Woolaroc Buffalo Skull

Woolaroc Buffalo Skull

In January 1926 — about three months after oil tycoon Frank Phillips officially unveiled his new Woolaroc lodge at his ranch in Oklahoma — his first major shipment of animals — a herd of buffalo — arrived at the ranch. Phillips already had cattle grazing in the pastures, and a dozen buffalo were growing fat in a meadow, but he wanted more. The new buffalo Phillips selected came from Pierre, South Dakota, and were part of the largest wild herd left ion the country. A total of 183 buffalo were shipped — 120 for Phillips, 53 for the Miller brothers at the 101 Ranch, and 10 for Waite Phillips’ new ranch located in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

Phillips could boast that he owned the second-largest herd of buffalo in captivity in the United States. His 132 buffalo put him ahead of Pawnee Bill, the showman who kept a sizable herd of bison for his Wild West show. Only the Millers’ herd of 200 buffalo was larger than the herd at the Frank Phillips Ranch.

In tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody, a childhood hero, and because of the importance of buffalo in the development of the American West, Phillips selected the big shaggy animal — the monarch of the plains — as the official symbol for his ranch. A buffalo-head illustration adorned the ranch stationery, and when the herd was thinned or an old animal died, their skulls were tacked on the lodge walls or in prominent places around the ranch.

The buffalo skull in this photo is from the original herd and was presented to Michael Wallis after the publication of Oil Man, his biography of Frank Phillips.

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