Home » Product » A Map and History of the Military Reservation of Fort Sill Oklahoma 1931

A Map and History of the Military Reservation of Fort Sill Oklahoma 1931

  • Author: DORN, Frank
  • Date: 1931
  • Dimensions: 85 x 70 cms


Frank Dorn’s rare & amusing 1931 pictorial map of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the headquarters of the US Army’s Field Artillery School

About this piece:

A Map and History of the Military Reservation of Fort Sill Oklahoma now known as the Field Artillery School showing Topographic Features Inhabitants Surrounding Territory Flora and Fauna and Characteristics as they truly are and should be from Ancient Times to those of Today. Completed for the Information, Guidance and Enlightenment of All Concerned on this Tenth Day of March in the Year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-one.

Colour-printed lithograph map, originally laid down on thin cardboard backing. Narrow margins as issued, especially top and bottom, where cut very close to outer printed border. A few minor  edge nicks and abrasions to map border & blank margins. Two or three tiny areas of surface loss affecting printed border along sheet edge & border upper right and lower left corners, now expertly touched in. Bright & attractive printed colours. Overall a nicely preserved example.

This entertaining and attractive pictorial map of the US Army’s important Field Artillery School headquarters at Fort Sill, Oklahoma was designed and published in March 1931 by American officer, artist and cartographer, Frank “Pinky” Dorn [1901-1981].

A native of San Francisco, Frank was the only son of Walter E. and Ellen (O’Reilly) Dorn. He revealed his artistic inclinations at an early age, beginning junior classes and later attending night school at the San Francisco Institute of Art between 1915 & 1918. In June 1919 he enrolled at West Point Academy as an army cadet, graduating in March 1923 and subsequently being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the 15th Field Artillery at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

In April 1926 he was posted to the 24th Field Artillery at Camp Stotsenburg (now Clark Air Base) in the Philippines. Between June and September 1927 he was assigned to Fort William McKinley (now Fort Bonifacio) as an Instructor at the Philippine Division Communications School. He was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant of Field Artillery in May 1928. He returned to the United States in June 1929 and was posted to Battery Officers’ Training at Fort Sill between September 1929 and June 1930. He subsequently became a Field Artillery Instructor at Fort Sill with a secondary role as Planning & Training Officer of the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Artillery. In September 1934, he joined the US Military Attaché’s Office in Peiping as language officer and assistant attaché. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in September 1935. During these numerous early postings, Dorn honed his talents as a pictorial cartographer designing and privately publishing three amusing & rarely seen pictorial maps, including the one of Fort Sill described here. The Field Artillery Journal’s 1936 issue drew special attention to:

CAPTAIN FRANK DORN, FA…because: He has enlivened the walls of many garrison quarters with his pictorial, historical, and very amusing maps of Fort Sill, Fort McKinley and Fort Stotsenburg; and because he has recently added to this list the ancient city of Peiping, China, where he is now a language student.

Dorn’s splendid pictorial map of Peiping, first published in 1936, is probably his best-known and most celebrated work and, published primarily as a tourist production, it is also the most common of his four pictorial maps. The other three, including Fort Sill, are all much more scarce & are rarely seen offered on the market, probably because they were printed & circulated in much smaller numbers & for a predominantly military clientele.

This map was advertised in the Summer 1933 edition (No.4) of the Field Artillery Journal:

Pictorial Map. Fort Sill:

A pictorial map of the Fort Sill Military Reservation, showing features of terrain and general interest. It is in full colours, highly humorous, decorative; a souvenir and reminder for those who have been stationed at Fort Sill. It never fails to produce a chuckle. The map is adapted for framing and use as a wall hanging. Size 28 inches by 34 inches. Price, postpaid, $1.00. The map is drawn by Lieutenant Frank Dorn and can be ordered from the U.S. Field Artillery Association.

Like the map of Peiping, Dorn’s Fort Sill is a skilful & entertaining synthesis of local history and pictorial cartography.  Two decorative friezes in the lower left and upper right offer a series of pictorial vignettes outlining the regional history of Oklahoma & more local history of the town of Lawton & Fort Sill from the pre-colonial & native American era right through to 1931. In the lower left frieze the focus is upon the pre-colonial period through the arrival of the Spanish & Coronado [1542] to the period of French control and the Louisiana Purchase [1803]. In the upper right frieze Dorn’s attention is turned to more recent events: Fort’s foundation [1870]; its association with the famous native American warrior, Geronimo; the settlement of former Indian lands in Oklahoma by 29000 homesteaders in the 1901 land lottery (referred to by Dorn as the “Great Rush”); the ensuing establishment of the nearby town of Lawton, now Oklahoma’s third largest city; Oklahoma’s Statehood [1907]; the development of Fort Sill as a specialist Army School of Fires and after World War I, as a Field Artillery School [1930]; and finally the Military Reservation’s diverse sporting and recreational activities.

