Demise of the Cursed New Birmingham, Texas

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Student

Map of New Birmingham, Texas

Map of the proposed layout for the town of New Birmingham. The streets were named after major U.S. cities, Texas towns, and a few of the major investors in the project.

In the early 1880s, Alabama native and sewing machine salesman Alexander B. Blevins envisioned a town in East Texas that would rival the iron production of Birmingham in his home state. While traveling through the eastern part of Texas, he encountered significant iron ore deposits and identified a potential town site two miles east of Rusk, between Palestine and Nacogdoches. Blevins secured financial backing for “The Iron Queen of the Southwest” from his brother-in-law Gen. W. H. Hammon, a prominent Calvert lawyer, and several other wealthy investors from New York. The town, called New Birmingham, sold its first lot in 1888 and by 1891 it boasted around 2,000 residents, two working furnaces, a train depot, electric light station, carriage shop, ice manufacturer, pipe and bottling works, brick yard, and the largest hotel outside of Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and Galveston. Most of these buildings were built with brick, demonstrating the founders’ intention for the town’s permanence.

The Texas Collection recently discovered two pieces of promotional material associated with New Birmingham: a map of the proposed layout of the town along with existing homes and buildings as of August 1891 and a promotional booklet with details about the town’s benefits and business opportunities, which can be accessed here: here and here. Yet, by 1893, New Birmingham was deserted and the Cherokee County Banner, a local newspaper, declared that the “Iron Queen was dead.” All the town’s residents left except for a single caretaker and his wife who lived in the Southern Hotel, but even that structure burned to the ground in 1926. Most scholars point to a lack of initial capital for the venture compounded by the Panic of 1893, an explosion that ruined one of the furnaces, and the unfavorable Alien Land Act passed by Texas governor James Hogg as likely causes of the city’s quick demise. A legend survives, however, that tells a significantly different and more dramatic reason for the total destruction of New Birmingham, Texas.

The Southern Hotel

The most impressive structure in New Birmingham was the Southern Hotel. It housed such distinguished guests as Texas Governor James Hogg, railroad magnate Jay Gould, and former President Grover Cleveland.

According to the legend, Gen. W. H. Hammon and his wife Ella lived in the Southern Hotel. Ella had bright red hair and was considered the most beautiful woman in the town. In 1890, grocer S. T. Cooney and his wife, who was also very beautiful, moved to the town. Mrs. Hammon supposedly became incredibly jealous and she and her husband began spreading rumors around the town about Mrs. Cooney’s conduct. S. T. Cooney filed a slander suit against Gen. Hammon, but instead of waiting for the court to handle the conflict, he took matters into his own hands and shot Hammon to death in the middle of the street on July 14, 1890. Mrs. Hammon witnessed her husband’s death and called on the townspeople to lynch Cooney, but public sentiment about the incident was divided. After unsuccessfully attempting to convince the defense attorney to drop Cooney as a client, she ran through the streets of New Birmingham with her red hair flowing and cursed the town, calling on God to “leave no stick or stone standing in this mushroom town.”

Ruins of the Town

This photo shows a single brick wall from the high school, the only structure remaining from the town of New Birmingham. The rest of the site has been overgrown by the surrounding East Texas forest.

Although the dramatic details of the legend cannot be proven, the slander suit and murder were reported in several Texas newspapers. The Galveston Daily News closely followed the trial and Cooney was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary on July 11, 1891. When the furnace exploded and the financial crisis hit New Birmingham in 1893, many townspeople recalled the curse of Mrs. Hammon and believed it to be a bad omen. Unlike other ghost towns in Texas, nothing remains to mark the place where this magnificent boomtown once stood. Most of the bricks from the businesses and homes were carted away during World War I or used to erect structures in the nearby town of Rusk. In a sense, Mrs. Hammon’s curse came true after all.

Bibliography

“Gen. Hammon Killed.” Dallas Morning News. July 15, 1890. America’s Historical Newspapers, Readex. accessed June 14, 2017.

Long, Christopher. “New Birmingham, Texas” A New Handbook of Texas. Vol. 4. Austin, TX: Texas State Historical Association, 1996.

“Made It Manslaughter.” The Galveston Daily. July 11, 1891. Newspapers.com accessed June 14, 2017.

