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AUCTION 20

Large Archive on Oklahoma Republican Party
Transition from Territory to Statehood
1900-1908

102. [OKLAHOMA INDIAN TERRITORY AND EARLY STATEHOOD]. Personal archive of correspondence to and from Samuel Grant Victor, 1900-1908. Approximately 1800 items plus printed ephemera scattered throughout the collection, and a few maps. Consists of autograph letters signed and typescript letters signed to Victor from various correspondents and of typescript retained copies of correspondence from Victor. Mostly 4to, one page, although many letters are longer. Some in smaller formats. Condition is generally fine to very good, although a few items have some water damage and some are faded. Preserved in fifteen three-ring binders with each letter in its own sleeve and the entire collection in chronological order. The printed ephemera consists generally of Republican publications concerning campaign meetings, rallies, and political meetings, including tickets to national conventions. Copies of some historic photographs concerning Victor and his family are also included, as are two heavily damaged large photographs of Victor and his wife. Finally, included are two lithographed maps—one from 1923 entitled Outline Map Red River Oil Field (neat line to neat line 39.7 x 72.2 cm); and another printed in color from 1923 entitled Map of Disposals; Lands Bordering Red River Receivership Area...Sheet No. 2 (neat line to neat line 80.1 x 123.5 cm). Both creased where formerly folded but in good condition and with contemporay manuscript annotations presumably in Victor’s hand. The collection was discovered in 2005 in an Oklahoma house, the contents of which were being sold.

     According to biographical information gleaned from the correspondence and other sources, Victor (1867-1934) was born in Phlashi County, Illinois, on November 17, 1867, and received a common schools education. He was a brick mason who served his apprenticeship in Cairo, Illinois. He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1886, where he helped organize the brick masons union in 1887. He subsequently moved to Indian Territory in 1891, where he married Cherokee Delilah C. Hastings (1870-1921) on February 16 of that year. Both he and his future wife had graduated from the Cherokee National Seminary in June, 1890, where no doubt they met. The couple had five children. He was elected chairman of the Indian Territory Republican Committee in 1901, a position he held for six years; he was also a member of the Republican Committee in Cherokee Territory. Subsequently, he was appointed a U.S. Marshall for the Southern District of Territory in April, 1908. He also appears at some point to have been admitted to the bar and was also a member of the Knights of Pythias. The Victors are buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Afton, Oklahoma, a community in the far northeastern corner of the state, where they lived for many years.

     The backdrop of this archive is the critical period in which Oklahoma was moving from a territory to a state in its own right. The admission of new states was fraught with difficult questions on which Democrats and Republicans held profoundly different views and contested fiercely the votes of those who would attend constitutional conventions in various venues. Oklahoma’s situation was unique in that it was possible that the Indian territories could be admitted as their own state while the rest of the territory could also be admitted a separate state. Indeed, the State of Sequoyah had been proposed in 1905 as a separate political entity (see No. 114 herein), although President Roosevelt eventually determined that Oklahoma would be admitted as a single state rather than as two states. Other large questions concerned the doctrine of “separate but equal” education facilities for Blacks and Anglos and the problem of whether to write prohibition into the new constitution or to leave the decision concerning alcohol sales to local choice. All of these questions are debated at length in this archive by various writers and by Victor himself.

     The most fascinating aspect of this archive is the minute details it reveals about Republican efforts to carry the 1906 constitutional convention, an effort in which they were unsuccessful. The letters that pour into him from every part of the territory often contain frank and detailed assessments of local communities and their problems, all the way from disreputable and disloyal party members to the perennial question of who will be appointed postmaster. Some writers are extraordinarily blunt about the problems of courting the “negro” and the Indian vote. Victor is also besieged by requests for powerful Republican orators to address and motivate local meetings, the need for campaign literature, for financial backing, and for guidance on forming Republican clubs, which were the backbone of the party’s organizational efforts. Victor, as chairman of the Republican party, was consulted on nearly every minor or major squabble or question that arose in that effort, and the collection is quite rich in materials that document those concerns and the party’s efforts to succeed at the polls. It would, indeed, be a challenge to find a collection that was more revealing of the problems of both the Republican party and the territory given Victor’s crucial position in the entire process. He was truly the spider at the center of the orb who was attuned to every distant movement in the web. Finally, the later letters addressed to him and written by him as U. S. marshal also are equally revealing of the problems of administering justice in the new state. Moonshiners, for example, remained a constant problem.

     The process of organizing “clubs” was obviously critical to Republican efforts in Oklahoma. Those clubs were in fact the backbone of the party organization both for logistical and financial purposes. Not only did they contribute votes to the cause, but also they were expected to contribute money. Victor is constantly writing his Republican friends in various parts of the territory asking if they have clubs already and if so who the officers are. He, in turn, is frequently written by concerned fellow Republicans who wish to establish an organization in their locales. What would seem a straightforward process was, however, attended by numerous difficulties. Printed campaign and party literature was apparently in short supply, and Victor was often unable to supply sufficient quantities to those interested in obtaining it. Poll books for registering voters were also scarce. Requests for prominent speakers often went unfulfilled, despite numerous letters from Victor to prominent Republicans asking that they participate. Finally, the actual process of organizing clubs had its own local difficulties. In one instance a local Republican stalwart wrote Victor to report that the organizational meeting was a farce dominated by drunken Blacks and Indians. The idealistic face but sometimes dark underside of such political machinations are on full display in this correspondence.

