By Thos. H. Doyle
The Oklahoma Historical Society was organized at the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Press Association, held at Kingfisher, on May 27, 1893. The following members of the association were present: Frank Greer and John Golobie, Guthrie State Capital; W. P. Thompson, Guthrie News; Frank Prouty, Guthrie; Mr. Pitts, Guthrie Leader; E. E. Brown, Oklahoma City Journal; Frank McMasters, Oklahoma City Gazette; Rube Weesner, Hennessey Democrat; J. B. Campbell, Hennessey Clipper; J. E. Quein, Edmond News; Mr. Owen, Edmond Sun; H. B. Gilstrap and Miss Effie Gilstrap, Chandler News; C. E. Hunter and Mr. Rummer, Okarche Times; C. F. Cook, Cloud Chief Sentinel; J. L. Admire, Kingfisher Free Press; Frank Purcell, Kingfisher Times; and W. P. Campbell, Kingfisher.
The officers chosen for the ensuing year were: J. E. Quein, president; E. E. Brown, vice-president; Effie Gilstrap, treasurer; Frank McMasters, Frank Greer and Frank Purcell, executive committee.
At the evening session W. P. Campbell stated that it had been his privilege to attend a meeting of the Kansas
editors at Manhattan on April 9, 1875, and aid in establishing the Society which had preserved the newspapers of that State; that he hoped this meeting would do something to perpetuate its memory for all times, and in conclusion, moved that the editors of Oklahoma Territory form an historical society for the collection and preservation of files of all publications of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, and of manuscripts and documents relating to the history and biography of said territories. After some discussion a resolution to that effort was adopted. Mr. W. P. Campbell was chosen secretary and custodian. This was the origin of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Governor A. J. Seay and Honorable J. C. Roberts, mayor of Kingfisher, were present.
What is termed "Circular No. 1," was issued and published as follows:
"Office of the Historical Custodian, Oklahoma Press Association, Kingfisher, Oklahoma, May 29, 1893.
"At their annual meeting in this city May 27th, the editors of Oklahoma created a department in connection with the association, to be called the Oklahoma Historical Society, of which the undersigned was elected as secretary and custodian to serve for the ensuing year.
"The object in establishing this department is the collection of newspapers, books and periodicals, productions of art, science and literature, matters of historic interest. etcetera. It is especially desired that publishers send regularly two copies of their publications, to be filed, and bound at the end of each year.
"While this is designated as an Oklahoma institution, anything of the nature suggested will be thankfully received from any source, and will be given a proper place among the exhibits.
"For the present, headquarters will be at Kingfisher, where a suitable building has been secured for the storage, safe care and proper exhibition of contributions.
"Those feeling an interest in laying the permanent foundation for one of the most important institutions of Oklahoma, are requested to forward as early as possible and as often as they secure them any articles that may seem of
historic interest, beautiful, instructive or curious. Address, prepaid.
"W. P. Campbell,
The first official recognition is contained in Governor Renfrow's message to the legislature of 1895, which reads:
"During May, 1893, the Oklahoma Editorial Association established a bureau known as the Historical department of the Oklahoma Press Association. The special object of the bureau is the collection and preservation of newspapers and other publications of the Territory, views, reports and general matter, which may prove of information and historic interest. Mr. W. P. Campbell, the custodian, reports quite successful results from the work thus inaugurated. He has now, practically, files of all territorial publications, including those which have been suspended or been merged. The importance of collecting and preserving inviolate this great source from which the future history of Oklahoma may be read and written, is a subject which ought to demand the attention of the legislature to secure the permanency of such a bureau."
