Events in Oklahoma Through the Years

  • Native Camps
    May 1830
    Prior to May 28, 1830 Before the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and other legislated removals forced many tribes into Indian Territory, many other tribes already called the land that is now Oklahoma home. The Apache, Arapaho, Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, Osage, and Wichita tribes all lived out their distinct ways of life before removal and before colonization, and they continue...
  • Trail of Tears, painting by Robert Lindneux, 1942
    May 1830
    May 28, 1830 The Indian Removal Act led to the Cherokee Trail of Tears and other forced relocation marches. The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands which is today’s southeastern United States. This act led...
  • Washington Irving: A Tour of the Prairies
    Oct 1832
    October 8, 1832 Washington Irving recounts his frontier adventure in his book, A Tour on the Prairies. In autumn 1832, author Washington Irving embarked on a month-long journey through Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Irving, author of well known stories such as Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, described details about his trek in the book he called A Tour...
  • Kiowa Chief Lone Wolf and Comanche Chief Quanah Parker
    Jun 1874
    June 27, 1874 (1874-1875) The Red River War was the last major military conflict between the United States government and the southern Plains Indians. While many tribes had been forced into agreeing to live on reservations, they were often poorly run, with rations and materials being too small for the needs of the tribes. Raids were common, as were hunting...
  • Henry Dawes and the Dawes Act of 1887
    Feb 1887
    February 8, 1887 The Dawes Severalty Act, also known as the General Allotment Act, was a law championed by Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts that gave the federal government the power to break up communally held Native land and allocate it to tribal individuals. It was approved on February 8, 1887. Some reformers saw this as a way to "Americanize"...
  • Land Run of 1889
    Apr 1889
    April 22, 1889 The land run of 1889 began the legal opening of federally held land to white settlement. President Benjamin Harrison authorized the settlement of the Unassigned Lands of Indian Territory to whites, setting the stage for similar openings of land that had been granted to tribes. This land run set the stage for the creation of the Oklahoma...
  • Map of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories, 1892
    May 1890
    May 2, 1890 The Organic Act of 1890 created separate Oklahoma and Indian Territories, outlined the provisions of a territorial government, and set aside land in every township for public schools. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture has an entry on the Organic Act. The Indian and Oklahoma Territories. Photo credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
  • University of Oklahoma 1907
    Dec 1890
    December 19, 1890 Only months after the Organic Act established Indian and Oklahoma Territories, the First Oklahoma Territorial Legislature founded three public universities- the University of Oklahoma in Norman on Dec. 19, 1890, Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater on Dec. 25, 1890, and Central State Normal School (now the University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond on December...
  • Delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1906
    Nov 1906
    November 20, 1906 Delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1906. After the Enabling Act of 1906 allowed Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory to become a single state, 112 elected delegates met in Guthrie from November 20, 1906 until March 15, 1907. The delegates, led by William “Alfalfa Bill” H. Murray, drafted a constitution which the public approved in September 1907....
  • President Teddy Roosevelt Signing Statehood Proclamation by Mike Wimmer
    Nov 1907
    November 16, 1907 Oklahoma became the 46th state following several acts that incorporated more and more Indian tribal land into U.S. territory. “Oklahoma is now a state,” declared Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, as he signed Presidential Proclamation 780 at 10:16 on the morning of November 16, 1907. President Teddy Roosevelt Signing Statehood Proclamation by Mike Wimmer Housed...
  • Capitol Construction
    Jun 1910
    June 11, 1910 Governor Charles Haskell called a special election on June 11, 1910 to determine where the state capital should be located. The public overwhelmingly voted for Oklahoma City (96,261 votes), with Guthrie coming in second (31,301 votes) and Shawnee last (8,402 votes). The Huckins Hotel was the temporary offices for state government until the Capitol building was completed...
  • Choctaw-Code-Talkers, Courtesy of the Choctaw Nation.
    Jul 1914
    July 28, 1914 World War I had a profound impact on the people of Oklahoma. Agriculturalists experienced a steep drop in prices for their goods, followed by a sharp increase as the Allies relied on their crops. Anti-war sentiment most prominent in the Green Corn Rebellion gave way to enthusiastic patriotism. Oklahoma Native Americans were the first code talkers in...
