How many rushed during the Oklahoma land openings?

Douglas W. Allen, Bryan Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At noon on April 22, 1889, a gunshot on the border of what was then called the Unassigned Lands of the Indian Territory launched the first of six well-defined land giveaways in what is now the state of Oklahoma. Contemporary newspaper and eyewitness accounts described the prairie starting line as awash in the largest gathering in the West to that date, with a subsequent massive rush, followed by the disappointment of many who were unable to make a claim. Similar outcomes were reported at the other openings, and these reports have been repeated and accepted in popular culture and the academic literature. Using recently digitized BLM land grant records, data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture, and the 1890 Oklahoma Territorial Census, we re-examine the land openings and show that the historical accounts greatly overstate the number of people actually rushing for lands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-416
Number of pages20
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Homesteading
  • Land rush
  • Oklahoma
  • Racing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics


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