Today in History: November 16
Oklahoma entered the Union as the forty-sixth state on November 16, 1907. Five days later, The Beaver Herald, the Beaver County Oklahoma newspaper, carried this news, reporting in the headline that “The Brightest Star in the Constellation Now Shines for the 46th State—Oklahoma.” The history of Oklahoma is tied to the early nineteenth-century use of this land for relocating the Native American population from the settled portions of the United States. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, May 30, 1830, authorizing land grants in this open prairie, west of the Mississippi, in exchange for Native American property to the east. Oklahoma became the migration destination of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee tribes as the federal government coerced these peoples to relocate. Known as the “five civilized tribes,” these Native Americans of the south and southeastern United States were forced west by the enormous land hunger of this period. By 1880, sixty tribes, had moved to Oklahoma where they created a government structure, landownership laws, and a thriving culture. Thus, the name Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian words "okla," meaning people, and "humma," meaning red.
In 1889 Congress opened part of the region, which the United States had acquired in 1803 under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase, to settlement by non-Native Americans. The Oklahoma Territory was organized in 1890. The new state of Oklahoma incorporated what remained of Indian Territory.
Ben Stimmel was among the first non-Native Americans to take advantage of the opportunity to settle in the Oklahoma Territory. A native of Ohio, Stimmel had spent the 1880s mining gold in White Oaks, New Mexico. "We lived in White Oaks until September 1889," Stimmel recalled, "when we set out in a covered wagon drawn by four horses, to go to Oklahoma to buy a farm. We had two children and two hound pups."
They settled in Hennessy, Oklahoma, Stimmel remembered, "where we built up a real nice farm and lived for twenty five years." But on April 20, 1912, disaster struck:
A cyclone hit our farm. It took the roof off of our house, and destroyed our barn and all out buildings. We had a hundred Indian Runner ducks and after the storm we found them about half a mile from the house in a mud swamp, all dead. The family saw the cyclone coming and all got in the storm cellar. After the storm I salvaged what I could from the farm and left Oklahoma for Lincoln County, New Mexico, where they don't have cyclones. I have lived here ever since.
Carrizozo, New Mexico.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Oklahoma was devastated by the weather conditions of the 1930s. Thousands of families migrated west, out of the Dust Bowl, to take advantage of the opportunities that California afforded.
In the mid-1930s, Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographer Dorothea Lange traveled to Oklahoma to document the devastating effects of the Great Depression and seven-year drought, which had reduced the Southern Great Plains to a "Dust Bowl" unsuitable for farming. Lange's work includes numerous images of Oklahoma farm families in and en route to California in search of a better life.
The popular image of this plains state changed with the premiere of the musical Oklahoma in 1943.
Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) collaborated on some of the most popular musical comedies of the twentieth century. This joint effort, the 1943 production Oklahoma, was set in Oklahoma Territory near Claremore in 1906, and focused on a young cowboy and his sweetheart.
Learn more about the history of Oklahoma in American Memory:
- Search the collection History of the American West, 1860-1920: Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library on Oklahoma to view many photographs of the state, including pictures of members of the many Native American tribes that were relocated to Oklahoma by the United States government.
- Search on Oklahoma in Map Collections for state maps such as a 1918 Aero View of Tulsa.
- Search on Oklahoma in America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915 to view two films of cowboys herding horses in Oklahoma Territory, made by Thomas Edison, Inc. on May 9, 1909.
- Search the collection American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 on Oklahoma to find more recollections of the state, including the adventures of African-American cowboy Bones Hooks and horse trader Nath F. Watkins. Watkins recounts his encounters with members of the Comanche tribe in the former Indian Territory.
- Search on Oklahoma in Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991 to see over twenty panoramic photographs of turn-of-the-century Oklahoma.
- See the Today in History feature on John Ross, chief of the United Cherokee Nation from 1839 to 1866, to learn more about the Cherokee tribe's move to Oklahoma in the mid 1800s.
- American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936: Images from the University of Chicago Library forms an historical record of the American landscape, its plant forms and ecological communities. Search on Oklahoma to see images such as Prosopis with Shoots from Exposed Roots on an Eroding Floodplain Dune near Devol, Oklahoma.
- Search on Oklahoma in America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945 to see Lange's photographs, as well as work by her FSA colleagues Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee and Walker Evans.
- Learn more about the Dust Bowl exodus. Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941, provides a concise history of the economic and ecological forces that pushed many farm families out of Oklahoma. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera documenting the everyday life of residents of FSA migrant work camps in central California where many Oklahomans took refuge.
