Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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In June 1933 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), opening the way for cooperation between the federal government and businesses in order to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. Antitrust laws were suspended, and companies in every industry were to agree to a code of competition that governed prices, wages, and business practices. The NIRA created the National Recovery Administration (NRA), headed by Oklahoman Hugh S. Johnson. The NRA administered the code-writing process and the enforcing of 541 approved codes. Through intense publicity campaigns consumers were encouraged to do business with companies that displayed the Blue Eagle as a sign of their cooperation with the NRA.

Nationally, the NIRA was substantially a failure, due to lax enforcement of the codes. When the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the NIRA in May 1935, few of its former supporters mourned. Oklahoma Gov. William H. Murray set himself against cooperating with President Roosevelt and the New Deal programs. As a consequence, and despite the pride Oklahomans took in Hugh Johnson's leadership, the NRA had only a limited impact in the state. Murray refused to help publicize the Blue Eagle campaign and delayed calling a meeting of the State Recovery Board, the local arm of the NRA. Despite Murray's intransigence, the board gathered information and ironed out local problems under the leadership of Frank Buttram, head of Buttram Petroleum Company.

The NRA did make headway in the petroleum industry by establishing prorationing of oil through its petroleum code, drawn up by September 1933. The code controlled the amount of oil a company could produce and permitted monopolistic practices such as allowing businesses to share manufacturing, transportation, and marketing facilities. Larger corporations dominated the code-making deliberations. The petroleum code was nullified in 1935 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the NIRA unconstitutional. The more effective Interstate Oil Compact, negotiated by Oklahoma Gov. Ernest W. Marland, was soon put in its place. Nevertheless, under the NRA code the tottering petroleum industry had doubled its revenues since 1932, which helped Oklahoma's depressed economy. Despite Governor Murray's anti New Deal attitude, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce was exemplary in its support for the NRA and Blue Eagle and merited a mention in a federal memorandum to state campaign leaders.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Keith Bryant, "Oklahoma in the New Deal," in The New Deal, Vol. 2, The State and Local Levels, ed. John Braeman, Robert Bremner, and David Brody (Columbus: Ohio State University, 1975). William Edward Leuchtenberg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (New York: Harper and Row, 1963). James Ware, "The Sooner NRA: New Deal Recovery in Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 54 (Fall 1976).

William H. Mullins

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