A meeting of the Oklahoma Press association was called to meet at Perry, February 13, 1895, in view of procuring a charter and going before the legislature, then in session, for aid in carrying on the work of the society. However, on January 16, preceeding this meeting a charter was secured by certain citizens of Norman. The original members of the society were not named in the charter. A committee representing the incorporators appeared before the legislature asking recognition, with Norman as the home of their society. Their bill passed the upper house and was pending in the lower house when the editors' meeting was held at Perry. At this meeting the collection was assigned to Mr. Campbell, custodian, and he was authorized to take such action as he deemed necessary to settle the controversy. A compromise was thereafter effected, whereby all the collection was to be moved to Norman and an appropriation asked with which to maintain the same, and it was agreed that the editors should have a controlling membership on the board
of directors. Pursuant to the agreement making the Oklahoma Historical Society, trustee of the territory and as such authorizing the society "to faithfully expend and apply all money received from the territory to the uses and purposes as directed by law," and carrying with it an appropriation of two thousand dollars was passed. This act was approved by Governor Renfrow, February 21, 1895.
The legislature of 1901 empowered the board of directors to remove the headquarters and collections of the society from the University whenever in their judgment a more suitable and safe place could be secured for the care and safekeeping of the collections.
In accordance with this authorization, the board of directors directed its executive committee to accept an offer made by the directors of the Carnegie library of Oklahoma City; that the society should have the use of the entire upper floor of the library building with light, heat and janitor services, all for the nominal consideration of $1 per year until the territory shall have space in a capitol building for the collection.
On January 1, 1902, the library and collection were moved to the Carnegie library building and remained there until moved to the State Capitol building, December 17, 1917.
With the completion of the Capitol building rooms were provided for the Historical Society, including its collection of newspaper files, its library and museum. It remained in the Capitol building until the completion and dedication of the Historical Society's building, on November 16, 1930.
The society had for many years looked forward to having a suitable building for the safekeeping of the collections. Bills were introduced in the legislature, session after session. Finally during the session of the Twelfth Legislature on February 26, 1929, a bill was passed and approved providing for the erection of a building on the grounds of the Capitol and appropriated therefor the sum of $500,000 from the public land building fund, derived from the sale of
section 33, in each township of the Cherokee Outlet as granted in the enabling act.
At the meeting of the Historical Society, January 23, 1929, a building committee of seven was elected to serve with the State Board of Affairs in the matter of the construction of the Historical Society building as provided in th appropriation. The following committee was named Judge Robert L. Williams, chairman; Judge Thos. H. Doyle, vice-chairman; Judge Phil D. Brewer; Gen. W. S. Key; Jasper Sipes; Dan W. Peery, and Judge W. A. Ledbetter.
At the meeting of the board of directors held November 15, 1930, Judge Robert L. Williams, chairman of the building committee, reported to the board that in the judgment of the committee the Historical building was completed in accordance with the contract as contemplated in the act of the legislature for the construction of the building and recommended that the building be accepted.
A brief description of the Historical Society building was made by Edward P. Boyd, supervising architect, as follows:
"The building is built with a Georgia granite base and steps, Indiana limestone superstructure, plate glass in steel casements, asphalt and gravel roof, top floor has four galleries, two 35x80, and two 25x105, lighted entirely by sky and ceiling lights day and night. Ground floor has auditorium to seat 400. Gallery for heavy museum pieces and newspaper stack room in the basement. 17x17 light-courts to light upper halls and service rooms, also lower floors of the five stories of stacks for library.
First floor has large reading room for library, reading room for newspapers, room for patriotic societies, staff room, etc. Second floor has office and work rooms for the historical society staff, also room for each—Spanish American, World War, Confederate and Union veterans of the Civil war. Third floor and top floor, four galleries for museum and pictures.
The construction is fireproof, reinforced concrete construction. Public floors are marble, gallery floors parketry work—oak and walnut. Trim is of finest of American walnut. Principal rooms and corridors beautifully decorated.
Building has automatic passenger and freight elevators and automatic booklifts for library and newspaper stacks. Building has elaborate heating and ventilating plant. Steam coming from heating plant of Capitol. Each floor has electrically cooled drinking fountain.
Two block site; part of State Capitol grounds; has been graded and terraced and all approach work done within the appropriation of $500,000. Layton, Hicks and Forsyth—Architects. Holcombe Construction Company, builders."
In its solidity and beauty this building typifies that history, the preservation and study of which it is intended to provide for the benefit of the coming generations. It is indeed a Temple of History.