“New Birmingham.” Cherokee County History. John Allen Templeton, ed.  Jacksonville, TX: Cherokee County Historical Commission, 1986.

New Birmingham Iron and Improvement Co. of Texas. New Birmingham, Cherokee County, Texas. Chicago: Rand, McNally, and Co., 1891.

New Birmingham, Texas. Chicago: Rand, McNally, and Co., 1891.

New Birmingham, Texas [Vertical File] The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Roach, Hattie Joplin. A History of Cherokee County. Dallas, TX: Southwest Press, 1934.

Posted in Cherokee County, Ghost Towns, Iron Rush, Maps, New Birmingham, W.H. Hammon | Leave a comment

Stories from Independence: Baylor Historical Society

By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

This post is part of a series that highlights Independence, Texas, the home of Baylor University from 1845 to 1886.

One of the many historic preservation groups that has assisted with preserving history in and around Independence through the years was the Baylor Historical Society. Formed to “stimulate interest in the history of Baylor University,” the society was founded in February 1941. Membership was open to anyone interested, and it cost only $1 to join the society. Members attended regular meetings on the Baylor campus, and usually heard a historical paper presentation at each meeting. Featured speakers included such state luminaries as Price Daniel (governor of Texas 1956-1962) and Pat Neff (governor of Texas 1921-1925, president of Baylor University 1932-1947). Longtime Baylor staff and faculty members P.D. Browne, Robert L. Reid, and Lily Russell served as society officers, and many descendants of early Baylor-associated families were members of the organization.

Independence-Columns008w

Celebrating the first restoration of the iconic columns at Independence. Pictured are (left to right): Dr. Gordon Singleton, President of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Judge Royston Crane, son of former Baylor president William Carey Crane,, Dr. W. R. White, President of Baylor University, Judge E. E. Townes, Vice President of the Baylor Board of Trustees (Board of Regents).

The society was very interested in preserving Texas, Baylor, and community history at Independence. Members raised money to stabilize the iconic Baylor columns, discussed a plan to reconstruct a dorm and operate it as an inn, and lobbied the Texas Legislature to turn part of Independence into a state park. Members also helped the Texas State Garden Club landscape around Independence.

It is not known exactly when the society disbanded. By 1964, the society only had 21 members at their annual meeting, and many of the people who had taken the lead in forming and running the organization had passed away. Longtime member P.D. Browne donated the society’s records to the Texas Collection in 1975.

 

 

Works Cited: BU Records:  Baylor Historical Society, Accession #BU/28, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, and BU Records:  Historical Research Office, Accession #BU/103, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

 

Posted in Baylor at Independence, Gordon Singleton, Independence, Independence columns, Lily McIlroy Russell, Royston Crane, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Washington County Texas | 2 Comments

Research Ready: June 2017

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

June’s finding aids
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

  • Leon Jaworski papers, 1905-1983, undated (#2442): Includes materials that describe the professional and personal life of Leon Jaworski from 1905 to 1983. Jaworski is most widely regarded for his roles in Watergate, the war crime trials in Germany, and as Special Assistant Attorney General in USA v. Ross Barnett. These papers also reflect his legal and civic service, as well as his involvement with the Warren Commission and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Personal materials, speeches and addresses, and Jaworski’s literary productions are also found in these papers.
  • Tommy West papers, 1975-1998 (#3569): This collection contains some of the literary works of journalist Tommy West, as well as a few personal remarks describing West by journalist Ray Bell.

Manual belonging to Leon Jaworski, who was the first American to try war crimes in Europe under the Geneva Convention. Jaworski wrote annotations and notes, and taped changes to the book on the actual pages. Leon Jaworski papers, Accession #21442, Box 257, Folder 4, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

June’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

 The Dallas Automobile Country Club: with its Lands, Buildings, Tennis Court, Bowling Alleys, Shooting Trap: Billiard, Lounging and Dining Rooms, and Modern Equipment. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [between 1910 and 1940?]. Print. 

This beautiful pamphlet states, “The Dallas Automobile Country Club is an association of gentlemen who own automobiles who desire a clean, high-class rendezvous where they may bring their families…”. Dining, dancing, bowling, and billiards are just some of the activities offered to club members. Click here to view in BearCat.

