and so much more in this museum. A few of my favorite galleries include the rodeo gallery, the entertainment gallery, and the military history gallery. There is also a large, educational playground outside that is great for families with kids or cool to just walk around!
A banjo museum? Yes, there’s an entire museum dedicated to banjos in Bricktown. There are hundreds of banjos on display and all have a unique story. Many of the instruments have intricate designs which are amazing. Personally, I loved looking at all of the designs on the banjos!
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and Jim Thorpe Museum
I LOVE sports. So, I knew I had to pay a visit to the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and Jim Thorpe Museum. It’s right next door to the Chickasaw Brickton Ballpark and even has a deck you can walk out on that overlooks the field. It was so cool!
Women’s history is one of my absolute favorite topics to study. When I found out about the 99’s Museum of Women Pilots in OKC, I knew I had to go! This museum is located on the grounds of the Will Rogers Airport – so you can see the planes while driving by! This museum even has items that belonged to Amelia Earhart – go check it out!
Visiting the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum and Memorial is a cool experience. I remember going once as a child and seeing all of the firetrucks! As an adult, it’s humbling to walk through the museum and see all of the equipment and learn about the history of firefighting. The Memorial outside the museum is beautiful as well.
For more information, see my longer blog post: (FORTHCOMING, I visited the OKC Memorial and am currently working on my longer blog post. Thank you for being patient.)
OKC Museum of Art
For more information, see my longer blog post: (FORTHCOMING, I am working on writing a blog post about the OKC MOA!)
I hope you enjoyed looking through all of these super cool historic sites and museums in Oklahoma City! Make sure to use this post when you plan your next trip to OKC because you don’t want to miss out on these cool activities.
If you have any questions about the places I visited, please feel free to send me a message on my contact page.
Hey there – Welcome to my blog! My name is Kaitlyn and I love history. I have a master’s degree in American history from Oklahoma State University and love to write about history tips and museum visits! This post includes some of my favorite museums and historic sites to visit in Guthrie. Let’s get started!
*For more information about each individual museum, please click on my blog links at the end of each section! There’s a lot more information and links to the museum websites in those posts!
Oklahoma Territorial Museum
I loved the Oklahoma Territorial Museum! I visited this museum on a mission… I wanted to see Carrie Nation’s hatchet! She was a prominent Prohibitionist with a reputation for smashing saloons. I found the hatchet and it was definitely as cool as I thought it’d be!
The rest of the museum is amazing – it talks about Oklahoma in the territorial days and early statehood. There are so many cool pieces in this collection. I thought both of the flags on display on the second floor were awesome!
The Carnegie Library was built in 1902 and is now a part of the Oklahoma Territorial Museum. It was almost destroyed, but a prominent citizen stepped in to save the building. Some of the original furniture is still inside – go check it out!
For more information, see my longer blog post: (FORTHCOMING!)
Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum
The Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum is a very unique place. As you can see in the photo below, the walls are lined with historic medicines and items you would have found in a drugstore. The volunteers were super friendly and eager to tell you anything that you wanted to know! Make sure you stop in the room on the right of this photo to see the old dentist office set-up!
I have always loved sports and thought the Oklahoma Sports Museum was awesome! I think all Oklahoma sports are probably covered in this museum. Make sure to give yourself a few hours to walk though this place because there is so much to take in! The man inside was very kind and told us all kinds of cool stories about Oklahoma sports.
There is so much history in Guthrie and this post only mentions a few. In addition to the museums and historic sites, there are historic markers all throughout Historic Downtown Guthrie. I didn’t get to see them all and need to go back! When I go back, I will make sure to update this post. In the meantime, I hope this list inspires you when you make a trip to visit Guthrie!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post. Today, we’re talking about historical markers in Stillwater, OK. I talked my sister into helping me find some of these signs and we had a lot of un!
*All photos in this post were taken by myself in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Historical Markers in this Post:
David L. Payne Memorial
Stillwater Fire Station No. 1
Oklahoma A&M College
Last “Boomer” Town
See “Concluding Thoughts” for my blog posts about more historical sites and museums you should check out in Stillwater, OK!
David L. Payne Memorial
VISIT: Boomer Lake Park at Washington Street and Lakeview in Stillwater. (Diagonal from the gas station)
Monument for Capt. David L. Payne. He was responsible for the Oklahoma Boomer movement in 1879 which eventually led to the Land Run on April 22, 1889 for the “Unassigned Lands.” Did you know Payne County in Oklahoma was named for him?
Stillwater Fire Station No. 1
VISIT: 120 E 9th Ave, Stillwater, OK 74074
TRAVEL TIP: This historical marker sits right outside of Balanced Coffee which happens to be one of my favorite coffee shops to visit when I’m in Stillwater! The atmosphere is really nice and everyone is so friendly!
“In the early 1930s, an innovative and motivated group of men led by Stillwater Fire Chief J. Ray Pence met and discussed the lack of quality fire service training and materials in the United States, particularly in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. In July 1934, a group of educators and fire service leaders met in this building to draft a series of training manuals to be published ‘as economically as possible while providing thorough and valid information about fire fighting.’ The manuals were subsequently published and distributed by Oklahoma A & M College (Oklahoma State University).”
“This initial meeting and subsequent meetings continuing on a yearly basis, launched what would become the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA). Headquartered at Oklahoma State University, IFSTA is the world’s largest publisher of fire training materials. This nonprofit, volunteer organization, with participants from around the world, continues to grow while maintaining an awareness of its founders and those who contributed to its growth and success. The contributions of Chief J. Ray Pence, Professor W. Fred Heisler, and Professor R.J. Douglas will always be remembered.”
“IFTSA and the fire-related academic, extension, and research efforts of the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology were all products of these insightful leaders as they met and worked in this historic place.”
“Erected and dedicated this 23th day of July, 1997, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Stillwater Fire Department. Erected by the International Fire Service Training Association, Oklahoma State University Fire Service Programs, and the City of Stillwater Fire Department.” (Stillwater Fire Station No. 1 Historical Marker Sign)
Oklahoma A&M College
VISIT: South Main Street, near south edge of Stillwater. Next to Last “Boomer” Town Historical Marker.
“Serves the State by instruction, experimentation and extension service. Established Dec. 25, 1890, by First Legislative Assembly of Oklahoma Ter. Prairie broken for experimental farm, 1891. ‘Old Central’ dedicated, 1894. Extension division established, 1915.” (Oklahoma A and M College Historical Marker Sign)
Last “Boomer” Town
VISIT: South Main Street, near south edge of Stillwater. Next to Oklahoma A & M Historical Marker.
About 3/4 mi. east
“Here 300 armed ‘boomers’ made their last stand for settlement of the Oklahoma country led by Wm. L. Couch; and surrendered to U.S. Cavalry troops commanded by Col. E. Hatch, Jan. 26, 1885. On this site, the ‘boomers’ had built log cabins and dugouts for their town of Stillwater founded by them on Dec. 12, 1884.” (Last “Boomer” Town Historical Marker Sign)
VISIT: Intersection of Ranch Street and Washington Avenue in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
1889 and 1893
“On April 22, 1889, the Run for land south in Old Oklahoma began on this line, by Proclamation of Pres. Benj. Harrison. Also, on Sept. 16, 1893, the Run for land north in the Cherokee Outlet began on this line, by Proclamation of Pres. Cleveland. At Booth No. 1, site 3/4 mi. east, thousands registered for the Run in 1893.” (Boundary Line Historical Marker Sign)
It took me several trips, but I think I finally found all of the historical marker signs in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was super fun trying to track them all down! I hope you learned something new in this post and are inspired to go find some historical markers near you!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
If you are interested in more Stillwater history, historic sites, or museums check out my other blog posts:
Hey friends! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the life of Dr. Angie Debo. She was a pioneering historian and is widely remembered across the state of Oklahoma. Dr. Angie Debo wrote nine books, “edited three, co-authored another, wrote many chapters, articles, and forwards, and presented numerous papers on Native Americans and Oklahoma history.” (Angie Debo Sculpture Project) Let’s get started!
*All photos in this post were taken by myself at the Stillwater Public Library and the Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Dr. Angie Debo’s Story
Born on January 30, 1890, Angie Debo spent the first decade of her life in Beattie, Kansas. In November 1899, her family moved to Marshall, Oklahoma Territory. She graduated from Marshall High School in 1913 and taught in local schools from 1913-1915. She then went on to attend the University of Oklahoma (OU) from 1915-1918, graduating from OU in 1918 with a history degree.
After graduation, Debo was the principal at the Village School in Enid from 1918-1919. She then taught for four years at Senior High School in Enid, Oklahoma. Debo soon returned to school and completed her Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago in 1924. She published her master’s thesis, “The Historical Background of the American Policy of Isolation (1924).” It was co-authored by J. Fred Rippy.
Debo returned to teaching at West Texas State Teachers College in Canyon, Texas from 1924-1933. She also taught in local high schools associated with the college. Debo began working on her doctoral degree while teaching at West Texas Teachers College through the University of Oklahoma. Debo finished her Doctorate Degree from the University of Oklahoma OU) in 1933. Debo’s dissertation was titled, “History of the Choctaw Nation: From the Close of the Civil War to the End of the Tribal Period” and was later published as a book titled, “The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic” in 1934. Dr. Debo’s book won the John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association in 1935.
Next, Dr. Debo was the curator of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas for a year (1933-1934). At the end of 1934, Debo moved back home to Marshall, Oklahoma. From 1937-1939, she received a grant from the Social Science Research Council to research and write “The Road to Disappearance.”
In 1937, Dr. Debo helped edit and conduct interviews fro the WPA Indian-Pioneer Project which would late become the Indian Pioneer Papers. From 1940-1941, she was responsible for supervising the Federal Writers Project in Oklahoma.
Dr. Debo published “And Still the Water Runs” in 1940. In 1941, she published “The Road to Disappearance” and “Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner.” In 1943, she published “Tulsa: From Creek Town to Oil Capital.” She published her only work of fiction in 1944, “Prairie City, the Story of an American Community.”
Dr. Debo taught summer school at Oklahoma A&M in 1946. She was also a Rockefeller Fellow at the University of Oklahoma (OU) from 1946-1947. She published “Oklahoma, Foot-Loose and Fancy-Free” with some of her funding from the Rockefeller Fellowship.
Dr. Debo was a busy lady in the late forties and fifties. From 1947-1955, she was the curator of maps at Oklahoma A&M (present-day Oklahoma State University). She wrote a column for the Oklahoma City Times titled “This Week in Oklahoma History” from 1952-1954. She was also a book reviewer for the New York Times from 1952-1961. Dr. Debo published “The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma: Report on Social and Economic Conditions” in 1951. Dr. Debo retired from curating maps at OSU in 1955, but continued researching, writing, traveling, and advocating for Native American rights. Dr. Debo wasn’t done teaching though, and taught Oklahoma History at OSU from 1957-1958.
Dr. Angie Debo was interviewed for an Oral History Project at Oklahoma State University from 1981-1985. The oral history and transcript are linked in the sources section at the end of this post if you are interested in listening to it. Dr. Angie Debo passed away on February 21, 1988. She is buried in North Cemetery in Marshall, Oklahoma.
Dr. Angie Debo Statue
There is a statue of Dr. Angie Debo in front of the Stillwater Public Library! The contest for the sculpture required artists to submit a design that would “evoke a combination of libraries, reading, Stillwater, and/or Oklahoma.” (Angie Debo Sculpture Project) Eleven artists submitted 16 proposals, and the winning design of Dr. Angie Debo was submitted by Phyllis Mantik.
At the time of the contest, there were no known statues of Dr. Angie Debo anywhere in the United States. So, this statue was a big deal for Oklahoma! Mantik’s design for the statue included the tribal seals of the Indigenous tribes of Oklahoma along the bottom of the base. Watch the video below to see the base in its entirety.
The Stillwater Public Library Trust received several donations for the sculpture. In total, $63,000 was raised from multiple people and communities. The sculpture of Dr. Angie Debo was the first sculpture on City property in Stillwater!
The statue of Dr. Angie Debo was unveiled on November 18, 2010 at a ceremony attended by over 200 people. Notable guests included Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and Oklahoma City University & Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby.
RESEARCH TIP: The speeches, programs, and memoranda items can be found in the Oklahoma State University Archives. I have linked the OSU Archives HERE.