  • Green Corn Rebellion
    Aug 1917
    August 2, 1917 As the United States entered World War I, Germany began closing off European markets to United States exports. The resulting recession in prices exacerbated existing problems between poor tenant farmers and wealthy landowners in rural Oklahoma. These tensions mixed with anti-war sentiment and came to a head in 1917 when tenant farmers revolted, burning bridges and cutting...
  • St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the Influenza epidemic
    Sep 1918
    September 26, 1918 In 1918, a deadly outbreak of influenza, known as the "Spanish flu", had made it's way from army camps in Europe to the United States of America. Fall saw Oklahoma hit especially hard, forcing the closure of schools, churches, and gatherings. In Oklahoma, state officials reported the first cases of the influenza in Tulsa and Clinton on September 26, 1918,...
  • Suffrage 1919-1920
    Nov 1918
    November 5, 1918 The 19th Amendment guaranteed all American women the right to vote in all elections in the United States. It was ratified on August 20, 1920. On November 5, 1918, Oklahoma voters ratified a universal woman suffrage amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution. Passing by 25,428 votes, Oklahoma was the 21st state to grant women the right to vote. Women...
  • Tulsa-Race-Massacre 1921
    May 1921
    May 31, 1921 Destruction of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the 1921 Race Massacre. The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred on May 31 – June 1, 1921, when mobs of white people attacked and destroyed the Greenwood residential and business district, a prospering black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Massacre occurred when a black man was accused of assaulting...
  • Oklahoma Flag
    Apr 1925
    April 2, 1925 The Oklahoma State Legislature adopted a new design for the state flag on April 2, 1925. Depicting an Osage shield with a calumet (peace pipe), olive branch, crosses, and eagle feathers, artist Louise Funk Fluke created the design to symbolize a people united by peace. The word Oklahoma was added in 1941. Oklahoma Flag held in the...
  • US-Route-66 Postcards
    Nov 1926
    November 11, 1926 Construction began on U.S. Route 66. Often called, “The Main Street of America,” the highway was meant to link towns and people across America. The highway served as a primary route for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl. It holds a significant place in American popular culture, memorialized in books, songs, television and movies....
  • “The blackest and worst of the many Dust Storms of recent weeks brought in on the rolling cloud that bore down on the Oklahoma panhandle and neighboring states late Sunday afternoon,” Daily Oklahoman, April 15, 1935.
    Apr 1935
    April 14, 1935 “The blackest and worst of the many Dust Storms of recent weeks brought in on the rolling cloud that bore down on the Oklahoma panhandle and neighboring states late Sunday afternoon,” Daily Oklahoman, April 15, 1935. The Dust Bowl is considered the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. In the 1930s, a severe drought combined with...
  • 06
    May 1935
    May 6, 1935 In response to the prolonged Great Depression, the U. S. Congress created the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Their aim was to employ as many people as possible to build lasting projects that would benefit local communities. The WPA was especially impactful in Oklahoma- 119,000 of 166,000 Oklahomans certified for the program was employed by the WPA between...
  • Mid-Continent oil refinery in Tulsa with the skyline in the background.
    Dec 1938
    December 22, 1938 Workers that were part of the Oil Workers’ International Union in Tulsa, voted to strike on December 22, 1938 against the Mid-Continent Petroleum Corporation over the lack of negotiations about seniority, vacation, and using the union to bargain for workers. Violence in Tulsa broke out, with the police using tear gas and strikers cutting telephone lines, destroying...
  • Aerial View of Tinker Air Force Base
    Sep 1939
    September 1, 1939 After the success of the Native American code talkers in World War I, the United States army recruited seventeen Comanches from Oklahoma to develop an unbreakable Comanche language code. This code was used to transmit messages through telephone and radio transmissions on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion in France. The code talkers were also instrumental in...
  • A chorale performing songs from Oklahoma! at the Oklahoma City premiere of the film in 1956.
