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Oklahoma: 50 Facts
Oklahoma State Facts - Just Some Basics
• State Abbreviation: OK
• State Birthday: Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 16, 1907.
• State Size: Oklahoma is the 20th largest state with 68,667 square miles.
• Origin of the State Name: the state name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red, which literally means "red people."
• Name for Residents: Oklahomans
• State Flag: the state flag is an Osage warrior shield, on a field of blue, with the shield crossed by a peace pipe and an olive branch.
• State Capital: Oklahoma City – Oklahoma is only one of two states whose capital city’s name includes the state’s name.
• State Motto: Labor omnia vincit (Labor Conquers All Things)
• State Nickname: Sooner State. Originally, the state of Oklahoma was set aside for the exclusive use of numerous Indian tribes and was called Indian Territory. However, in 1889, the land was opened to settlers in what became known as the "Oklahoma Land Rush." 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.
• Border States: Oklahoma is bordered by the state of Texas to the south and west, Arkansas and Missouri to the east, Kansas to the north and Colorado and New Mexico at the tip of the northwestern Oklahoma panhandle. Cimarron County, located in the panhandle, is the only county in the United States to be bordered by four states – Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.
• Oklahoma has more man-made lakes than any other state.
• There are 38 federally recognized Native American Tribes in Oklahoma today, descendants from the 67 tribes who inhabited Oklahoma when it was considered Indian Territory. Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state.
• The Pensacola Dam, built in 1940, is the world's longest multiple arch dam. At 6,565 feet in length, the dam is located on the south shores of Grand Lake O' the Cherokees.
Oklahoma History in Photos
“A farmer and his two sons during a dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma" (1936)
The Dustbowl occurred in the 1930s and affected areas of Texas, Kansas, New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma. Poor agricultural practices combined with extended drought, above average temperatures and high winds destroyed the farmland of thousands of farmers, forcing them to abandon their homesteads.
“Gusher Near Okemah" (February 21, 1922)
Oil has long played a large part in the economy of Oklahoma and still does today. “Gushers” were the result of a blowout, or the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas, from an oil or gas well after the pressure control systems had failed. These incidents were wasteful, extremely dangerous and destructive to everything within their radius.
Oklahoma State Symbols
• State Bird: Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
• State Tree: Eastern Redbud
• State Grass: Indiangrass
• State Flower: Oklahoma Rose
• State Wildflower: Indian Blanket
• State Plant: Mistletoe
• State Mammal: Bison
• State Flying Mammal: Mexican Free-Tailed Bat
• State Reptile: Collared Lizard (also called the Mountain Boomer)
• State Fish: White Bass (or Sand Bass)
• State Amphibian: Bullfrog
• State Butterfly: Black Swallowtail
• State Insect: Honeybee
• State Stone: Rose Rock (Barite Rose)
• State Fossil: Saurophaganax
• State Folk Dance: Square Dance
• State Beverage: Milk
• State Fruit: Strawberry
• State Vegetable: Watermelon
• State Meal: Chicken fried steak, fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue port, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, black eyed peas and pecan pie.
• State Song: “Oklahoma”
"I Didn't Know That!" - Some of Oklahoma's Little Known Facts
● There are dozens of “Gravity Hills” around the country – and one of them happens to be in Bartlesville. A source of amusement and mystery for decades, Gravity Hill is the location of some unique events. It is said that if you park a car facing down the hill and put it in neutral, it will roll backwards up the hill; pour a liquid on the ground and it will run uphill, not downhill.
● Oklahoma has some towns with unusual and amusing names:
- Bug Tussle
- North Pole
● The Quapaw area is famous for its Spooklight (also called the Hornet Spooklight and the Hollis Light), a bouncing, bright ball of white fire, that has been reported as far back as the mid to late 1800's but has yet to be explained.
● Boise City maintains the distinction of being the only place in the country bombed during WWII – by friendly fire. In the early hours of July 5, 1943, a B-17, on a training mission out of Dalhart, Texas, mistakenly took Boise City, Oklahoma for Conlen, Texas and dropped its load of sand packed bombs on the town in a 30 minute air raid. No one was hurt.
● Oklahoma is known for its tornadoes but did you know that:
- Oklahoma has more tornadoes per square mile than any other place in the world?
- The first tornado warning was issued in March 1948 in Oklahoma City, minutes before a large tornado, thus saving many lives?
- The highest wind speed ever recorded on earth (301 miles per hour) was in Moore during an F-5 tornado in May 1999?
- During a tornado in Ponca City, a man and his wife were carried aloft in their house by a tornado. The walls and roof were blown away. But the floor remained intact and eventually glided downward, setting the couple safely back on the ground?
- Oklahoma was the setting for the movie "Twister"?
● Okmulgee holds the world record for the largest pecan pie.