The Dr. Angie Debo statue is an inspiring place to visit in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Dr. Debo’s story can be an inspiration to us all and I am glad I got to visit the Stillwater Public library and see the statue. I hope you’ll go see it if you’re ever in Stillwater!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we are talking about the American Pigeon Museum located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Did you know that 32 pigeons received the Dickin Medal of Honor during World War II? Keep reading to learn more about this award and the museum that explains the history and importance of pigeons. Let’s get started!
*All photos were taken at the American Pigeon Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The American Homing Pigeon Institute (AHPI) was founded in 1973 as a way to honor pigeons and their legacy. It would later be renamed the American Pigeon Museum and Library (APM&L). The land the museum sits on was purchased in 1993. A new building was built on the property in 2013 to house the museum – it’s a larger building which has allowed more of the collection to be placed on display. The collection is pretty impressive if you ask me!
Pigeon History Around the World
The first recorded image of a pigeon dates back to 3000 BC in Iraq – that’s a long time ago! Fast forward a few years to 1600 AD and pigeons were being transported to other countries. In 1606, French settlers brought the Rock Dove to Port Royal, Nova Scotia introducing the bird to the New World. (1600-1900 AD Information Sign in the Museum) Fast forward another 2 centuries and there are several recordings of pigeons in the nineteenth century.
Pigeons in War
The War History exhibit was my favorite exhibit at this museum. It was really interesting to see how pigeons were used in various wars. The World War II section explained how pigeons were used to transport messages. Pigeons have also been used by the Coast Guard to deliver messages!
World War I
World War I began in 1914 and the United States joined the war in April 1917. By July 1917, General John J. Pershing was sending cablegrams asking for two pigeon specialists and 12 enlisted experts. He also wanted to purchase 500 pairs of Homing Pigeons for breeding. He asked for an additional 1,000 pigeons that had been hatched in that year to be sent to the American Army in France. The pigeons were successful in delivering their messages 95% of the time! “The most famous pigeons used by the Allied Forces at this time were The Mocker, President Wilson, Spike, Big Tom, Colonel’s Lady, Kaiser, and Cher Ami to name a few.” (World War I Information Sign in the Museum)
World War II
Pigeons were once again used in World War II. Read the stories of Otto Meyer and Maria Dickin to learn more about their roles with the pigeons in the war effort.
Otto Meyer (1905-1991) was an US Army Major during World War II. He was put in charge of the US Army’s world-wide pigeon breeding and training program. Meyer was soon promoted to Commander of the US Army Pigeon Service Agency. He oversaw 3,000 soldiers and 54,000 pigeons!
His favorite pigeon was named Kaiser who lived to be 32 years old. Kaiser served in both World War I and World War II. G.I. Joe was another one of Meyer’s pigeons. He received the Dickin Medal of Honor for saving 1,000 Allied troops by delivering a message in time for them to move.
Otto Meyer continued working with pigeons after WWII. He was the civilian technical advisor of the Signal Corps pigeon breeding and training program. (Otto Meyer Information Sign in the Museum)
Maria Dickin & the Dickin Medal of Honor
Maria Dickin (Sept. 22, 1870 – Jan. 3, 1951) was upset after witnessing the plight of sick animals in East London during World War II. She established the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). Later, she created the Dickin Medal to recognize the service of animals during WWII. Dickin said the animals had to have demonstrated “conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units.” (Maria Dickin Case in the Museum)
From 1943-1949, 54 Dickin Medals were awarded to animals for their service in WWII. Among the recipients were 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, 3 horses, and 1 cat. The pigeons received the award for delivering messages!
Pigeon racing began around 1875 in the United States and many people still participate today. The sport is especially popular in New York and New Jersey, but it must be noted that pigeon racing takes place in multiple countries around the world.
Pigeon racing is a sport where Racing Homer pigeons are taken to a certain location and then they are released to return home. They will travel 60-600 miles in a given race. The pigeons are specifically trained for these kind of races. The judges measure the bird’s rate of travel to determine the winner. In modern races the pigeons are tracked using a RFID tag to record arrival time. In traditional races, the pigeons were labeled with a rubber ring with an identification number and a special racing clock was utilized. The bird’s rubber ring was placed in the clock to signify when it arrived at the end of the race. “From this timestamp an average speed is measured and a winner of the race can be found.” (Pigeon Racing Information Plaque in the Museum)
How do you tell what kind of pigeon it is that you’re looking at? The Homing & Fancy Pigeon exhibit illustrates the differences between the two breeds of pigeons. To view the “Breeds of Pigeons” Gallery – CLICK HERE!
So, I know I talked about my favorite exhibit earlier in this post, but I have to highlight another awesome feature of this museum. There are REAL, LIVING pigeons in the museum. The pigeons pictured below are kept outside behind the museum and you have to go out the back doors to have access. There were also pigeons inside the museum in a bird cage by the front desk. I liked being able to see the different types of pigeons and their multi-colored feather patterns.
GRAPHIC PHOTO WARNING FOR GALLERY BELOW: Pictured in this gallery are images of pigeon dissections, a pigeon skeleton, feather diagram, and a real preserved pigeon. If you don’t want to see a preserved pigeon then don’t scroll through the gallery below – it is the last picture (#6) in the gallery. The pigeon skeleton photos are (#4) and (#5).
Passenger Pigeons – A Tragic Ending
The Passenger Pigeon is a tragic example of what can happen when species are not taken care of properly. The Passenger Pigeons suffered from habitat loss and hunting. “The last confirmed sighting of wild passenger pigeons occurred at Laurel, Indiana on April 3, 1902, Thirty years earlier, it had been the most abundant bird on the continent. But hunting wiped out the wild flocks by the 1890s, and the few wild survivors couldn’t reestablish the communal lifestyle they needed to survive.” (Going, Going, Gone Information Plaque in the Museum) Some scientists estimate that 3-5 billion passenger pigeons may have been alive when Europeans initially came to America.
Martha – the last Passenger Pigeon in captivity – died at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914 at 1 pm at the age of 29. The Cincinnati Zoo donated her body to the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian mounted the bird and placed her on display.
The American Pigeon Museum has a dedicated space for a research library. There are lots of different books and records you can look at. You can walk right into the space without making an appointment.
The American Pigeon Museum and Library also has a cool section on their website with articles about pigeons and their history. I have linked it HERE!
The American Pigeon Museum was a cool museum to visit! I didn’t really know a lot about the history of pigeons before visiting the museum and I definitely learned a lot on this trip. I hope you’ll go check this museum out and see the pigeons!
Hey friends! Welcome back to another post – today, we’re talking about historic Old Central and the Oklahoma Museum of Higher Education in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For those of you who don’t know or are new around here, I am a 2-time Oklahoma State University alum. For undergrad, I was a member of the Honors College at OSU and spent some time in Old Central. I had a couple of classes in the basement of the building and my honors advisor’s office was on the first floor! I loved this building and am super excited to write about it today! Let’s get started!
FUN FACT! To see a collection of old Oklahoma State logos click HERE. I LOVE all of them so please don’t ask me to pick a favorite…
History of Old Central
The Morrill Act allowed Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (OAMC) to be founded on the Christmas Day, December 25, 1890. Oklahoma Territorial Governor George W. Steele signed the legislation for the college and agricultural experiment station in Payne County. 200-acres in Stillwater was selected because of the variety of soils for agricultural experimentation. Four homesteaders contributed portions of their land to make the campus. Frank E. Duck and Alfred N. Jarrell were paid to give the southern portion of the campus. Charles A. Vreeland and Oscar M. Morse were paid to give the northern portion of the campus. These four families took land from their homesteads to make the campus possible. The people of Stillwater helped clear the 200-acre tract of tall grass prairie grasses. They did this with a horse and plow and could only complete a few acres a day. This project took months to complete. Temporary buildings were raised for the campus! Keep reading to learn about Old Central – the first permanent building on campus.
James C. Neal was the first director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station on the OAMC campus in 1891. Robert J. Barker was the first President of Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1891-1894.
The people of Stillwater decided that OAMC needed a permanent building for classes. In 1893, construction began thanks to $10,000 worth of bonds. “The bonds were not only the first issued by Stillwater, but also the first by any municipality in Oklahoma successfully paid at maturity without refinancing.” (OSU Timeline) In total, the building cost $25,000 to complete.
Old Central was made out of sandstone and brick masonry. The heating and cooling system installed in the building was very modern for the time. Old Central was dedicated on June 15, 1894 as the first permanent building at Oklahoma A&M! Students were allowed to use the building beginning in September 1894.
It was originally called ‘College Building’ or ‘(Old) Central Building.’ The local townspeople called the building ‘Stillwater’s Pride.’ (OSU Timeline) The new building housed a chemistry lab, administration offices, classrooms, a large assembly room, and the night watchman’s room. There was also a library which contained 1,600 volumes inside!
In 1914, stabilizing tie-rods were installed to help with the building’s unstable foundation. Soon, more cracks in the walls appeared and the building was deemed unsafe. Old Central was condemned in 1921, but the building was saved in 1928 by Henry G. Bennett. Bennett’s mission to save the building refurbish and restore the structure. Bennett passed away in 1951 and the next President of OSU wanted to destroy the building… But a group of faculty and alumni didn’t let this happen!
More renovations to Old Central began in 1962, but it wasn’t enough. The building was discontinued from use by the university in September 1969. By 1970, the Old Central Committee and Oklahoma Historical Society entered negotiations for preserving the building. The groups decided that making the building into a museum would be the best way to preserve it for future generations to admire. So, the Museum of Higher Education was established.
Old Central has withstood the test of time, it survived “three fires, a tornado, and repeated threats of demolition.” (Spurrier and Roark, 118). Historic Old Central was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 27, 1971 – scroll through the gallery below to see a picture of the certificate! From 1971-1983, Old Central was restored once again.
The Oklahoma Historical Society had an office located in Old Central for the next 3 decades. Their next restoration project began in October 2007. For more information about the restoration process, see the Spurrier and Roark’s article linked at the end of this post! The restoration process took 2 years and cost $6.7 million “to overcome the challenges involved in brining a nineteenth-century building up to twenty-first-century standards.” (Spurrier and Roark, 120-121)
After the renovations, the Honors College at Oklahoma State University moved into Old Central in 2009. It is still the home of the Honors College at the time of this post in June 2022!
Swipe through the gallery below to see Old Central through the various seasons! Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – we love Old Central in all its glory 🙂
Inside Old Central
“The original 1894 bell hangs in the belfry, complete with its original clapper, and although according to tradition students once rang the bell for hours after football victories, hairline cracks now limit its ringing to special occasions such as honors college award ceremonies and visits by prospective students, families, and alumni.” (Spurrier and Roark, 121)
This display case is located on the First Floor of Old Central outside of the Honors College advising offices. For a closer view of its contents, please scroll up to the section about the History of Old Central for more images.
Staircase – South Side
The Watchman’s Room was located in this area. Dormitories didn’t appear on the OAMC campus until 1910. Prior to this many of the students stayed at local boarding houses which cost $2.50 to $5.00 per week. A single male student was allowed to live in Old Central if he acted as the night-watchman and janitor. Francis M. Greriner and Clarence H. McElroy were the first two students to hold the position.
Stairs & Assembly Hall on the Second Floor
The Assembly Hall has had many uses over the years including classroom spaces, ceremonies, and meeting spaces. Today, the large lecture hall seats approximately 120 people. It is a beautiful space. While researching this post, I read that the Honors Hooding ceremony used to take place there. I guess the Honors College had grown since that article was published because my ceremony was held in the Student Union. I also read that some of the first graduation ceremonies at OAMC took place in the Assembly Hall! That’s so cool!
The basement of Old Central now houses a classroom, computer lab, and restrooms. I took classes in the basement of Old Central when I was a student at Oklahoma State University. It’s a cool space! You can see the door on the left side of the picture that leads to the classroom.
I love historic Old Central! This building is so special to Oklahoma State University history and Payne County history. It was really cool to be a student and attend classes in the basement and to ring the original bell clapper after I received my Honors Hood for graduation. I love this building and my alma mater. I hope you’ll go visit Oklahoma State University and Old Central. Ever you’ll find us loyal and true!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74075
TRAVEL TIP: Old Central is behind the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center. It’s also very close to Hideaway Pizza and the Fire Station.
*Information from various plaques and information sheets in Old Central used. I have included pictures above within the post.
