THE LARGEST CONCRETE TOTEM POLE IN THE WORLD (constructed 1937 - 1948)
"When Mr. Galloway retired from the Sand Springs home, he had in mind a project that would allow him to, quote, 'come out here and get independent with something.' This Totem Pole was the main attraction of a park that grew to include many smaller attractions. The Totem Pole was built by Galloway over an 11-year period, from 1937 to 1948. It’s made from 28 tons of cement, 6 tons of steel, 100 tons of sand and rock, is 90 feet high, 18 feet in diameter, and 54 feet around the base on which it stands. The walls of the Totem Pole are 18 inches thick, and it has 200 different carved pictures on it.
"Starting from the base of the huge turtle that the Plains Indians thought of as the Earth itself, Mr. Galloway built this massive structure up, level by level, starting with the base room and working his way upwards with six other smaller rooms at a rate of approximately 10 feet a year. When you look at it, the shape of the Totem Pole could suggest a teepee as well. So, you might very well be looking at the world’s largest teepee, too.
"If you look closely, you might notice metal holes at certain points on the outside of the Totem Pole. These were used to hold a scaffolding that would allow him to scale the outside of the structure. In addition to that, a series of ladders on the inside leading from each small room to the next would help him to hoist supplies up to the top of the pole. Imagine Ed Galloway, with his customary wool hat, khaki slacks, and dirty work shirt scurrying up and down the inside of the hollow concrete tube hauling buckets of concrete with the help of a crank. Neighbors said it was a sight to be seen.
"Although an explanation of what the 200+ depictions on the Totem Pole mean have been partially lost through time, it is clear who Galloway was trying to depict on the top of the pole - an anonymous Comanche Chief facing us on the south side, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe to his right faces the east side, Sitting Bull Chief of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe is on the north side, and facing west is Geronimo Chief of the Apaches.
"Over the years, when he was asked about why he made the Totem Pole, Ed Galloway gave many reasons why he chose to do it. But in an interview with his son Paul just before his death in 1962, he had this to say about his creativity:
"'Remember this, imagination is the greatest thing we have. You’ll be going drugs ‘n things, and then turn around, and can’t see it. Well, we haven’t haven’t got much imagination. An’ whenever you see anything, try to keep that imagination in mind, the shape of it, an’ form of it, an’ what it looks like, an’ then you can go over here and and and draw a sketch a little something, then go back over here an’ make it, when you get your imagination built up to where it’s, where it’s, you can master things then, an create things with it.'"
"Totem Pole Park Audio Tour," written by Tim Brown, commissioned by Dr. Carolyn Comfort and the Rogers County Historical Society.
"Dating from 1937 to 1948, the main Totem Pole is the largest art object in the park... The conical Totem Pole is made of red sandstone and framed with steel and wood, with a thick concrete skin. The cone sits on a large base that is a three dimensional turtle; the turtle has a flattened back, and its head and four legs project outward, providing a wide base for the conical totem. The turtle was carved from a broad flat sandstone outcrop at that spot. The base measurement, including projections, is twenty-three feet north-south (nose to tail) by twenty-five feet east-west (toe to toe) by three feet in height. The outside circumference of the Totem Pole proper (excluding the base) is fifty-one feet. The walls are generally eighteen inches thick. The total height of the Totem Pole is seventy feet, including the base. Projecting from the top layer of concrete is a twenty-foot carved cedar pole.
"The interior of the Totem Pole is hollow, gradually narrowing toward the top. There are nine interior 'levels' or floors,' made of concrete accessible through square openings in the center of the floors. At bottom, the 'room' is nine feet in diameter. A ground-level opening on the south is 6.5 feet in height and is covered by a wooden door; this opening was originally uncovered, but at an unknown date between 1962 and 1989 a door was added in order to keep vandals out and protect children. The floor is stone. Around the room, the walls are plastered and painted with three murals depicting mountain-and-lake scenes and bird totems; these rise to a height of about six feet; around the room, above the murals are Native American shields and arrow points. On the upper layers, the walls are stone, unplastered, and undecorated. At the very top, the cone is open to the sky.
"The exterior of the Totem Pole is painted in a variety of colors, with approximately two hundred images; these are representational (primarily Plains Indian bust-height profiles) and figurative/symbolic (primarily Northwest Coast avian) images. They are "stacked in layer, the layers being distinguished by having a different background color. Important images are carved in relief, and some project from the surface, in heavy relief. These projections were actually carved out of the concrete while it set up and were later painted.
"The images on the Totem Pole are arranged to face each of the four cardinal directions. The images are 'stacked' vertically, as they would be on a carved wooden totem pole. The north face and the south face are the major display areas and have huge, carved and incised bird figures extending nearly twenty-five feet from the top of the turtle's back, or base.