 

Pecos Land and Cattle Company. Charter and By-Laws of the Pecos Land and Cattle Company of Texas. Exeter, N.H.: printed by William B. Morrill, 1886. Print.

The Pecos Land and Cattle Company, organized in 1884, was made up of investors primarily from Massachusetts. This volume contains Articles of Incorporation and Code of By-Laws. Also included are the names and duties of the Board of Directors. Click here to view in BearCat.

 

 

1921 Lamar Fair and Exposition: Paris, Texas, Oct. 10-11-12-13-14-15. [Paris, TX?]: [publisher not identified], [1921]. Print.

Published in 1921 as Lamar County was celebrating the centennial of its settlement, this expansive volume highlights the many events that make up the fair and exposition, including horse racing, swine show, merchant exposition, agriculture and horticultural product exhibits, entertainment, and centennial pageants. Click here to view in BearCat.

 

 

 

Posted in American West, Books, country club, Dallas, Lamar County, Leon Jaworski, Research Ready, Texas ranches, West | Leave a comment

Cataloger’s Corner: Ptolemy and the Problem of Taprobana

by Allie McCormack, Rare Books Catalog Librarian for Baylor Libraries

For this installment of Cataloger’s Corner, I’d like to share with you one of the oldest books held at The Texas Collection: a 1562 printing of Ptolemy’s Geographia. Not only is the book itself quite old, but it was acquired very early in the history of The Texas Collection through a unique program called the McGregor Plan for the Encouragement of Book Collecting by American College Libraries that operated during the 1930s.

Instructional page from the 1562 printing of Ptolemy’s Geographia.The Geographia, sometimes called the Cosmographia, is special for many reasons. A revision of a now-lost atlas by Marinus of Tyre, it was compiled around 150 CE by Claudius Ptolemy using new principles and additional Roman and Persian sources. It was translated into Arabic in the 9th century and Latin in 1406, going through many editions in each language.

A large portion of Ptolemy’s work was dedicated to cartographic principles. Specifically, he improved the treatment of map projections—the system that lets cartographers map a round object like the globe onto a flat plane like a map—and gave readers instructions on how to recreate his maps. He also provided latitude and longitude coordinates for all the places and geographical features in the book.

Ptolemy’s original map showing the island of Taprobana from the 1562 printing of Geographia.Of course, the ancient Romans were only aware of about a quarter of the globe; Ptolemy’s European maps didn’t include Scandinavia, for example, let alone North or South America. Later editions added additional maps to represent new knowledge. During the Age of Exploration, when Europeans launched extensive overseas exploration parties, new editions included as many as 64 regional maps. Old maps also had to be altered to reflect these discoveries.

Revised version of Ptolemy’s world map showing the island of Taprobana from the 1562 printing of Geographia.What I want to focus on here is one of the more curious geographical features mapped in the Geographia: the island of Taprobana. Don’t worry if that name doesn’t sound familiar: this place was known to the Greeks before the time of Alexander the Great, but modern scholars have no idea to what land it corresponds. On the map above, based on Ptolemy’s original world map, it is situated south of India and might represent Sri Lanka. However, on the map to the left, which is based on geographical knowledge of the 1560s, Sri Lanka is clearly marked with a Z (Zeelan, a strange Latinization of the Portuguese Ceilão, from whence the English term Ceylon). Instead, the position of Taprobana might correlate with the island of Sumatra.

Map showing Camatra from the 1562 printing of Ptolemy’s Geographia.But wait! A map of the area between the Adaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand has Sumatra marked as Camatra. Below it is the island of Java (marked Iava, as Latin orthography often did not include the letter J). If Taprobana isn’t Sri Lanka or Sumatra, what is it?

Some scholars think Taprobana is a phantom island, a geographical feature that shows up on maps for many years until subsequent explorations of the area fail to find the land mass. Others think the ancient Greeks and Romans simply miscalculated the location of Sri Lanka on their maps. They use linguistic evidence to bolster their argument: according to the Mahavamsa, a 5th century CE document written in the Pali language that chronicles the history of the kings of Sri Lanka, the legendary Prince Vijaya named the land Tambapanni (“copper-red hands” or “copper-red earth”) because his followers’ hands were reddened by the soil on the island.