Hey friend – welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the new First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City! The facility is beautiful and there is so much history inside. Let’s go look around!
*All photos used in this post were taken at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City.
The First Americans Museum is a partnership between the State of Oklahoma and The City of Oklahoma City. A Chickasaw Nation subsidiary, the American Indian Cultural Center Foundation, and many donors have also helped make this museum a reality. The architects of the museum were Johnson Fain Architects: Master Planning and Building Concepts, Los Angeles and Hornbeek, Blatt Architects, Co-Prime, Edmond.
The First Americans Museum opened in 2021 and is 175,000 square feet! The building aligns with the cardinal directions which is significant during the winter and summer solstices and the spring and autumnal equinox. (FAM Website, FAQ Page)
The First Americans Museum Mission statement is “To serve as a dynamic center promoting awareness and educating the broader public about the unique cultures, diversity, history, contributions, and resilience of the First American Nations in Oklahoma today.” (FAM Website, About Page) The Museum believes in four core values: respect, reciprocity, relationships, and responsibility.
Indigenous History in Oklahoma
Many of the 39 nations which call Oklahoma home today were forcibly removed to the area throughout the Nineteenth Century. Though a few tribes were originally from the area.
Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the Union in 1907. The word ‘Oklahoma’ combines two Choctaw words ‘Okla’ and ‘Homma’ which means ‘Red People.’ There are 12 linguistic families spoken in Oklahoma: Algonquian, Athapascan, Caddoan, Iroquoian, Tanoan, Muskogean, Penutian, Jiwere (Siouan), Dhegiha (Siouan), Tonkawan, Uchean, Uto-Aztecan. (FAM Website, FAQ Page)
The following 39 nations live in Oklahoma today: Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Caddo Nation, Cherokee Nation, Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Comanche Nation, Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Kaw Nation of Oklahoma, Kialegee Tribal Town, Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa Tribe, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Modoc Tribe, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Ottawa Tribe, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, Sac & Fox Nation, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, Shawnee Tribe, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Tonkawa Tribe, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, Wyandotte Nation. (FAM Website, FAQ Page)
TRAVEL TIP:Tribal Gallery Guides are linked HERE. The First Americans Museum website has PDF documents with consultation lists and specific interpretive items and cultural materials from each tribe.
The First Americans Museum had the following terms defined on a display. I thought this was very helpful, especially if you are not familiar with Indigenous histories.
There are three main exhibit halls in the First Americans Museum. Two are located on the first floor and the third is located on the second floor. OKLA HOMMA and Of the Earth: Creating First Americans Museum are located on the first floor. WINIKO: Life of an Object is located on the second floor.
The OKLA HOMMA exhibit is in the Tribal Nations Gallery on the first floor and covers 18,000 square feet. This gallery tells the stories of the 39 culturally distinct nations living in Oklahoma today. This space utilizes art, film, interactive media, and a large map on the floor. The gallery discusses origin stories, collective histories, (mis)representation, sports, warriors, and so much more. The museum worked with 39 tribes for over a decade to ensure that everything is accurate.
Pictured below are a few pieces and displays within the exhibit. There is so much more to read and look at in this space. I was very disappointed my memory card filled up half-way through this space… Please go visit this museum to see the rest of the displays!
WINIKO: Life of an Object
Winiko: Life of an Object is from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. According to the brochure, the objects offer “an opportunity to understand the importance of the creation collection and continued relevance of cultural materials today.” (FAM Brochure) This collection contains clothing, drums, and more. I did not take pictures in this space, but encourage you to go check it out!
Of the Earth: Creating First Americans Museum
This exhibit illustrates how the First Americans Museum came to be. There are blueprints and mini-models in the collection. The architectural significance is also explained which I thought was very interesting!
First Americans Museum Timeline
1994: Legislation Created Museum Agency
1994-2006: Site Remediation
2005: Ground Blessing
2008: Mound and Remembrance Walls Constructed
2010: Hall of People Constructed
2017: New Horizons
2021: Site Completion
I loved this museum – walking through the halls was an honor. I learned so much and plan to go back in the future. You should plan to spend at least a few hours in this museum. We read many of the signs, but didn’t have time to sit and listen to the videos and oral histories on this trip. On my next visit, I plan to sit and listen to everything. The small theater spaces were amazing and there is also a large theater included in museum admission – so be sure to keep that in mind when visiting. Please go check this museum out and take time to learn the history of the First Americans.
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
659 First Americans Blvd Oklahoma City, OK 73129
TRAVEL TIP: The Thirty Nine Restaurant and Arbor Cafe are located in the museum. Check the First Americans Museum website for restaurant hours and menus. Many of the dishes include “Native ingredients” and several “tribally-specific dishes” are served.
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum and Memorial. There are pieces in the museum collection from across the United States, across Oklahoma, and even a piece from the London Fire Brigade. Let’s go look around!
*All photos used in this post were taken inside and outside at the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum was founded in 1967 in OKC with a groundbreaking ceremony taking place on April 6th. The building was completed in 1969 and opened to the public on June 1st. The Oklahoma State Firefighters Association (OSFA), Oklahoma Fire Chiefs Association (OCFA), and the Oklahoma Retired Firefighters Association (ORFA) also have offices in the building.
The museum is owned and operated by firefighters of the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association which was founded in 1894. A portion of membership dues help support the museum.
There were several really cool exhibits and artifacts in this museum. I have included a few photos of some of the exhibits. Please make sure to visit the museum or their website for more information.
Alfred P. Murrah Bombing – Rescue Memorial
On April 19, 1995 at 9:02 a.m. a bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. Many firefighters rushed to the scene to help the injured amongst the chaos. There were two memorials made to honor the firefighters, one is located at the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum and the other is in Washington, D.C. at the International Association of Firefighters office.
I hope to visit the OKC Memorial Museum in Oklahoma City in the future.
Old Fire Station
There is a miniature firehouse built inside the museum which has an early 20th century John Gamewell Alarm System from Enid, Oklahoma. Scroll through the photos below to get a closer look!
Miniature Fire Truck Collection & The Last Alarm Mural
The collection of miniature firetrucks lined one of the walls in the museum and they were super cool to look at!
If you look above the cases in photo 5 you will notice a large mural – this is called The Last Alarm. Lynn Campbell painted the mural while visitors at the museum watched. The mural is 59 feet long and 8 feet tall with each firetruck representing a real truck used by a town.
Fire Pole & Horse Drawn Wagon
There was a wall with firefighting bunker coats from World War II to the present-day. It was really neat to see how the gear changed over time. Scroll through the gallery to read more about each specific set of gear provided by the Morning Pride Manufacturing Co.
Ben Franklin Collection & Early Firefighting Equipment
First Fire Station in Indian Territory
Fort Supply Depot was the location of the first fire station in Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). The log cabin structure was built in 1869 on the plains. The soldiers wanted a structure to protect all of the fire equipment from the elements. It also gave a sense of law and order to the area.
A little over a century later, the Fort Supply Fire Department donated the log cabin to the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association. The museum staff had to move it from Fort Supply to OKC which is roughly a 3 hour trip covering 160-185 miles depending on your route. 16 people from OKC took a truck and trailer to pick up the log cabin from Fort Supply. The log cabin survived the trip thanks to the diligence of the museum staff. Once the log cabin arrived in OKC the museum staff realized that it wouldn’t fit through the door… So it was carefully broken into pieces and then put back together once all the pieces inside the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum!
Largest Firefighter Patch Collection in the World!
The Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum has the largest collection of firefighter patches in the world. The patches in the Ben Dancy/Arvin Fennell Memorial Patch Collection come from all over the world – if you zoom in on the photos you can read where the patches are from! The collection wraps around three walls of the museum and the photos don’t do it justice… There are over 7,000 patches in this collection!
In the 1960s, Ben Dancy was the Chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department. He began putting patches on the wall in June 1969 when the museum opened and continued to do so until he passed away in 1982. Arvin Fennell carried on the patch legacy in Chief Dancy’s honor. Fennell was a retired Assistant Fire Chief from Midwest City. He is responsible for the display cases currently in the museum. Previously, the patch collection had been mounted in a catalogue, but Fennell made cases where you could see all the patches at once. Chief Fennell continued working on the patch collection until he passed in 2015.
The museum has over a dozen restored firetrucks inside that you can walk around and look at. There are pieces of equipment from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries in the collection. Scroll through the gallery to view various fire trucks from different eras. We were told that many of the fire trucks still run, which is pretty cool if you ask me!
My Favorite Piece in the Collection
My favorite piece in this museum was probably this hand drawn chemical cart from 1890. A lot of the research I do takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so it was cool to see what kind of firefighting equipment they had at the time!
The Memorial is on the Western side of the property. It honors the brave men and women firefighters who have protected and served Oklahoma. The sculpture is titled, Just Another Day and was created by Shahla Rahimi Reynolds (OKC).
The Wall of Valor honors the firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Other firefighters who have served for over 20 years or retired through disability are also recognized in the memorial.
You can search names on the Memorial Wall on this web page if you scroll down the page – LINK HERE.
I enjoyed visiting the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum again. I visited once when I was a kid and all I remembered about the museum were the big firetrucks on the inside of the building. So, it was cool to go back and walk around the inside of the museum again and appreciate more of the collection. I learned a lot and hope you’ll go check this place out!
TRAVEL TIP: This museum is located right by the Oklahoma City Zoo, Science Museum Oklahoma, the National Softball Hall of Fame, American Pigeon Museum, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. So, if you’re traveling from out of town, make sure to visit some of these other cool places that are close by!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
2716 NE 50th St. Oklahoma City, OK 73111
TRAVEL TIP: There were covered picnic tables outside the museum – it’d be the perfect place for a picnic lunch!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the Edmond Historical Society Museum in Edmond, Oklahoma. Let’s get started!
*All photos used in this post were taken by myself at the Edmond Historical Society Museum in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Armory & Museum History
The Edmond Historical Society is housed in the Edmond Armory that was originally built for the 179th Infantry of the 45th Division of the Oklahoma National Guard. The Edmond Armory was designed by Colonel Bryan W. Nolan – an architect with the 45th Infantry. He helped build and design 35 armories in Oklahoma! Nolan had an impressive career. See the following excerpt from the Edmond Historical Society:
The Edmond Armory was paid for by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was founded in May 1935 by the Administration of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). The WPA helped create jobs for thousands of Americans who were looking for work. Many were not employed due to the economic depression of the 1930s.
The building was made of native red sandstone rocks and the blueprint used was the “One Unit Artillery” design. The building was comprised of offices, barracks, arms storage, stage, garage, target range, and a large vaulted ceiling drill hall. The same blueprint plan was used for the armories in Duncan, Sulphur, Haskell, and Claremore.
The Edmond Armory was the headquarters for the 45th Division of the National Guard until 1972 when they built a new facility. The armory was then given back to the city of Edmond. Eventually, the building housed other things like a skating rink, community center, meeting hall, and more. To read more about those venues, please see the “Edmond Armory History” link at the end of this blog post.
The building was leased by the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust beginning in 1983. The City Council supported their plan for renovating the space. The Edmond Historical Museum and Edmond Arts and Humanities Council are two examples of groups that rented the space during renovations.
The Edmond Historical Society Museum actually started out as a single room in the Edmond Armory. Eventually, the City of Edmond allowed them to use the entire building. The main gallery of the museum once housed the space used for artillery training. The museum’s offices are located in the old barracks, offices, and storage areas.
The Edmond Armory was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 14, 1991!
The variety of exhibits in this museum was impressive! Each section was unique and I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know before. I have included pictures of a handful of the exhibits. You’ll have to pay the museum a visit to see the rest of them! Additionally, the Edmond Historical Society has a few digital exhibits. I am linking one here, “Edmond’s African American History: Land Run to Integration.”
Edmond sits at a cross-section on the Plains. The Western portion of Edmond has more prairie grasses and open spaces, while the Eastern side of Edmond has more woodland area. This region is known for its mixing of trees and prairie grasses. Several Indigenous peoples have lived on the Plains. The Kaw, Omaha, Quapaw, Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, and Osage peoples are just a few examples.
