The Woolaroc Museum presents one of America's most unique displays of Western art and artifacts; Native American pottery, baskets, beads, blankets and cultural art; historical displays and one of the most complete collections of Colt firearms. It is one of the most outstanding western art collections in the world that also represents the culture and lifestyles of the people and peoples of America and the American West.
Woolaroc Museum relates the story of man's cultural development in the New World. Artifacts of early man trace the prehistoric civilizations in Oklahoma. Baskets, pottery and Navajo blankets show the Native American civilization of the Navajo, Apache, Hopi and Pueblos located in Arizona and New Mexico.
Beaded buckskins and feather bonnets from the Plains tribes are prominently displayed. Material from approximately 40 different tribes is displayed in the collection at Woolaroc Museum.(back to top)
The Woolaroc collection includes a broad representation of paintings by many of the "Old Masters" of western art, such as: Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, William R. Leigh, Frank Tenney Johnson, Thomas Moran and many others.
Also represented are more contemporary artists such as Wilson Hurley, John Clymer, Clark Hulings, and Bettina Steinke. Five of the original six Taos Society Artists are represented: O.E. Berninghaus, E.I. Couse, Herbert Dunton, Bert Phillips, and J.H. Sharp.
Much of the collection was personally acquired by Frank Phillips during his lifetime and has since been greatly enhanced by donations from other members of the Phillips family. The more recent additions include works by many leading contemporary western artists and various landscape artists, including an exquisite work by Albert Bierstadt.
The Woolaroc sculpture collection also includes pieces by many of the greats of western artists, including Remington and Russell. In addition, the 12 bronzes that were entered in the 1927 Pioneer Woman contest, created by the best sculptors of the day, are prominently displayed in the collection.
Heroic-sized sculptures by Bryant Baker and Jo Mora are located both inside and outside the Woolaroc Museum, where they illustrate the history of Oklahoma and the American West.
Works by contemporary sculptors such as Harry Jackson, Joe Beeler and John D. Free also grace the Woolaroc collection. Woolaroc also displays a complete collection of the sculptures of Joe Beeler, including two heroic-sized pieces on the Woolaroc grounds.(back to top)
The Woolaroc collection of firearms, featuring the Philip R. Phillips Collection and the Waldo Wilson Collection, is one of the world's finest collections of Colt firearms.
The Phillips collection chronicles the Colt story, from the rare and exotic Paterson revolvers, through the "Walker Forty-Four" and the Army and Navy pistols used by both sides in the War Between the States, as well as guns carried by pioneers on the Western frontier. Prototype pieces used by the Colt factory in the development of new models of weapons are an important part of the exhibit.
The Waldo Wilson collection features semi-automatic pistols based on the designs of John Moses Browning. The examples on display were made by manufacturers such as Singer (of sewing machine fame), Union Switch and Signal, Ithaca Arms, Remington Arms, Remington Rand, North American Arms, and of course, Colt, under contracts from the United States Government.
The Woolaroc collection is very significant in that it includes several of the very first revolving cylinder repeating weapons made in the United States and traces the development of Colt firearms into the post World War II era.
Mr. Russell Straight generously donated his Winchester collection to Woolaroc Museum in 1981. The Russell Straight collection contains a selection of Winchester firearms from the very first models through the mid 20th century.
Winchester is a name that is identified with the Old West and the frontier days of America. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company was established by Oliver F. Winchester in 1866, and the first model to bear the name of the company was the Model 1866 lever action rifle.
The subsequent models offered by Winchester helped establish the company as one of the world's leading firearms manufacturers. Winchester provided repeating rifles that played an important role in this nation's history and will forever have a place as the company that built the guns that "Won the West".(back to top)
The Frank Phillips Ranch was founded in 1925 and the Woolaroc Museum had a humble beginning four years later in 1929.
Frank Phillips was a great aviation enthusiast. If Lindbergh had not flown the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, there might never have been a Woolaroc Museum. Just five months after the historic Lindbergh flight, Frank sponsored a small, single-engine monoplane named "WOOLAROC" in the Dole Flight from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii Territory on August 24-25, 1927.
Twenty-six hours, seventeen minutes and thirty-three seconds after taking off, the WOOLAROC landed at Wheeler Field in Honolulu, winning the race. Two years after this historic trans-Pacific flight, the plane was retired to the Woolaroc ranch for which it was named.
"The Woolaroc Museum didn't start with any grand vision," said Paul Endacott, former president of Phillips Petroleum Company. "It just evolved."
In 1929, a stone pavilion was built for the WOOLAROC airplane on the hill above the Lodge. The pavilion was an open structure with no doors or windows. Before long, glass showcases were placed around the plane to display some of the overflow of guns, Indian relics, and other gifts not needed for decorating the Lodge.
To keep the rain, snow and wind out, a brass door and glass windows were added to enclose the facility. Uncle Frank called it his "airplane museum" long after he continued to receive gifts that were placed there. Later, art acquisitions were added that encroached on the space for the small aircraft.
Though he did not realize it at the time, he had just built the beginning of his own private museum.
During the 1930's, the "airplane museum" had been enlarged with additions in 1932 and 1939. The art collection also began to expand with a vast array of western art and artifacts to achieve Uncle Frank's vision of "preserving the history of the West that he knew as a young man." Tourism was beginning to develop in Oklahoma and people were asking to see Woolaroc.
The Phillips family realized that the museum was taking on increasing historical significance and that it must become more than a private collection. In 1938, a professional museum director was hired to oversee the preservation and presentation of the increasing Woolaroc Museum collection.
An administrative wing with the Dome Room and the new entrance was added in 1947 in time for the Phillips 50th wedding anniversary.
The Museum display space was significantly increased with another addition in 1976 that provided two levels for special exhibits and the expanding Museum collection.
In 1985, the Airplane Room was added to the building as the new "home" for the newly restored Woolaroc airplane. The plane is now displayed suspended in a two-level facility that lets guests get a complete view of this historic aircraft.
Envisioning the Woolaroc Museum as a symbol of his commitment to the community and the youth of America, Uncle Frank wrote this dedication in 1944, six years before his death:
"Those of us who have been more fortunate have a debt to society, which I believe can best be paid by training and educating the youth of the nation. I dedicate this museum to the boys and girls of today the fathers and mothers of tomorrow. May they profit by a knowledge of man's past and be enabled to plan and live a happier future."
That dedication has stood the test of time. Our mission today remains much the same as Frank envisioned it — and we wouldn't have it any other way. Woolaroc is committed to preserving the heritage of the people of Oklahoma and the values of early America that made this country great.(back to top)
Woolaroc Museum displays several other collections such as the saddles and gear of cowboys and several carts and wagons. There is a large display of 101 Ranch memorabilia, including many old photographs.
There is an exhibit dealing with the American Bison and its impact on the New World culminating in its near extinction.
Please come visit and see for yourself what Frank Phillips left for all of us all to enjoy.
Photography by Jerry Poppenhouse.(back to top)