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It's an Event of Monumental Proportions

April 21, 2004

Historian's Notes

I am not convinced that there's anything really that great about the Pioneer Woman statue. It's nice to look at and all but I don't know. As a small child it impressed me. I think that even more fascinating are the miniature statues that were submitted to the contest. Each sculpture made a one-foot tall version of his proposed design and sent them in. These entries are housed at the Woolaroc museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Resources

Information for this Almanac came from a visit to the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City and then looking through the Tulsa and Oklahoma City papers for more information.

Almanac Transcript

It's an event of monumental proportions this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

Since 1889 Oklahomans have marked April 22nd as a special day. It was on that day the first land runs occurred and Oklahoma embarked on the path to statehood. On one particular April 22nd, however, there was an extra reason to celebrate. On April 22 of 1930 a crowd of people numbering, it was estimated, over ten thousand, gathered in Ponca City for the official dedication of the Pioneer Woman Statue.

The celebration was weeks in the making and speakers from around the country were lined up. Will Rogers flew in from California, and President Hoover spoke to those gathered in an exclusive address via the telephone and radio, and fellow Oklahoman and Secretary of War, Patrick Hurley, also in Washington, spoke to the crowd as well. According to sources at the event, there weren't any hotel rooms left in Ponca City, and the surrounding towns of Newkirk and Blackwell were packed to overflowing as well. The highway patrol stationed crews along all of the highways to direct traffic.

One day earlier the entire town of Ponca City shut down and mobbed the airport to watch Will Rogers land and disembark from his plane. On April 22nd, for the second day in a row, the only businesses open, according to the papers, were the root-beer salesmen. The agenda for the unveiling ceremony went as follows: at 10:30 a parade began in the downtown and started making its way to the statue; at 11:30 was scheduled the ubiquitous husband calling contest; a concert began at 1:00 with the unveiling at 1:30.

Millionaire oilman and sponsor of the statue E W. Marland presented the statue to the Oklahoma governor, Holloway. The statue created by Brant or Bryan Baker of New York was chosen from more than a dozen entries. The event was replete with speeches detailing the woman's role in helping to conquer the frontier and bring civilization to the plains. Only fellow Oklahoma and secretary of war, Hurley, had the presence of mind to acknowledge those who lived here before the pioneer woman. In his remote address Hurley stated of the statue,"This monument was erected to the women of a fair-skinned race but as a pioneer that woman was preceded by a red-skinned woman whose virtues have received scant recognition." The unveiling ceremony was followed by concerts, dances, an old fiddler's contest and celebrations lasting well into the night.

The Pioneer Woman unveiled this week in 1930.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.

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