The building as the repository of the collection will serve as a link to bind the history and tradition of the past with the achievements of the future. It will be used for the realization of those high American ideals that raise our people to loftier and better things.
The first board of directors, selected under the charter for the period, 1895-6, were as follows: W. C. Renfrow, Guthrie; R. D. Boyd, Norman; John I. Dille, El Reno; W. R. Asher, Tecumseh; Leslie G. Niblack, Guthrie; A. C. Dolde, Newkirk; T. B. Ferguson, Watonga; C. E. Hunter, Enid; Leo Vincent, Guthrie; James H. Hale, Pawnee; W. T. Little, Perry; T. A. Chesney, Norman; John T. Hefley, Norman; A. J. Seay, Kingfisher; A. C. Scott, Oklahoma City; Henry E. Asp, Guthrie; G. W. Sutton, Cleveland; John Golobie, Guthrie; J. V. Admire, Kingfisher; J. J. Burke, Oklahoma City; Frank Walling, Medford; Effie Gilstrap, Chandler; Will E. Belton, Woodward; D. B. Phillips, Yukon, and J. A. Overstreet, Norman.
The general officers of the society from 1895 were as follows:
Presidents F. S. E. Amos, January 16, 1895, to June, 1896 ; Mort L. Bixley, June, 1896, to June, 1898 ; Lincoln McKinley, June, 1898, to June, 1906; Jasper Sipes, June, 1906, to January, 1926; Charles F. Colcord, the present president succeeding Mr. Sipes.
Vice-presidents: John T. Hefley, Jan. 16, 1895, to June, 1896; Katherine Penniston, Jan. 16, 1895, to June, 1896;
E. W. Hoyt, June, 1896, to June, 1898; J. A. Overstreet, June, 1896, to June, 1898; David R. Boyd, June, 1898, to June, 1903, Sidney Clarke, June, 1903, to June, 1906; Jasper Sipes, June, 1904, to June, 1906; Roy E. Stafford, June, 1906, to June, 1910; Frank H. Greer, June, 1906, to June, 1913; J. B. Thoburn, June, 1910, to June, 1913; Emmet Starr, June, 1913, to June, 1916; Mrs. Fred Sutton, June, 1916, to June, 1917; Anton H. Classen, June 1917, until his death in December, 1922; Thos. H. Doyle, January, 1917, to date; Paul Nesbitt, February, 1923, to February, 1926; Phil D. Brewer, February, 1926, to date.
Secretaries: Nettie Walker, Jan. 16, 1895, to June, 1899; Lon Wharton, June, 1899, to June, 1911; Frank D. Northup, June 1911, to January, 1919; J. B. Thoburn, Jan. 1919, to February, 1926; J. Y. Bryce, February, 1926, to July 1, 1930, and Dan W. Peery, July 1st, 1930, to date.
Treasurers: D. B. Phillips, Jan. 16, 1895, to June, 1896; Lincoln McKinley, June, 1896, to June, 1898; H. B. Gilstrap, Jun, 1898, to June, 1899; J. W. McNeal, June, 1899, to death in 1918; Mrs. Jessie R. Moore, February, 1919, to date.
July 10, 1895, W. P. Campbell retired as custodian and was succeeded by W. T. Little of Perry, who served until January, 1900. Later Sidney Clarke served as custodian. June 1st, 1904, after an absence of nine years from connection with the society, W. P. Campbell was again appointed custodian and served until the time of his death, June 4, 1924.
Among the members of the society were citizens distinguished in various walks of life and many more upon whom the highest of public favors had been bestowed.
One of the important functions of the Historical Society is the publication of a quarterly magazine, The Chronicles of Oklahoma. This publication is devoted to the history of Oklahoma, not only of the white race and the white man's governmnt, including the history of many tribes of Indians who were the first settlers. This historical magazine
is sent to hundreds of schools of the State, all schools, complying with certain requirements as to the number of students and scholastic credits. It is also sent to every newspaper in the State that is received in exchange, which includes nearly every paper published in the State. Every member of the Oklahoma Historical Society receives the magazine by reason of his membership in the Society. Annual membership is $1 and life membership is $25.