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Manuscript Highlights

Territorial Incorporation Records
View scans of Incorporation Records for Oklahoma and Indian Territories 1890-1907.

Joseph Thoburn Collection

American Indian Archives Collection

Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Collection

Manuscript Archives

1800-present (bulk 1890-1945)

The manuscript archives include paper items created by businesses or individuals. Some collections contain documents of a personal nature and some were generated from a specific business or industry. The types of items are: letters, diaries, and scrapbooks, personal memoirs, biographies, business records and ledgers, research for books and articles, drafts of books and articles. Ephemera such as advertisements, brochures for events or organizations and travel memorabilia are also found. Oversize collections include architectural renderings and plans, maps, posters and certificates. The manuscript archives contain over 2,500 collections ranging in size from 1 item to 75 boxes or more. Spanning over 1,000 linear feet of shelf space, the collection contains near 1,500,000 pages.

Search Manuscript Archives

More information and a complete listing of collections can be found in the Archives section of the online catalog. To find out more about searching the Manuscripts Archive see the Manuscripts Search Guide (PDF).

Search the Online Catalog

Document Retrieval

The holdings of the Manuscript Archives are non-circulating and must be viewed in the Research Center. Finding Aids for manuscript materials are available by searching our online catalog. Manuscript materials can be requested in the Library for viewing Monday-Friday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Requests for materials to be viewed on Saturday must be made in advance.

If you are traveling to the Oklahoma History Center for a research visit you are encouraged to contact the Manuscript Archivist in advance of your trip. OHS staff will prepare materials in advance of your visit when you contact us and provide the date and time of your arrival, and the collection and box numbers of the materials you wish to view. 

Handling manuscript items in the Library requires the use of cotton gloves, which are provided. No bags, purses, or computer cases are allowed in the viewing room. Lockers are available free of charge to stow your personal items. You may take a notebook or laptop into the viewing room for note-taking. No ink pens or markers are allowed; pencils are provided. There is a photocopy machine for self-service copying in the viewing room, copies are 20 cents per page and can be paid for with cash or credit card at the Library reference desk.

The use of digital cameras without a flash is permitted in the Library and the viewing room without a fee. The use of flatbed scanners and wand scanners is prohibited. Requests for duplications can be accepted during your visit and will be made for you by OHS staff for .25 cents per page. We cannot guarantee immediate duplication services, duplications may be mailed or delivered electronically within 1 week of your visit.

Please see the visitor info page for more details. Orders for copies of records will be filled as they are received, see Orders section below.

Orders & Fees

Materials from the Manuscript Archives are available for duplication either by photocopy or digital scan.  Requests for copies can be made in person, by phone or email, or on our website. The collection number, name, and box and folder numbers are required for duplication requests to be processed. Duplications can be delivered by postal mail or electronically. See the Orders & Fees page for the duplication costs.

A general request for research can also be made for OHS staff to research our collections on your topic. See the Orders & Fees page for the cost of this service. Research requests are filled in the order they are received and may take up to 4 weeks to process. OHS staff will research your topic within our library and archival materials for up to 2 hours and submit to you a page count of materials available for duplication. The research fee includes 20 pages of duplications, any pages in addition are 25 cents per page. All duplications are approved by you before any additional fee is incurred.


The Manuscript Archives accepts original documents such as letters or business files. Please see the OHS Collection Policy for specific details. Donations containing multiple formats such as photographs, film, or audio, are welcome as a complete donation. The Manuscript Archives does not accept duplicate copies of publications, copies of materials held by other libraries or archives, or records of people or events in other states or countries.

