Historic Hopes and Dreams

Historic Hopes & Dreams

Dale Ingram began collecting Oklahoma-related sheet music because of his personal interest in history. He found that the music and lyrics are literally a time capsule of Oklahoma’s history.

“The earliest pieces I have date back to the Land Run, when people were settling into the territory and forming a new state. The music is about the hopes and dreams of people who are romanticizing about building a new life,” Ingram said.

Ingram has amassed sheet music representing nearly every year, from 1894 to the present. The culture, hardships, religion and racial beliefs of each generation shine through. The music represents farmers, oil fields, universities, cowboy movies, the blues, the 101 Ranch, the formation of Tinker Air Force Base…and the list goes on.

Ingram began collecting Oklahoma memorabilia, including old comic books and movie posters, back before the internet existed. Now, he enjoys the thrill of finding something new online, bidding for it, and anticipating its arrival in the mail.

He certainly has some favorite pieces. The highlight of his 170-piece sheet music collection includes five pieces written about the gangster, Pretty Boy Floyd, who was raised on an Oklahoma farm and then worked in the oil fields of Pottawatomie County where Ingram was raised.

Ingram is also intrigued by early songs that claim to be Oklahoma’s official state song, before the Rogers and Hammerstein version of “Oklahoma.” And his most recent purchase was sheet music from the 1930s art deco period, which was performed by a band at the Skirvin Hotel and heard live on WKY Radio.

Now, he’s making a significant portion of his music available to researchers, sharing his collection with various museums, the Oklahoma History Center, the Metropolitan Library System, and the Woody Guthrie Center. In his experience, every song has a mystery to reveal–and not just to him.

“Every piece of pop culture has a story behind it,” Ingram said. “To be lived, it has to be shared. Oklahoma, more than any state, has been defined by pop culture, from The Grapes of Wrath, to Will Rogers, to folk and country music.”

“The last thing I want to do is let this collection sit here and get old in my basement,” Ingram said. “If someone can study it and fill in the history of what people are writing and singing about—it opens windows into our history and reflects who we are as Oklahomans.”

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