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Developing history: 100-year-old photos of Oklahoma City seen for first time

A camera with photos of Oklahoma City buildings was among the items found inside a time capsule sealed a century ago.
Oklahoman Modified: February 26, 2014 at 10:52 am •  Published: February 25, 2014

Another photo shows a stretch of buildings along Main Street that later became home to the sprawling John A. Brown’s department store.

Only a few of the structures shown in the photos exist in 2014, including the original U.S. Post Office, now home to the city’s federal courthouse. A photo taken that looks west on Main Street at Robinson Avenue shows the Oil and Gas Building. The building at 108 N Robinson Ave. still stands, but with a new brick facade, at the northeast corner of Robinson and Main. The space shown as the Savoy Cafe in the 1913 photo is now home to the Sweets and Eats Cafe.

Williams’ favorite photograph, however, is one that did not immediately make sense to him.

The Putnam Co. Real Estate Exchange shown prominently in the photo was owned by Israel Mercer Putnam, an early day Oklahoma real estate developer and legislator. Putnam platted 2,000 acres for a separate city but never filed incorporation papers with the state that would have made it official. A year after the photo of his building was taken, a group of parents west of Oklahoma City decided to form their own school district in the area — creating the Putnam City Public School District.

“He is an important name in telling the story of city neighborhoods,” Williams said. “But if you look below that sign, you’ll see Westfall Drugstore — which donated the camera and where the film was processed.”

Williams notes the photos were not taken by a professional photographer but rather were shot in the same way people visiting or working downtown might take shots with their phones and cameras in 2014.

“These are very important,” Williams said. “Personally, I love them because this is an average Oklahoman taking the photos with a new $6 camera.”

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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The Century Chest

The Century Chest stayed sealed under concrete for 100 years before it was unearthed and opened on April 22, 2013. The time capsule was created as a fundraiser for First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City. Organizers wondered what people would think about the items in the chest in the future. Organizers also wondered what people 100 years earlier in 1813 would have thought of the gadgets they were burying with the chest.

“Those who open the chest 100 years from today, what will be their feelings? Will they look upon the wonders of 1913 as crude?” an editorial in The Daily Oklahoman read. In addition to the Kodak camera, other cutting-edge innovations of 1913 in the Century Chest included a 1913 Pioneer telephone and a phonograph with three recordings. One of those recordings is of ’89er and historian Angelo C. Scott, whose voice will be broadcast as part of an upcoming larger exhibit of the Century Chest at the Oklahoma History Center.


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