The New York S.H. Kress & Co. was an early-day 5¢-10¢-25¢ retailer with stores throughout the country. After announcing plans to establish itself here in July 1904, Kress opened shop at 217 W. Main on December 2, 1904. Soon, Kress expanded to include the 1st floor of the Illinois Hotel at 219 W. Main, as well.
A 1911 Daily Oklahoman article reported that Kress had stores located in 140 cities in the United States. After acquiring long-term leases of properties on the south side of Main Street, in February 1913 Kress announced plans to build a 5-story building across the street (south) of that location and in 1914 its existing properties were leased to Sidney L. Brock of Brock’s Dry Goods, forerunner of John A. Brown’s department store.
Although the fact did not meet the promise (the new building was 3-story, not 5, as shown in this 1950s photo), S.H. Kress relocated its downtown store to 218 W. Main in 1915 where it remained until Urban Renewal demolished it in the 1970s. (This 1940s photo shows the area but doesn’t show Kress very well).
More to the point of this article, though, S.H. Kress was not only a retailer, it was a prolific producer of postcards around the country, including Oklahoma City. If you are a postcard aficionado, many of the early-day Oklahoma City postcards you’ve seen or own were produced by S.H. Kress & Co.
The postcards shown in this article featuring Oklahoma City were produced by Kress in 1919 or 1920. Most often, Kress postcards were single cards but others were multiple-card fold-out sets with pictures on both sides, like this one. This particular fold-out set was sent by (Mr.?) H.L. Miller of Oklahoma City to Mr. R.O. Miller of Terre Haute, Indiana, on September 8, 1920, the postmark bearing “Oklahoma, Oklahoma,” which is to say, before the US Postal Service accepted Oklahoma City as the name of this town. Although the 2¢ stamp presumably accomplished its purpose, at some point along its meandering path the mailing found its way to the Abalache Book Shop, 2225A Exchange Avenue, Oklahoma City, until the date that I purchased it, February 12, 2010.
I’ll tell a story associated with the postcards by going back in time to September 20, 1920, or, at least, try to. In the story and post card notes, I’m guessing that H.L. Miller was the son who lived in Oklahoma City and that the Terre Haute addressee, R.O. Miller, was his dad though he could easily have been a brother or other family member. Other than the literal addressor and addressee names (H.L. Miller and R.O. Miller, respectively), the story and other name attributions below, are wholly fictional.
Your Day Begins. You are H.L. Miller, the proud owner of the fine home located in the area now called Mesta Park at 900 West 18th Street, Oklahoma City, built only three years earlier, but your dad, still living in Terre Haute, has never come to Oklahoma City for a visit. The date is Monday, September 20, 1920, and you just got out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to give yourself some time alone with your wife before the children get up to get ready for school. “Good morning, Charlotte,” you say as you give her a kiss on the cheek, “I’ll see if the paper is here yet.”
She starts brewing the coffee and you put on your robe and go out on the front porch to see if your Daily Oklahoman newspaper has arrived yet. “Drat,” you say to yourself, “late again.” “Charlotte,” you say upon entering the kitchen, “remind me to call Mr. Gaylord about delivery service. He hasn’t got the only paper in town, you know, now has he! By 5:35, the paper should be right by the front door.” “Yes, dear,” she replies, adding, “Have a seat — the coffee is almost ready.” Thump — you hear the paper hit your front door. “I’ll be right back,” you say.
Perusing the front page, you grumble to Charlotte, “Only ten pages today — must not be much news.” “The dratted socialists are trying to get seats in the New York Legislature and the Russians are trying to infiltrate Mexico,” you report to Charlotte as she starts work on the children’s breakfast. “Hey,” you say, “I see that Tennessee men are fighting the suffrage amendment. What do you think about that, my dear?” “They’re assholes,” she thinks to herself (women didn’t openly use such words in those days) and she merely says to you, “Oh, they’ll come around, just like you have, Harland. You know, I remember a time that you felt the same way.” “Hrumph,” you mutter.
