"One of the great spectacles and strangest happenings that has ever been seen in the United States in several years will occur when the sun will come under total eclipse in some regions of the country. Although El Dorado will not see a total eclipse of the sun, the city will have about a 97 per cent, considerably more than some sections of the nation.
"All America will watch the eclipse. Business will halt, shipwork will cease or lag and everything will be as night. Fighting will go on as usual in the trenches of Europe..."
No, this isn't the Great American eclipse of 2017. This was the last Great American Eclipse, which took place almost exactly a century ago, in 1918. In that year oil was booming in Butler County, El Dorado was plagued by an ongoing housing shortage regularly bemoaned in the local newspapers, and the headlines plastered across the front page of the Walnut Valley Times or the El Dorado Republican each day trumpeted news of the latest action in World War I. But that didn't mean that El Doradoans, and people across the country, didn't still have time to get excited about a solar eclipse.
Then as now, a total solar eclipse with a path straight across the continental U.S. was in fact something to get excited about. Like this year's eclipse, the one in 1918 tracked all across the country and could only be seen from land inside the U.S. El Dorado was again just at the edge of totality -- 96-97% compared to this year's very close 95% -- which in 1918 could be viewed around Dodge City, Kan, and Guthrie, Okla.
Also not unlike today, an eclipse provided a welcome distraction from other, larger concerns during a time when the world seemed to be in turmoil and nobody knew quite what was going to happen next. In comparison to actors on the world stage, a solar eclipse seemed almost reassuring in its predictability, even as the uncanny spectacle provided an excuse for everyone in town to get together and celebrate the wonders of the heavens. This has remained true throughout the years, when both solar and lunar eclipses have provided lasting memories to those who saw them.
"I vividly remember watching my first eclipse in elementary school," says Kelsey Sundgren, a member of the board at El Dorado's Kansas Oil Museum. She is not alone, as many others in the county, schoolchildren and adults alike, can still recall the excitement of coming together with neighbors or classmates to exclaim over various eclipses over the years. But for most of them, this year's solar eclipse will be the best view any of them has ever had -- and the best place to see it without leaving town just may be at the Kansas Oil Museum.
On Monday, August 21, the Kansas Oil Museum will be providing the latest chance to get together and be wowed by the celestial showing. With a program featuring the history and folklore of eclipses, a taco buffet, and solar viewing glasses on hand, the museum's Twilight Luncheon is an event which Sundgren feels is not to be missed. "That first eclipse was such a memorable experience that I am planning to bring my daughter to the Kansas Oil Museum for the watch party," she says. Echoing the sentiments of excited folks all over El Dorado back in 1918, Sundgren adds, "Everyone should come!"
For more information or to RSVP for the luncheon, call (316) 321-9333 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.