The Land Run – April 22, 1889
The Land Run took place on April 22, 1889 with the opening of the Unassigned Lands in Indian Territory. The Unassigned Lands include present-day Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Payne, and Oklahoma county. Benjamin Harrison was the President of the United States who signed the proclamation which opened approximately 2 million acres for Anglo settlers. Each person could stake a claim of 160 acres for a filing fee of $14.00. A town basically formed overnight around the Edmond Station on Sante Fe Railroad line. 100 to 150 people formed the town of Edmond.
FUN FACT! The Land Run is sometimes referred to as Benjamin “Harrison’s Horse Race.”
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church opened 2 months after the Land Run. This was the first church built in the Unassigned Lands and they held their first mass on June 24, 1889 with 5 Catholic families in Edmond. The church stood at the corner of Boulevard and First Street.
Inside the Edmond Historical Society Museum stands a replica of the church that is 1/4 size of the original building. It was created as an Edmond Centennial Project (1989) by the Knights of Columbus – a Catholic organization.
Route 66 & Oil History
Route 66 was created in 1926 as one of the first highways in the United States. Arguably, Route 66 is the most universally known highway in the US. Today, Oklahoma has most of the drivable miles on Route 66. The highway also goes through Arizona, California, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information about some cool places along Route 66 in Oklahoma, please my blog posts about the Arcadia Round Barn and Pops.
FUN FACT! 13.4 miles of Route 66 pass through Edmond, Oklahoma!
Route 66 encouraged people to drive more which led to a boom in the automobile industry. Many gas stations, service stations, hotels, and restaurants began popping up along the highways across the country to serve travelers. CONOCO played a huge role in the oil industry. For more information about the company, please see my blog post about the Conoco Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma.
I’ve recently taken an interest in entertainment history so I thought it was interesting to read the plaques about entertainment in Edmond. I want to look further into both the Gem and Broncho Theaters!
The Edmond Historical Society was a cool museum to visit. They had a lot of different exhibits which made looking around a lot of fun. The exhibits weren’t necessarily related and I really liked that about this place.
Make sure to check out all of the cool digital resources they have for kids, teachers, and adults have their website! They have a full page of games, videos, and tours that are all virtual! I have linked their website in the sources section at the end of this post. I hope you’ll go check it out!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the Oklahoma Territorial Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Their collections cover the creation of the Unassigned Lands, the Land Run of 1889, homesteading, territorial government, and state government.
But first, a little bit of Oklahoma history for you! Oklahoma Territory existed from 1890-1907 when it became the state of Oklahoma. Prior to this, it had been Indian Territory. The Land Run (April 22, 1889) opened 2 million acres of land which had promised to Indigenous peoples. Thousands of people flooded into the area (Unassigned Lands). Many towns were established, some being Guthrie, Norman, Oklahoma City, and Stillwater. Guthrie became the capital of Oklahoma Territory. Make sure to read all the way to end to learn about the Outlaw mummy and hatchet-wielding woman who smashed up a saloon in the name of temperance! You don’t want to miss these stories – Let’s get started!
*All photos used in this post were taken by myself at the Oklahoma Territorial Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Territorial Museum opened in 1973 thanks to the efforts of Fred Pfeiffer. He was a local philanthropist who wanted to save the Carnegie Library in Guthrie after the City threatened to tear it down. Pfeiffer built the museum next to the Carnegie Library so that the important building wouldn’t be torn down. Today, the Carnegie Library and Oklahoma Territorial Museum are connected! For more information, read my post about the Carnegie Library!
Exhibits Inside the Museum
There were so many cool exhibits inside the museum! I have highlighted several of them here, but didn’t talk about all of them… The Oklahoma Territorial Museum website has several pages which talk about their various galleries. I have linked several of the pages in the sources section at the end of this post if you want to know more!
Indian Territory – Indigenous History
This section of the gallery on the first floor talked about Indigenous history in Indian Territory.
This section of the gallery on the first floor talked about railroad history.
This area on the first floor was set up kind of like a Land Office and I thought it was neat!
I LOVE reading about homesteading history. So, the homesteading portion of the museum was really cool to see. I especially liked the section that spoke about African American homesteaders because their story is sometimes left out of the narrative of the West.
Homesteaders would choose a piece of land, built a shelter, and had to ‘improve’ the land. Many homesteaders struggled in the aftermath of the Land Run for several years with drought and economic depression. Finally, in 1897 things began to look a little bit better for the farmers in Oklahoma Territory.
African American History in Oklahoma Territory
The exhibit pictured below is outside the museum. It talked about African American history in Oklahoma Territory! You can view this exhibit anytime because it is outside and free for the public to look at.
Law Enforcement in Oklahoma Territory
This section of the museum was on the second floor. My friend and I were casually walking through when I saw the story of Florence L. Hitchcock – the first female deputy in Oklahoma Territory. Very cool! Then there was also the signs that talked about the famous outlaws in Oklahoma.
Not everyone who participated in the Land Run wanted to homestead. Some people established businesses in the towns. One example of a business is the newspaper! I LOVE newspaper history. So, seeing the section about the “Daily State Capital” was super cool! Keep watching for a future blog post on the State Capital Publishing Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Journey to Statehood
The Statehood Gallery contains many items from the convention, Oklahoma’s journey to statehood, and the history of the town of Guthrie. Below are some of the items on display in the gallery. Make sure to scroll through all of the pictures in the slideshow below and read the information – there’s some really cool stuff!
46 Stars on the American Flag
Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 16, 1907. This massive flag was given to Oklahoma by the City of Philadelphia Pennsylvania on July 4, 1908. If you look closely at the star in the right corner you’ll see that it is embroidered. It says, “Oklahoma July 4 Fourth 1908.”
Original State of Oklahoma Flag
Did you know that original flag for the state of Oklahoma was not the blue one that we are all familiar with today? The red Oklahoma flag was adopted in 1911 by the Third Legislature. It was meant to commemorate Oklahoma being the 46th state of the United States. Mrs. W.R. Clement made the design. Senator McMechan and Representative Wright showed the design to Congress. The museum plaque beside the flag was full of interesting information! The plaque states that the red Oklahoma flag was phased out in the wake of the First Red Scare (1919-1921). Oklahomans didn’t want to display the red Oklahoma flag for fear of being associated with communism.
The Curious Story of Elmer McCurdy – An American Outlaw
Elmer McCurdy and two other men decided they were going to rob a train that was supposedly carrying a $400,000 Osage Indian royalty payment on October 4, 1911. They flagged down the M.K.&T. #29 train and boarded the cars. They searched high and low, but only turned up $46.00 and a couple of bottles of whiskey. The men had stopped the wrong train and now had the law looking for them.
FUN FACT! Elmer McCurdy also used the aliases ‘Frank Davidson’ and ‘Frank Curtis.’
The three men ran for three days. Finally, Elmer McCurdy was cornered in a hay loft in the Osage Hills by Stringer Felton, Bob Felton, and Dick Wallace. What ensued was an hour long gun battle… resulting in McCurdy’s death. His body was taken to the funeral home of Joseph Johnson in Pawhuska – not too far away. McCurdy’s body was embalmed and stored because nobody wanted to pay for his burial… Eventually, Elmer McCurdy turned into an outlaw mummy. Johnson stood the body of McCurdy up in a corner for people to pay to come see. And people did come see him…
One day in 1916, two strange men appeared in Johnson’s funeral home. They claimed to be the family members of Elmer McCurdy and asked for his body to be returned to them. The men said that McCurdy’s dying mother’s wish was to bring her beloved son home. Johnson didn’t think anything of it and gave the two men McCurdy’s body.
These two men had fooled Johnson – they were actually representatives for The Great Patterson Show. McCurdy’s body was on display for the next 60 years and people soon forget that he was a real mummified person and not a mannequin… One day while filming an episode of a tv show, a person grabbed the arm and pulled. It came off and he was horrified to find that there were real bones inside. The Deputy Medical Examiner confirmed that it was mummified human remains.
Soon, there was a nation-wide search across the United States to discover the identity of the mummy. Elmer McCurdy’s identity was confirmed and he was returned to Guthrie. He is buried at the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie next to Bill Doolin, founder of the Wild Bunch.
According to an article in The Daily Oklahoman, people come from all over to visit the Oklahoma Territorial Museum because of this story. Very interesting. I remember the first time I heard the story of Elmer McCurdy I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant in graduate school and the professor I worked for that semester included Elmer McCurdy’s story in the lecture. I was intrigued and had to look it up after class!
The Saloon Smasher – Carrie A. Nation
Carrie Nation is one of my favorite people to talk about because she smashed a couple of saloons with a hatchet in Kansas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the name of temperance. These events were often referred to as ‘hatchetations.’ Carrie Nation was an outspoken woman who believed strongly in her Christian faith. She once described herself as a “bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.”
Her first husband died of alcoholism 16 months into their marriage in 1869 and this led to her hatred of liquor. She was forced to raise their daughter alone. She married her second husband in 1874. He was a widower with 5 children of his own. The family moved around a lot. They lived in Seiling, Oklahoma for a few years. The Nations moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1899. Carrie grew famous for her saloon smashing over the next 2 years. Her husband filed for divorce in 1901 because she was never home.
Carrie Nation moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma 4 years later. Guthrie was the capitol of Oklahoma Territory at the time and she wanted to make sure that Oklahoma entered the Union as a dry state. She went on a lecture tour and published “The Hatchet” from 1905-1906. She was successful in her efforts and Oklahoma became a dry state on November 16, 1907. Carrie Nation passed away 4 years later in Leavenworth, Kansas.
One of Carrie Nation’s hatchets and hatchet pins are at the Oklahoma Territorial Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma (pictured below). According to a museum employee, Carrie Nation once lived in Guthrie for 6 months and would give speeches at a bar, get arrested, and then the bar owner (who brought her there) would bail her out. Carrie Nation drew a crowd wherever she went and he paid to bring her to Oklahoma to hopefully increase the sales at his business. Carrie Nation took every opportunity to speak about the temperance cause she so strongly believed in.
I REALLY liked this museum. It’s definitely in my Top 10 favorite museums in Oklahoma list! I loved the layout of the museum and the staff member working the Saturday I went was so kind and knowledgable. I will definitely be going back and plan to spend more time walking though the museum. I hope you’ll pay this museum a visit!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
406 East Oklahoma Avenue
Guthrie, Oklahoma 73044
TRAVEL TIP: This museum requires admission – please see their website for details. I did see on their Instagram page that this year the museum offered free admission on Saturday of 89ers weekend. So, keep that in mind!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post. Today, we’re talking about the Oklahoma Sports Museum located in Guthrie, Oklahoma. They claim to have “the largest collection of Oklahoma Sports artifacts anywhere.” This could very well be true because the museum features nearly every sport you could think of – baseball, football, basketball, softball, rodeo, running, and so much more! Let’s go look around!
*All photos used in this post were taken by myself at the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Sports Museum was opened in 1993 by the Oklahoma Sports Museum Association. This museum was the dream of Coach Richard Hendricks, Ferguson Jenkins, and Hubert “Geese” Ausbie. Coach Hendricks is now the director of the Oklahoma Sports Museum.
Coach Richard Hendricks and his husky dog met us at the door. He walked around the museum with my friend and I telling us all kinds of cool facts! It was really cool to hear Coach Hendricks talk about the history of Oklahoma sports. As we were leaving, my friend made this comment to me, “He had an answer for every single question that I had. He knew so much.”
Ferguson Jenkins is a Baseball Hall of Fame member. Jenkins was a star player for the Cubs in the sixties and seventies. He lived in Guthrie for a short time and helped found the Oklahoma Sports Museum.
A New Name
The Oklahoma Sports Museum was eventually renamed the ‘Territorial Capital Sports Museum,” even though the signs on the façade outside still read the ‘Oklahoma Sports Museum.’ The goal of this museum is to honor the rich history and legacy of the many athletes to come from and play in Oklahoma. The museum is housed in 3 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Combined, the museum covers 13,000 sq feet of space. It was very large, and we ran out time to see it all… so, I’ll have to go back one day!
Halls of Fame
The Oklahoma High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame is on one of the walls. There are over 80 coaches in this hall of fame!
There is a plaque that honors the 45 athletes from Oklahoma in the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. The plaque gives their name, sport, and tribal affiliation.
Additionally, the museum honors the 9 women from Oklahoma in the Women’s Oklahoma Golf Association Hall of Fame.
There are six main galleries in the museum: Baseball, Football, Basketball, Golf +Rodeo, Olympics, and Women in Sports. I have included a few images from select galleries – you’ll have to make a trip to the Oklahoma Sports Museum to see the rest!