On page two, you note that Tom Mix is playing in a movie at the Dreamland, thinking that might be good to see. You flip by page 3, page 4, and page 5 to get the sports page to see if the Oklahoma City Indians won their season-ending double-header yesterday with Des Moines. “Hey, we took both games,” you exclaimed, but added, “Tulsa won the pennant yesterday, though. But we had a heck of a year, winding up in third place behind Tulsa and Wichita.” You added, “I still chuckle at Omaha naming their team the Omahogs!” Charlotte agrees and chuckles with you.
Page 7, page 8 and page 9 don’t catch your fancy but you see on page 10 that the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is nearing completion. “A waste of public money,” you say to Charlotte who says, “Yes, dear.”
Time passes … the kids eat and get off to school and you get ready to catch the trolley which passes by your front door and gets you to work. You catch a quick lunch at the Kress store at 218 W. Main and, at the register, you notice a postcard folio which catches your eye. “You know,” you say to the cashier, “I haven’t talked with Dad for awhile … let me have this postcard folio, if you don’t mind.” “Not at all, sir, that will be 5¢.” You slap on a 2¢ stamp and address it to your dad who lives in Terre Haute but has never been to Oklahoma City … 220 South 9½ Street, Terre Haute, Indiana, you write.
Before sending, you had a look over the cards and you were tempted to write the following notes on the cards to your dad hoping to lure him here for at least a visit if not to live … you didn’t since that would have messed up the cards. (You also anticipated that readers 90 years later would like to be able to click on any card without your notes for a 1500 px wide view.)
We don’t have a capitol dome yet but you’re sure we will, some day.
Card 1: The City From An Aeroplane
My, we are growing — up to 91,295 now!
Card 2: County Courthouse
The jail is at the left.
Card 3: Ford Assembling Plant
We even make our own Model T’s.
Card 4: Oil Wells
Don’t ya wish we had one of these, Dad?
Card 5: Lee-Huckins Hotel
Huckins Annex, Campbell, Wells Fargo & Herskowitz buildings are at the right.
Card 6: Oklahoma City High School
We’re too big for just one high school but more are coming soon.
Card 7: Broadway & Grand
Left to Right: Huckins & Huckins Annex hotel buildings,
the Campbell, Wells Fargo, Herskowitz buildings, & the Kingkade Hotel.
Card 8: Belle Isle Park
This is our city’s finest recreational park today.
Card 9: OIL
The note at the left reads: “Oklahoma in 1915 produced 117,910,410 barrels crude oil leading all other states.” The note at right reads: “Over two hundred million dollars was divided in 1915 among the workers in Oklahoma oil fields and thousands of stock-holders in Oklahoma oil companies.”
The 1917 drawing is © by JP Hathaway.
Card 10: Our YMCA
The sign over the left entrance reads, “Boys,” and, the right, “Men.”
Card 11: Colcord Office Building
This is the city’s most beautiful skyscraper, today.
Card 12: Other Skyscrapers
Left to right are the Hales, Lee, and American National Bank buildings. In the background, you can see the Skirvin Hotel, center-right, Insurance Building, and, at the left, the Lee-Huckins Hotel.
Card 13: State Fair
Card 14: Carnegie Library
This is our city’s beautiful library.
Card 15: Comanche Indians
Their original home was Texas. Those who survived the Texas Rangers (not that many)
were forced to relocate to their home today in southwest Oklahoma, near Lawton.
Card 16: Skirvin Hotel
The Skirvin and the Lee-Huckins are our finest hotels, but, personally, I like the Skirvin.
Card 17: Picking Cotton
Oil is important but so is cotton.
Our city is a leader in cotton exports to all over the world.
Card 18: W. T. Hale’s Residence
This home is at 1521 N. Hudson, less than a mile from my house, Dad.
He owns the Hales Building, shown in card 12, above.
Back Cover — Santa Fe Station
I’ve made a mental note to find the best route from Terre Haute, Dad.
I hope that you’ll come for a visit very very soon.