150 Years Ago This Week…

December 28th, 2010

Major Robert Anderson, a native of Kentucky, on December 26th, 1860, six days after South Carolina seceded from the Union, vacated Fort Moultrie for the more fortified Fort Sumter that occupied the harbor into Charleston, South Carolina. Here he with his small garrison of soldiers would wait and see what lay ahead during very troubling times in America.

One Hundred & Fifty Years Ago Today

December 20th, 2010

by William D. Welge, Research Division Director

With the election of Abraham Lincoln in November, 1860, a chain of events that had been brewing since the Missouri Compromise was passed by Congress in 1820 began. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. This unorthodox and unprecedented action could have been halted by lame duck President James Buchanan. However, Buchanan chose to do nothing which ultimately led other Cotton Belt states to follow suit early in 1861.

Tipi with Battle Pictures

September 28th, 2010

by Matt Reed, Curator of American Indian & Military Collections

While doing regular upkeep on the Indian collections housed within the Oklahoma Museum of History, I discovered something that had been forgotten for many years. Stored on one of our shelving units was a rolled canvas tipi that no one had seen for many decades. This tipi is known as the Tipi with Battle Pictures. The tradition and history embodied by this tipi can be traced ultimately to 1833 when Tohausen or Little Bluff became the sole leader of the Kiowa people.

The tipi is easily distinguished by the way it is decorated. The northern half of the tipi is decorated with sketches depicting the war honors of the best Kiowa warriors. The southern half is decorated with alternating yellow and black stripes. The center back of the tipi features a vertical series of tomahawks to mark the war honors of Heart Eater. The front, above the door, features a series of feathered lances to symbolize the war honors of Sitting on a Tree. At the very top is a depiction of two Kiowa warriors besieged but successfully defending themselves against multiple Osage warriors. To say the least, this tipi is visually remarkable. Part of this tipi design was given to Tohausen in 1845 by the Cheyenne chief Nah-ko-se-vast. The yellow stripes represented Nah-ko-se-vast’s war honors. Tohausen added the alternating black stripes to represent his own war exploits and then invited his society brothers to add the other decorations.

This overall design was subsequently put on a new tipi every year while Tohausen lived. When he passed in 1866, his name and the tipi design went to his son, Tohausen II. Perhaps because of the hard times that he lived in, Tohausen II only renewed the tipi and its design periodically. By the turn of the century the tipi had become a memory. Two of Tohausen II’s sons changed this situation. These two sons, Haungooah and Olhetoint, made plans to construct and decorate a new Tipi with Battle Pictures in 1916. As a part of this plan, two nephews with natural artistic talent were invited to help in the new tipi’s decoration. These two boys, one of them sixteen-year old Stephen Mopope and the other James Auchiah, would contribute to the sketches on the northern half. Later in their lives both of these boys would be part of the Kiowa Five, a group of Kiowa artists that initiated contemporary American Indian art. Haungooah, known in the art world as Silverhorn, contributed several sketches to the same design. Others who might have drawn their war honors include names that should be familiar to those familiar with Oklahoma history: Gotebo, Big Tree, and Sankedoty.

Ironically, this 1916 version of the Tipi with Battle Pictures also figures prominently in another Oklahoma Historical Society venture. This is the recent acquisition and conservation of the silent film ‘Daughter of Dawn’. In fact, the tipi in our collections was authenticated using photo stills from the movie. So not only does OHS have the once lost and thought destroyed ‘Daughter of Dawn’ film, but OHS has also had within its collections the once lost and thought destroyed Tipi with Battle Pictures.

Update 7-19-2012 OHS has completed a restoration and release of the film ‘Daughter of Dawn.’ The film will be released on DVD at a later date. Find out more.






For the child in all of us…

September 7th, 2010

by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles

Over the first half of this year, we had an exhibit of toys. I have a soft spot in my heart for toys and had a wonderful time putting the exhibit together. So many of today’s toys are made of plastic but there was a time when metal was the preferred material for toys.