Map showing the island of Taprobana from the 1562 printing of Ptolemy’s Geographia.Perhaps later cartographers kept both Sri Lanka and Taprobana on their maps because they respected Ptolemy’s authority. Indeed, until the scientific revolution, previous scholarship was so revered that new discoveries which repudiated established fact were viewed with suspicion, or shoehorned into existing systems of thought even when there were obvious contradictions. Or, maybe the cartographers simply couldn’t rule out the existence of Taprobana and included it in their maps in case it was one day discovered. It remains a mystery.

Baylor University holds other works by Ptolemy, which you can see here. If you’re interested in other early geographical works, click here. If you’d specifically like to see early atlases, follow this link.

Posted in Allie McCormack, Cataloger’s Corner, Maps, Ptolemy, rare books, Taprobana | Leave a comment

Wedding Etiquette in the 1950s

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Student

As the calendar turns to June, we enter into the height of wedding season. The families of the soon to be bride and groom engage in a flurry of activity to ensure all the preparations are ready for the big day. Some of the cookbooks housed at The Texas Collection include recipes and menus specifically designed with weddings in mind. One of the most detailed descriptions of these preparations comes from a quirky cookbook published in the 1950s by the Charles W. Cook Auxiliary at Christ Episcopal Church in Laredo, Texas called Warm Welcome.

The cover page of Warm Welcome

The section entitled “Wedding Meals and Receptions” covered the expectations and etiquette for weddings, which provides an interesting glimpse into the norms for wedding receptions in the 1950s in Texas. The cookbook stressed the importance of the tasteful arrangement of delicious food and drink as the key to a successful wedding reception. Detailed rules existed regarding the order of the receiving line for a formal wedding: first the bride’s mother, then the groom’s mother, the bride, the groom, the maid of honor, and then the bridesmaids. Interestingly, the bride’s father did not stand in the receiving line but “greeted special guests and escorted old friends to the refreshment table.”

The rest of the section preceding the recipes explained the traditional food and beverages served at wedding receptions. No matter what time of day the reception was held, champagne remained the standard beverage served. Etiquette did allow for a fruit juice or gingerale punch as suitable substitutes, though. Every reception also featured a bride’s cake covered in beautiful white icing which could be topped with the same flowers used in the bridal bouquet.

A recipe for the traditional wedding cake, a dark fruit cake.

For weddings with larger budgets, the cookbook described another traditional element of the reception. Each guest received a piece of dark fruit cake in a small white box wrapped in a white satin ribbon. This cake was the designated wedding cake, as opposed to the white bride’s cake that we think of today. The mother of the bride saved a piece of the fruit cake for the bride and groom to eat on their first anniversary. Protocol allowed for the two cakes (bride’s cake and wedding cake) to be combined into a single cake with white cake making up the first two tiers and a layer of dark fruit cake at the top.

Sample menus for receptions at various times of day and levels of formality.

After the explanation of some of the etiquette and traditions surrounding wedding receptions, the cookbook provided specific menus for the various times of day a wedding reception might be held. With menus for early morning breakfast, stand-up breakfast, sit-down breakfast, buffet breakfast, breakfast served at high noon, luncheon, or supper, any bride and her family could plan the perfect reception. As you can see, cookbooks provided much more than simply recipes to the women who owned them, and helped them plan some of the most important events in the lives of their families.

Bibliography:

Charles W. Cook Auxiliary Christ Episcopal Church. Warm Welcome. Laredo, TX: 1950s?

Posted in Cookbooks, Laredo, Menus, Weddings | Leave a comment

Hallie Earle: Waco’s Weather Watcher

by Casey Froehlich, Library Assistant

Photograph of Hallie Earle, undatedYou think this summer is a hot one? It probably won’t surprise you that Waco, Texas, has hot summers (and arguably falls and winters and springs). What might surprise you is that a Central Texas teen tracked temperatures for decades. However, that’s exactly what Hallie Earle did.

Cover to one of Hallie Earle’s Diaries, 1917Born in McLennan County in 1880, Earle was the only woman in the class of 1907 at Baylor University Medical School in Dallas and later became Waco’s first female physician. She kept local weather diaries from about age fifteen until the year before she died in 1963. The Texas Collection is fortunate to have these diaries as part of the Graves-Earle family papers.

