Research Ready: July 2015

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here are July’s finding aids:

Virginia and Paul Smith with King Hussein, undated

One of the Virginia and Paul Smith’s largest—and most successful—initiatives was founding the Jordan Baptist School in 1974. Securing approval from the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and finding land for the school buildings took many years, but the school’s survival was assured when the King of Jordan enrolled three of his daughters. Here Virginia and Paul Smith greet King Hussein during his unannounced visit to the school. Virginia and Paul Smith Missions papers, 1955-2010, Accession 3953, box 1, folder 3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

    • Virginia and Paul Smith Missions papers, 1955-2010 (#3953): This collection describes the pastoral, educational, and humanitarian activities of two Southern Baptist missionaries that lived in the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Morocco, and Lebanon. Materials include correspondence, photographs, and twenty years of Jordan Baptist Mission Board of Directors minutes.
President Samuel Palmer Brooks address, 1915

Every Baylor student has heard Brooks’ Immortal Message to the class of 1931 (“to you I hand the torch”). But as president, he gave many commencement addresses, many of which are in his papers. In this address to the class of 1915, one can see Brooks’ eloquence was not limited to the speech for which he is best known. Samuel Palmer Brooks papers, 1880-1937, Accession 91, box 30, folder 2.

 

Posted in Baptist missions, Commencement, missionaries, missions, Photographs, Research Ready, Samuel Palmer Brooks, Southern Baptist Convention, Texas Baptists | Leave a comment

Looking Back at Baylor: The Campus as Playground

Baylor University, aerial view, 1920s

1920s aerial view of the Baylor campus by Fred Gildersleeve. This is what the campus looked like at around the time Albert Meroney was born. At the time, the campus consisted of Old Main, Burleson Hall, Carroll Chapel and Library, Carroll Science Hall, and Carroll Field, and Brooks Hall is under construction in the top left corner. Residential neighborhoods surround the small campus. General photo files: Baylor–Aerial Views–1920-1929.

Children are often on the Baylor campus today, but they are usually accompanied by their parents or teachers. However, back in the first half of the 1900s, residential areas were much closer to campus, and children—particularly those of faculty/staff—made good use of the campus as a playground. Albert Meroney, the son of sociology professor William Penn Meroney, lived at 1417 South Seventh Street (about where Alexander Hall now stands). The following are excerpts from a short memoir he wrote in 1994 (now housed at The Texas Collection) remembering the campus from a child’s perspective.

“Waco Creek ran at the north end of Carroll Field where Baylor played football. There was a high fence around the field, and at the creek end there were trees whose limbs hung over the fence. We would climb the trees to watch a game and then out on the limbs and when no one was looking would drop down inside and run….Every Sunday during the fall they would water the field with a fire house. A bunch of us would slip in and get in the water and have a big time until the day watchman would catch us—it would be Bill Boyd or Neill Morris, and they would scare us but not call our folks….

View of Carroll Chapel and Library and Burleson Quadrangle from Old Main tower, Baylor University, February 5, 1922

Among Meroney’s recollections of mischief are sneaking into the Old Main towers. What a view! However, he wouldn’t have seen quite this scene–this photo is dated just a week before a fire gutted the Carroll Chapel and Library in 1922 (the year Meroney was born), and the dome was not restored. General photo files: Baylor–Buildings–Rufus C. Burleson Quadrangle.

Right behind the girls’ dorm, Burleson, was an enclosed swimming pool for girls only. It seemed huge to us kids but was only about 20 x 30 feet and had a concrete dome roof….There were no classes on Sunday, and a few of us would open one of the windows, which were at ground level, and take us a swim until we got caught.

The campus and especially Waco Hall had so many good sidewalks that all of us had roller skates….The campus sidewalks were also a great place to ride bicycles. We used to make a sort of polo mallet and get a tin can and play bicycle polo. Hard on the spokes….

The heating plant was by the creek and is now Neill Morris Hall. It had large boilers that generated steam to heat all the campus buildings. The steam lines ran through a tunnel that went all over the campus. We used to get in the tunnel at a manhole and go every which direction and hide out….Also on the side of the building there was a ramp to the top so that trucks could drive up and unload coal into the bins for the furnaces. We used to ride our bikes up and down it, and it was real great when it would ice over in the winter and we would slide down on anything we could find. We always had someone at the bottom to watch out for cars [on Seventh Street] but one time we forget and Marshall Cunningham went down and went completely under a car and out on the other side….

Burleson Quadrangle looking at Old Main, Baylor University, circa 1920s-1930s

You can see the benches (and the many trees!) in Burleson Quadrangle, behind which a mischievous Meroney hid to surprise courting couples. Today, benches and swings still are a popular place for couples on the Baylor campus. General photo files–Baylor–Buildings–Rufus C. Burleson Quadrangle

Scattered across the campus and under the trees were benches for students to use for courting. One of my favorite stunts was to slip up behind a couple and scare the daylights out of them. Also, coins could be found under the benches….[Another] of our favorite stunts was to slip in Old Main, open the door that went to the attic and to the towers…and catch squabs to take home to cook and eat….

