50 Interesting Facts About Oklahoma

Last updated on May 17th, 2020

Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and the 20th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It lies in the South Central region of the United States. The state attained statehood on November 16, 1907, becoming the 46th state to join the union. It shares its border with six states (Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kansas.) See the full list of the 50 states and their borders here. Oklahoma (nicknamed: the Sooner State) has 77 counties. The state’s capital is Oklahoma City. People who live in Oklahoma or who come from Oklahoma are called Oklahomans or Oklahomians. The abbreviation for Oklahoma is OK. 

Facts about Oklahoma

1. The name of the state is derived from the choctaw words “okla” and “humma”, meaning “red people”.[1]

2. The Oklahoma state motto is “Labor Omnia Vincit” – Labor conquers all things.

3. In 1889, when the U.S. government had planned to open approximately 2 million acres of land for settlement, many people entered the land before the land’s run designated time. These people were dubbed “sooners.” In 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th American state. The next year the University of Oklahoma’s football team took “Sooners” as its nickname. The expression “sooners” was then embraced as a nickname for the entire state. It is interesting to note here that on April 22, a pistol shot started the land run.[20]

Oklahoma on the map

4. Did you know that the land runs brought homesteaders from Japan, China, England, Mexico, Canada and France to Oklahoma? Thus the state has a population originating from a wide range of geographies and ethnicities.

5. Did you know that Oklahoma’s state capitol building is the only capitol with an oil well directly underneath it?[2]

6. Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. that produces Iodine. It is also one of the only four states that produce Helium.

7. Did you know that an oil well in OK erupted for 11 days before being brought under control? The incident happened in 1930 when the Mary Sudik No. 1 well erupted after striking a high-pressure formation of about 6,500 feet beneath the state capital. The well produced an astonishing 20,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.[22]

8. Shopping carts were first invented and used in Oklahoma before they were used anywhere else in the world. Sylvan Goldman, the owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, came up with an idea to build shopping carts to assist his customers in shopping. The first prototype of the cart was based on the folding chair. And on June 4, 1937, the cart was launched. Initially, it was a flop, however, with some advertising, the inventor managed to influence the shoppers to use the carts.[23,24]

9. Oklahoma was added to the United States as a part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

10. Cimarron County in OK is the only county in the United States that borders counties in five different states that include – Kansas, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. And it is also the only county in the nation that borders four states including– Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. (see the map)[8]

Oklahoma on the U.S. map
Oklahoma (in red) on the U.S. map with bordering states.

11. The Red River is 1,290 miles (2,080 km) long; for about half this distance, it serves as the Texas-Oklahoma boundary. The River’s color comes from the clay and minerals in the water.[26]  

12. Arcadia, Oklahoma has the world’s largest sculpture pop bottle. Neon lights are used to light up the 66-foot-tall sculpture at night.

13. Did you know that no Democratic presidential candidate has won a single county in the state since 2000?

14. The Oklahoma Panhandle consists of three counties – Cimarron (the state’s least populous county), Texas and Beaver, from west to east. The name of the regions comes from its similarity to the shape of a handle of a cooking pan. The region is 166 miles long and just 34 miles wide.[7]

15. The state’s highest point is Black Mesa and the lowest point is Little River.[1]

16. Because of the droughts and high winds that the state suffered during the 1930s, more than a million residents of Oklahoma migrated to California. The migrants were known as “Okies”.[2]

17. The “Dust Bowl” was the name given to the Southern Plains region of the United States that suffered from severe dust storms during a dry period in the 1930s. Due to the high winds and chocking dust, people and livestock were killed and crops failed across the entire region. The effects of the Dust Bowl coupled with the Great Depression pushed people to look elsewhere for work and better living conditions. The Dust Bowl, also known as “the Dirty Thirties,” started in 1930 and lasted for about a decade.

18. The worst dust storm during the period occurred on a Sunday on April 14, 1935, when 3 million tons of top soils are estimated to have blown off the Great Plains. The dust would move inside of even the well-sealed homes leaving a coating on food, skin and furniture.

19. Another amazing fact about OK is that that after California, Oklahoma has the second largest Native American population in the country.[3]

Flag of Oklahoma (facts about the flag)

facts about Oklahoma. Oklahoma flag
Oklahoma flag. Image credit – Wikipedia.org

20. Since explorers first visited the territory that became Oklahoma, as many as 14 flags have flown over it including those of four foreign nations.[21]

21. “Golden Driller” in Tulsa, Oklahoma is the sixth tallest statue in the United States. The statue was erected in 1953 to honor the workers of the oil industry. It is 75 foot tall and weighs 19,700 kg. For the most part of the 20th century, Tulsa, Oklahoma was known as the “Oil Capital of the World”.[14]

Golden Driller, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Golden Driller, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

22. The Center of the Universe, as it is commonly known in Oklahoma, is situated in downtown Tulsa. You might not understand the fuss about it by looking at it. The secret lies in how the fantastic spot defies the physics laws. Interestingly, you get to hear an intensified echo after you make a sound when inside the circle, but people outside the circle do not hear anything.[30] 

Center of the Universe attraction in Tulsa, Oklahoma where one can experience an acoustic anomaly.
Center of the Universe attraction in Tulsa, Oklahoma where one can experience an acoustic anomaly.