Contact the Manuscript Archives

Inquiries regarding manuscript collections should be directed to:
Manuscript Archivist
(405) 522-0876


  1. What does the term "manuscript" mean? I thought it was for book publishing?
    The term manuscript is also a literary name for a work submitted for publishing, but the usage for the archives is:
    "any text in handwriting or typescript (including printed forms completed by hand or typewriter) which may or may not be part of a collection of such texts. Examples of manuscripts are letters, diaries, ledgers, minutes, speeches, marked or corrected galley or page proofs, manuscript books, and legal papers."
    Defined by: Hensen, Steven L. "Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts: A Cataloging Manual for Archival Repositories, Historical Societies, and Manuscript Libraries" – 2nd ed. (Society of American Archivists, 1989).
  2. I have a bunch of old letters between my parents or grandparents. They weren't famous - would the OHS still want them?
    Yes, the OHS archives are dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of all people in Oklahoma, not just those who were well known. The stories of everyday life in Oklahoma, during any time period, are worth preserving.

  3. If I donate something to the archives, can I or my family members come see it later?
    Yes, all materials donated to the OHS are property of the State of Oklahoma and therefore are public record. There is never a fee for visiting our library and archives to view materials.

Preservation Tips

Keeping family treasures on paper is easy if you follow a few basic guidelines:

  • Do not store your paper items in a shed or out building
  • Do not store your paper items in direct sunlight
  • Do not laminate your paper items

If you wish to have an item on display, have it scanned and print a color copy for framing. You can also visit a framing store to discuss various options using protective glass. Ask for UV protective or museum quality glass.

For more information please see these online resources:

Manuscript Highlights

The holdings of the Manuscript Archives are diverse in content, collections range from personal letters sent home during wartime, legal records of land disputes following land openings, diaries of missionaries, meeting minutes and ephemera from local philanthropic or ancestral clubs, and much more. The following are only a few examples of the many valuable papers found in the unique holdings.

Joseph Thoburn Collection 1986.01

The papers of Joseph Thoburn span 1900-1941 and contain voluminous correspondence of this prominent Oklahoma City civic leader and curator of the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1908 Thoburn published the first text adopted by the State of Oklahoma as a history textbook. Manuscripts of other books and various articles authored by Thoburn are also included. Thoburn was instrumental in the founding of the OHS publication, The Chronicles of Oklahoma, which continues to be issued today.

Thoburn’s work also included a dedicated interest in Native peoples; he worked with archeologists to discover and protect the rich resources of the Spiro Mounds in eastern Oklahoma. Thoburn also worked closely with Muriel Wright; much correspondence between the pair can be found in his papers.

Here are some examples of the documents in the Joseph Thoburn Collection. You can explore the complete inventory of the Thoburn Collection on the Online Catalog.

This letter from famed anthropologist and Native studies enthusiast George Bird Grinnell discusses Thoburn's work and interests in the mounds of eastern Oklahoma. Dated February 1914.

This correspondence between Thoburn and Muriel Wright is indicative of their close professional relationship. The letter from Thoburn discusses the construction of the Wiley Post Historical Building to house the Oklahoma Historical Society. Dated January 1927.

This manuscript is a typescript draft of Thoburn's work, "The Northern Caddoan Peoples of Prehistoric Times and the Human Origin of the Natural Mounds, so called, of Oklahoma and Neighboring States." Dated 1930.

American Indian Archives Collection

The most unique collection in the Manuscript Archives is the American Indian Archives Collection. Containing over 800 linear feet of records, the American Indian Archives records include three major divisions:

  1. Records of Executive, Legislative, & Judicial branches of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek) & Seminole
    Dating approximately from 1850 to 1910, these materials generated by the tribal governments include census records, accounts of legislative sessions, court dockets, correspondence, election records, treasurer's records, materials relating to land allotment and leases, and school records.
  2. Records of the Dawes Commission, including: citizenship, town site petitions, leases and correspondence
  3. Records of the Tribal Agencies representing tribes removed to Oklahoma & Indian Territories: agency funds, land distribution, correspondence with U.S. Federal Government, schools

Researchers should note that each agency may include multiple sub-agencies which served the people of numerous different tribes. The majority of these records date from post-Civil War to the late 1920s, and cover subjects including accounts, agents, agricultural leases, allotments, cattle, census, claims, correspondence, employees, estates, funds, individual Indian files, individual Indian money files, minerals, property, railroads, schools and more.

  • Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency
  • Kiowa, Comanche & Apache Agency
    • Wichita & Affiliated Bands sub-agency including Caddo, Delaware, Keechi, Tawakoni and Waco
  • Pawnee Agency
    • Ponca sub-agency
    • Otoe-Missouria, Tonkawa, Nez Perce
  • Quapaw Agency
    • Includes Eastern Shawnee, Seneca-Cayuga, Wyandot, Ottawa, Miami, Modoc and Peoria with some Wea & Piankashaw records
  • Sac and Fox Agency
    • Includes Absentee Shawnee sub-agency - Potawatomi and Mexican Kickapoo

Portions of the American Indian Archives have been microfilmed and can be accessed as well as copied in the Reading Room. Please see the Microfilm Catalog for a complete listing.

To learn more about the American Indian Archives, see:

Below is a sampling of documents from the Indian Archives Collection.

These records are from the file of Josephine Yellowhair; the correspondence discusses her attendance at Chilocco Indian School. Dated 1926.


These are examples of documents from the Cherokee Nation Records Court files. Dated 1881.


This letter to the US Indian Agent from the US Department of the Interior allows for the sale of a tract of allotted land in order to incorporate it into the Tulsa town site. The letter is accompanied by a plat map showing the land in question and an appraisal. Dated 1908.

This letter to the US Indian Agent from the US Department of the Interior is an example of the correspondence regarding land claims and allotment disputes. Dated 1879.

Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce 2000.44

The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Collection contains records from 1897 to 1988.

In 1923, Chamber Managing Director Stanley Draper required that each division save the most important of its materials that reflected the year's activities and accomplishments. He directed that these be bound into books. In addition, records dating back to 1897 were also bound. Thus, in 1923, the physical arrangement of the collection was basically established, that is, each division having its own series of record books, compiled annually. The arrangement has been maintained since that time, with the addition of new divisions when created, or deleted when disbanded or absorbed. In 1948, the Public Relations Division became responsible for collecting and arranging for binding the records. The Chamber also maintained an in-house lending library of the bound volumes, which were used by staff and occasionally by members of the public. Chamber officials used the materials in the preparation of reports, news releases, and historical overviews.  – excerpt by Dianna Everett

The historic records are bound into volumes by Division and contain:

  • Proceedings: Executive Committee of Board of Directors Minutes; Executive Committee of Division Minutes; Committee Minutes; Subcommittee Minutes; Agendas; Resolutions; Membership Lists; Attendance Records; Reports (typescript and published); Annual Reports of Divisions; and Committee Reports.
  • Correspondence: Incoming/outgoing letters; postcards; memos; telegrams.
  • Printed Material: circulars, invitations; chamber-produced brochures, booklets, and annual reports; Economic Development Reports (annual) and plans for coming year; promotional publications; tickets; certificates; programs; news clippings; books and booklets produced by outside entities.
  • Literary Productions: scripts, speeches, news releases
  • Photographic Material: positive prints, b/w and color
  • Legal Documents: contracts, deeds, agreements, articles of incorporation
  • Financial Documents: statements, checks, invoices, receipts, ledger pages, audits

A complete listing of all volumes and their contents can be found on the Online Catalog. The OKC Chamber of Commerce continues to build their collection by contributing annual reports, membership directories, press releases and the Chamber newsletter, "The Point".

The pages below are from Volume Ab4, The Greater Oklahoma City Movement, 1932.

The first page gives an introduction to the volume.

The envelope seen here was used to mail the ballot for Chamber members to vote on proposed projects for the year. You can see Stanley Draper's notes on the envelope about the design.

This is a booster newsletter from January 1932, distributed to those assisting the Chamber in raising funds for their efforts.

This is a booklet, pasted onto a page in the volume, which contains a report from the divisions of the Chamber on their work for the year 1931.