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Oklahoma Journeys

Admission Day in Oklahoma

2009-11-14

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"Oklahoma Becomes a State! Carpetbag Rule Ends Finally!" screamed banner headlines across the brand new state on November 16, 1907, announcing with pride and pleasure that Theodore Roosevelt signed the statehood proclamation and we were now the 46th state. There was no bigger news in the third week of November in 1907, one hundred years ago this week. That's the story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

One hundred two years ago President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state. For weeks Oklahomans had known that President Theodore Roosevelt was planning to sign that proclamation on Saturday, November 16th; thus, the final week of territorial rule was filled with announcements about the new government that would take office the morning of the 16th at the state capitol of Guthrie.

All week the Santa Fe railroad announced special trains would carry people from Oklahoma City to Guthrie on Saturday the 16th to witness the events taking place on what was called "Admission Day." The round trip fare was $1.30. More than a thousand citizens boarded special trains the morning of the 16th to watch history in the making. On Friday the 15th newspaper accounts reported that everything was in readiness for the inauguration of the first state officers of the new state. Guthrie officials reported thousands were arriving, hotels were crowded, and private homes were thrown open to accommodate the visitors. Also being reported was that Territorial Governor Frank Frantz would not take part in the ceremonies as a result of bitterness engendered during the campaign for governor in which he was defeated by Charles N. Haskell. The strained situation was all the more noticeable because it is unprecedented.

Also on Friday, November 15th, it was reported that two elected officials would miss the ceremony. Secretary of State William H. Cross fell ill Thursday evening, stricken by an attack of auto-intoxication of the heart (or today what we call a heart attack) while he and his wife were staying at the Saratoga Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. J. J. McAlester, founder of the town named for him, was one of three Corporation Commissioners scheduled to take office. He also was too ill to attend.

The morning of the 16th, across the new state, train whistles shrilled, bells rang and people celebrated Statehood for Oklahoma. Newspapers reported that Carpetbag rule was over; now, the people controlled the destiny of the new 46th state. That evening the inaugural ball was the big event. The scene described this way by a reporter there:

"The City Hall of Guthrie was the scene this evening of a brilliant and auspicious event, the first inaugural ball of the State of Oklahoma. The perfumed air was radiant with happiness. Every face was expressive of joy, and softened laughter filled the big ball room. Brilliantly lighted by myriads of electric globes half hidden in encircling vines and filled with gaily gowned women and conventionally garbed men, the ball scene was on of movement and of beauty."

That was the scene 102 years ago this week. You can learn more about how these two territories became one state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.