The Senate unveiled the latest artwork commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Preservation Fund Wednesday. The portrait of oil entrepreneur and Phillips Petroleum Company founder, Frank Phillips, was painted by renowned Oklahoma artist Wayne Cooper and sponsored by Sen. John Ford, Rep. Earl Sears, Rep. Steve Martin, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66.
Before serving in the Senate, Sen. Ford had a 34-year career with the Phillips Petroleum Company so he was pleased to honor its founder.
“This is something myself and my colleagues that represent the Bartlesville area have wanted to do for years. Frank Phillips was so important to the history of
Oklahoma and the history of our state Capitol,” said Sen. Ford, R-Bartlesville. “We felt this was important to honor his life and many contributions. It is representative of our districts and important for the Capitol to have a portrait of Uncle Frank, as he’s known to those who work for the company. This is an exciting addition to the Capitol art program and I’m so honored to be a part of it.”
Frank Phillips was born in Scotia, Nebraska to Lucinda and Lewis Franklin Phillips. In February 1897 he married Jane Gibson, daughter of banker John Gibson. Shortly after getting married, Jane’s father asked Phillips to join him in the bond business. During a business trip in St. Louis, Phillips encountered C.B. Larabee, an old friend from Iowa. He was serving as a Methodist missionary to the Osage Indians west of Bartlesville in Indian Territory. The area, which is now Osage County, Oklahoma, was rich in oil. What proved to be a decades-long boom was just getting under way. Later that year, after Phillips and Gibson made two trips to Bartlesville, Phillips and his younger brother L.E. Phillips organized the Anchor Oil & Gas Company with Gibson’s assistance. Anchor opened an office in Bartlesville in 1905, secured a driller and drilled it first wildcat well, the Holland No. 1. The men struck oil on June 23, 1905.
Former Senator Charles Ford is the President of the Preservation Fund and has commissioned more than 70 paintings and other types of artwork for the State Capitol depicting important people and events in Oklahoma’s history. He explained that Frank Phillips sponsored the first artwork, The Pro Patria, in 1928. The three murals were painted by Thomas Gilbert White and commemorate the tragedies and triumphs of World War I. The main mural is located in the 4th floor rotunda over the grand staircase and represents the courage and sacrifice of a brave soldier answering his country's call to war. The right and left panels honor fallen soldiers including those from Oklahoma.
“This is a very important person we’re recognizing, one that did a lot for the state Capitol. There was no art in the building until he sponsored the first piece so he essentially started the art program,” said Ford. “The Phillips’ family has a wonderful legacy in the state of Oklahoma, and I’m so pleased that their contributions to the state will forever be remembered through this beautiful portrait.”
The Phillips’ brothers second and third wells were dry holes, and they barely had enough money left to drill a fourth well, the Anna Anderson. The Anna Anderson was a gusher, and the successful well enabled the brothers to raise $100,000 through the sale of stock. The Anna Anderson was the first of 80 consecutive producing wells drilled for the brothers’ company.
“I can’t think of a more fitting tribute for Frank Phillips,” said Rep Sears, R-Bartlesville. “He was a respected businessman who did so much for the state through his banks and oil companies, but then he shared his success by giving back to the people through his financial donation and art contributions at the state Capitol and other places around the state.”
In 1905, Frank and L.E. Phillips formed the Lewcinda Oil Company, with brother Waite. Later that same year, Frank and L.E. formed a bank, Citizens Bank and Trust, in Bartlesville with $50,000 capital. They also acquired a rival bank, the Bartlesville National Bank, and consolidated the two under the latter name.
The bank later became the First National Bank of Bartlesville.
“The oil industry shaped our state and remains a driving force for it and the entire nation, so it was fitting to honor the career and contributions of the founder of one of the state’s original and most successful oil companies,” said Rep. Martin, R-Bartlesville. “He left an indelible mark on our state’s history and I’m pleased that visitors to the Capitol will be able to learn more about him through this painting.”
In 1916, the two brothers decided that the boom-bust instability of the oil business was not for them. They made plans to open a bank in Kansas City that would be the cornerstone of a chain of banks throughout the Midwest. Before those plans could be carried out, the U.S. became involved in World War I. With the price of oil quickly increasing from 40 cents a barrel to more than $1 a barrel, the brothers decided to consolidate their holdings in a single company, Phillips Petroleum Company. They incorporated on June 13, 1917 under Delaware law. The new company had assets of $3 million, 27 employees and leases throughout Oklahoma and Kansas.
Frank led the company as its president until 1939 when he named Kenneth S. “Boots” Adams to succeed him. The company reported record profits of $24.1 million the previous year. As Phillips turned over the presidency he became the company’s first chairman of the board, a position he held until he retired at the age of 76 in 1949.
Artist Wayne Cooper was the first to participate in the Senate Art Preservation program.
“It’s a great honor to paint someone like Frank,” said Cooper. “The biggest thing though is to thank all of the sponsors we have because without them, we wouldn’t have an art collection here in the Capitol.”
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund can be found on the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov.