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This Week in Sapulpa History – Sapulpa’s Earliest Fourth of July Celebrations
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in history, the Fourth of July for the United States is a celebration. In Sapulpa, celebration was what our town loved to do and express our fortune and gratitude.
In 1907, a great midsummer fair and 4th of July celebration was a three-day event. “Come to Sapulpa July 2-3-4 for a great big time. There will be something doing every minute.”
The town clubs were able to put together plays or skits that could be seen at the Lucile Opera House. Invites were sent to “one each of the Five Chiefs of the Nations.” Indigenous People from all over the state was present to the attraction, including Chief Pleasant Porter of the Creeks.
Carnival themed attractions were enjoyed by the community. Shows of nature, such as a snake-eaters attraction, were present. An incident involving a monkey and a balloon was a tragic accident. A monkey was attached to a balloon and a parachute; it failed to open and fell eight hundred feet.
Contests and games were another huge event in the program. A roping contest with “twenty wild steers were roped.” Bill Chalk won second place; Buck Matthews in first place. Matthews won $50 for the contest. “The ball game between Jenks and Sapulpa, started out to be a good one, a close game, with Sapulpa in the lead.*”
*Note: the article did not mention who won the ballgame.
It was stated that anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 people came to the Sapulpa events.
In just a few short years, Sapulpa had been experiencing a heat wave for some time. The paper reported a temperature of between 109 and 111 for the day of July 3rd, 1911. At the time, this was the hottest day in Sapulpa history.
The people of Sapulpa had a special treat, however, to keep them cool and entertained for the 4th of July. A big barbecue was arranged at the Electric Park with “all arrangements for entertaining crowds at the park are complete.” The Electric Park had a showing of moving pictures, a dance pavilion and other amusements in town. The trolley ran cars from both Sapulpa and Kiefer to the park. This park is located where Kelly Lane Park is now.
To keep you cool, Sapulpans would venture to the Grand Confectionery at 110 E Dewey and have a cold refreshment. “The most magnificent place of refreshment in Sapulpa.” It had just opened for the July 4th celebration back in 1909. The owners of The Grand, Nicholas Psihos and Salim Abdou, had been lavish in their expenditures. “The fountain of white marble is by all odds the most expensive and most beautiful that was ever imported to the city, costing upwards of $2,500.*”
*Note: in 1909, the $2,500 is roughly $72,000 with today’s inflation.
In 1912, however, an ordinance was enforced. “The police will strictly enforce the ‘Sane Fourth’ Ordinance.” Mayor S. J. Smith and City Attorney Harbison declared that the fireworks would be prohibited within city limits. “The use of toy pistols, dynamite, or torpedo canes and fire crackers over two inches in length is prohibited anywhere in the city.” It was said that the “decree is taken to mean that the ‘Glorious Fourth’ in Sapulpa this summer will be a mighty tame affair.*”
*Note: and it was a tamed one. There were not any articles the day before nor the day after indicating the celebration of the Fourth of July that year.
The following year, for Fourth of July in 1913, the headline read: “Anything but a ‘sane’ celebration of Independence Day in the City of Sapulpa.”
“From the beginning of sundown until a late hour at night, and even an early hour next morning, it was this order in the center of the city: Bang! Pop! Bang! Pop! Br-o-mm! Until one could hardly hear themselves think.”
“Sapulpa will not be entirely without a Fourth of July celebration this year thanks to the public spirit.” A local business, the Men’s Fashion Shop, hosted their own event. A balloon race from the top of their building at 27 E Dewey. “Every balloon will carry a prize!” It was described that each balloon was attached to a bottle that contained a note of the prize. The person who was able to snag the balloon as it descended received said prize. There would be twelve balloons and prizes. Each prize was an item or certificate from the store. And first prize was a balloon that had been labeled “Let Brisco Fit Your Coco” with the prize being a $5 gold piece*.
*Note: $5 in 1913 is roughly $150 in today’s money. And sadly, there were not any published articles about the winners of the balloon race.
The streets were packed with people shouting, listening, and watching and celebrating. The trolley cars ran into the night and people had loaded their firecrackers and torpedoes throughout the town.
“The streets were lined with people…with hundreds of packages of fireworks…and all seemed to be out participating in a ‘sane’ Fourth.”
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.