Memorial Museum, Claremore, OK
Open Wed-Sunday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
November 11 - March 1: Closed Monday & Tuesday
1720 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
Claremore, OK 74017
Main Office - 918-341-0719
Admission - 918-343-8116
Gift Shop - 918-343-8115
Members - FREE
Adults - $7.00
Seniors 62+ - $5.00
Military with ID - $5.00
Children 6-17 - $3
Children 5 and under - FREE
Tour and school group rates are available.
Call 918-343-8111 for information.
Dedication Ceremony, November 4, 1938
Will Rogers Memorial,
With Will Rogers’ untimely death, debate began quickly on how to honor America’s Cowboy Philosopher. Discussion on the location of where to build a monument or memorial was at the top of the list.
California, Oklahoma, New York and Texas were the states discussed, but finally Betty Rogers made the final decision of Claremore, Oklahoma because of the 20 acres they had bought in 1911 on a beautiful hill in Claremore, where the couple planned on having a home after retirement.
An informal Commission of people from around the country was created, including such notables at Herbert Hoover, Charles Schwab, Nelson Rockefeller, Elliot Roosevelt and Henry Ford.
People from across the nation gave nickels, dimes and quarters to the effort and the Oklahoma legislature stepped up with a $200,000 appropriation to help make the Memorial a reality. A $500,000 appropriation was passed through the U.S. Congress, but was vetoed by Franklin Roosevelt stating that there was not a definite type of memorial proposed.
After the veto, a smaller, but wonderful ranch house design by John Duncan Forsythe was chosen. The Memorial was to be built with native limestone and with granite shipped from Vermont for the rotunda floor. The centerpiece would be a Jo Davidson statue of Will Rogers.
Ground was broken on April 21st, 1938 and in just a few shorts months the facility was complete and was dedicated on November 4th, 1938, the 59th birthday of Will Rogers. The dedication ceremony was heard around the country on the radio with President Franklin Roosevelt giving a touching tribute to Will and the new Memorial.
Will Rogers was originally buried in California, but in 1942 a new sunken garden was built in front of the Memorial and Will Rogers was interred there in 1944. Betty passed just a few months later and was also buried in the tomb.
Others buried at the Memorial are three of their four children, Fred Stone Rogers, 1918-1920, Mary Amelia Rogers Brooks, 1913-1989, and James Blake (Jim) Rogers, 1915-2000, and Jim’s wife, Marguerite Astrea Kemmler Rogers, 1917-1987 as well as Jim’s oldest son, James Kemmler (Kem) Rogers, 1939-2014.
The Memorial was open to the public, but was almost bare except for the Jo Davidson statue. The crowds that came to pay their respects were large and Betty ended up giving a major portion of Will Rogers memorabilia to the Memorial. Over time, the Memorial also became a world class museum as paintings, sculptures and other artifacts were added to the collection.
In 1982, a new wing was built on the Memorial with a theater, library, office space and exhibit space. A children’s area was dedicated in 1995.
Today the Will Rogers Memorial Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Will Rogers memorabilia and his entire collection of writings.
In 2015, Gordon Kuntz donated the 2nd largest collection of items to the Memorial Museum including one of a kind movie posters, movie stills, books, correspondence and much more.
You can spend hours touring the Will Rogers Memorial Museum learning about his life, wisdom and humor. We look forward to your visit.