You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!

Did you know that the beloved musical Oklahoma! was based on a play by Oklahoma’s own Lynn Riggs? Riggs was born on a farm in Claremore in 1899, in what was then known as Indian Territory. His professional career produced 21 full length plays as well as multiple poems and short stories. Green Grow The Lilacs, with it’s title from a nineteenth century folksong of the same name, was published by Riggs in 1931 and was quickly picked up by the Guild Theater (now August Wilson Theatre) in New York City and was first performed on January 26, 1931.

Collection Identifier 1971.004.4


It was performed 64 times on Broadway, touring part of the country. The story is rich in American pioneer history with plenty of pioneer grit and humor, and immediately started getting positive reviews from newspapers all over New York.

Collection Identifier 1971.004.4

Collection Identifier 1971.004.4

The play caught the attention of renowned Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, and they got to work putting music and lyrics to the classic American tale. The musical was first debut on March 31, 1943 at the St. James Theatre in New York City and was soon touring the country.

Collection Identifier 1971.004.14

Collection Identifier 1971.004.14

The musical soon got its film adaptation and was premiered October 11, 1955, starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae.

Lynn Riggs was proud of his Oklahoma roots. The love he held for the land shows in nearly all of his works and is still cherished by Americans today. Riggs lead a rich and complex life. He was part Cherokee, gay, and served in the military during WWII.

If you would like to explore our collection on Lynn Riggs, Special Collections is located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm. If you would like to see any other part of our collections, we are open to questions at

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Now on Display: Life in the Circus

McFarlin Library Special Collections is proud to announce our first physical exhibit since March 2020 titled “Life in the Circus”. Graduate students from the Museum Science and Management program designed and implemented the exhibit this past semester.

The exhibit focuses on the inner workings of circus life by spotlighting performers, animal acts, guest experience, famous showmen, and the circus in Oklahoma specifically. It features newspaper clippings, photographs, and ephemera found in our multiple circus collections here at Special Collections.

The exhibit will be showcased in Special collections until March 2022. We are located in McFarlin Library on the fifth floor, open Monday through Friday 8-4:30pm. Be sure to check out the work of our graduate students and learn all about circus life in the 20th century!

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University Memories

Happy Holidays from Special Collections! This time of year is wonderful to sit back and look upon the memories created throughout the year. And here at Special Collections, we are able to look back quite a few years! Our student workers are currently working on a project to get our University negatives digitized for the public. Though with thousands of negatives to scan in, this will definitely take our students some time to do. These negatives go back to Henry Kendall College days, before merging with the proposed Robert McFarlin Methodist College to become Tulsa University in 1921.  So take a break from cramming for finals or decorating your tree and look back upon the University of Tulsa throughout the 20th century.



Special Collections will be closed December 23nd through January 2nd. If you would like more information about our collections, we are located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm and are open to questions at


See you in the new year!

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Gus Welch Collection

Editor’s Note: This blog post comes to us from Saige Blanchard, a library student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. Saige completed an internship with Special Collections in conjunction with her archival processing classes, and as part of her portfolio work, she’s written a summary of her experiences.

This semester I had the wonderful opportunity to complete an archival internship with Marc Carlson and the rest of the University of Tulsa Special Collections staff. This experience introduced me to the many phases of archival processing. The goal of my internship was to create a finding aid for the Gus Welch Papers, a collection that the university acquired in 1995. In this blog post I will outline and describe the course of my adventure in processing the Gus Welch Papers.  

As a student eager to please it can be a bit intimidating when you’re handed a completely unarranged archival collection and expected to make something of it. That feeling doesn’t last forever! With some help from my TU mentors I was able to find direction in my work, starting with an initial analysis of the collection. There were originally 3 boxes in this collection, filled with items in no particular order. I took a few weeks to look through the items and become familiar with them, which was really interesting. It’s super easy to get invested in correspondence and memorabilia! There were several times I found myself admiring handwriting, analyzing clothing styles in old photos, and fishing for familiar names in publications. It was especially fun learning about Gus Welch, Jim Thorpe, and Native American sports history! 

The next step I took was locating duplicate items and creating some sort of logical arrangement for the collection. There are hundreds of newspaper clippings in this collection, so finding duplicates in those took me a long time! It was nice, though, because I became extremely familiar with the clippings and what sort of stories they covered. As for arrangement, I tried organizing the items in groupings that shared the same format. Looking at the finding aid you can see these groupings as series. Once I had decided on arrangement categories I physically put each one together and further organized them alphabetically and/or chronologically.  

At this point I was ready to start processing the items in a finding a id. This phase of the internship was exciting because I was finally able to use things I’ve learned in library school first hand, such as Describing Archives, a Content Standard and Library of Congress Subject Headings. Within each series every item (besides individual newspaper clippings) has a designated identification record. I manually created these records, in addition to titling them, inputting a unique identifier, selecting their language and dates of creation (when applicable), and including any additional notes pertaining to their scope and content. I would say that I was most attentive about the unique identifiers, since these are how researchers are able to locate items within the collection.  

For me, one of the most complicated and fun parts was naming and describing the photographs. At first I couldn’t tell how much detail I needed to put into the descriptions, since they are visual objects. I decided to include any written notations on the photographs as well as any identifiable figures. This seems like the type of information a researcher would find most important and if they were eager to see the photographs they could always visit the collection! Luckily I’ve done my fair share of research, so it was easy to put myself in their shoes.  

I’m wrapping up my internship by double, triple, and quadruple checking my work and then officially housing the documents. When I’m finished each series will be divided into folders and those will be in boxes. Each box will have a barcode and a unique identifier. It’s so organized, I love it! I’ve had a blast doing this internship and if my future holds archival work I will be very happy. I am also proud of the work I accomplished up in the tower this semester. Thank you so much, TU!  

You can view the finding aid for the Gus Welch Papers at this link. If you’d like to request scans, please contact Special Collections at

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When it comes to Thanksgiving, it is sometimes easy to forget the narrative of our Indigenous Peoples. However, the voices that prevail continue to give prayers of thanksgiving. One of these voices is Soan Mahngotaysee (sooahn= swan) (mon-go-tahi-see), Chief Strongheart of the Cherokee Nation. In his autobiography, he recounts his thanksgiving prayers from years past.

Another documentation rich in culture is the Seneca Thanksgiving Rituals, compiled by American linguist Wallace L. Chafe and featured in the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 183. It contains Seneca thanksgiving text, performances, songs, and translations. There are also multiple sources included on where to find recorded versions of the thanksgiving rituals.

A “Thanktgvinh Proclamation” was made in 1886 by Dennis Wolf Bushyhead, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1879-1887. He declares November 25th to be a day of thanksgiving and praise and “recommend[s] to all Cherokees to “keep” the said Anniversary soberly, gladly, and lovingly…”.

We at Special Collections wish everyone a safe holiday. A reminder that we are closed the rest of the week, but will reopen Monday, November 29th. If you would like more information about our collections, we are located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm and are open to questions at

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Lewis and Clark Expedition

If you ever travel to St. Charles, Missouri, you are bound to discover a wealth of knowledge about the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for it was the starting point of their journey. Their travels lasted from 1804 through 1806 in which they mapped out the land that had yet to be explored by Americans. It is important to remember, however, that they did not discover this land. Their expedition was helped in great part by the Native peoples who already inhabited the area.

Here in Special Collections, we house a great deal of material pertaining to Lewis and Clark’s travels. We have numerous journals from members of the expedition, including Meriwether Lewis himself, and Patrick Gass, one of the persons employed in the expedition. These journals were kept throughout their journeys are were published after their return.

Entries include description of the country, transactions during the expedition, and interactions with inhabitants, climate, animals, etc. throughout the trip. Below includes an entry from Lewis dated September 3, 1804.

We also house a variety of published sketch maps of the expedition. These include maps sketched by Lewis, various Native tribes, and other members of the journey. Below includes a full maps of their expedition, including the trail they took to the coast, and the separate journey of Lewis and Clark back to St. Charles.

This sketch map was given to Lewis and Clark by Native Americans at Flathead River Camp, May 29-31, 1806. It shows trails and villages from the mouth of Clark’s River to the Three Forks of the Missouri.

It is important to not forget the Shoshone woman Sacagawea who accompanied Lewis and Clark’s expedition from 1805 to 1806. Her  skills as an interpreter and knowledge of the landscape was invaluable to the white explorers. Though we do not house first hand accounts from Sacagawea, we do have many books written about her life and her time spent with Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

Another interesting item, though dated before the expedition itself, is a handwritten note from William Clark requesting a pint of whiskey for the Chickasaw Indians. The letter is dated May 30, 1794 from Greenville, Ohio. It is signed by William Clark, as well as John Mills, Legion’s adjutant approving the request to the adjutant quartermaster. In 1794, Clark was a Lieutenant in the 4th sub-legion of the Legion of the U.S. under “Mad Anthony” Wayne.

If you would like to explore our collection on Lewis and Clark’s expedition, Special Collections is located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm. If you would like to explore any other part of our collections, we are open to questions at

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Jane Austen

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey 

Beloved Jane Austen is most notably known for her six major novels. Most dear to both my heart and to Austen’s is Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813. Of her creation, Austen says, “I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” Special Collections houses a first edition Pride and Prejudice, the first edition to be printed in one volume in 1833. Along with this, Special Collections houses first editions of Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Love & Friendship, her work from adolescence.

These editions include beautiful artwork, spines, and boards. Below shows the elaborate gilt stamped floral pattern on maroon paper boards on the cover of Love & Friendship, and the title pages for Pride and Prejudice and Emma.


Along with these wonderful works, Special Collection houses A memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew, J. E. Austen Leigh, which includes her posthumously published novel Lady Susan along with her abandoned novel The Watsons. 

Though she was only with us for 41 years, Jane Austen lead a rich life which transferred to her novels. Her sister, Cassandra, inspired the sisterly love shown in many of her stories. Austen even was proposed marriage by Harris Bigg-Wither, though she refused the proposal the next morning. In a letter to her niece about the almost marriage, Austen states “nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without love”.

If you would like to explore our Jane Austen collection or other notable writers, Special Collections is located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm. If you would like to explore any other part of our collections, we are open to questions at

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WWI Memorabilia

World War I is one of the larger collections we house at Special Collections. This ranges from numerous items such as correspondence, trench maps, physical items such as a nurse’s cap, diaries, postcards and more. The diaries show everyday life while abroad. Private Fred Hickerson was a part of Company B. 314th Ammo train, 89th Division and kept a record primarily while he was stationed in France. Below is a page dated from October 9-10, 1918 where he talks of “excitement” happening. Included in the diary was a photo of Fred at 60 years old, put in the diary before we received this item to our collection in 2009.


James B. Williamson, serving with 101st engineers, wrote many letters to his sister, Mary. The letter below is dated February 25, 1918 in which he tells Mary of his arrival to the front. Although he talks of German shells falling near, he assures his sister “I am in the best of health and gets plenty to eat”.


Corporal Alton Conrad Rowe of Company A, 301st Engineers AEF sent over 80 postcards to family members and his fiancée, mailed from Camp Devens (Massachusetts) as well as various places in France and Germany such as Paris, Coblenz, and Metz. This postcard was sent to Alton’s “Pop”, Alton Conrad Rowe Sr., dated March 9, 1919, showing a toppled statue of Frederick III.


Edward Thomas Van Wart of the United Stated Navy Reserve kept detailed diaries while aboard various United States ships during the war. He even kept folded papers in his journals, such as war warnings from September 2, 1918 and a ‘to-do’ list left for Edward by the Captain while he was away. A photo was also included in the journals and is presumed to be of Edward.


Memories were also collected during war times through scrapbooks. One we have in our collection was put together by Minnie Allen, a reserve nurse in the Army Nurse Corps. She includes photos, drawings, news clippings, notes, telegrams, poems, and other miscellaneous ephemera. Included with the scrapbook is her photographic and finger-printed War Department Certificate of Identity dated August 31, 1918.


