This Week in Sapulpa History: How Sapulpa Earned a Vessel

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

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This week in Sapulpa history, the Chamber of Commerce received a picture in the mail on September 25, 1922. This picture is the first time the citizens of Sapulpa had seen this particular image. The image was that of an oil tanker cargo ship at sea. The name of the ship was Sapulpa.

The S.S. Sapulpa

“The tanker was christened in honor of the city several years ago. In appreciation of the good work done by the city, the ship was launched and christened in California under the name of ‘Sapulpa.’”

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The large photograph was on display at the Chamber of Commerce rooms. “The photograph and the ship itself are features of civic pride to every Sapulpan. The tanker is one of the finest of the oil fleet, carrying a capacity of 10,000 tons.”

During World War I, many images of the war, such as the battles, war bonds ads, soldiers, military vehicles, vessels, and weaponry were showcased throughout every newspaper in the nation, including Sapulpa’s own papers. However, this is the first time since the announcement of a Sapulpa vessel, our town was able to lay eyes on the ship.

As stated above, this was years in the making. In 1917, bonds “were first issued as Liberty Bonds,” or also known as Defense Bonds. These bonds helped “finance the United States government’s participation in World War I.*”

*Note: During World War II, the Liberty and Defense Bonds were renamed War Bonds.

Counties across the country held bond drives. Towns had quotas to meet for the war cause. In late 1918, the Fourth Liberty Loan began. This week in Sapulpa history, “campaign for Fourth Loan to be launched September 28 and will close October 19.”

Creek County had a quota to meet. Sapulpa and other Creek County towns, too, had to meet a quota for their district. The Fourth Liberty Loan was one of the largest bond issues in Creek County for the First Great War.

The Fourth Liberty Loan asked for a quota for these towns: Bristow was asked to raise $201.500. Depew was asked $18,500. Keifer’s quota was $70,750. Mounds was asked $66,250. Mannford was asked to raise $21,500. Oilton’s quota was $73,500. Shamrock was asked to raise $70,750. Kellyville was asked $18,500. Sapulpa’s quota was $523,000.

The Creek County quota was listed at over $1 million*.

*Note: by today’s inflation, Sapulpa was asked to raise just under $10 million; the county was asked for over $20 million.

By October 4, 1918, it was listed how the town’s quota was coming along. Sapulpa had raised $55,000 in one day. It was listed then Sapulpa had raised $200,000. Then Sapulpa people held a huge event.

“Over 10,000 people throng city streets during early and late hours while the program went on.” While the jazz band, an orchestra, and vocals rang over the town, the city raised over $160,000 that evening. The total Sapulpa had pulled together toward the quota reached just under $400,000, about $150,000 under quota.

On October 19, 1918, headlines read: “Sapulpa is over; ahead by one day. City tops pinnacle in Fourth Liberty Loan with nearly $10,000 oversubscribed.” Sapulpa not only met their goal, they surpassed it. Starting with a goal of $523 thousand, Sapulpa total sales amounted to $530,000.

“The county has also shot far over the mark.” The reports came in that Creek County gained more than $270 thousand over their quota. The quota was set at $1,321,250; Creek County reached $1,591,850 by the end of the Fourth Liberty Loan run*.

*Note: During World War I, the bonds raised over $21 billion dollars nationally for the war efforts. During World War II, the bonds raised over $180 billion in revenue nationally.

A little over a month later, on November 29, 1918, it was announced that “three cities in Oklahoma to receive the honor of naming one of Uncle Sam’s ships. Sapulpa is the one in her class, the other honors going to Vinita and Oklahoma City.” These three towns were the “first city in its class to complete the Fourth Liberty Loan and also to show that more than 20% of the population bought bonds.”

One year later, this week in Sapulpa history, the U.S.S. Sapulpa was launched on October 1, 1919 in Oakland, California. Mrs. J.W. Hoover, wife of Dr. J.W. Hoover, traveled to California to perform the christening of the ship’s launch*.

*Note: The vessel never served in the Navy. Little is known what happened after the Sapulpa vessel was launched. A report came in on June 1, 1923, from Washington, D.C.: “The steel tanker ‘Sapulpa’ named after the county seat town of Creek County, Okla. has been sold by the United States shipping board to the Cape Steamship Company of Philadelphia. The ‘Sapulpa’ is 9,759 deadweight tons.”

(Sapulpa Herald: August 16, 1918, October 4-5, 1918, October 7-8, 1918, October 19, 1918, November 29, 1918 September 26, 1922, September 27, 1919, June 1, 1923; Investopedia)