    Mar 1943
    March 31, 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma! premiered at the St. James Theater in New York City on March 31, 1943. The wildly popular musical was made into a movie by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1955. According to Dianna Everett in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, “general consensus remains that the musical has done more to improve the state's...
  • Ada Sipuel Fisher signing the register of attorneys, 1952
    Jan 1948
    January 12, 1948 The United States Supreme Court ruled on January 12, 1948 in Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma that Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher must have the same opportunities as other Oklahomans to earn a legal education in Oklahoma. Fisher became the first black student admitted to the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law, paving the way for...
  • Oklahoma! song
    Sep 1953
    September 5, 1953 The first official song of the State of Oklahoma was Oklahoma: A Toast until the song was changed to Oklahoma! in 1953. After the popularity of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical Oklahoma!, Oklahoma State Representative George Nigh (later the 22nd governor of Oklahoma) introduced a bill to change the state song to the main title from the...
  • Clara Luper boarding a bus
    Aug 1958
    August 19, 1958 Renowned civil rights activist and teacher Clara Luper, advisor for the Oklahoma City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led her students into the segregated Katz drugstore. The group sat at the lunch counter and staged one of the first sit-ins in the United States. The protests lasted only a few days before the...
  • Prohibition-law-by-Haskell
    Apr 1959
    April 7, 1959 Oklahoma, a dry state since the beginning, included the prohibition of alcohol in its original 1907 Constitution. Oklahoma’s first governor, Charles N. Haskell, and several subsequent governors were strong supporters of prohibition. However, Oklahomans voted on April 7, 1959 to repeal prohibition and create the Alcohol Control Board (later renamed the Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission) to...
  • Studio portrait of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy
    Nov 1959
    November 14, 1959 John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. Oklahoma’s sixteenth governor (1959-1963), J. Howard Edmondson, and his wife, Jeanette Edmondson, were personal friends of the Kennedys. In November 1959, John and Jackie visited Oklahoma to attend a football game and the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner with the Edmondsons. Original correspondence from the Kennedys about this trip is available on Digital...
  • Sanitation-Strike 1969
    Aug 1969
    August 19, 1969 Black sanitation workers went on strike on the morning of August 19, 1969. The strikers demanded that they be allowed to be drivers and supervisors as well as increased pay. The strike was organized in the Freedom Center in northeast Oklahoma City by workers, Clara Luper, local pastors, and other activists. The strike would last until November,...
  • Carl-Albert-cropped
    Jan 1971
    January 21, 1971 Carl Albert began his post as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives on January 21, 1971, the highest elected public office held by an Oklahoman. Albert served as Speaker from 1971 to 1976, and he presided over Congress during the Watergate scandal. Twice during the proceedings Albert was second in line to the presidency. Portrait...
  • President Nixon gives a speech with the Verdigris River and river vessels in the background on June 5, 1971.
    Feb 1971
    February 20, 1971 The Tulsa Port of Catoosa officially opened on February 20, 1971 on Verdigris River, which is a part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The navigation system is connected to the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. The port is a foreign trade zone that imports and exports goods for Oklahoma. Some of the main...
  • Spiro Mounds
    May 1978
    May 9, 1978 The Spiro Mounds Archaeological State Park opened to the public on May 9, 1978. It is the first and only prehistoric American Indian archaeological site in Oklahoma open to the public. Between 850 and 1450 A. D., a Caddoan-speaking Mississippian culture stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains. The land that would become Spiro, Oklahoma...
  • Bombing Memorial
    Apr 1995
    April 19, 1995 On the morning of April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was destroyed in a terrorist attack when a bomb exploded, killing 168 people. The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum was created to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever. The Field of Empty Chairs at...
  • Centennial Buffalo
    Nov 2007
    November 16, 2007 The Oklahoma Capitol Complex and Centennial Commemoration Commission was formed in 1998 to plan the state’s celebration of its 100th year. Nearly 1,000 projects were completed through the Centennial Commission’s $31 million in funding, including decorating downtown Oklahoma City with almost 100 uniquely painted buffalo statues, helping fund a USS Oklahoma memorial at Pearl Harbor, and adding...