"The main face of the Totem Pole is on the South, where there is a ground-level opening. Above the door/opening is a square panel bearing the date 1948, denoting the year of the Totem Pole's completion. Around the opening and extending up approximately fifteen feet, are three decorative panels that represent the body and wings of a giant bird, probably an eagle. Its feathered legs straddle the door, and the clawed feet, projecting out from the surface, rest on the turtle's back. The bird-body panel is decorated with the images of shellfish and a lizard; above them are three bust-profiles of Plains Indians men, suspended from a ribbon around the torso; above this are sets of three men's heads flanking a bust-profiled Indian in a full-feathered headdress; these three are all suspended from a ribbon around the bird's torso. On each side of the bird's torso are massive wing panels that extend from the base to approximately ten feet. On each panel are the three ranked sets of images. On the left are bust-profiles of two Plains men and a bust profile of a Plains woman, with baby in cradleboard, attached to her head by a tumpline; above is a set of three bust profiles of Plains Indian men, surmounted with 3 animal bird figures and a round Plains-style shield. To the right of the door, the panel is similar, with three bust-profiles over three bust-profiles, over animal figures and a shield. These huge side panels lap over into the east and west faces of the Totem Pole. The huge eagle's 'neck' is formed by a narrow band of profiles and masks which extends the entire circumference of the Totem Pole. The head of the eagle is very broad and covers the entire south face of the Pole. The head is a dark-colored background for two wide-open, staring eyes, a broad mouth that is biting a lizard (the lizard protrudes from each side of the mouth), and two Plains Indian bust-profiles that serve as 'ears.' This image covers the entire south face and extends around to the east and west. Above the giant eagle-figure, the next ten vertical feet of the Totem Pole is decorated stacked, smaller bird images; two of these hold fish in their claws or beaks. This section of the Totem Pole also has two openings, each covered with a wooden louver. At the top of the sixty-foot stack is a 3/4-body relief carving of an unnamed Comanche chief, with full-feathered headdress. There is a bird on either side of him.
"Up the east face is a narrow stack of bird figures, from the base to the top of the Totem Pole. At bottom is a full-height owl figure, in carved relief, with clawed feet; on the owl's belly is a bust-profile Plains Indian man. Above the owl's head is a bird of similar size and proportion; it appears to be an eagle or similar kind of fowl (to this point the stack has risen to about twenty-five feet). Above the eagle are two smaller birds, with two smaller birds above them. Atop these two is a larger animal, which appears to be an otter. Above the otter is a full-body relief carving of Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce nation.
"The north face of the Totem Pole is similar to the south face. On the north face, at the bottom, is the turtle's head, with round eyes and pupil set off in paint. From the base, or turtle's back rises a huge bird, whose legs straddle a full-height owl, carved in relief. The owl, which is actually standing on the back of the turtle's neck, wears a ribbon that suspends a bust profile of a Plains male in full-feathered headdress. Straddling the owl, the eagle's legs are decorated with large shields and large bust-profile Plains Indians in full-feather headdresses. The eagle's clawed feet project outward from the base. The eagle's torso is decorated with a ribbon holding two sets of three men's heads and a central bust-profile in full headdress. Both of the eagle's wings, flanking the legs, are decorated with two large Plains shields; above this are two large birds, and above this on a layer of feathers is a strip of six masks of faces (resembling Northwest Coast... cared ceremonial masks). Above that is another layer of feathers decorated with six mask images. Above the wings and torso is the 'neck,' earlier described. The eagle's head is a dark background, with a wide mouth full of jagged teeth, two wide-staring eyes, butterflies for cheeks, and, again, bust-profiles of Plains men in full-feathered headdresses serving as ears. Atop the bird's head is a smaller bird, flanked by two ventilator openings identical to those on the north. Above the bird is a set of smaller bird/animal figures, and the stack is finished with the 3/4-body relief image of Sitting Bull, a chief of the Sioux.
"The west face of the Totem Pole, like the east face, has a narrow stack of images. At bottom is a large bird, like a kingfisher, in strong relief, approximately 15 feet in height. This bird has horizontal rows of feathers on his body, large diagonally placed staring eyes, and an enormous beak, which projects from the face of the Pole for four feet and is decorated with geometrical symbols. Sitting on the kingfisher's head is another large bird image. Above this are smaller birds and other images. Above this is the 3/4-body relief image of Geronimo, a chief of the Apache, with a bird on each side.
"The Totem Pole is capped with a cylinder of concrete that is decorated with bird figures. Metal rods protrude horizontally from the concrete in four places; these held insulators and wiring for a portion of the Park's electric lighting (photographs show electric wires connecting the Totem Pole to the Arrowhead Totem; common knowledge in the community asserts that all of the resources were connected, and that wiring for lighting extended out into the wooded area around the park, as well). At the top of this layer project two birds, rising like chimneys.
"From the top of the Totem Pole rises a cedar pole approximately 20 feet in height. This pole is carved in relief, like a totem pole, with bird heads. It is painted. This pole is an original alteration to the Totem Pole. It was carved by Galloway and installed on the Totem Pole at an unknown date between 1947 and 1955."
"At the time of his demise, Galloway had repainted the Totem Pole at least once, as shown in a 1957 photograph titled 'repainting the totem pole.' Time and weather during the 1962 - 1990 period, however, resulted in fading and chipping of the paint on the resources. In the mid-1960s, Galloway's son Paul began a campaign to restore the color to the objects, and in 1981, the Kansas Grassroots Art Association joined in the effort. They collected money to pay for consultants on conservation and preservation. Over the next decade, engineers studied the structure and other experts studied the faded decorations to determine the paint chemistry and the colors. "
"By 1988, volunteers from the Kansas group and other folk art aficionados from around the nation were restoring the paint on the incised and relief designs, using 14 specially mixed paints. The work continued on all of the art object/ resources through the 1990s and was finally completed in May 1998."
Everett, Dianna. "Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park." National Register of Historic Places, 27 July 1998. Certified 25 January 1999.
VINTAGE PHOTOS OF THE LARGE TOTEM POLE - Photos courtesy of the Rogers County Historical Society - Totem Pole Park Archives