July the 4th, 100 Years Ago
The banner headline that stretched across the entire front page for the Daily Oklahoman screamed ""America on Tiptoes Awaits the Start of a Great Ring Battle."" The sub headline read "Thousands in Reno Waiting Curtain Call." On Monday July 4, 1910, the nation was waiting the heavy weight championship fight between James J. Jefferies and John A. Johnson.
From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.
One hundred years ago, July 4th was on a Monday, and it was maybe even bigger than our celebration today. The Oklahoman listed a number of events in the new Capitol city; Oklahoma City had just become the state capitol three weeks earlier.
For most residents of Oklahoma City there was plenty to do. The headline read ""Holiday Offers Great Opportunity...Various Forms of Sport and Many Picnics are Planned."" Members of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans of the Civil War and many veterans of that war were still living in 1910) held a celebration at Wheeler Park. Vaudeville was on tap along with dancing and fireworks at Delmar Gardens on the North Canadian River and at Belle Isle Park on the north side of Oklahoma City also featured vaudeville, and vaudeville was being featured at the Lyric Theater and at the Maze Airdome.
At the fairgrounds back then at what was 10th and Eastern, racing was on schedule at the racetrack. The Oklahoma City baseball team had a doubleheader against Shreveport at Colcord Park...first game at 10:30 a.m., second game at 4 p.m and in the words of the Oklahoman,""The grand and glorious American holiday, the fourth of July, will be celebrated by the people of Oklahoma, Monday, much as in former years. Parks, summer resorts and different societies have added special attractions to the usual allurements and those who spend the day at one of the picnics given by organizations or at the local parks is assured of a good time."
More than two hundred members of the Grand Army of the Republic, those union veterans from the Civil War, had gathered at Wheeler Park where they read the Declaration of Independence, enjoyed music, and had a big basket lunch. Meanwhile the state's Confederate veterans were spending the fourth of July making final preparations for their state convention that kicked off the next day on July 5th. More than 6,000 were expected in Oklahoma City for that annual convention.
At Colcord Park, the Oklahoma City Mets bested Shreveport in both games of their double header, much to the joy of what was described as one of the largest crowds to witness a baseball game in the city. In front of the Oklahoman office in the 100 block of West Main, an immense crowd waited as returns from the Jeffries vs. Johnson fight came in; the Oklahoman reported that ""now and then when a favorite landed a telling blow, cheers would break out, and when it was finally determined that Johnson was the victor he was given a rousing ovation."
Tragedy struck in Edmond on the fourth. A section of a grand stand with about 300 people seated watched vaudeville collapsed, resulting in two people being seriously injured, scores more escaped with minor injuries. In Muskogee, an assistant cashier at the Muskogee National Bank and a young society women drowned in the Grand River; the young woman stepped in to what she thought was shallow water only to plunge in over her head. The young man jumped in to save her. Witnesses said the woman grabbed the man, then both went under and were not seen again.
Governor Charles Haskell spent the day in Clinton and Elk City where he was delivering orations in the interest of his party. The day after the fourth, Oklahoma Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, Miss Kate Barnard, returned from Colorado and was immediately asked about the Women's Suffrage movement. Her response "I don't consider the women's suffrage question within the jurisdiction of my office; however, if the gallantry of Oklahoma were to grant the women of Oklahoma the right to vote, you can bet that Kate Bernard will do her best to cast an intelligent vote."
Those articles from the Daily Oklahoman from July 4 & 5, 1910, are part of the newspaper collection at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.