This museum features a TON of cool baseball stuff. If you or someone you know are passionate about baseball, then you NEED to visit this place! Most of the pictures I took were of the baseball gallery collections – it was massive. Coach Hendricks had a lot of really cool insights about a lot of the pieces in this space.
For example, the baseball collection below belonged to Major League Umpire George Barr. The balls in this collection are from the 1930s and 1940s. If you zoom in on the photos you can see who the signature belonged to. This collection is on loan from Seminole State College.
The jerseys on the wall below were members of the Sooner State League. The Sooner State League was active in Oklahoma for about a decade from 1947-1957. This collection belongs to Peter Pierce who has loaned it to the museum.
The bat pictured below is a ‘Babe Ruth Notched Bat.’ He hit 28 of 60 homers with this bat in 1927 when he set the new single-season home run record. Babe Ruth put 28 notches around the Louisville Slugger logo during his famous 1927 season – each time he hit a home run a notch was added to the bat! The Ruth family placed a paper label on the bat that stated: “Each notch on this War Club of the Babe’s represents one apple knocked out of the Ball Orchard.” What a cool piece of sports history!
The following wall in the baseball gallery was dedicated to African American baseball players.
This corner was dedicated to Bobby Murcer. I always think it’s really cool to see Bobby Murcer in the sports museums because my grandma went to school with him. She said he was a nice person!
To conclude the baseball section, we’ll finish with Mickey Mantle. Did you know that the statue wasn’t allowed to have pinstripes on the uniform? The Yankees said they wouldn’t allow it, interesting…
This section of the museum is dedicated to softball history! The University of Oklahoma softball team was featured prominently in this gallery.
As we were leaving the museum, the rodeo gallery caught my eye and we had to go back through that section of the museum very quickly. There was a lot of cool rodeo stuff in this area and I need to go back and get a better look! We were on a time crunch and didn’t have enough time to explore this gallery as thoroughly as I would have liked to…
Oklahoma State University & The University of Oklahoma
Y’all know I can’t go to a sports museum without looking for the Oklahoma State University stuff, right?! Well, I found a lot of cool stuff, but I couldn’t take pictures of everything… Scroll through the gallery below to see Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton, Eddie Sutton, Henry Iba, Barry Sanders, and more!
The Oklahoma Sports Museum was actually really cool. I didn’t research this museum as thoroughly as I usually do before visiting the museum… My friend and I wound up having a little bit of extra time before we had to leave Guthrie and we were able to stop by to see it!
I really appreciate all of the time Coach Hendricks spent talking with us. He was so knowledgeable and very kind. I love it when you can tell someone is passionate about what they do and Coach Hendricks is very passionate about Oklahoma sports, indeed. Please stop by and visit this museum!
Hey friend! Welcome to another post! Today, we’re talking about the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Rumor has it that some of the pieces from this museum we used in a movie being released later this fall (2022)! Keep reading to find out which movie… Let’s get started!
*All photos were taken by myself at the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum opened in 1992 in the Gaffney Building and is managed by the Oklahoma Pharmacy Heritage Foundation, Inc. The Gaffney Building was opened in 1890.
The idea for the frontier drugstore museum had actually begun in 1970s – inspired by Ralph Enix and his colleagues. They wanted a space to preserve and share the history of pharmacy in Oklahoma.
The collection in this museum contains items that relate to frontier drugstores which were crucial to keeping communities healthy in the 19th and 20th centuries. It showcases how medicine slowly moved westward across the United States. Many of the communities didn’t have reliable access to a doctor in territorial days, but they sometimes had access to a drugstore.
Medicines of all shapes and sizes line the walls of this unique museum. Many of the bottles contain their original labels and some even have their original contents. In addition to medicine, the museum has an old soda fountain, beauty supplies, and cigar memorabilia. There are several mortar and pestles scattered throughout the museum which were used for compounding different types of medicine.
One thing I learned from this museum was the history of “show globes.” These are glass containers which have different colored liquid medicine in them. They are often on display in windows of drugstores. If you scan the shelves in the slideshow above and below this paragraph, there are different show globes on the tops of various cabinets – look for red, blue, and green liquids in the glass containers!
The museum website says you can hold many of the objects in the museum, but the historian in me just couldn’t start grabbing things. So, I just walked through, looked at things, and took a lot of photos.
The photos below were taken in a small room tucked away in the museum. This is set up like an old dentist office. I would not have wanted to sit in a dentist chair like that… ouch.
According to one of the museum staff members – these pieces were used in the new movie coming out this fall, “Killers of the Flower Moon.” A majority of the movie was filmed in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. If you haven’t read the book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (2017) by David Grann then I highly recommend checking it out!
Established in 2006, the Apothecary Garden is located next door to the museum and provides a beautiful place for people to walk through in the Historic District of downtown Guthrie. An apothecary garden is a place where herbs and plants have traditionally been grown for medicinal purposes. Apothecary gardens have been around for centuries!
The Centennial Clock was added as a part of The Oklahoma Centennial Celebration in 2007. The clock was donated by the citizens of Guthrie – it cost $40,000 to install! It stands in the center of the Apothecary Garden.
The Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum and Apothecary Garden in Guthrie, Oklahoma were interesting places to visit. I didn’t know many details about medicinal history before going to this museum. Needless to say, I learned quite a bit and am very thankful for modern medicine. I hope you’ll swing by this museum if you ever get the chance!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the Lester and Mary Cann Memorial Gardens and Estate in Ponca City, Oklahoma. The Welcome plaque in front of the garden claims “the Cann Garden is a museum for living plants.” The Cann Garden features an “important collection of plants in a display setting.” By definition, I love the idea of a living plant museum. The brochure for the Cann Garden calls it an “enchanting” place and I’d believe it after visiting this place! Let’s go look around and talk about the history!
*All photos used in this post were taken by myself at the L.A. Cann Estate and Memorial Gardens in Ponca City, Oklahoma.
History of the Cann Estate
Lester Cann (1869-1957) was the Kay County Commissioner and later served as the City Manger of Ponca City from 1934-1948. He proudly served the Ponca City community for over 25 years. He married Mary (Smith) Cann (1876-1954) and they had a daughter, Elsie.
The Cann’s home – a two-story farmhouse – was built in 1908 in Ponca City. Today, the home has been completely renovated and is beautiful. It is used as a meeting space for many of the local garden clubs and organizations. Additionally, you can reserve the garden for special occasions like weddings or other activities.
Elsie ensured the legacy of her parents would never be forgotten by donating the farmhouse and 10 acres of gardens to the city of Ponca City in August 1975. She wanted an emphasis put on garden activities for the citizens of Ponca City to enjoy.
The above photo on the top left is Elsie (Cann) Brown. I am not sure who the other people in the photos are… If you know and would like to tell me so I can update this article – please send me a message on my contact page!
Inside the Cann Farmhouse
The Cann home was built in 1908 and the interior has been renovated. Below are some photos from the first floor of the home. I loved the stained glass window in the staircase – it was unexpected, but added a nice pop of color to the space.
TRAVEL TIP: You can schedule an appointment to tour the turn-of-the-century homestead farmhouse.
The Gardens are maintained by many of the local garden clubs. If you walk through the gardens, there are several benches, plaques, and tiles on the pathways honoring these clubs. There are over 2,500 feet of walkways in the Cann Garden according to the Kay County Master Gardener bench in the gardens. Make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes!
TRAVEL TIP: Here is a map of the Cann Memorial Garden Walking Trails. The garden is open daily to the public from daylight until dark!
In addition to being a garden, Cann is also a dedicated arboretum! An arboretum is a space dedicated to growing multiple types of trees.
Events at the Cann Gardens
The Cann Garden hosts an annual plant sale in May. For more information about the plant sale please contact the Cann Garden.
The Annual Herb Festival is held the first Saturday of June every year. Their mission is to “educate about herbs, gardening and to provide tools and crafts for outside. Also, to share the beauty of Cann Gardens and to invite guests to Ponca City while supporting the programs of the Survivor Resource Network along with increasing awareness and knowledge of services provided to Kay and Noble County survivors of domestic violence.” (Ponca City Herb Festival Website) For more information about the herb festival or to visit their website – CLICK HERE!
Saturday, June 4, 2022, will be the 29th Annual Ponca City Herb Festival from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be vendors from Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. You will have an opportunity to purchase plants, herbs, handmade items, jams, and more. There are also children’s activities, seminars, and entertainment for everyone to enjoy.
I really enjoyed having an opportunity to walk around the Cann Memorial Gardens and Estate. The walking trails were well-kept and the landscaping was beautiful. There are several gazebos where you could easily host a picnic! Next time I go back, I know I’ll be packing my picnic bag!
I hope you’ll go check out the Cann Garden in Ponca City. If you can’t make it to Ponca City – go check out your local botanical garden! Ask about the history of the garden – you never know what you might learn!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
1500 E Grand Avenue
Ponca City, Oklahoma 74604
TRAVEL TIP: This is located at the Corner of 14th & Grand Avenue.
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post. Today, we’re talking about the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond, Oklahoma. I had driven by it before, but had never been inside – so it was really cool to finally be able to see it! Let’s go look around and talk about the fascinating history!
*All photos used in this post were taken by myself at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse or the Edmond Historical Society Museum. Please see the captions for photos taken at the Edmond Historical Society.
This Territorial Schoolhouse opened in 1889 in Edmond, Oklahoma Territory. Some have suggested it may have been the first schoolhouse built after the Land Run on April 22, 1889. This Land Run was for the so-called Unassigned Lands. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison ‘opened’ the lands at noon on April 22, 1889 and approximately 200 people staked their claim in Edmond. Hundreds more went to Guthrie and Oklahoma (City) Station, but I’ll talk more about the Land Run in my post about the Oklahoma Territorial Museum (I’ll link it here when it’s finished!)
The Ladies School Aid Society organized in June 1889 to raise funds to build the school and hire a teacher. The Ladies School Aid Society purchased lumber on credit in Edmond, Oklahoma Territory to build the schoolhouse. Jennie Foster was the president of the society which had 15 members. Julia Pfaff, Ellen Wilderson, and Fannie Morrison were active members named in James L. Crowder’s The History of Edmond’s 1889 Schoolhouse (2011). These women were able to pay back the credit and raise money for the teacher’s salary. This was to be a free school for students to attend which wasn’t normal at this time, as most schools required some form of tuition. The first class took place on September 16, 1889 and was taught by Miss Ollie McCormick who was paid $30 per month ($240 per year).
The schoolhouse was repainted for the 1890 school year costing a total of $20 (that is roughly $630 today). Miss McCormick left after her first year in Edmond and three other people volunteered to take her place. Col. H.H. Moose, Lucy E. Twyford, and Phoeba L. Bowen would be the temporary instructors. Ten students graduated from the eighth and final grade in 1890 – so a graduation ceremony was held! How exciting! 🙂
In 1891, Lucy E. Twyford and Ethel Gregg were the schoolhouse teachers. A bell tower was added to the schoolhouse building in February – it weighted 325 pounds! It was added to the north end of the structure.
The building wasn’t large enough to accommodate all of the students and had to be expanded in 1892. A 24′ x 24′ addition was built on the south side of the building. It was now officially a two-room schoolhouse! Estella Thompson and Ida Belt were the new teachers.
Events at the Schoolhouse
In addition to holding classes, the schoolhouse was considered to be the center of the community and many meetings were held there. Church services, funerals, and weddings are just a handful of events that took place at the schoolhouse in addition to classes.
There are four recorded churches that met in the schoolhouse. The Methodist Episcopal Church began meeting on November 9, 1889. The Christian Church held their first meeting on January 19, 1890. The Presbyterian Church met for the first time on April 6, 1890. Finally, the Baptist Church began meeting on May 11, 1890. (Crowder, 5)
Selling the Schoolhouse
The schoolhouse was sold in 1899 and it became a private residence. Hardy “Pete” Anglea bought the schoolhouse and some of the surrounding area. He had the 1892 addition taken off of the building because he didn’t like. In 1903, he moved the ENTIRE building 50 feet to a new foundation. He also added some new windows to the building.
In April 1908, Daniel McGowan bought the building from Anglea.
W.G. Pledger bought the home in 1919 (I assume from Pledger, but I am not sure).
