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Dictionary Project, Volume X: Ooooooak-lahoma!

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 4.

Welcome to Oklahoma and Indian Territory, as it looked in 1897. According to Wikipedia, the two would be combined into a single state in 1907, six years after this Atlas was published, ten years after this map was drawn, and 73 years after this particular territory was created (if I understand the Wikipedia article linked up there correctly) under the Indian Intercourse Act. (How aptly named!)

IMG_1871My husband is in Tulsa this week, on business. And Tulsa, I note, is in the green-bordered part of this map, in Creek Nation territory, near the border with the Cherokee. (Oh, the arrogance of those lawmakers and drawers of borders.)

Every time I look at a map of this part of the US, I wonder about that skinny western part of Oklahoma – the panhandle. The part that throws off the scale of the whole state so much that, to make it all fill a single two-page spread, they had to chop it off and overlay it on north Texas. Why is that 270-km-wide, 55-km-high strip part of Oklahoma, rather than Texas? Why so skinny? How did the borders get drawn exactly there? Why doesn’t the OK panhandle’s western edge line up with the western edge of the Texas panhandle? How big a fight was there, about that 3.5 km (2-and-a-bit miles?) of high plains and grassland? (I measured it; thank you Google Maps.)


These are the historical and geographical questions that tickle at the corners of my mind when I should be doing productive things. (This is what it’s like to be me.) One day I might even look into the answers. In the meantime, I’ve got homework, writing, laundry, and vacuuming to do, among other things. I might even do them.

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