When Pat Neff got Baylor in the black [after the Depression] there was a building boom. Up until about 1941 I “supervised” it all. In other words I was in everybody’s way and playing all over.”

Meroney went on to use his insider knowledge of the Baylor campus as a student, graduating in 1948 after he served in World War II.

This blog post is an edited version of William Albert Meroney’s memoir, as prepared by  former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth for The Baylor Line, Summer 1994Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” selections, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

Posted in Albert Meroney, Baylor University, Looking Back at Baylor | 3 Comments

1966: The Year Waco’s ALICO Building Meets Mid-Century Modern

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Amicable (ALICO) Building, Waco, TX., c. 1926

This Fred Gildersleeve image shows the Amicable Building in about 1926. Waco’s famous Old Corner Drug Store occupied a wing of the street level at the time. This same part of the building is still attached, as can be noticed in the modern image of the structure below. The original design of the front and side facades are evident, as well as the original design of the first few upper floors. General photo files: Waco–Business–Amicable Life Insurance Building (Exterior).

Between 1958 and 1978, Waco underwent major changes through the federally funded Urban Renewal Agency of Waco. Areas impacted included numerous city blocks between LaSalle Avenue and Waco Drive. The project greatly affected the city’s people, businesses, schools, and buildings.

Between 1964 and 1966, the city’s landmark ALICO (American Life Insurance Company) Building received major updates as well. The largest and most significant addition to the structure was the ALICO Inn and its convention facilities. The 22-story ALICO Building, originally known as the Amicable Building, was completed in 1911, and designed by architects Roy E. Lane and Sanguinet & Staats. When built, it was the tallest office building in the southwestern United States. Its location was once in the city’s central business district, and it was a vital part of the city’s economy. To remain that way, it needed to keep pace with the rapidly changing business climate of Waco in the 1950s and ’60s.

The ALICO Center Building, ALICO Inn, Waco, TX, 1966 (6)

This view from 5th Street shows the changes in architecture to the original ALICO office building and adjoining conference center and hotel. Most of the façade still remains, but seeing the 1966 structure helps give an idea of the architects’ original intent with the building’s design. General photo files: Waco–Urban Renewal–Business–Alico Center.

With the closing of the Roosevelt Hotel and its conversion into a retirement facility, more downtown hotels were needed, and the Waco Chamber of Commerce was receptive to ideas like the creation of the ALICO Center. The city wanted to attract conventions and shoppers to the downtown area. The center’s proposal was initiated by 29-year-old architect Jay Frank Powell, owner of Down-Tel Corp., a company specializing in building motels in downtown areas. According to the September 20, 1964, Waco Tribune-Herald, the Waco Chamber, when presented with the ALICO Center plan: “pounced on Powell like a piece of beef dangled before a starving lion.”

The ALICO Center Building, ALICO Inn, Waco, TX, 1966 (8)

A passing image of the ALICO Inn and Conference Center soon after construction in about 1966. The view from Austin Avenue was far different from what had been there before the addition. General photo files: Waco–Urban Renewal–Business–Alico Center.

When completed in 1966, the ALICO Center Inn contained 115 rooms for overnight guests, a second-floor meeting room that would seat 250 in a banquet or 1,000 to 1,200 people auditorium-style. It was described as a “downtown motor hotel with convention facilities, a motor bank and a five-story parking garage.” The ALICO Center was designed to match its changing surroundings, including part of Austin Avenue’s closure to make it into a pedestrian mall, another part of the Waco Urban Renewal Agency’s planning. [Check out our blog post on that subject.]

At the 1964 ALICO Center groundbreaking ceremony, the president of the Amicable Life Insurance Company, Franklin Smith, stated, “it will be not only a step toward completion of ALICO Center, but mark the beginning of a new atmosphere and a new enthusiasm in downtown Waco.” Additionally, Waco’s then mayor, Roger Conger, compared the event “to the historic groundbreaking for the Amicable Building more than 50 years ago.”

The ALICO Center Building, Hilton Inn, Waco, TX, Sep. 1971 (2)

The lower façade of the main ALICO Building fits in well with the recently dedicated Austin Avenue Pedestrian Mall, as seen here in 1971. In order to attract more shoppers who would park and walk, vehicular traffic was not allowed on certain parts of Austin Avenue. General photo files: Waco–Urban Renewal–Business–Alico Center.

The end result, completed in 1966, changed the design of the original 1911 ALICO Building, with the new hotel, convention center, parking garage, and motor bank, joined directly to it. As a result, the ALICO Center’s additions took up nearly the entire 400 block of Austin Avenue—stretching much of the complex back to Washington Avenue. Overall, it was impressive and imposing—different in every aspect of what that side of the 400 block of Austin Avenue looked like before. The entire redesign of the 1966 ALICO Center seemed well balanced in appearance—and represented the mid-century modern architectural style frequently seen during the period.

