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Land Runs and Legal Liquor
(Rebroadcast on August 8, 2001)

August 9, 2000

Historian's Notes

The land openings are perhaps some of Oklahoma's most notable events. This particular opening is of interest because it was the first one in which officials wisely chose to abandon the land "run" idea and move to a land "lottery" event which was -- while less exciting -- much safer.

Oklahoma, in my opinion, has some of the most unusual liquor and beer laws in the country. I felt this story deserved a spot in the Almanac for two reasons: It brings to light the state's ambivalent stand on liquor and it is a bright spot for those who look for signs of intelligent behavior in the universe.

Resources for "Land Runs":

Material for land runs comes almost totally from a reading of various Oklahoma history texts.

Resources for "Legal Liquor":

The Robert Cotton Collection is held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories of our state's past.

This week, land runs and legal liquor make the news.

Oklahoma is well known for its various land openings. The first land run occurred in 1889, and it was in this week in 1906 that the last official land opening in Oklahoma took place. In the evening of August 6th, 1906 land offices shut their doors and the lands of the Wichita, Caddo, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes were officially settled.

In order to avoid the confusion and violence surrounding the land run events, these lands called the "new country" were settled using the lottery system. Once all of the Native American residents had chosen their allotments, prospective settlers registered with the federal land offices in El Reno or Lawton, and names were drawn to determine those persons that would receive 160 acres. Winners lined up in the same order that they were chosen and began selecting their parcels of land. Settlers with small numbers had first dibs on the quarter sections while those holding larger numbers had to wait and take what was left.

The towns of Hobart, Anadarko and Lawton came into being with this land opening as did Caddo, Kiowa, Comanche, Tillman and Cotton counties. This was the last official land opening to be held in Oklahoma; following the disbursement of 1906, all future land would simply be sold to the highest bidder.

It was on August 9th, 1960 that Oklahomans were greeted with some welcome financial reports. As of August 1960 the selling of liquor had been legal in Oklahoma for one year. State officials reported that the revenue gained by the state due to the liquor sales would top 25 million dollars for the first year alone.

From 1907 to 1959 the law of prohibition ruled over Oklahoma making it illegal to sell or transport liquor within the state. Finally in 1959 prohibition opponents gathered enough support to repeal the law. Semi-trucks with trailers full of liquor crowded the borders around the state on the first day of legal liquor, and sales throughout the state were brisk.

Despite negative predictions by prohibition supporters, state officials announced that one year after legal liquor sales began per-capita consumption of liquor decreased by almost half, and perhaps more importantly, Oklahoma now had an extra 25 million dollars in the bank...and that's what happened this week in Oklahoma history.

I'm Steven Kite.

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

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