Hallie Earle diary entry for June 17, 1919Almost every day, Hallie would open her journal entry by commenting on the weather. Sometimes she was as straight forward as simply writing down the temperature, and other days she’d only offer an adjective like “cloudy” before outlining her schedule or detailing what happened to her that day.

She was most likely inspired by her father, Major Isham Harrison Earle, the first registered weather reporter in Central Texas, who kept weather records long before Hallie’s birth.

Curious about tomorrow’s (June 17th) weather in years past? Luckily, because of Hallie Earle’s diaries, we know.

  • 1917: “cl & cold” (whether “cl” means cloudy or clear is unknown)
  • 1918: “clear”
  • 1919: “Sunshine – glad to see it… a very heavy dew”
  • 1921: “Raining”
  • 1924: “Up at 6.40 – few clouds”
  • 1926: “cool and… very badly want rain”
  • 1931: “83”
  • 1934: “82”
  • 1935: “up at 7.10 – cloudy”
  • 1938: “76… up at 6 – clear”
  • 1939: “Rain”
  • 1950: “92°”
  • 1953: “92°”
  • 1956: “92°”
  • 1957: “80°”
  • 1960: “rainy – some light rain”
  • 1962: “90° at 4 P.M.”

So what will tomorrow hold? Probably more of the same, but that doesn’t mean the information is trivial. If this collection has taught me anything it’s that you never know when you might want to look back, even on the seemingly mundane details of life.

If you want learn more about the Earle family and their weather tracking, you can find more in the Graves-Earle family papers. The collection contains Hallie’s dairies, her father’s weather documentation, and more!

References:
Graves-Earle Family Papers, Accession #47, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Posted in diaries, Hallie Earle, Waco, weather | Leave a comment

Stories from Independence: San Jacinto Day

By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

This is the first in a number of upcoming posts about the town of Independence, where Baylor University’s original campus was, and the connections between Independence and Baylor people and events.

Independence has always been connected with the history of the Republic of Texas. From the renaming of Coles Settlement to Independence, to Sam Houston living in Independence, there is no shortage of connections to historic early Texas people and events. One of these special events celebrated each year is San Jacinto Day.

This holiday, commemorating Sam Houston’s victory at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21 against Santa Anna’s government, was a major holiday at Baylor at Independence. Multiple historical accounts preserved at The Texas Collection at Baylor University in Waco mention the annual festivities of San Jacinto Day at Independence.

Drawing of the male campus of Baylor University, 1870s

Drawing of the Baylor University Male Campus (Windmill Hill) at Independence. Note the buggies moving fast down the road.

One letter, written by Florence L. Davis Bledsoe, vividly describes an event that took place at Baylor University in Independence on San Jacinto Day in 1859:

One of the jubilees here is on the 21st of April, in commemoration of the battle of San Jacinto. We had “big doings” here on the 21st. General Houston was here and spoke to us. I like very much to hear him speak. He said there were but two things he now aspired to, one was to be an overseer of the roads, to see that they were in good order for he knew the ladies did not love to travel over rough roads. The other was to be Squire and see that the young ladies did not marry worthless vagabond fellows and that the young gentlemen did not marry slovenly careless girls.

Margaret Hall Hicks, also a Baylor student at Independence in the mid-1800s, describes the holiday in her unpublished book “Memories of Ancestors.”

An annual picnic on San Jacinto Day was a social event anticipated and prepared for months before the time. Each girl had made a date weeks before with some boy, generally her sweetheart, for the whole day together. If the boy was financially able, he hired a horse and buggy to take his lady love, and these were the envy of the other girls, who had to join in with others in hiring a hack or wagon and go in crowds.

Things have changed since the days students used buggys for transportation, but the excitement and fun of holidays and events on campus lives on in such events as Dia del Oso and Homecoming.

