published : 2023-11-16

On this day in history, November 16, 1907, Oklahoma joins Union as 46th state

Boomers who earlier stormed across Oklahoma's 'unassigned lands' began lobbying for statehood almost immediately

The Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 - A historic photograph capturing the chaotic moment as settlers rush to claim the unassigned lands. (Taken with Nikon D850)

The state of Oklahoma, once consisting of vast tracts of sparse 'unassigned lands' in the Great Plains, joined the Union on this day in history, Nov. 16, 1907.

"Oklahoma has become a state, standing on full equity with her elder sisters, and her future is assured by her great natural resources," President Theodore Roosevelt announced to Congress days later.

As the nation's 46th state, Oklahoma became the first new territory to achieve statehood since Utah in 1896.

Oklahoma would be followed by New Mexico and Arizona in 1912 to complete the contiguous 48 states — then Alaska and Hawaii to give the nation the 50 United States it enjoys today.

The United States briefly flew a 46-star flag, from July 4, 1908, until July 4, 1912, before it was replaced by the more familiar World War II-era 48-star flag.

Oklahoma was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

It was born from the most fevered land rush in American history, the Land Run of 1889.

President Theodore Roosevelt addressing Congress on Oklahoma's statehood - An iconic image of Roosevelt delivering his speech announcing Oklahoma's official statehood. (Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

Under an earlier law, the Homestead Act of 1862, legal settlers could claim 160 acres of public land — for free — if they lived on and improved the land for five years.

The hopeful Oklahoma settlers who gathered in the boomtowns quickly became known as 'boomers.' Those who rushed the land illegally too soon were derided as 'sooners.'

Despite the feverish land rush, vast Oklahoma is still a state of wide-open spaces — a testament to just how large the nation remains.

Oklahoma today has roughly 4 million residents — about half the population of New York City — spread across a sprawling 69,000 square miles.

The state is larger in size than major European nations such as Greece (51,000 square miles), England (50,000 square miles), and Portugal (34,000 square miles).

The nation's most densely populated state, New Jersey, has 9.3 million residents packed into just 8,700 square miles.

The April 1889 land rush is reenacted on Saturdays each autumn when the horse-drawn 'Sooner Schooner' — a replica of a Conestoga wagon — races across the field before the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team takes the field.

The University of Oklahoma Sooners' Sooner Schooner - A vibrant photo showcasing the iconic Conestoga wagon replica racing across the field during a football game. (Taken with Sony Alpha A7 III)

'Boomer Schooner' is the university fight song and a popular 1-2 chant — Boomer! Sooner! — at sporting events today.

The song was written in 1905, showing that Oklahoman residents embraced the legacy even before they achieved statehood.

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Kerry J. Byrne is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.

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