In 1997, a small DVD size piece of metal fell out of the sky and hit Lottie Williams of Tulsa in the shoulder. She is the only person ever to actually be hit by "space junk" falling out of the sky; the chances of someone being hit are one in several trillion!
● Oklahoma has some inventors you probably haven’t heard of:
- Carl C. Magee invented the parking meter in response to Oklahoma City’s downtown traffic congestion problems. The world's first meter was installed in Oklahoma City in 1935.
- Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping cart and introduced the first one to his Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in 1937 – they were not an immediate hit!
- Clinton Riggs designed the “Yield” sign and the first one was installed in Tulsa in 1959.
Garth Brooks (singer - Tulsa)
Toby Keith (singer - Clinton)
Carrie Underwood (singer - Muskogee)
Vince Gill (singer - Norman)
Woodie Guthrie (singer/musician - Okemah)
Patti Page (singer - Claremore)
Reba McEntire (singer - McAlester)
Johnny Bench (baseball player - Oklahoma City)
Mickey Mantle (baseball player - Spavinaw )
Jim Thorpe (athlete - Prague)
James Garner (actor - Norman)
Chuck Norris (actor - Ryan)
Brad Pitt (actor - Shawnee)
Will Rogers (actor - Oologah)
Van Heflin (actor - Walters)
Ron Howard (director - Duncan)
Leroy Gordon Cooper (astronaut - Shawnee)
Owen Garriott (astronaut - Enid)
Thomas Stafford (astronaut - Weatherford)
Oral Roberts (evangelist - Ada)
Dan Rowen (comedian - Beggs)
Maria Tallchief (ballerina - Fairfax)
Paul Harvey (broadcaster - Tulsa)
Bill Moyers (journalist - Hugo)
Ralph Ellison (writer - Oklahoma City)
Joseph Albertson (Albertsons grocery store chain - Yukon)
Interesting Places to Visit When in Oklahoma
► The Kiamichi Mountains in Southeastern Oklahoma, with their vast tracks of uninhabited forests, are said to be prime Bigfoot territory. Sightings were reported centuries ago, if Native American lore is to be believed, and locals can retell their own experiences with the creature, from finding its tracks, to being close enough to smell its pungent odor, to actual sightings.
It took 96 tons of sod to build the Sod House Museum’s main attraction – but construction costs only came to a grand total of $6.20!
► The Sod House Museum, in Aline, preserves the only remaining “soddy” in Oklahoma, built in 1894. Touring the small 12-by-24-foot structure will give you an idea of what it was like to live in a real “Little House on the Prairie”.
►The J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum in Claremore claims to be the "World's Largest Privately Owned Gun Collection." Mr. Davis' fascination with guns began when he was given his first one at the age of seven and led to a collection of over 13,000 firearms from around the world. The collection includes rare Colts, a 500-year-old Chinese hand canon, guns owned by outlaws and the world's smallest manufactured gun.
► Osteology is the scientific study of the form and function of skeletal systems. And the only museum in America dedicated to this branch of science is the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. The museum displays hundreds of skulls and skeletons from all over the world.
► For anyone fascinated by the American West and its colorful history, The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is a must see. The museum showcases over 28,000 pieces of Western and American Indian artifacts, including saddles, guns, paintings by famous artists such as Frederic Remington, rodeo trophies, photographs and even barbed wire!
The New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have all stayed in the Skirvin Hotel and have all reported being witness to its hauntings!
► Are you a ghost hunter? Ghosts are said to have been seen and heard at the Skirvin Hotel and Overholser Mansion in Oklahoma City, the Old Masonic Home for Boys and Stone Lion Inn Bed & Breakfast in Guthrie, and Fort Washita in Durant.
► The Spiro Mounds, located in Spiro, are the remains of the ancient Native American culture that occupied Oklahoma from 850 A.D. to 1450 A.D. The 150-acre park contains 12 mounds and is considered to be one of the four most important prehistoric Native American sites east of the Rocky Mountains and the only one open to the public in Oklahoma.
► The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum rose from the tragic April 19, 1995 bombing of the Arthur P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Butzer Design Partnership's entry was chosen from 624 entries. Included in the memorial's main features are the Gates of Time, the Reflecting Pool, the Field of (168) Empty Chairs and The Survivor Tree.
Where to Find Those Interesting Places in Oklahoma
Museum of Osteology / Skirvin Hotel / Overholser Mansion / The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum / Oklahoma City National Memorial/Museum
And You Know You're From Oklahoma When . . .
• A tornado warning siren is just your signal to go out in the yard and look for a funnel.
• You refer to Oklahoma City as "The City."
• A Mercedes Benz is not a status symbol; a Ford F350 4x4 is a status symbol.
• You think that people who complain about the wind in their states are sissies.
• Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
• You pronounce Miami “Mi-am-uh” and Prague “Pray-gue”.
• “Jeet?” is actually a phrase meaning "Did you eat?"
Check out these Oklahoma hubs by Urbane Chaos!
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 Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Sod House
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