One of the metal toys in the exhibit was the “Corner Grocer.” The center panel has lithograph print of the interior of a grocery store and it is flanked with shelves which swing out. The shelves contain miniature canned and boxed goods. There is also a sales counter complete with scales, telephone, and a roll of butcher paper. Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, made this toy beginning in the 1920s.

Another metal toy in the exhibit was the Play Steel Colonial Dollhouse. The lithograph of the interior and exterior was done by the National Can Corporation of New York in the 1940s. The house features a living room and dining/kitchen on the first floor with two bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.

I spent many hours playing with similar toys during my childhood and these two toys brought back many happy memories for me.




It Just Looks Ordinary…

August 3rd, 2010

by Martha Anderson, Volunteer

Cataloguing artifacts always interests me. Even the most ordinary object can open a door to an unexpected place. Consider the humble car tag. In the museum’s collection of nearly 200 auto license plates dating from 1913 into the 1990s there’s not much to learn beyond the state’s history of legislative actions regarding vehicle registration.

We have two license plates that give a glimpse of a far greater story. They were issued in the early 1980s to ex-POWs, both Oklahoma veterans who served in World War II. The accession files have only the most basic details about either man: service branch, rank, death date, burial place. One mentions time in a Japanese POW camp, but nothing more. That seems to be typical of so many personal war records from that era—just the facts, no detail. The widows of these veterans donated the plates as historical references but nothing of their stories. Unwilling to leave the files bare, I used the facts at hand to unlock the door of public record.

US Army Enlistment Records show that Claude W. Box of Creek County enlisted in Oklahoma City on March 11, 1941. PFC Box is found on a 59th Coastal Artillery Personnel Roster dated March 31, 1942 compiled by the Corregidor Historic Society. The island fortress of Corregidor was surrendered to Japanese forces on May 6, 1942, one month after the fall of Bataan. Well over 10,000 Allied prisoners were captured and scattered across the Philippines and Asia. WWII Prisoners of War Records list S/Sgt. Box among those liberated from Tokyo POW Camp (Shinjuku) Tokyo Bay Area 35-140 three and half years later. Claude Box processed out of the Army October 1, 1945. His widow stated that he died November 1, 1984 and is buried in Mannford, Creek County, Oklahoma.

The second license plate was issued to Elvis A. McCoy, Miami, Oklahoma. The 381st Bombardment Group War Diary lists Cpl. McCoy with a combat crew assigned to the 532nd Bomb Squadron on September 1, 1944. This crew flew B-17 bombing missions over Germany and France from Ridgewell Air Field, County Essex, England. A 532nd Squadron War Diary entry for December 11, 1944 describes that day’s mission over Mannheim, Germany. It reports that subsequent flak (ground-to-air fire) in the target area downed the plane and lists the names of the crew missing in action. T/Sgt McCoy is listed as one of two POWs; six other crewmen and the pilot were killed. McCoy is named among POWs held at Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany. His last report date with the Army Air Corps was June 1945. His last residence is listed as Miami, Oklahoma and date of death as August 1, 1988.

Box and McCoy not only answered the call, but served above and beyond with sacrifices that can only be guessed at. First person accounts of men and women in similar circumstances paint very grim pictures. It is interesting that these two stories illustrate the two happiest days in WWII history. POW liberation in 1945 coincided with V-E Day on May 8 with Germany’s surrender, and V-J Day on September 2 with Japan’s surrender. That year also saw these men turn 23.

The accession files show that two widows of veterans gave us just a couple of car tags. The details show they gave us so much more.


Violet McCoy Collection, 1988.175

Historic Reproductions

July 13th, 2010

by Chad Williams, Deputy Director of the Research Division

The collections of the Oklahoma Historical Society contain well over seven million photographic images. Over the past year the Research Division has begun a project to reproduce many of these historic Oklahoma images and make them available to be purchased. The initial fifty images chosen include iconic photographs of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, Oklahoma Land Runs, the Oklahoma oil industry, a Buffalo hunt, dust bowl depictions, historic street scenes from

Oklahoma towns, and a number of images of Oklahoma farms, businesses, and territorial dwellings. In addition, individuals with historic ties to Oklahoma are represented.

