July 2, 2014
Oklahoma History Center Century Chest Exhibit Features 1889 Oklahoma City Fourth of July Poster
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- A full-color poster promoting the first Fourth of July celebration in Oklahoma City after the 1889 Land Run is one of the featured artifacts in a new exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center called "'On Behalf of the Pioneers': The Oklahoma Century Chest 1913-2013."
According to Chad Williams, director of research at the History Center, the poster was previously unknown to historians until it was discovered among the hundreds of the objects and documents in the Oklahoma Century Chest, a time capsule buried in the basement of the First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City on April 22, 1913.
"The Century Chest, opened with great fanfare on April 22, 2013, is a window into our shared past," said Williams. "No one alive today knew this poster ever existed, and here we can share it 100 years after it was placed in the Century Chest."
Of the many remarkable artifacts found in the time capsule, one of the most eye-catching was this color poster. The poster was donated for inclusion in the Century Chest by N. B. Woodson, with an inscription stating that he had helped organize the celebration. Despite being nearly 125 years old, the poster is in remarkable condition. The vibrant reds and yellows of the artist's rendition of an Indian war dance, the bold black of the typeface and the nearly unblemished nature of the poster make the preservation of the item itself significant. Even more noteworthy is that prior discovering the poster, very little was known about the first major event held in Oklahoma City after the land run on April 22, 1889.
Research by OHS staff found that the Fourth of July celebration of 1889 was designed to be a large event, bringing in up to 20,000 visitors to the fledgling town. In early June 1889, a committee was formed to arrange the celebration, and the first order of business was to secure reduced railroad fares into Oklahoma City. The second task was to secure land to the east of town, in what is now Bricktown, to build a baseball diamond and horse track. By June 26, 1889, the plans for the Fourth of July celebration were mostly complete. Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Caddo Indians had been recruited from Darlington, and permission from the Department of the Interior for the more than 200 Indians to leave their reservations was granted. A parade route that would take participants down California, Reno, Harvey, Robinson, Grand and Main Streets had been mapped. The list of activities over the course of the three-day celebration was decided upon and included the following: horse racing, feats of horsemanship, sack racing, Indian war dances, infantry drills, a baseball game and a gun tournament.
The Oklahoma Gazette, a local Oklahoma City newspaper, followed the preparations daily and noted on June 7, 1889, "This will be the first grand excursion to Oklahoma, and will if properly managed be but a second April 22nd to the beautiful land." However, by August 1889, the event would be known by the same paper as "the Fall of Babylon" due to the crash of the grandstand at the horse track on the first afternoon of the three-day event. The Fourth of July celebration, which fell far short of its expected 20,000 visitors, nevertheless was a triumph for a city that was feeling somewhat desperate after the initial excitement of the April 22, 1889, land run.
The poster is just one of the many treasures discovered in the Century Chest, now on exhibit in the Noble Foundation Gallery at the Oklahoma History Center. The Oklahoma History Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people.
The Oklahoma History Center is located at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr. in the Oklahoma State Capitol Complex and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit the Century Chest website at http://www.okhistory.org/centurychest/ or call 405-522-0765.