For Immediate Release: May 16, 2007
Commemorates McAlester's First Coal Production and KATY Railroad
In honor of Oklahoma's coal
and railroad industry, a painting depicting the relationship
between McAlester's first coal production and the KATY railroad
was unveiled Wednesday in the Senate. The painting, by world-renown
artist Wayne Cooper, was sponsored by the Puterbaugh Foundation
and commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation
"This painting portrays an incredible time in our state's
history when we were entering the age of industrialization,"
said Charles Ford, president of the preservation fund. "Being
that this is our centennial, we couldn't have picked a better
year to have such a painting added to the Capitol's collection.
As we move forward in this era of high technology, this painting
will remind us of our humble beginnings."
Oklahoma's coal industry grew alongside the state's railroad
industry in the late 1800's. The relationship between the two
industries was mutually beneficial. Railroad companies bought
coal to use as fuel; coal companies used the railroad to move
coal to other markets.
The usefulness of coal was noted when French explorers saw Native
tribes in eastern Oklahoma using it to make their fires hotter
for blacksmithing. In time, coal became an important resource,
being used for heating and cooking and as fuel for steam engines.
Steam then started to be used to turn wheels that ran steamboats,
trains and machines in factories.
J.J. McAlester came to Indian Territory looking for coal. While
he searched for it, he set up a trading post at Bucklucksy.
Being married to a Choctaw woman, he was adopted into the tribe
and was allowed to mine for coal and sell it outside of the
Territory. But he needed a way to move his coal to market. So
he traveled to Kansas where he persuaded railroad officials
with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad (known as the MKT
or "KATY") to build tracks into the Territory. The
route was set and once the tracks reached Bucklucksy, the name
of the town was changed to McAlester.
The state's first coal mine was near Krebs. As the mines grew
in size, so did the towns in the area. Needing workers, mining
companies went to Europe to recruit workers and many European
immigrants settled in the area to help mine the coal.
The painting was sponsored by the Puterbaugh Foundation named
after Jay Garfield Puterbaugh, who was one of the founding fathers
of the coal and rail industry in southeastern Oklahoma. He founded
the McAlester Fuel Company which brokered, marketed and transported
much of the coal mined around McAlester. The Puterbaugh Foundation
makes grants to benefit Oklahoma education, health care, medical
research, youth and children's programs and other projects that
will enhance the quality of life in Oklahoma. The Foundation
is chaired by Justice Steven Taylor of the Oklahoma Supreme
"The Puterbaugh Foundation is very proud to sponsor this
historic painting which commemorates the coal and railroad heritage
of McAlester, Oklahoma,” said Taylor. “We do this
in honor of J.G. Puterbaugh and the people of McAlester."
Cooper's works can be found in many private and public collections
worldwide, including 13 paintings which hang in the State Capitol.
His latest work is an oil painting on canvas that took him around
six months to complete.
"It was a pleasure getting to work on this historical painting
of McAlester. I enjoyed visiting the city and its coal museum
as well as going around to the old mines sites. That helped
me get the lay of the land and the general feeling of the painting,"
said Cooper. "This work has created a lot of interest because
there are so many things included in the work and that has made
working on this piece all that much enjoyable."
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate
Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. can be found on the Internet
For more information contact:
Pam Hodges: (405) 521-5675