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Oklahoma Memories

E.K. Gaylord Comes to OKC

2009-12-21

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"...and I went back to St. Joe and told my brother I was coming down here to look for a paper. Lewis said "I can't spare you" and I said "You got to because this means something for my life. You can get somebody else to do this work."

That is the voice of E.K. Gaylord explaining the reaction of his brother to the idea of E.K. coming to Oklahoma City.

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

Most people probably think that E.K. Gaylord was an 89er who came here during the land run of 1889, but he didn't. Edward King Gaylord was born in 1873 in eastern Kansas but grew up in Colorado. At the age of eighteen he attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where his older brother Lewis suggested they purchase the Colorado Springs Telegraph. The Gaylord brothers later sold the paper. Lewis Gaylord bought the St. Joseph (Missouri) Dispatch and convinced E.K. to work for him as business manager.

But Gaylord didn't care for St. Joseph, Missouri, and at Christmas 1902, something told him to go to St. Louis. During his brief stay there, he read an interview with the mayor of Chicago who had traveled through the Oklahoma Territory and in the interview said that if he was a young man, Oklahoma is where he would settle. Gaylord took the next train arriving first in Guthrie, then the next day, came to Oklahoma City.

"I came down here in December 1902, right after Christmas, I first walked all around the town, all around the business section. It was supposed to be about 10,000 population, but it was just a country town. Four blocks were paved, two on Broadway, one on Grand, and one on Main between Broadway and Robinson."

Gaylord's intention was to use his part of the sale of the Colorado newspaper to buy into one of the papers in Oklahoma City. Roy Stafford who owned the Daily Oklahoman was glad to have an investor, sold Gaylord part interest in the paper, then hired him as the business manager. The office for the paper was on Main Street.

"That block across from the Huckins - wasn't the Huckins then, of course - was called "Battle Row," and all of the buildings, upstairs and down, except the Satterock restaurant and the City Hall on the corner of Grand and Broadway, were gambling houses and saloons. And in the Two Tom Saloon, that was next to this restaurant, Bessie Mulhall - Mulhall was the name of her father, of course - rode her horse into the saloon and had a whiskey straight without getting out of the saddle."

Gaylord had only been in Oklahoma City for a few weeks when one night in February 1903 a murder occurred. Gaylord wrote the story, then got up the next morning expecting to find his story on the front page of the Oklahoman. It wasn't on the front page nor was anywhere else in the paper that morning.

"I got down there and found that the present Chamber of Commerce had come to Mr. Stafford - he was the editor, and I was the manager - and persuaded him that it hurts the town to publish that we had a murder like that. Well of course the Kansas City and the Dallas papers came in for the story, and I was certainly burned about that. Well, as luck would have it, there was another murder right next to our building, in the alley right alongside of our building, about 11 o'clock in the morning, and I proceeded to put out an Extra! and put both boogers in that. We sold them that afternoon, all those morning papers.

In 1918 Gaylord bought out Roy Stafford and became the sole owner of the Oklahoman. In 1928 he bought WKY Radio, and in 1948, he put Oklahoma's first television station, WKY-TV, on the air. He lived to be a 102 and worked a full day at the newspaper before passing away on May 30, 1974. That speech that you heard was one he gave when he was 93 years old.

You can learn more about E.K. Gaylord and many other Oklahomans through the oral history collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.