Old Images of Oklahoma City: Historic Photos & Film

Categorised as Oklahoma
Old photo of the State Capitol Building at Oklahoma City, taken in November 1942
Old photo of the State Capitol Building at Oklahoma City, taken in November 1942. From the archives of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Glimpse history through fascinating old images of Oklahoma City, state capitol of Oklahoma, in the United States of America.

Roping Contest

As 1909 turned into 1910, Oklahoma City was host to some of the country’s best cowboys for a roping contest, including the “Champion roper of the world”, J.Ellison Carroll.

Old photo of the contestants at the roping contest in Oklahoma City from December 31, 1909 to January 1, 1910
Old photo of the contestants at the roping contest in Oklahoma City from December 31, 1909 to January 1, 1910. Includes J. Ellison Carroll, “Champion roper of the world”. From the archives of the SMU Libraries Digital Collections, uploaded to Flikr.

Oklahoma City in 1910

This early photo panorama was taken sometime about 1910, and shows Oklahoma City’s rising skyline and mature downtown.

To give a clearer view of the buildings and streets in this small image, I’ve taken five enlargements. They are a little bit fuzzy because of the resolution, but should show lots of extra visual details about the city at that time.

Old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910
Old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910. From the Haines Photo Co collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910. From the Haines Photo Co collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910. From the Haines Photo Co collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910. From the Haines Photo Co collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910. From the Haines Photo Co collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910
Closeup of part of an old panorama photo of Oklahoma City, taken around 1910. From the Haines Photo Co collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Oklahoma City in the 1930s

This vintage footage from the 1930s shows how close the Capitol was to the city’s many oil derricks.

As the camera pans round we see the Oklahoma State Capitol building, the Oklahoma Governor’s mansion, surrounding neighborhoods, and a sign for new development of Nichols Hills.

Oklahoma City. 1930. – OHS Film and Video Archives on YouTube

Kathryn Kelly

Kathryn was married to George Kelly Barnes, a prohibition gangster from Memphis, Tennessee.

In July 1933, he and his gang, including Kathryn and other family members, kidnapped the oil tycoon Charles F. Urschel, who lived in Oklahoma City.

Fellow oilman Walter R. Jarrett was also kidnapped at gunpoint from the game of bridge with Urschel and their wives, but he had been released 12 miles outside the city once Urschel’s identity had been confirmed by the gang.

Urschel was held hostage at Kathryn’s mother and step-father’s farm, at Paradise, Texas, for a week.

The kidnappers collected a $200,000 ransom, not realising their blindfolded victim had collected mental notes from what he could hear, and deliberately left lots of fingerprints. It was all evidence which would be investigated by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and lead to their arrests.

After their arrest at the Memphis residence of J.C. Tichenor, on September 26, 1933, George and Kathryn Kelly were flown to Oklahoma City and put on trial at the Post Office, Courthouse, and Federal Office Building there.

It was the first prosecution in which defendants were transported by airplane. It was also the first kidnapping trial after the passage of the Lindbergh Law, which made kidnapping a federal crime. And even more significantly, it was the first time film cameras were allowed to record federal criminal trials.

Despite their not-guilty plea, they were both convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on October 12, 1933. Five accomplices were also convicted in the city. Two further accomplices were located and tried in Texas.

Kathryn Kelly was released from prison in 1958. Under the assumed name of Lera Cleo Kelly, she lived quietly in Oklahoma until 1985, dying at the age of 81.

1933 mugshot of Kathryn Kelly, married to "Machine Gun Kelly
1933 mugshot of Kathryn Kelly, married to “Machine Gun Kelly”. She was arrested in Oklahoma City, having plotted to kidnap wealthy oil tycoon Charles Urschel. From the archives of the SMU Libraries Digital Collections, uploaded to Flikr.

Secondhand Row

This photo of Oklahoma City’s Secondhand Row was taken in 1940, a time of difficulty for many families in the state.

Old photo of Secondhand row, Oklahoma City, taken in 1940
Old photo of Secondhand row, Oklahoma City, taken in 1940. From the archives of the Mirian and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs at the Photography Collection of the New York Public Library.

Sonic Boom Experiment

In the 1960s, supersonic aircraft was a developing transportation technology. To check its safety on the human population below, scientists set up an experiment focussed on Oklahoma City.

Starting in February 1964, supersonic booms were set off frequently over the city for six months. Residents had to endure 1253 separate supersonic booms.

The damage done to property eventually led to the end of this experiment.

“Operation Bongo II” – Oklahoma City, OK – LoyalTV E110 – BancFirst Oklahoma on YouTube

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