The final owner – P.R. Sanders – purchased the home in 1927 for his family. The Sanders family lived there for many years and eventually opened a business on the first floor in 1950. This was known as “Sanders Camera Shop.” The business closed in 1975 and the building sat empty for the next 25 years… Paul Sanders loved the building and didn’t want to sell it to someone who would just knock it down. Interestingly, Sanders didn’t know about the building’s history as the original schoolhouse. Keep reading to find out how they discovered the building’s unknown history!
Saving the Schoolhouse
Lucille Warrick is credited with discovering the schoolhouse’s history! It is believed the schoolhouse is the final structure built in 1889 that is still standing in Edmond and this made the preservation efforts so much more important. The city of Edmond began the process to acquire the building in 1998. Several companies and foundations made contributions to the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust to help purchase the building from Sanders. In May 2001, the building was officially purchased from the Sanders Family Trust for $100,000.
In 2001, the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust began renovating the building. The inside of the schoolhouse was discovered after years of being covered up by wallpaper. The original wall paint was made from burnt sweet potatoes and milk – that’s interesting. During the restoration process, the original blackboards were discovered on the walls (see photos below). This put to rest any claims that the building wasn’t the original schoolhouse!
The restoration was finished in time for the Oklahoma Centennial Project by the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust in 2007. The schoolhouse was officially opened to the public for tours in 2007 as a result.
The 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond, Oklahoma was a cool place to visit. The historical interpreters working were very kind and gave a presentation for all visitors who came through the door. They personalized their presentation based on the knowledge you had when you came in the door. It was very cool! I hope you’ll go check this place out!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
124 East 2nd Street
Edmond, OK 73034
TRAVEL TIP: The 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse is open on most Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. in the afternoons. Admission is free!
James L. Crowder. “The History of Edmond’s 1889 Schoolhouse.” Edmond Historic Preservation Trust. (2011).
“Welcome to Edmond’s 1889 Schoolhouse” – Flyer/Handout
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post. Today is a special post because I am reviewing an exhibit about the Washington School that my former graduate school advisor, Dr. Laura J. Arata created! It was on display at the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar and the Stillwater Public Library.
The Washington School was the all-Black school for students in Stillwater, Oklahoma for many years. This school served the community in many capacities besides being a school, like hosting a Head Start program, the Stillwater Nursery Center, and the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency. In total, the Washington School served the community for over 40 years.
*All photos in this post were taken by myself at the Stillwater Museum of History at the Sheerar unless otherwise noted in the caption of the image.
History of Washington School
The Washington School in Stillwater, Oklahoma was named after Booker T. Washington, a famous educator and orator. Booker T. Washington was born in 1856 as an enslaved person. Some of his notable achievements include being a founder of the National Negro Business League, the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and he was an advisor to several presidents. He was well-known for his message of “racial uplift through education, business, and self-determination.” (History – Exhibit Panel) The ideas espoused by Washington were controversial and resonant at the same time.
In 1906, the Booker T. Washington School in Stillwater, Oklahoma opened to serve the Black community with students from first through eighth grade attending school in the wood frame building. If students wished to pursue a high school education they were forced to go to another city like Guthrie, Langston, Norman, Oklahoma City, or Tulsa. By the late 1930s, there was demand for a Black high school in Stillwater. A flood damaged the original school building in 1935 and the community lobbied for building a new, bigger school which would accommodate the older students – keeping them in the community. But not everyone in Stillwater liked this plan and it was met with some resistance.
In 1938, a brick building was constructed for the Washington School which allowed for additional high school level classes. More classrooms, an office space, and a gymnasium was added for the students. The school kitchen was located in the back of the gymnasium. Plus, the school had heat and running water! It is believed some of the funding for this project came from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In addition to a new building, the Washington School also hired a new principal – Lee A. Ward.
A New Principal
Lee A. Ward was the principal of the Washington School and had arrived in Stillwater around 1938 when the new school building was being finished. Ward went to school at Colorado State, taking administration courses.
Ward’s daughter, Pearl graduated from Washington School. Nancy Randolph Davis – the first African American enrollee at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) lived with the Ward family during her first summer of her Master’s Program in Home Economics. Nancy spoke highly of Versie and Ella Pearl in a 2009 oral history interview calling them her “sisters” because they were kind to her while she lived with them. For more information about Nancy Randolph Davis, please see this BLOG POST.
Both, Versie and Ella Pearl graduated from the Washington School. Ella Pearl graduated in 1949. Mrs. Ward was the librarian at Washington School. Under the leadership of Ward, the Washington School continued to grow and get bigger. The building soon needed to be expanded to accommodate the growing student body.
With all this growth, the building had to be updated! Eventually, an auditorium and two new classroom wings were added to the Washington School – one on the East side and one on the West side. There were 8 teachers at the Washington School in Stillwater to teach all of the pupils.
Washington High School had several very good athletic teams which won several football and basketball championships. The official mascot for the Washington High School was the Bears and their school colors were maroon and silver. The Washington letter jackets and uniforms featured an “S” for Stillwater. Below I have included the Washington High School song.
By 1938, Washington had a baseball, basketball, football, and wrestling team. The Washington High School male sports teams soon earned a reputation for their athletic talents. Unfortunately, organized female sports were not around yet… But a few years later, the Washington High School would have a cheerleading squad and a marching band.
The Washington High School football team was really good and the newspaper for Oklahoma A&M (OAMC) began reporting on their games – especially the 1938-1939 season. The football games and practices were held in the empty lot across the street from the school with goal posts made out of plywood boards. But some games were played at Pioneer Field on Friday evenings according to the Daily O’Collegian (OAMC newspaper). Many OAMC students began attending the games for 25 cents and the exhibit panel makes a point to note it was largely White students attending these games in the late-thirties and early-forties because Black students were not allowed to attend OAMC at the time. Additionally, the Washington Team would travel to Chandler (Wildcats), Cushing, Drumright, Enid, Guthrie, Langston (Kappa Alpha Psi), Oklahoma City, Pawhuska, Perry, Stroud, and Wellston for away games against other all-Black teams. The football team won the state championship in 1945, 1947, 1950, and 1956.
Brown v. Board of Education
In 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case declared that “separate but equal” was a violation of United States Constitution. This case affected the 113 Black students at the Washington School. The final all-Black graduating class at the Washington High School finished their schooling in 1956. After this, the Washington High School students were integrated into the Stillwater public school system. The elementary and junior high students at Washington School were integrated a year later in 1957. The Washington School would operate for another eleven years before closing their doors to public school students.
Integration was a hard-fought battle. The Better Amendment was introduced into Oklahoma legislation and prevented separate schools from being tax funded by certain areas. Rather, the tax funds would go into a common fund. The governor of Oklahoma believed this would force integration to take place more quickly. Almost 300 schools across the state of Oklahoma integrated in the fifties. Shockingly, the “state of Oklahoma had the separate schools regulation in its School Code until well in to the 1960s.” (Plaque at the Sheerar on the Blackboard Wall)
Washington School is located on a flood plain of Stillwater Creek. Large floods took place in 1935, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1956, and 1957. The worst flooding of the area took place over the span of a decade significantly impacting over 400 members of the Black community. Students from the Washington School helped to survey their community in order to gather information. According to the survey, only 5% of families in the community had sufficient plumbing and indoor toilets in 1943.
The most recent flooding in this low area took place in 2019. Please see the exhibit panel “Flooding” below for images of the water and damage done.
Washington School Exhibit Panels
I’ve included photos of the Washington School Exhibit Panels so you could see them! Please scroll through and look at all of them!
Do you know additional information about the Washington School in Stillwater, Oklahoma? Please contact Dr. Laura Arata at Oklahoma State University, the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar, or the Stillwater Public Library to share. Help preserve this important piece of Stillwater history!
Legacy of Washington School
The Washington School still stands in Stillwater today though the building has suffered some damage, vandalism, and has worn down over time. The good news is the building is still structurally sound! A team of students from the Public History Program and Environmental Engineering Program at Oklahoma State University began surveying the building in Spring 2021. They found major damage in some areas, but there were other areas that were almost perfectly preserved. For example, the domed redwood ceiling in the gym is nearly perfect and some of the original glass is still intact in the four original classrooms at the front of the building. One of the most exciting finds was that the auditorium had not been affected by the recent floodwaters in the area.
The Washington School is one of three remaining all-Black schools that represent the early 20th century. Several people are pushing for the Washington School building to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Washington School building is significant to Oklahoma history and needs to be preserved. Some of the proposed solutions to save the building include mitigating floodwaters, raising the building, or adding additional drainage around the building and in the area. Whatever option is chosen, I hope this building is saved.
Hey friend, I hope you enjoyed learning about the Washington School in Stillwater, Oklahoma. If you know of additional information about the school or know someone who went there – please reach out to Dr. Laura Arata at Oklahoma State University, the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar, or the Stillwater Public Library.
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
Visit the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar
702 S. Duncan Stillwater, OK 74074
Washington Exhibit Resources
Washington School Exhibit Panels
Washington School Exhibit – Bookmark
“Raising Washington” Exhibit – Brochure
Dr. Laura Arata, “Raising Washington: Story of Booker T. Washington School,” Payne County Historical Review, Payne County Historical Society, Volume 44, Issue 1 (February 2022). [Pages 4-21].
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post – today, we’re talking about Nancy Randolph Davis. She was the first African American enrollee at Oklahoma A&M College, a Civil Rights pioneer in Oklahoma, and an educator for over 40 years. Let’s go learn about her amazing story and the legacy she has left behind!
“I didn’t know I was a trailblazer; I just wanted to earn a master’s degree in my home state.”
TRAVEL TIP: This is what the Nancy Randolph Davis building looks like. The statue is located in this courtyard in front of the black benches pictured above. The sidewalk right before the benches on the left side of this picture leads to the Nancy Randolph Davis statue!
*Most of the photos in this post were taken at the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater by myself. Please read the photo captions for attributions for other photos (Websites are linked in the caption and “sources section” at the end of this post as well).
Nancy Randolph Davis
Nancy Randolph Davis was born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. She graduated from the Sapulpa Booker T. Washington High School in 1944. The Booker T. Washington High School had been established in 1905 in Sapulpa.
Nancy Randolph Davis had five siblings and parents who encouraged her to pursue her education. Her parents were Ed Napoleon and Ernestine Randolph. Her father was a huge champion for her education and said that all of his children had to finish high school. He wanted his children to pursue education and all opportunities extended to them – three of his kids chose to pursue a college education. Mr. Randolph worked for the Frisco Railroad Company and saved money to pay for his children’s education.
Mittie Jackson was a high school teacher that inspired Nancy Randolph to pursue a college education as well. Ms. Jackson told her that she was good at cooking and sewing so she would do well in a Home Economics program.
Nancy Randolph Davis began her college education at Langston University in Guthrie, Oklahoma after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1944. Langston University is an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) that was founded in 1897. (Langston University is still open today in 2022.)
Nancy was very involved on the Langston University campus and in her Home Economics program. She student taught in Luther, Oklahoma – a small, rural town in central Oklahoma. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Home Economics from Langston University in 1948.
“I was not trying to make history. I merely wanted an education. after receiving my bachelor’s degree at Langston University, I wanted to attend OSU for my master’s degree since they had one of the best home economics programs in the state. I knew that God was on my side and that with hard work and perseverance, I would prevail.”
Nancy Randolph Davis was encouraged to apply to the master’s program in Home Economics at Oklahoma A&M College. This was after Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher had won a Supreme Court case which allowed her to attend law school at the University of Oklahoma. Sipuel and Davis actually lived in the same dormitory at Langston University.
At first, Nancy wasn’t allowed to enroll in classes at Oklahoma A&M, but then Roscoe Dunjee (Editor of The Black Dispatch and NAACP Leader) and Amos T. Hall (NAACP Attorney) became involved in the case and she was allowed to enroll. Nancy Randolph Davis became the first African American enrollee at Oklahoma A&M College in 1949.
“OSU made a monumental decision that resounds loudly in the annals of history. Without the Supreme Court forcing them, OSU admitted this ambitious young black woman, granddaughter of a slave, daughter of sixth- and eight-grade graduates, and a Sapulpa, Okla., native into these halls of education.”
Nancy attended school in the summer to work on her master’s degree in home economics. During her first summer in Stillwater, she lived with the Lee A. Ward family. Ward was the principal of the Black elementary school in Stillwater – the Booker T. Washington School.