These include Apache Indian Chief Geronimo, Comanche Indian Chief Quanah Parker, Wiley Post, Future President Theodore Roosevelt, President John F. Kennedy, Native American Jim Thorpe, U. S. Marshal Chris Madsen, Buffalo Bill Cody, Zack Miller (101 Ranch), Will Rogers, and Oklahoma Governor Charles Haskell. My personal favorite is a photograph taken of The U.S.S. Oklahoma and the U.S.S. Arizona at the Pedro Miguel Locks, Panama Canal on February 23, 1921, twenty years before they were both lost at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This image has a wonderful grittiness and of course is special because the Oklahoma and Arizona are the only two battleships which did not return to fight in World War II after being sunk at Pearl Harbor.

The majority of the reproductions have been produced in a 11” X 14” format, although ten of the reproductions vary from that size. Prices range from $2 for a 4” X 6” bird’s-eye view of Oklahoma City’s Bricktown in 1910 all the way to $15 for a 10.5” X 37” panorama image of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention in Guthrie. All 11” X 14” images are $10. Unless the reproductions are picked up at the Oklahoma History Center there will be a $6 shipping and handling fee added. In the future we hope to reproduce more photographs with themes that include Native Americans, African Americans, Dust Bowl, Oil Industry, OKC Fire Department, Weather, Land Openings, Military, Buildings, Law Enforcement, Sports, and Wild West Shows. View the 50 historic photo reproductions available for sale.

The OHS online catalog includes thousands of additional scanned images that are available for purchase. Visit www.okhistory.org/research to find out more.

So long for now from the mother ship of Oklahoma History, the Oklahoma History Center, Home of the Oklahoma Historical Society.


Ragland Collection

June 8th, 2010

by William Welge, Research Division Director

In 1980, Reverend Hobart Ragland, a Methodist minister donated to the Archives his paper’s. Some time earlier, the OHS had commissioned him to produce a historical survey about the state. Approximately half of the 48 document boxes in his collection is devoted to that project. Here is a small sample of his work to preserve our great history.

In manuscript collection 82.100, Box 1 begins Rev. Ragland’s efforts at documenting historic sites within the 77 counties of Oklahoma.

Fred Barde

May 11th, 2010

by William D. Welge, Research Division Director

Fred Barde was considered the dean of Oklahoma Territorial journalist in the first decade of the 20th century. Born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1869, Barde worked with newspapers in Missouri then landed in Kansas City where he joined the staff of the Kansas City Star. In 1896, Barde was assigned to cover the emerging political activities and other social issues in Oklahoma Territory. He operated from Guthrie where he wrote about many topic’s of the day, interviewing prominent persons who were instrumental in shaping what would become a new state in 1907.

Barde died in 1916 at the age of 47. In 1917, the Oklahoma Historical Society requested an appropriation from the state legislature for $5,000.00 to purchase Barde’s papers from his widow.

Button, Button…

April 14th, 2010

by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles

The buttonhook was a common household item in the past. It consisted of a metal hook and shaft with a handle that was usually made of metal, wood, bone, or celluloid (an early day form of plastic). The buttonhook was used to fasten the multiple buttons on shoes, gloves, and dresses. Buttonhooks were frequently included in manicure and toiletry sets along with files, buffers, and cuticle tools. Also, department stores and shoe stores gave away buttonhooks that advertised their businesses.

I recently came across a type of button fastener in our collection that I had never seen. This button fastener was designed in the style of parallel action pliers. It was invented by William Bernard and patented in 1914 by the William Schollhorn Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Bernard invented numerous types of pliers,

nippers, and punches for the company. With today’s fashions, there is no longer a need for buttonhooks and button fasteners. Discovering the history of the Bernard fastener is just one of the reasons why I love my job!


Journal of Louisa Rohrer Fair

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.


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.