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LYONS, SIDNEY DANIEL (1861?-1942)

Oklahoma City entrepreneur and manufacturer Sidney Daniel Lyons, may have been born in the Choctaw Nation in the Indian Territory in December 1860 or 1861, although census records for 1880 and 1900, as well as his obituary, indicate an Arkansas birthplace. His parents, Reuben and Emily Lyons, raised him in Lamar County, Texas, where he still resided in 1880. Sidney Lyons became one of the most prominent African Americans in Oklahoma during the early twentieth century. While in Texas, he reportedly developed a hair tonic or restorer called "the Texas Wonder." In 1893 he settled in Guthrie, capital of Oklahoma Territory, and opened a restaurant. By 1902 he owned a grocery serving Guthrie's growing African American community.

Soon, however, he shrewdly observed that greater economic opportunity lay in Oklahoma City. In 1909 he moved his family there, making a home in the segregated community that centered on Second Street, east of downtown. His first enterprise was a grocery (and residence) at 314 East Second, and he also invested in real estate. In 1918 he opened a factory to make toiletries, including the hair tonic, which he renamed "East India Hair Grower," as well as face powder and rouge, soap, and perfume. As president and sole owner of East India Toilet Goods and Manufacturing Company, he advertised and marketed his products to African American customers from coast to coast but especially in the South.. Lyons amassed a fortune by his entrepreneurship. He owned rental houses and commercial property, including a block of business buildings on Second Street, and owned property in Guthrie, in the Choctaw Nation, and in Texas. In the early 1930s he invested in the oil business, drilling on and leasing his properties in the Oklahoma City field. The East India toiletries plant, which closed in 1935, was located at 316 North Central Avenue. The factory stood a half block from his residence, a two-story, brick mansion that he built in the late 1920s at 300 Northeast Third Street. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 (NR 83002101) and is known as the Melvin F. Luster House. In his later years, during the Great Depression, city directories show him also working as a barber in his 314 East Second Street building. Sidney D. Lyons died of heart disease in Oklahoma City on April 9, 1942.

SEE ALSO: AFRICAN AMERICANS, MANUFACTURING, OKLAHOMA ECONOMY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jimmie Lewis Franklin, Journey Toward Hope: A History of Blacks in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982). "S. D. Lyons, East India Hair Grower Manufacturer, Dies Following Long Illness," Black Dispatch (Oklahoma City), 18 April 1942. "Small Business Brings Negro Wealth," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 24 December 1928.

Dianna Everett

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