The following summer, she lived with the Jones family next door to the Ward family. Hanner Hall eventually became the dormitory for African American students at Oklahoma A&M. Married couples lived on the first floor, women on the second floor, and men on the third floor.
At first, the professors at Oklahoma A&M made Nancy sit in the hallway outside the classroom to listen to the lectures. Integration was still illegal at this time. Nancy made the second highest score on a test and her White classmates insisted that she be able to join them inside the classroom. After this complaint, Nancy joined the class in the classroom, but she was not allowed to sit with her classmates and was often forced to sit in the back of the room or in an office space within the classroom.
Nancy graduated with her Master’s degree in Home Economics in the summer of 1952 from the College of Human Sciences at Oklahoma A&M.
Teaching Home Economics
In addition to attending school in the summers, Nancy Randolph Davis was a teacher herself in the spring and fall semesters. She taught Home Economics and Childcare at Dunjee School in Choctaw, Oklahoma for 20 years. Dunjee was an all-Black school where she taught 60 kids in one room with only 5 sewing machines. Her future husband, Fred C. Davis, was the Vice Principal at Dunjee School. They were married in 1953 after she finished her Master’s degree and they had two children together, Calvin and Nancy.
After 20 years at Dunjee, she took a new position at Star Spencer High School. (For those not familiar with Oklahoma geography, Spencer is a town located in central Oklahoma just east of Oklahoma City. Spencer is just west of Choctaw where Dunjee was located.) She eventually retired from Star Spencer High School in 1991. Nancy Randolph Davis devoted 43 years of her life to the Oklahoma Public Education system and touched the lives of thousands of students in Oklahoma. She always encouraged people to “fight through adversity to pursue their dreams.” (Two OSU Buildings Renamed to Honor Civil Rights Pioneer)
When asked if she thought education was still important for young people today, Nancy Randolph Davis replied:
“Education is the key. That’s my motto. Education is the key. If you have an education and you know people and how to work with them, and you can reach out and touch others, then you will be much happier and you’ll be successful in life.”
Nancy was also actively involved in the community, participating in many organizations and was a major Civil Rights activist in the state of Oklahoma. Notably, she was an adviser to the Oklahoma City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council.
Nancy had become very good friends with Clara Luper while they were teaching together at Dunjee. The two women worked together on many Civil Rights projects – including the drugstore sit-ins at the counters in Oklahoma City which began in 1958. This was the first and longest successful sit-in. Nancy Randolph Davis and Clara Luper recognized the importance of education in shaping activism and were able to use their teaching background to be successful. When asked about Clara Super, Nancy said the following:
Yes, Clara Luper was a good friend of mine. I used to go with her downtown with the sit-in movement. We would open doors at Katz department store, and at the different restaurants like Anna Maude’s Cafeteria, Skirvin Tower Hotel, and the living places where they did not want blacks, we were there. We stopped them from going to places where they had to go to the back door to eat, restaurants. Opened doors to restaurants and hotels.
Additionally, Nancy was member of the Oklahoma Retired Teachers Association, Langston University Alumni Association, OSU Alumni Association, and the OSU Black Alumni Association. When asked how she wanted to be remembered, Nancy Randolph Davis stated:
“I just want them to remember me as a person who was reaching out trying to help others and helping myself. Remember me as a person who was an educated leader. That I was the leader but that they were just as important as I was.”
Nancy Randolph Davis passed away on March 23, 2015. She was 88 years old and has left a lasting legacy for all students at Oklahoma State University and in the state of Oklahoma.
Honors & Awards
Oklahoma State University and the state of Oklahoma have honored Nancy Randolph Davis and her legacy in many ways. I have listed a few of her awards in this post, but this is by no means an extensive list. Nancy Randolph Davis has been celebrated in numerous ways!
Oklahoma State University gave her the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999.
Davis Hall was named in her honor in 2001 – this was a residential hall on the Oklahoma State University campus. Three scholarships were named in her honor at Oklahoma State University beginning in 2001. There is the Nancy Randolph Davis Scholarship for freshmen, continuing students, and graduate students. These scholarships honor Davis’ commitment to education and learning.
OSU has celebrated “Nancy Randolph Davis Day” every February 1st during Black History Month since 2006.
She was inducted into the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame in 2010. Among the other 2010 honorees were Dr. Lilliantyne Williams-Fields, Dr. Linda Toure (representing Opio Toure), Emma Lee Jones-Freeman, Dr. Wallace Owens Jr., and Roosevelt Milton. Opio Toure and Emma Lee Jones-Freeman were given the award posthumously.
She received the OSU College of Education and Human Sciences’ Enhancing Human Lives Award in 2012.
She was inducted into the OSU Greek Hall of Fame in 2012.
She was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame in 2018.
There is a 3-mile stretch on Interstate 35 west of Stillwater that is named the Nancy Randolph Davis Memorial Highway. She was given this honor in 2018.
Oklahoma Governor David Walters designated May 31 as “Nancy Randolph Davis Day” in 1991.
She received the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
She was inducted into the Oklahoma Afro American Hall of Fame by Ntu Art Association.
She was inducted into the Oklahoma African-American Educators Hall of Fame in 2015.
A bronze sculpture of Nancy Randolph Davis was unveiled in 2019 in front of the then Human Sciences Building. Human Sciences and Human Sciences West were renamed to “Nancy Randolph Davis” and “Nancy Randolph Davis West” to honor her legacy on October 23, 2020.
I love getting to walk around the campus of Oklahoma State University whenever I get the chance. The Nancy Randolph Davis statue is located in the courtyard of the Nancy Randolph Davis building which is in the middle of campus on Monroe Street. The Nancy Randolph Davis Building is on the West side of the road. I hope you’ll take some time to go find this statue!
Happy traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
Oklahoma State University
106 Nancy Randolph Davis
Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078
RESEARCH TIP: Nancy Randolph Davis gave an oral history interview in 2009 at Oklahoma State University. It is linked HERE. The cataloged piece includes a video and a transcript!
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, We’re talking about Heritage Hall at Oklahoma State University on the West side of Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. This museum is dedicated to OSU athletics and has some really cool stuff that has been donated by athletes, alumni, and fans! Let’s go look around at some of the cool pieces – this will be a small selection because the collection is huge.
“…Heritage Hall is more than a repository of mementos. It is the living, breathing spirit of OSU.”
Tradition is very important at Oklahoma State University so Heritage Hall was something that many people had dreamed of for a long time. For those dedicated individuals, Heritage Hall is “the living, breathing spirit of OSU.” (Heritage Hall) The museum chronicles athletic events from 1890 to the present!
Kay Norris is largely responsible for Heritage Hall. She approached the Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips in 1998 while Gallagher-Iba Arena was being renovated and expanded. Phillips liked the idea and they ran with it.
Norris put together a committee which included a student intern and university communications staff. The team put out a call “Wanted: OSU memorabilia” and people answered. Oklahoma State alumni and fans sent all kinds of items – championships rings, athletic jackets, shows, homecoming crowns, photos, ticket stubs, and so much more. Many of these items are priceless! Norris personally oversaw the placement of all items to ensure the story of OSU athletics was told properly.
Heritage Hall opened in November 2001 inside of Gallagher-Iba Arena. This museum displays OSU trophies, uniforms, pictures, and more! This collection contains information about both – men’s and women’s – athletics at Oklahoma State throughout the years. Below is a video from the museum opening.
The curator of the museum is a volunteer who leads tours and helps take care of the collection.
52 NCAA Team National Championships
Oklahoma State University athletes have won a combined 52 NCAA Team National Championships. Scroll through the pictures below to see a few of the trophies on display! Keep reading to see which sports won the championship title and the year they won.
Golf – 11 Titles
Wrestling – 37 Titles
Basketball – 2 Titles
Baseball – 1 Title
Cross Country – 4 Titles
Equestrian – 5 Titles
For more information about the NCAA Team National Championships won by Oklahoma State see the following website.
Oklahoma State football was retroactively named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Football Champions for 1945. The panel retroactively named champions for the years 1922-1949.
TRAVEL TIP: Perkins, Oklahoma is located about 20 minutes South of Stillwater on Highway 177. Frank Eaton’s home is located in the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza. They are only open on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. during certain times of the year. So, make sure to check their website before planning a road trip.
As a lover of sports and all things Oklahoma State, I really loved this space in Gallagher-Iba Arena. I wish more people talked about it! I hope you’ll swing by for a visit the next time you’re in Stillwater either on game day or on a weekday. Go Pokes!
I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
Oklahoma State University
Athletic Center, 200
Stillwater, OK 74078
TRAVEL TIP: Heritage Hall is open from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the Conoco Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma. This will be a continuation of the oil history in the area. Please see the posts about Marland’s Grand Home and the Marland Mansion for more of the history of oil in Ponca City. Let’s go see how a regional kerosene distributer became a global energy giant!
TRAVEL TIP: You MUST watch the video at the beginning of the museum! There is so much information and it explains most of the exhibits in the museum. It was very well done and interesting – not boring at all! So, make sure to watch it! It’s around 10 minutes long.
The Continental Oil and Transportation Company was founded in November 1875 by Isaac Elder Blake in Ogden, Utah. The former Pennsylvania oil field worker would remain president of Continental until 1893. Continental would be the first marketer of kerosene in the West. By 1878, the company was marketing goods like candles, lamp oil, and wax to overseas markets (Canada, Hawaii, Mexico, and Japan).
Continental became affiliated with Standard Oil Company in 1885. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company was a known oil monopoly in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. In 1913, the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil had to dissolve some of their holdings – this was anti-monopoly legislation. So, Continental Oil Company of Colorado was let go by Standard Oil and they became an independent oil company once again. They were the premier oil company in the Rocky Mountain region.
Continental realized that they had a viable market in the American West and built their first filling station in 1909. Over the next two decades they would build several hundred more. By 1917, Continental was made the exclusive gasoline supplier of Yellowstone National Park.
Continental acquired United Oil Company in 1916 allowing themselves to produce and refine for the first time in company history. In 1924, Continental merged with Mutual Oil Company.
In 1929, Continental Oil merged with Marland Oil in an historic deal. The official name of the merged companies was the “Continental Oil Company,” which was more commonly known as CONOCO. The company was headquartered in Ponca City, Oklahoma. (For more information on E.W. Marland and Marland Oil see the following posts: Marland’s Grand Home and Marland Mansion.)
CONOCO had an excellent branding and marketing team which helped sell their products and image! It all started with Marland’s marketing team in the 1920s which utilized western images. After the merger in 1929, CONOCO continued to market to their target audience through radio, tv, magazines, billboards, trade publications, and branded merchandise.
As previously mentioned, Continental was the premier gasoline supplier for Yellowstone National Park. This was the only brand of gasoline sold in the park for nearly 90 years! 90 years, y’all!
Drivers of the era loved Continental because of the free maps and travel aids at the CONOCO Travel Bureau which opened in 1929. By 1936, the “Touraide” was the largest free trip-planning service in the United States.
The 1930s ad campaign, “Gentlemen Prefer Bronze,” won awards. The 1950s and 1960s campaign claimed that CONOCO gasoline was the “Hottest Brand Going.” The 1999 campaign employed Domino the cat. He was a nimble cat who would get past the competition. The ad line was, “Think Big – Move Fast.”
CONOCO Oil had a great reputation. It was the first off-the-shelf brand of oil used in race cars for the Indianapolis 500.
The CONOCO marketing team focused on consumer needs and pursued all of the new ad avenues. It also helped that CONOCO had a quality product that a lot of people wanted. This was match made in advertising heaven.
Beginning in the 1930s, Continental emphasized research and exploration through their activities.
Like many companies during World War II (WWII), CONOCO helped provide oil for increased industry. Women also worked in the factories while the men were fighting in Europe. CONOCO also continued research efforts on oil and gas for aviation use. The original research lab was built by E.W. Marland in 1910 and was located in Ponca City. A second research lab was built in 1950 and a third lab was built in the early 1980s.
“Research was carried out in many areas, including exploration science, deepwater drilling technology, offshore platform design, refining processes, oilfield production, and a brand new method for dispensing gasoline.”
“Technology,” Conoco Brochure.