Works Cited: Keeth, Kent. “Looking Back at Baylor: a Collection of Historical Vignettes.” Waco: Baylor University, 1985; BU records: Baylor at Independence, Accession #BU/220, The Texas Collection, Baylor University; and Hicks-Hall-Harman family papers, Accession #1726, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Posted in Archives, Baylor at Independence, courtship, Florence L. Davis Bledsoe, frontier and pioneer life, Independence, Margaret Hall Hicks, San Jacinto Day, Washington County Texas | Leave a comment

Research Ready: May 2017

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

May’s finding aids
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Ordination of Pastor Peter H.H. Lee, 1939

Annie Jenkins Sallee and her husband Dr. William Sallee were missionaries to the interior of China in the early 1900s. This photograph shows the Sallees as guests at an ordination service in Kaifeng, the capital city of the Henan province. You’ll find these items in the Annie Jenkins Sallee papers, 1897-1967, undated (#715), box 1, folder 13, at The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

May’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

Thomas, Henry J., Mrs. The Prairie Rifles, or, The Captives of New Mexico: a Romance of the Southwest. New York: Beadle and Adams, [1868]. Print.

Thomas, Henry J., Mrs. The Prairie Rifles, or, The Captives of New Mexico: a Romance of the Southwest. New York: Beadle and Adams, [1868]. Print. 

This dime novel, one of nearly 400 in The Texas Collection, contains the fictional tale of two women who are captured by Comanche Indians.  Click here to view in BearCat.

 

 

Catalogue of the West Texas Military Academy: a Church School for Boys. San Antonio, TX: The Academy, 1904-. Print.

Catalogue of the West Texas Military Academy: a Church School for Boys. San Antonio, TX: The Academy, 1904-. Print. 

This catalog was produced just eleven years after the 1893 founding of the West Texas Military Academy in San Antonio. Two-thirds of the volume explains rules and regulations, administrative information, and academic standards. The remainder is devoted to athletics.  Click here to view in BearCat.

Some of the Things 1909 Farmers Buy. Volume 1. Texas. New York: Crowell Publishing Company, 1909. Print.

Some of the Things 1909 Farmers Buy. Volume 1. Texas. New York: Crowell Publishing Company, 1909. Print. 

Published as a special issue of the national publication Farm and Fireside, this volume highlights a group of Grayson County, Texas farmers randomly selected from the publication’s subscription list. Included in the volume are photographs of homes and descriptions of farms.  Click here to view in BearCat.

 

Posted in Adventure, American West, Archives, Baptist missions, Baptist women, Belton Texas, Books, broadsides, China, Dallas, frontier and pioneer life, Indian captivities, Indians of North America, letters, missionaries, missions, Old West, Photographs, Rail Road, Railroads, Research Ready, Texas railroads, Waco, Waco Interfaith Conference, World War II | Leave a comment

Cataloger’s Corner: The Age of Exploration in Italiano

by Allie McCormack, Rare Books Catalog Librarian for Baylor Libraries

Welcome back to Cataloger’s Corner! In my second article for this series, I’d like to tell you about an amazing book The Texas Collection purchased last year: the first Italian edition of Francisco López de Gómara’s account of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, La Historia Generale delle Indie Occidentali, from 1556.

Gómara became the private chaplain of famed conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1540. This relationship gave him easy access to other Spaniards who had traveled to Mexico with Cortés. In 1552, he compiled interviews with these explorers, as well as manuscript accounts written by missionaries and Caribbean governors, to form the book Primera y Segunda Parte de la Historia General de las Indias. The work was extremely popular and had at least 50 editions in Spanish, Italian, French, and English through 1600.

However, Gómara’s contemporaries strongly criticized the book. Prominent writers like Bernal Díaz del Castillo, who had been a soldier under Cortés, thought Gómara focused too much on his former boss without giving due credit to others involved in the campaign, and Friar Bartolomé de las Casas thought he glossed over the atrocities Cortés committed against indigenous peoples in the Americas. Even the Spanish Crown found fault with the book, perhaps for its criticism directed against Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and Philip II officially banned its publication in Spain in a 1553 decree. However, copies in Spanish continued to be printed in Antwerp and Rome throughout the 16th century. The publication ban was formally ended in 1757.

Title page of La Historia Generale delle Indie Occidentali (1556)The Texas Collection’s copy of the Historia is no longer in its original binding, but the pages are remarkably clean with only a hint of water damage. At some point, a former owner or bookseller put a strip of paper just above the publication statement on the title page. My guess is that a fancy filigree or other kind of illustration was cut out of the book, and someone filled in the hole to minimize further ripping or stress to the page.

The text is set in italic type, a cursive font based on 15th and 16th-century calligraphy. Today we only use italics to emphasize part of a text, but it used to be used throughout books.