23. Oklahoma is the fifth most obese state in the U.S.[1]

24. Oklahoma’s economy is supported by livestock products such as cattle, dairy and broilers. The state receives majority of farm receipts from these sources. The state also produces plenty of wheat as well as others crops including peanuts, cotton, hay, sorghum etc.

25. “The Oklahoman” is the largest newspaper in the state and the 54th largest in the nation by circulation.[1]

26. Tornadoes are common in the state. Between 1950 and 2017, Oklahoma has been hit by 3824 tornadoes. Thus, on average, the state was hit by at least 56 tornadoes each year. For more data about tornadoes in the region, explore this source.[15]

27. The first tornado warning in the U.S. was issued in Oklahoma, on March 25, 1948. Due to the fact that the state is hit with tornadoes frequently, the state is also considered as a part of “Tornado Alley.” Tornado Alley is a nickname given to an area in the southern plains of the central United States that consistently experiences a high frequency of tornadoes each year. 

Oklahoma state quarter

28. The Oklahoma state quarter features an image of the stare bird, the Scissortail Flycatcher, in flight with its distinctive tail feathers spread.

29. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was blown up in 1995 because of a bomb that went off in a truck outside the building. The building was named for an OK native who became one of the youngest federal judges in U.S. history. Today, there is a 30,000 square foot museum and an outdoor memorial in the same place in memory of the lives lost.[29]

30. In 2007, the Longest lightning flash spanned a distance of 321 km (199.5 miles) horizontally from Tulsa near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border to the Oklahoma Panhandle above the United States.[5]

American bisons in the wilderness of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Oklahoma
American bison in the wilderness of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Oklahoma in the United States of America during a cold day in autumn.

31. The Bison was named the state mammal of Oklahoma in 1972. The animal has the ability to jump 6 feet vertically and it can run at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. It was also named the national mammal of the United States in 2016.[6]

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a tree near its nest.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a tree near its nest.

32. Kaw Lake in northern Oklahoma is home to one of the state’s largest populations of bald eagles. The largest bird’s nest was built by a pair of bald eagles, near St Petersburg, Florida, USA and measured 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in) wide and 6 m (20 ft) deep.[18,19]

33. Did you know that Lottie Williams from Tulsa, Oklahoma is the only person who has ever been hit with space trash? On January 22, 1997, she was hit by a 6-inch-long piece of a rocket. She did not sustain any injuries as the rocket hit her shoulder. Note that your odds of actually getting hit are about one in a trillion (the odds that you’ll get hit by lightning are one in 1.4 million).[16]

34. With more than 200, Oklahoma has the largest number of man-made lakes of any state in the United States. Isn’t this an impressive OK state fact.[9]

35. Tulsa and Oklahoma City are the major transport hubs. The state has well-develop networks of roads and highways and of railroads as well.

36. Pitcher, Oklahoma is one of the most toxic towns in the United States. The town was once a booming mining community and since the end of the mining activity in 1967, the town is left with dangerous levels of zinc, cadmium and lead. Furthermore, the data from EPA suggests that another town – Kotzebue in Alaska has the dubious honor of being the most toxic town in the U.S. The “Red Dog Mine” in the town is considered the source of release of toxic chemicals into the environment.[11,12]

37. Fort Sill army based in Lawton, Oklahoma is the final resting place of the world’s only atomic gun – Atomic Annie. This weapon was created in the 1950s during the Cold War. The gun was tested once and was never actually used in combat.[13]

38. According to a study, Oklahoma is the fifth worst state to have a baby. Mississippi (worst) tops the list followed by Alabama (second worst).[17]

A parking meter.
A parking meter.

39. The world’s first parking meter, known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed in the business district of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on 16 July 1935.[4]

40. The Pioneer Woman, a heroic bronze statue of a young woman, is seventeen feet high and weighs 12,000 pounds. It was erected in 1930. Pioneer Woman Museum was dedicated September 15, 1958, just east of the statue. The statue and the Museum depict and preserve the legacy of women from all races who have contributed to the development of Oklahoma.[28]

41. The Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City celebrates Native American Cultures. The event is held each year at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.[25]

42. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is in Oklahoma City, OK. The museum was founded in 1955 and has an internationally renowned collection of Western art and artifacts.[27]

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