CONOCO eventually moved their headquarters to Houston, Texas in 1950, but Ponca City continued to be an important regional center. The company continued acquiring other firms like Coastal Oil, Western Oil, F.P. Kendall Oil, and Douglas Oil of California. By 1950, CONOCO was the eighth largest producer in the United States.
Scientists at CONOCO pioneered the cutting-edge technology of Vibroseis in 1953 (patented in 1956). This was a new method of seismic exploration that didn’t use explosives, but rather used low-frequency vibrations. This method is still used today in the oil industry.
CONOCO acquired Consolidation Coal in 1966 – this was the largest coal company in the United States. Coal complimented their oil and gas production capabilities.
The executive office of CONOCO moved to Stamford, Connecticut in 1972. CONOCO continued focusing on exploration throughout the 1970s because of the fear of running out of petroleum.
In 1984, a tension-leg platform (TLP) was produced for the first time. This would revolutionize deepwater production. They could find oil in water deeper than ever imagined before. CONOCO also began operating on Alaska’s North Slope in 1985 – only the third company to do so at the time.
CONOCO has always had a reputation for being environmentally aware. CONOCO established a wildlife refuge in 1937 in South Texas for whooping cranes. This is a nesting site for the birds. The company wanted to demonstrate how business and the environment could coincide. CONOCO has funded several other sites as well.
The company adopted a formal environmental policy in 1968. It read, “Doing what is environmentally right.” CONOCO was awarded the Outstanding Industry Conservation Award from the National Institute for Urban Wildlife in 1983. This is just a single example of the many accolades the company has been awarded for its environmental and community contributions.
CONOCO continues to upgrade their technology and policies today to make sure that this is still true. They received many honors and recognitions for their environmental policies in the eighties and nineties.
CONOCO & DuPont
DuPont acquired CONOCO in 1981 in a “friendly” deal that was beneficial to both parties involved. DuPont was a well-known chemical company. CONOCO was a subsidiary of DuPont for around 17 years. In 1983, CONOCO executives moved their offices to Wilmington, Delaware. This was where DuPont’s headquarters were located. The offices in Houston and Ponca City were both still operating with thousands of employees.
In 1998, CONOCO became an independent oil company again and was re-listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Did you know that a single 42-gallon barrel of oil only produces 19.4 gallons of fuel? The other 22.6 gallons are used to make things we use everyday!
CONOCO was one of the 50 largest companies in the United States in 2002. CONOCO and Phillips Petroleum Company merged in 2002, creating the third largest integrated energy company in the United States. Phillips Petroleum Company had been founded in 1917 and had an international reputation by the time of the merger. (The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum and Frank Phillips historic home is Bartlesville, Oklahoma – so, I need to make a trip to both of these places!)
Did you know that CONOCO didn’t become the official company name until 1979?
The CONOCO logo has changed a few times throughout the companies tenure. The first logo was a Continental Soldier on a yellow background with the words “CONOCO Gasoline” around him. By the 1920s, this logo was on display at 250 stations across the West.
The Marland Oil triangle was modeled after the YMCA logo. Marland received permission to use it. He liked the triangle because the three points represented quality, service, and courtesy. The triangle was surrounded by a green border. By the mid-1920s, there were over 600 Marland stations across the Midwest.
When CONOCO and Marland Oils merged in 1929 – so did their logo. The Marland triangle was kept and the word “CONOCO” was added. This was symbolic because customers would recognize the merging of the logo. The green border was dropped from the triangle in 1950. The logo was simply red and white. (Pictured Below – Right) The CONOCO logo we all recognize today was solidified in 1970. The capsule logo with the word CONOCO represents the brand today. (Pictured Below – Left)
The Conoco Museum opened in Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2007 and displays the history of the company from 1875 to the present. The refinery across the street from the museum dates back to 1918! It is one of the oldest operating oil refineries in the United States.
Some of the Exhibits in the Museum
A Proud Heritage – This exhibit contains a replica of Marland’s boardroom.
Ponca City Proud – The Ponca City Refinery began in 1918. It’s one of the oldest in the US.
Getting to the Future First – Talks about some of the technology that Conoco helped pioneer.
Setting the Pace – Doodlebugger worksite outside. TLP was the most advanced oil production platform in history.
Marketing Conoco – See Conoco’s marketing campaign. 1930s Touraide Office interactive area. Replica of early service station.
This museum was pretty interesting to visit! I didn’t know anything about the history of CONOCO before walking through the museum. I plan on including the history of oil in Ponca City and Conoco in my future classes. I want to give a shoutout to Carla at the Conoco Museum for being so kind and helpful. She told me a lot of cool stuff about Ponca City and gave me a bunch of good travel tips for the area.
I hope you’ll stop by this museum and go see it! Seriously, it was so cool!
Conoco Museum Paper Packet – I was given a packet at the front desk that contained a lot of cool information about the museum, oil history in the area, Marland, and CONOCO. I have listed the documents below:
“Conoco Historical Highlights” – Timeline
“Products from Petroleum”
“A Brief Informal History of CONOCO” – Originally published in The Landman (January/Febraury 1991)
“CONOCO Returns to NYSE,” The Ponocoan (Ponca City, OK), October 23, 1998.
“Oil Mansions & Museums,” The American Oil & Gas Historical Society, The Petroleum Age, Volume 4, No. 3 (September 2007).
Hey friend – welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the historic Poncan Theatre in Ponca City, Oklahoma. This beautiful theater is located on Grand Avenue in the heart of downtown Ponca City. Let’s go look around!
The Poncan Theatre is located in the historic district of downtown Ponca City. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1985 and is an example of a Spanish Colonial Revival Style Theatre.
TRAVEL TIP: The Poncan Theatre has tours for visitors to learn about the architecture and the history. The Poncan Theatre hours are Tuesday through Friday 1-5 p.m. and they open an hour before show time on other days.
*All photos were taken by myself at the Poncan Theatre in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Other images used have attributions in the captions and in the sources section at the end of the post.
Poncan Theatre History (1927-2005)
The Poncan Theatre was designed by the Boller Brothers of Kansas City and was oringally owned by the Poncan Theatre Co. It was designed to be an “atmospheric theatre” with a special emphasis put on the ornate ceilings. Scroll through the photos below to see the beautiful ceilings!
The building cost a whopping $280,000 to complete. (An inflation calculator estimates this is around $4,486,468.97 in 2022 [when this article was written]). That’s a lot of money, y’all! This included the price of the equipment inside the theatre. The Wurlitzer Pipe Organ alone cost an impressive $22,5000 ($360,519.83 in 2022)!
The Poncan Theatre opened for business on September 20, 1927 featuring Our Gang and Shanghai Bound. Upon opening, the theatre seated 1200 people between the lower floor and the balcony. Lower floor seats were $1.10 and balcony seats were 50 cents. Fred Pickrel was the first director.
Fun fact! The balcony is not supported by any pillars, rather it is supported by a 5-foot thick “I-Beam.” After having walked through the balcony – I find this very impressive!
History of Film
Originally, movies didn’t feature sound and were called “silent films.” There were many stars in the “silent era” like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. These actors often exaggerated their movements to evoke an emotional response from the audience. Movies with sound (music & sound effects) were released throughout the early 1920s.
The first movie to feature a spoken dialogue was The Jazz Singer released in late 1927. Al Jolson changed cinema history forever when he uttered, “Wait a minute… you ain’t heard nothing yet.” The scene that changed cinema history is linked below – hear Al Jolson speak!
Movies with dialogue became known as “talkies” because the actors and actresses spoke in the film. Initially, many of the movie theaters didn’t have the technology to show such films because the technology was expensive. The first “talkie” film was shown at the Poncan Theatre in April 1929. People flocked to the shows to see!
Below are some of the show advertisements in the local newspapers throughout the decades. This was a random selection and that the newspaper archive had some years where there was a newspaper ad for every week with the movie listings. So, if this interests you, go check out a newspaper database!
The Poncan Theatre catered to both silent films and stage entertainment – it was truly a vaudeville venue. Many famous silent film stars got their start on the vaudeville stage including Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini.
1. “A light often comic theatrical piece frequently combining pantomime, dialogue, dancing, and song.”
2. “A stage entertainment consisting of various acts (such as performing animals, comedians, or singers).”
On February 5, 1931, Will Rogers gave a performance to the largest crowd in the Poncan Theatre’s history. Other entertainers like Sally Rand and Ethel Barrymore also appeared at the Poncan Theatre.
The historic painting of Will Rogers was returned to the theatre in 2007 (center, below). It had been kept safe at Central State University [now the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in Edmond, OK]. Some have suggested that Richard Gordon Matzene (pictured right, below) might have painted the portrait. Matzene donated a large portion of his art collection to the Ponca City Library. For more information on Matzene and the Matzene Art Collection – check out this article on my blog!
The first of many updates took place in 1938 with new seats being added. Bob Browning became the theatre manager in 1939 and a new marquee was also installed. (The current marquee is styled after the original one installed in 1927.)
Donald R. Hall became the manager of the Poncan in 1946 and didn’t retire until 1977. There is a painting of Hall in the lobby on the left side of the Will Rogers painting (pictured above). Donald Hall was responsible for writing movie summaries for advertisements in the local newspaper. You can still read the summaries in The Ponca City News (Ponca City, OK) back issues!
Donald Hall’s wife Frances Hall also worked in the theatre. Tragically, she collapsed in the theatre, spent two weeks in the hospital, and didn’t recover. Frances Hall passed away in 1967.
The Poncan was remodeled from 1954 to 1955 with the renovations being completed in time for a Christmas Day open house. The marquee was upgraded to a larger one so that everyone could see the movie titles up and down Grand Avenue. The inside of the theatre included 1,000 new posture-design seats – time to relax at the movies! Additionally, the mezzanine furnishings and the air conditioning system were both replaced.
More renovations and upgrades were made throughout the sixties and seventies. In 1962, the marquee was made bigger – again! There was no way you could miss the theatre marquee. A decade later in 1974, new reclining seats were installed on the bottom floor of the theater. These would have been perfect to watch a show in!
Restoration & The National Register of Historic Places
The eighties were a good decade for the theatre. The Poncan was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Three years later, the Poncan Theatre Company was established as a non-profit in Kay County to preserve the history of the theatre. In 1989, Enloe and Wanda Baumert made a generous donation allowing the theatre to be donated to the Poncan Theatre Company.
The restoration of the Poncan Theatre began in 1990 and would take place in three phases according to the Poncan Theatre website.
Phase 1: “Replace roof, update mechanical, electrical, and sound systems.”
Phase 2: “Clean/replace carpeting, revamp offices and stage areas.”
Phase 3: “Restore original marquee, secure stained glass panels, and repair exterior masonry.”
In 1992, 15 tons of plaster was used to repair the interior which was seriously deteriorated at this point. That is a lot of plaster…
Many community members and companies donated funds to help fix the Poncan Theatre. The renovation cost roughly a million dollars! CONOCO donated a grant of $150,000! For more information about the history of CONOCO – check out my forthcoming post about the CONOCO Museum also located in Ponca City!
The grand reopening of the theatre was held on September 18, 1994.
Poncan Theatre (2006-Present)
In 2006, Dave May became the Executive Director of the Poncan. He was responsible for the restoration of the world’s largest collection of “hand painted lobby art” from the 1930s (1931-1937). Below are a couple of examples of the art – if you are interested in seeing more photos please look at my instagram post about the lobby art. You can find me on instagram @the_active_historian!
In 2011, Team Radio broadcast from the Poncan for the first time. Their office and recording studio are located there now.
Kelly Mayers became the Executive Director of the Poncan Theatre in November 2015. More restoration projects have continued to take place at the theatre.
The Poncan Theatre celebrated its 90th birthday in 2017! I can’t wait to see what they do for the centennial celebration five years from now in 2027!
Christopher Radaker-James took over the Executive Director position in June 2019. Today, the Poncan Theatre shows movies and hosts performances. Check out the Poncan Theatre Website for the list of events or to purchase tickets!
Sometimes, the Poncan hosts ghost tours so check that out if you’re interested in that kind of stuff. I spoke with local gentleman in town who attended one of the ghost tours and he said it was cool.
Walking through the Poncan Theatre was really cool! I dropped by on a Friday afternoon and the man at the front desk let me look around. The hand-painted lobby art and the dome ceiling inside the theatre were my favorite parts of the building! I hope to go back one day to either see a show or a movie! I hope you’ll go visit this important piece of entertainment history!