- For additional information about the Indian land cessions, including maps, access the special presentations in A Century of Lawmaking. Browse by territory or state, date, or tribe in Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894 United States Serial Set, and Number 4015.
- Learn more about Oklahoma via Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers. For example, search for an Oklahoma topic, such as drought farming (all the words), after limiting to Oklahoma Newspapers, to find an article warning “The Drought of 1913 is One More Argument for Common Dense Farming” in Farmer’s Champion (Elgin, Okla), September 18, 1913, Image 8).
On November 16, 1889, the Oahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L) began operating on Hawai`i's third largest island, Oahu. The brainchild of Massachusetts native Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, the railroad made it possible to move agricultural products from inland to port, stimulating the local economy and providing a valuable transportation route for decades.
Dillingham arrived in Hawai`i in 1865 as first mate of the sailing ship Whistler. Prevented by a fractured leg from returning to sea, Dillingham made Oahu his home and began investing in its future. Within four years, he was a partner in a local hardware company supplying goods for the growing sugar industry. Dillingham also invested in a dairy business. He was interested in real estate, but failed to raise the money to purchase the land for speculation. In 1888, Dillingham obtained a concession from the Hawai`i legislature to build the OR&L and succeeded in raising the money to build this venture. He scheduled the opening of the short line-railway, which originally ran nine miles, to coincide with the birthday of Hawaiian King Kalakaua.
Early revenues for the OR&L were meager, but as Dillingham had foreseen, the railway's presence stimulated land sales and new agricultural ventures, including pineapple and sugar plantations. By the early 1900s, the expanded 160-mile railway cut across the island, serving several sugar plantations, pineapple farms, and the popular Haleiwa Hotel. As Oahu's pineapple, sugar, and tourism industries grew, profits for Dillingham's railway followed suit.
An additional, and significant, source of revenue for the OR&L came from passenger fares to and from the U.S. Army's Schofield Barracks near the center of the island. From 1909 until the late 1930s, and again during World War II, the OR&L transported troops across Oahu, which had few cars and often shoddy roads. After World War II, the railway's fortunes changed as passenger revenues plummeted and trucks began taking over the agricultural business. The OR&L abandoned service outside Honolulu and its harbor in 1947. In 1972, it closed its remaining service to the Iwilei canneries and docks. The OR&L right-of-way and terminal are on the state and National Register of Historic Places.
Learn more about the Oahu Railway and Land Company in Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers. Search on Oahu Railway to find items such as “Railway Systems of the Hawaiian Islands”, Evening bulletin. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii) 1895-1912, November 30, 1901, Evening Bulletin Industrial Edition, Image 8.
Learn more about America's railways in American Memory:
- Search the Today in History Archive on railroad to find features, such as the first regularly scheduled passenger train, the first train robbery, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Florida East Coast Railway, and the railways' influence on the standardization of time.
- Read the History of Railroads and Maps feature in Railroad Maps, 1828-1900. Find railroad maps from a state by checking out the collection's Geographic Location chart, or by searching on a state name.
American Memory collections contain rich resources on Hawaii:
- Search on Hawaii in the collection The Nineteenth Century in Print: Books to find sixteen books on Hawaii, formerly known as the Sandwich Islands. Examples include several works by missionaries on the evangelization of the islanders, travel and description, such as Mrs. E. M. Wills Parker's The Sandwich Islands As They Are, Not As They Should Be (external link) (circa 1852) and Samuel Bowles' The Pacific Railroad—Open. How To Go: What To See. Guide For Travel To and Through Western America (external link) (1869).
- Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present has images of architectural surveys of Schofield Barracks. Also search the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog on Schofield Barracks for additional images including one of the cactus, the regimental insignia of the 35th Infantry, 1933.
- View the three award-winning Hawaii’an quilts in Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996. In addition to patchwork quilting, Hawaiian quilters developed a unique style of appliqué quilting which involves stitching single piece symmetrical designs onto a background material.
- The collection American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936: Images from the University of Chicago Library documents natural environments, ecologies, and plant communities in the United States. Search on the terms Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, or Molokai to see images of these islands in the Hawaiian chain.
- For more photographs of Hawai`i, search the American Memory pictorial collections on Hawaii. Note that the spelling in the catalog records uses the earlier convention of Hawaii. Among the many images of the fiftieth state are photographs of an early baseball team and Waikiki Beach in 1902.
- Broadcast over the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), Hawaii's Last Queen (external link) tells the story of Queen Lili`uokalani and the history of Hawai`i.
- Read the Today in History feature on Hawai`i.