Page 79 of La Historia Generale delle Indie Occidentali (1556)This image showcases the lovely initials used at the beginning of most chapters. Each letters has an architectural background, some of which are identifiable buildings while others are more generic.

If you look in the bottom right corner of the page, you will see evidence that a bookworm has been in this book. Yes, bookworms are real—but the term can refer to any insect that bores through books. Cloth bindings can attract moths, while certain varieties of beetles will attack leather or wooden bindings. Tiny wingless bugs of the order Psocoptera feed mainly on mold and other organic material found on the pages of books. These insects are more likely to be a danger to books that are housed in damp, humid spaces, which is why the special collections librarians at Baylor are so strict about climate control in the libraries.

Bison illustration inside La Historia Generale delle Indie Occidentali (1556)One of the most important features of this book can be found on page 202: an early image of the bison. (According to research done by Gunter Sehmi, the earliest European illustration of a bison was found in the first edition of Gómara’s book.) Interestingly, it is the only illustration in the entire book and comes before the chapter “Delle vacche gobbe che ci sonno in Quivira,” or “On the humpback cows that are in Quivira.” The explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led an expedition north from Mexico to search for the mythical “Seven Cities of Gold;” when he failed to find them, he instead turned east to look for a wealthy civilization the Pueblo Indians called Quivira. However, when Coronado finally reached it, he was unable to find any gold. The exact location of this settlement is uncertain, but historians and archaeologists think it was likely in central Kansas.

If you’d like to read the original Spanish text of this book in a modern edition, you can find it in Moody Library at Baylor University. To find other early descriptions of the Americas held by The Texas Collection, follow this link.

iSehm, Gunter G. (1991). “The first European bison illustration and the first Central European exhibit of a living bison. With a table of the sixteenth century editions of Francisco López de Gómara.” Archives of Natural History 18 (3): 323-332.

Posted in Allie McCormack, Francisco López de Gómara, rare books | Leave a comment

Research Ready: April 2017

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

April’s finding aids
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Waco Suspension Bridge Pass

From the opening of the Waco Suspension Bridge 1870 until 1889, the Waco Bridge Company exacted tolls on individuals wishing to cross the bridge. Pictured here is a blank pass found in the collection. You’ll find these items in the Waco Bridge Company records, 1868-1991, undated (#2010), box 1, folder 6, at The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

April’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

Tomlin, Henry. Courtship and Marriage of Henry Tomlin. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1908?]. Print.Tomlin, Henry. Courtship and Marriage of Henry Tomlin. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1908?]. Print.

Henry Tomlin explains the difficulties he had in marrying his 13-year-old bride due to her parent’s objections. Oddly, nowhere in the volume does Tomlin mention his fiancé’s name or that he is 53-years-old. He also doesn’t mention his nearly two-decade stint in a Texas prison in the late 19th century, which he recounts in another volume, Henry Tomlin: the Man who Fought the Brutality and Oppression of the Ring in the State of Texas for Eighteen Years, and Won. Click here to view in BearCat.

H.J. Justin & Sons. Justin Boots & Shoes. [Fort Worth?]: [publisher not identified], [1947?]. Print.

 

H.J. Justin & Sons. Justin Boots & Shoes. [Fort Worth?]: [publisher not identified], [1947?]. Print.

Touted as the “Bootmakers of the West Since 1879,” Justin Boots & Shoes has been making footwear for nearly 140 years. This circa 1940s catalogue shows the wide range of boots, cowboy shoes, and waddies available at the time as well as photographs of the boot manufacturing process.  Click here to view in BearCat.

Street Car and Bus Service in Dallas: Information for Centennial Visitors and Home Folks. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1936]. Print.

 

 

 

 

Street Car and Bus Service in Dallas: Information for Centennial Visitors and Home Folks. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1936]. Print.

This informational brochure highlights the courteous, prompt, and safe modes of transportation that await those visiting Dallas for the 1936 Texas Centennial. A map showing the street car and bus lines is included and as well as info on how to get to popular attractions.  Click here to view in BearCat.

 

 

Posted in Archives, Belton Texas, Books, courtship, Crush, Railroads, Research Ready, Texas railroads, Waco | Leave a comment