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Public Service Company of Oklahoma - Lehman Brothers Collection

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

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The Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), an electrical power concern, began as a frontier electric company called the Vinita Electric Light, Ice, and Power Company. It was founded in 1889, the first year that Indian Territory (as Oklahoma was then called) was legally opened to non-native settlement. PSO was founded by Frederick Insull, a nephew of Thomas Edison’s secretary and aide Samuel Insull. Various Insull relatives ran power companies and electric-company holding companies, such as the Middle West Utilities Company. In its early days, PSO supplied electrical power and ice.

PSO was incorporated in 1913 in Oklahoma City. The corporation was formed from a merger of several electric companies from Tulsa, Coalgate, Guthrie, Atoka, and Lehigh. The company’s headquarters were established in Tulsa in 1916. PSO then expanded its service throughout eastern and southwestern Oklahoma. By 1927 the company provided power to eighty-two towns.

The Insull family formed the Central and Southwest Utilities Company in Delaware in 1925. The new corporation was a subsidiary of the Middle West Utilities Company. Central and Southwest Utilities was a parent corporation that controlled all the stock of PSO as well as several other public utilities, including the American Public Service Company, the Chickasha Gas and Electric Company of Oklahoma, the Central Power and Light Company, the Southwestern Securities Company, and the Southwestern Gas and Electric Company. These companies ranged through Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, and Mississippi.

PSO had constructed several generating stations and hundreds of miles of high-tension wires and distribution lines by the late 1920s and was one of the few Insull ventures to survive the crash of 1929. (Samuel Insull lost an estimated $100 million in the crash, leaving him $7 million in debt and flat broke.) PSO acquired the stock of Southwestern Light and Power in 1938, establishing a controlling interest in the company. Revenues were $4.4 million in 1927 and $4.2 million in 1935. Revenues hit $52.6 million by 1961 and $121.2 million in 1971.

By 1965 PSO provided power to 236 communities in Oklahoma, over a territory of 30,000 square miles. The company frequently issued bonds to pay for construction and expansion projects. By 1971 PSO sold 40 percent of its power to residential customers, 25 percent to commercial ventures, 14 percent to industrial companies, and 21 percent to other electric utilities or companies. PSO also owned Transok Pipe Line Company, an Oklahoma natural gas pipeline company.

American Electric Power Company (AEP) purchased Central and Southwest Utilities for $6.6 billion in 1997. This made PSO a subsidiary of AEP.

Note: PSO maintains a website with historical information as well as some interesting photographs at http://www.psoklahoma.com/about/history/default.asp.

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