Having been staked out by General Philip Sheridan in January 1869 during a massive winter campaign against the local Indians, Fort Sill was officially established during the following year and was one of the first Army installations to be built on the Southern Plains. Amongst the first units posted there was General Custer’s 7th Cavalry. As Dorn makes clear in the above frieze, the area is perhaps best known for its close association with many of the great native American leaders, most notable of whom is Geronimo, who was imprisoned with some 340 of his fellow Chiricahua Apaches at Fort Sill in October 1894. In fact The Chiricahua made their homes in 12 village settlements scattered around the Fort Sill Reservation and quickly learned to farm cattle and build log cabins. Geronimo himself became something of a national celebrity, appearing in several World Expositions and in President Teddy Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in Washington D.C. He sadly died of pneumonia following a fall from his horse in February 1909. Having become a Christian shortly before his death he was buried in the Old Indian Cemetery which is depicted below the title cartouche in the upper right of Dorn’s map. Many other notable native American leaders, especially Kiowa and Plains Indians, are also buried in the Cemetery.

Fort Sill was also the site of both a National Guard Camp and the Henry Post Airfield (visible lower centre) established in 1917 as one of 32 Army Air Service Training Camps following the US entry into the First World War. During the Interwar years the airfield was used primarily as a base for Army Observation  & Balloon units who worked in close conjunction with the Field Artillery units posted there. Indeed in the lower right, Dorn depicts one of the tethered hydrogen balloons, widely used for artillery observation. Two frightened observers gesticulate from the basket and inadvertently drop ballast on their comrades below, as the balloon floats rapidly upwards into the clouds, having broken free of the cable by which it is attached to the ground winch truck. Such balloons were able to ascend to heights of over 4000 feet and, it is said, were frequently pulled at speeds of up to 60 mph behind their winch trucks, which may well explain such incidents.

As well as entertaining and amusing vignettes of military & Camp life, Dorn also highlights the Reservation’s recreational and sporting activities. He depicts extensive fishing and swimming in local lakes & streams. However foremost amongst local sporting pursuits was undoubtedly the Field Artillery School Hunt, which by the late 1920s boasted an annual membership of seventy or more riders and maintained a large kennel of English-bred fox hounds. The Hunt season ran from November to April during which it held regular meets. About two thirds of the hounds were trained for drag-hunting and the rest to pursue live-quarry, usually local coyote. Unfortunately, as the Sportsman magazine noted wryly in 1928: “The difficulty with hunting live quarry at Fort Sill is found in the fact that coyote have a pestilent custom of making for areas torn up by artillery practice, not the best ground for galloping…” The riotous chaos of the Hunt in full cry, as depicted in the upper centre of Dorn’s map, would appear to support these observations!

During the Second World War, Dorn served as aide to US General Joseph Stilwell. The pair formed a highly effective and well-matched partnership especially following their deployment in China after Pearl Harbour to provide US support for the Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek against the Japanese. It was relationship sorely tested during the harrowing retreat that soon followed, as they and some 100 compatriots were forced to abandon Chiang and, in May 1942, make their way out of Burma through the lower Himalayas to India, following the defeat of both the British and Chinese Armies, events vividly recorded in Dorn’s later book Walkout [1971]. Following subsequent deployments in China and Okinawa, Dorn returned to the US in 1946, where he was assigned to the staff of the Army Information School at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He later moved to the Army Department’s Information Division in Washington in 1949, becoming deputy chief of worldwide operations. With the rank of Brigadier General, Dorn finally retired in 1953 and moved to Carmel, CA where he re-kindled his love of art and writing. During the ensuing three decades he penned numerous books on a wide variety of subjects, including cooking, the Forbidden City, his wartime experiences with Stilwell, the Sino-Japanese War (1937-41) &c, as well as holding several immensely popular one-man art shows in Europe, Mexico and the US. In 1964, he married Phyllis Moore Gallagher, the widow of a well-known Washington attorney.

Dorn died in July 1981, following the death of his wife three years earlier. The couple are interred beside each other in the National Cemetery at Arlington (Section 5 Site 7019-1). Dorn’s personal archive & private papers are now preserved in the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University.

We have only come across a two recent examples of this Fort Sill map. One is currently preserved in the David Rumsey Collection at Stanford.

An easily overlooked bonus here lies in the amusing self-portrait of the artist himself, depicted in the Map’s lower right corner. With his back to the viewer, a shirt-sleeved Dorn sits on a stool in front of his easel, palette in one hand, brush in the other, the canvas in front of him bearing the first tentative outlines of this entertaining & now increasingly scarce pictorial map.

References: Rumsey Collection