If you would like to explore our WWI collections, Special Collections is located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm. If you would like to explore any other part of our collections, we are open to questions at

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Medieval-era Manuscripts and Incunabula

McFarlin Library Special Collections is home to an extraordinary diverse and old narrative. Some dating back as far as 1207 CE, such as our original leaf from the Koran. The writer spent 22 years of his life working on the book in which this leaf originated from. To be specific, the work was finished at 4pm on March 22, 1207. The red lettering is in Persian, the black words are Arabic, and solid gold leaf is exhibited on the the page. This book was found in Tehran, Iran in 1952.









Another original leaf included in our collection is dated 1277 CE. This book portrays the principles of Islam as interpreted by the Shaafi belief. In addition to discussing the principles of the Islam religion, such as fasting, praying, zaaka (giving money to the poor), and hejah (visiting Mecca), it also discusses questions in regards to birth, courtship, marriage, divorce, and death specifically according to the Shaafi belief. This page is hand lettered and was found in Egypt.

As well as religious pages, we also house pages on varied subjects of natural history. For Plinius, this included the property of eggshells (which he stated could not be broken when stood up vertically), the advantages and disadvantages of wine drinking, and medical qualities of various herbs, flowers, and berries. Plinius also includes remedies for ailments such as chronic ulcers, convulsions, and stomach pains (in which he prescribes copper granules stewed in wine), as well as ulcers and nervous pain (in which he prescribes honey for its natural antiseptic qualities). This original leaf is dated 1563 CE and is written in Latin.

Our library also includes unique items, such as an original page of a Catholic Bible dated 1701 CE and printed in Strasburg, Germany. This page is made of rags and can be washed and starched. The ink will not run.

If you would like to explore our Medieval-era manuscripts and incunabula, Special Collection is located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library. We are open 8-4:30pm. If you would like to explore any other part of our collections, we are open to questions at

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Graduation—The Big Sendoff

When WordPress publishes this post, I will be in the H.A. Chapman field, wearing my cap, gown, and hood and celebrating my graduation from the Museum Science and Management program. I have loved my time at TU and I’m excited to be a TU alumna. I thought it would be a fitting end to blog about the graduation and commencement materials we have in Special Collections as part of the celebration.

The first, and one of my favorite finds, is the program to the First Annual Commencement of the University of Tulsa on May 21, 1921, exactly one hundred years ago this month. The program also notes that it’s the twenty-sixth Annual Commencement for Henry Kendall College. My ceremony will be just 16 days and half an hour short of the exact moment of TU’s first commencement.

This undated photo shows graduates in front of McFarlin Library at night, which is just super cool. Although my ceremony is at 10:00 am, the Undergraduate ceremony will be at 8:00 pm, so it will probably be dark by the end.

In a previous post, I wrote about Aimee Whitman Marrs, the Navy’s first female psychologist, but in it I did not share the photos of her graduation from TU.


Our materials are not limited only to TU though. Among the papers in the Nell Stapler Bradshaw collection is a small newspaper clipping featuring high school graduates talking about the summer vacation and starting college in the fall.

This 1934 Commencement program struck me as interesting because it lists Tulsa Central High School, Clinton High School, and Turley High School.

Elsewhere in Oklahoma, we have a 1928 invitation to the Oklahoma A and M College, which eventually became Oklahoma State University. The invitation was from C. Bernard Goodall and is housed in our Oklahoma collection.

Since moving to Oklahoma, I have learned a little about the friendly rivalry between Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, so to maintain balance in the force, I found a program from OU’s 1906 Commencement.

The Kirksville State Normal School (now known as Truman State University) is located in Kirksville, Missouri. It was the first teachers’ college in Missouri, which I thought was neat, since my undergraduate school, the University of Central Arkansas, was the first teachers’ college in Arkansas (and known as Arkansas State Normal School for many years).

While we most often think of graduation in terms of high school or university, I found an invitation to the 1927 United States Naval Academy graduation. Robert Fravel graduated as a midshipman, which is the lowest-ranked officer in the Navy.


I imagine that all of these people felt excited and nervous to graduate and move on to new things the same as I am now and graduates well into the future will be. Some probably had careers lined up and some probably looked for work, and so far I find myself in the latter category, but hopeful. While Kelsey and I are leaving, Special Collections will always be here. For in person appointments (TU affiliates) or remote requests (non-affiliates), please email Have a happy, safe, and healthy summer break!

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