The collection and its contents break down as follow:

1900-1903: Approximately 70 letters, mostly concerning political affairs and appointments. One letter from E. S. Bessy, a Republican leader with Victor in the Cherokee nation, remarks that after seeing the printed version of the Republican Rules and Regulations he can only conclude from the frequent typographical errors, “at least some of the committee were drunk at the time they were formulated.” He suggests that “Men with an academic education should do better” and proposes a second, corrected edition.

1904: Approximately 70 letters, concentrating heavily on the problem of establishing Republican clubs in various locales. Also included are some letters concerning Victor’s own personal dealings in land, hay, and cattle. One letter seeks Victor’s guidance on whether the local Republican club should support separate statehood for the Indian territories.

1905: Approximately 100 letters, again concentrating heavily on the problem of establishing Republican clubs. Other letters touch on the need for polling books so that local Republicans can verify eligible voters and on the need to construct favorable voting districts. A small broadside announces a meeting in Wewoka, a town the Creek nation, for forming a local Republican Club.

1906: Approximately 1100 letters reflecting all aspects of Republican activities in this crucial year. The election for members of Oklahoma’s constitutional convention was held on November 6, 1906, and the letters here document the party’s frantic but unsuccessful activities to prevail in that contest. Victor is besieged by requests for printed campaign literature, polling books, money, organizational guidance, and powerful orators who can espouse the Republican cause. He himself writes many letters to Republican heavy-hitters, many of them in remote locales, pleading that they come to Oklahoma to rally the troops. (Regrettably, almost all such invitations are declined.) Schemes are floated to establish Republican leaning newspapers in various locales.

Of special interest is the question of “negroes,” who Victor feels should be natural Republicans based on Lincoln’s legacy but who are nevertheless problematic. Natural affinity does not appear to be the case. He is repeatedly asked for “negro” speakers who can persuade others to vote the Republican ticket. Jim Crow laws and the “negro question” are constantly discussed, especially whether they shall be afforded separate but equal treatment. It was especially important to Republicans that “negroes” not run as delegates to the convention. On September 22, Victor wrote Lee Moore of Atoka and basically ordered him to drop out of the race, since his candidacy would be divisive and result in the election of a Democrat. Moore responded vigorously, although he demurred, on the 24th prophetically stating, “the negro must work out his own destiny.” The correspondence reveals that the Republicans apparently had little better success with the large Native American population.

The question of favorable voting districts was also critical. The correspondence is replete with requests for polling books, so that legitimate voters and their addresses may be ascertained. Naturally, both parties were seeking to gerrymander districts. On July 14, L. M. Lett of Dustin wrote Victor explaining how this process would work in his district. After explaining that he proposes to exclude one area, he promises Victor, “This I think will assure us of a Republican Delegate from this district.” On the other hand, the Democrats are hardly indolent. On July 19, Olin W. Meacham from Henryetta writes Victor exposing a Democratic gerrymander in his area by which they intend “to shut our town out.”

The results of the election were disastrous for Republicans, who were defeated by the Democrats. One sardonic writer to Victor in the wake of that defeat is worth quoting. J. L. Skinner of Wetumka wrote Victor on the day following the election: “I heartily congratulate you, sir, upon your great victory. Another such victory, sir, would cost us the entire party, you having lost already more than one half of the party’s strength by your wise management.” Sic transit gloria mundi.

1907: 8 letters on routine matters.

1908: Approximately 400 letters concerning his duties as U. S. Marshall in Oklahoma. The letters give great insight into the political nature of such appointments, including Victor’s own nomination, the progress of which is plotted at length in nearly daily telegrams from Washington, D.C., leading up to his swearing in on April 17, 1908. Upon assuming his duties, Victor is deluged by deputy marshals seeking reappointment and others who wish to assume such an office. G. A. Bruce, an African-American from McAlester, writes Victor on printed letterhead with his portrait on March 23 seeking appointment as a jail guard. From South McAlester, Deputy Marshall Harry G. Matson writes on April 28 denying that he is a trouble-making drunk. Charles O. Frye, a Republican committeeman from Sallisaw, writes on July 14 to complain that Victor has appointed a deputy who is not a true party member: “If Mr. Rhodes is a Republican, he has never shown it in this county.” The day-to-day details of prisoner custody, feeding and clothing them, and serving subpoenas constitute a large part of the correspondence.

The ephemera separate from the correspondence include several examples of campaign literature and other such political publications. For example, a somewhat water stained Chicago guide for delegates to the 1916 Chicago Republican convention is present, as are Victor’s admission tickets. He apparently also attended the convention in 1920 in Washington, D.C., for which tickets are also present here. Copies of a few historical photographs round out the ephemera.

A more dense, detailed collection of a private individual so engaged as he was in the politics of the latter days of the Oklahoma Territory and early days of statehood would be difficult to encounter. Despite what are apparently some gaps in the correspondence, the collection still stands as an important research resource into the detailed, minute affairs that ultimately informed the fate of Oklahoma. Someone’s dissertation awaits. ($10,000-20,000)

Sold. Hammer: $17,000.00; Price Realized: $19,975.00

 

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