Archive for March, 2010

Journal of Louisa Rohrer Fair

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

by William D. Welge, Research Division Director

March is Women’s History Month. In celebrating the many accomplishments of Oklahoman’s and there have been many, I am reminded of a person who is little known in the annuals of our heritage. Louisa Rohrer Fair was a native of Warren, Pennsylvania, though her birth is not mentioned she married Michael Fair in 1860. In the 1880’s she and her family by this time had six daughters and one son when they moved from the east coast to Clay County, Texas. When the opportunity to stake land in the Cheyenne and Arapaho country happened in April, 1892, the Fair’s were successful securing land between Rocky and Sentinel. Louisa in 1901 started keeping a diary where she would write about the weather or family gatherings which were many. Sometimes Louisa would mention Michael’s trips away from home as the family had retained their property in Texas. One can sense how hard life was in what seemed an unforgiving land, but Louisa would mention good times as well. The entries cease in 1903, but the diary has been preserved by the Research Division when Carol J. Vinson of Shreveport Louisiana donated her great-grandmother’s memories written in a care-worn ledger book back in 1989. It’s appropriate that the diary begins in late March, 1901 when she wrote the following, “Thurs. 28, Cold norther this morning…wind blowing, oh when will it get warm.” Something Oklahoman’s can relate to today.

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Louisa Rohrer Fair, Rocky, Oklahoma Territory
Ms. Coll. 89.07

This diary along with millions of pages of history can be viewed at the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The McGuire Dolls

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

2009024006.jpgby Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles

All is not as it seems at first glance. We received a collection of dolls in 2009 and I made the assumption that they were just dolls. Much to my surprise, I discovered that we had received a very unique and special doll collection.

Leota McGuire was born and raised in Okmulgee. She attended the University of Oklahoma where she received degrees in Home Economics and Fashion Arts. After graduation, she operated a dance studio as well as being a dress designer and artist.

With the poverty and hardships that were inflicted on the citizens of Okmulgee followed by the shortages and rationing of World War II, Leota McGuire decided to give back to the community.  After looking at dolls for sale at the Montgomery Ward Department Store, she realized that she could make them herself.

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She dyed muslin fabric to be used in creating the doll bodies and she developed a secret recipe to create the head. Using a mold for the doll head, she poured her mix of materials into it. Once the materials were dry, she would sand, carve, and paint the head with each one being unique. Yarn was used to make the hair with some curly, some braided, and some cut short. Friends and family collected scraps of fabric and leather which she sewed into doll clothes.  The dolls were distributed to children of the community whose families were unable to provide them with that luxury.

Another part of the McGuire collection is a set of small handmade dolls that commemorate the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947. The set includes the bride and groom, bridesmaids, best man, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The generosity and ingenuity of Leota McGuire were greatly appreciated by the citizens of Okmulgee and I am pleased that many of these dolls are now in the collection of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

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