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Fitting It All Together

April 28, 2004

Historian's Notes

Oklahoma has an interesting outline. It's one of the states that I think anyone can pick out because of the shape. The way that those borders came into being is also interesting and this Almanac tells a small part of that story.


Information for this story came from a great variety of places, but mostly American history texts. Any text covering US history during the 1850's and 60's will discuss the Kansas Nebraska Act and this is where the information comes from for this Almanac.

Almanac Transcript

Fitting it all together this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

It seems that when most territories, later to be states, formed or came together they did so as one intact unit, not so for Oklahoma. The territory of Oklahoma grew in fits and starts. Starting out as a rectangle in what is now the middle of the state, bits and chunks were added to the original center section. As the various tribal nations were one by one stripped of their land so the territory grew and changed shape, like some amorphous blob consuming the land around it. By the time residents of the territory of Oklahoma began clamoring for statehood the area looked somewhat as it does today.

One important piece of the Oklahoma puzzle, however, was missing. If you were to look at a map of Oklahoma before 1890 one thing would stand out as being gone, and that's the panhandle. Originally, the panhandle didn't belong to Oklahoma, it didn't belong to any state it literally was, "no mans land." As all of the territories in the region formed and took shape the panhandle was left out. This pattern of excluding the panhandle drew to a close in this week of 1890. It was on May 2nd 1890 that the Organic Act passed through the body of Congress adhering the panhandle forever to the territory of Oklahoma. The Organic Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of our state. In addition to finally answering the many questions surrounding the panhandle the act also set up the territories government allowing for a multitude of things to finally take shape. The Organic Act allowed for the creation of a governmental system, representation in congress, the formation of territorial law code and enforcement procedures, as well as other things basic to the creation of a territory and state. For more than a year the new settlers of Oklahoma territory were without any of these bureaucratic entities that we now take for granted. The inhabitants of the new territory were pleased, and I'm sure a bit relieved, to be now officially recognized by the powers-that-be in Washington DC.

The Organic Act putting all of the pieces together this week on the Almanac.

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

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