Dec 03

Oklahoma – Oil and Art

Have you ever wondered why the State of Oklahoma is known as the “Sooner” State?   To be honest, we hadn’t given it much thought but the answer is quite interesting!

On April 22, 1889, the first day homesteading was permitted, 50,000 people swarmed into the area. Those who tried to beat the noon starting gun were called “Sooners” hence the state’s nickname.  According to the Oklahoma Historical Society  The Homestead Act of 1862 and later homestead legislation provided the mechanism for transferring federal land to private ownership. The act was applied in Oklahoma after 1889. A popular movement for distributing free land in the West had begun in the 1850s and resulted in the passage of the Homestead Act in May 1862. According to statute, a citizen over twenty-one years of age and head of a family could claim up to 160 acres of surveyed, unclaimed public domain. Title to the land could be established after the homesteader resided on the land for five years, made certain improvements, and paid claim registration fees. So, now you know!

As we moved westward across Oklahoma, we passed the Nut House (where we stopped to buy some delicious fudge!) and the Blue Whale, once part of a well-attended swimming hole (both recommended stops for Route 66ers!).  A few miles further on, we passed the Port of Catoosa, billed as the furthest inland river/sea port in the United States.  From here, even today, products from the American heartland can start their journey to the rest of the world.  Before following Route 66 through Tulsa, the second largest city in Oklahoma, we spent time at the Gilcrease Museum, named for William Thomas Gilcrease .

Gilcrease Museum (link)

We’ve called this Blog “Oil and Art” for a reason.  According to Wikipedia  “Oil in Oklahoma was first discovered, by accident, in 1859, near Salina in the U.S. state of Oklahoma in a well that had been drilled for salt. For the decade before Oklahoma became a state, in 1907, Oklahoma was the largest oil producer in the world.”

William Thomas Gilcrease was one of those who benefited from this abundance of oil.  “At age nine, Gilcrease’s 1/8 Creek heritage entitled him to receive 160 acres (650,000 m²) located about twenty miles (32 km) southwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1905, drillers struck oil in the area. His land, sitting astride the huge Glenn Pool Reserve, made Gilcrease a multi-millionaire by the time he was twenty.”

Gilcrease was not the only person blessed with this abundance of oil.  As we traveled across the state it was obvious that Oklahoma has benefited from the generosity of the ‘oil barons’ who have shared, and continue to share, their wealth in the form of philanthropic ventures, museums and more.

The Gilcrease Museum claims to have the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West.  Indeed, its galleries are filled with one masterpiece after another.  We spent over two hours without even venturing into the basement to explore the artifact archives, which we understand are extensive.

We started our tour by watching a video presentation on the origins of the museum and learned that William Thomas Gilcrease, twice married, twice divorced and father of two sons and a daughter, was an avid traveler.  His trips to Europe inspired him to start his own art collection and a friend advised him to collect American Western Art rather than paying the high prices demanded for European art works.  His collection grew over the years and it was his purchase of Dr. Philip G. Cole’s western art collection in 1944 that brought him over 600 works of art, including works by Remington and Russell, as well as photographs, books, etc.  We understand that today the Museum collection consists of over 10,000 works of art, not to mention rare books and documents including the only surviving certified Declaration of Independence!

Unfortunately, in the 1950’s Gilcrease ran into financial difficulties due to the declining price of oil and he found himself unable to meet payments on his debt.  He was forced to offer his collection for sale and, in fact, Amon Carter from Texas tried to buy a part of the collection.  Gilcrease refused and the city of Tulsa took the necessary steps to ensure that the collection remained in the city. Thomas Gilcrease died in May 1962 but his legacy continues.  And what a legacy it is!

And now to something completely different!  (Any Monty Python fans out there?!)

Having overloaded our brains with Western American Art and bought a beautiful Dream Catcher in the gift shop (that now hangs in our RV) we decided to head downtown and drive part of the original Route 66.  At almost 2pm we drove past Lola’s Caravan – a neat Airstream converted to a Food Truck!  Flowers adorned the outside of the Airstream and there was welcoming street-side seating.  Although it was late we decided to turn around and see if they were still serving lunch.  We were in luck!  Lola and her daughter prepare delicious food from their commercial kitchen at this location as well as other venues including private functions.  We enjoyed a mixed green salad and a ‘Gypsy Caravan Taco’. It’s great to see a couple of entrepreneurs using their talents (and hard work) to bring good food to so many people. We need to Like Lola’s FB page!P1080624

What could be better than a day filled with Food for the Mind and Food for the Body and sharing it with someone you care for?

We’ve got more about the state of Oklahoma to share with you at a later date.  For now we’re headed to Texas “A whole nuther country!”

Photos:  http://goo.gl/UM6ymN


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1 comment

  1. Craig Lund

    Now you’re in my neck of the woods. My first year at Oklahoma, I thought that our mascot (American Indian) was a Sooner. Then I found out later that year what a Sooner was. The they did away with the mascot & went with the Sooner Schooner. There’s my Oklahoma history. I got there in 1972, just after it was made a state.

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