However, the ALICO Center as it appeared in 1966 is no longer. The hotel and convention center were demolished in about 1998, and the space is now used as a parking lot. The main vintage 1911 building and parking garage complex remain, and retain most of the later modifications. This includes much of the 1966 addition’s facade at street level, wrapping around Austin Avenue, the parking garage along 5th Street, and back to the Washington Avenue side of the complex.

The ALICO Building, 425 Austin Avenue, Waco, TX, 2015 (3)

What’s noticeable in this 2015 image of the ALICO Building is the lack of the hotel and convention center. The structure once joining the main building took up a large portion of the 400 block of Austin Avenue and extended back to Washington. The 5-story parking garage and section built for the motor bank are still present. The hotel and convention complex was demolished in about 1998 and is now a parking lot. Photo taken by Texas Collection staff.

In spring 2016, it will be fifty years since the ALICO Center opened for operations. The main building is now 104 years old. The structure has, and remains successful and its exterior is a mixture of old and “new.” Most importantly, it continues to be Waco’s most prominent downtown landmark.

Occupiers of the Inn and Conference Center at 411 Austin Avenue, according to Waco Polk City Directories include:

*ALICO Inn: 1966-1970
*Hilton Inn: 1970-1971
*Waco Plaza Motel: 1972-1978
*Brazos Inn: 1979-1982
*Rodeway Inn: 1983-1984
*Brazos Inn: 1985-1991
*Brittney Hotel: 1992-1994
*Vacant: 1995-1997
*Mark Domangue and Associates Security Brokers: 1998
*Building demolished around this time period-disappears from the records: 1999

See more images of the different looks of the ALICO building over time in our Flickr set.


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

Sources

“Architect Will Reach Goal In Building of ALICO Center,” The Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Sep. 20, 1964.

“New Era Seen as Work Begins on Huge Motel,” The Waco News-Tribune (Waco, TX.), Dec. 8, 1964.

“ALICO Keeps Pace with Time,” The Baylor Lariat (Waco, TX.), Feb 26, 1966.

“Charles Hunton-Hilton Inn Manager,” The Waco Citizen (Waco, TX.), Nov. 20, 1969.

“Conventions at Brazos,” The Waco Citizen (Waco, TX.), Mar. 10, 1981.

“Rodeway Now Brazos Inn,” The Waco Citizen (Waco, TX.), Feb. 19, 1985.

Posted in Amicable Alico Building, architecture, Austin Avenue, Fred Gildersleeve, Historic Waco, Roy Ellsworth Lane, Sanguinet & Staats, Urban Renewal, Waco | Leave a comment

Texas over Time: Franklin Avenue, Waco

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Franklin Avenue over timeImages from Waco–Streets–Franklin Avenue photo file

  • At 412 Franklin Ave, early millionaire J.T. Davis ran his oil and cattle empire, Rabajo Oil Co., from 1906 until the 1920s when he died.
  • From 1907 to 1927, the Waco Installment Co. sold secondhand items, which provided access to appliances and furniture for middle class families at an affordable price.
  • The longest lasting business on Franklin was the Nate Chodorow dry goods store (316 Franklin), from 1926 to 1970.
  • The Tom Padgitt Company (5th and Franklin) was one of the most successful saddle manufacturers of its day.

Sources from Franklin Avenue vertical file, The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Cruz, Jonathan. Four-Hundred (Odd) Franklin Avenue: Its People, Past and Places. Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Dec. 10, 1997.

Roberts, Aileen. The Puzzle Pieces of Waco. Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Dec. 10, 1997.

See all of the images in our Flickr set. GIF and factoids prepared by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant.

Posted in Franklin Avenue, Historic Waco, Texas over Time | Leave a comment

Research Ready: June 2015

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here are June’s finding aids:

Harding Black photograph, circa 1990

This circa 1990 photograph of Harding Black features the noted ceramics expert in his San Antonio studio with one of his sculptural pieces. The photograph was taken by Baylor University Ceramicist-in-Residence, Professor Paul McCoy. Harding Black’s greatest contribution to the ceramics community was his glaze research, which included extensive work to recreate ancient Chinese glazes from the Song and Tang dynasties. Harding Black collection #3911, box 11, folder 7.

 

  • Harding Black collection, 1910-2014, (#3911): The Harding Black collection contains material on the life, legacy, and career of noted ceramic expert Harding Black. Harding Black’s greatest contribution to the ceramics community was his glaze research, which included extensive work to recreate ancient Chinese glazes from the Song and Tang dynasties.

You can view more of Harding Black’s ceramic art here or learn more about Harding Black here.

Posted in American South, Civil War, Confederate States of America, Harding Black, P.G.T. Beauregard, Research Ready, Slavery, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Texas over Time: Crash at Crush

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Crash at Crush, TexasImages from the John Oscar Birgen “Swede” Johnson collection

  • On September 13, 1896, William George Crush organized the infamous collision of the Katy Roundhouses on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.
  • Crush, as the new General Passenger Agent of the MKT System, had the idea to demonstrate a train crash as a publicity stunt and was assured by all but one mechanical engineer that the boilers of the trains would not explode.
  • For the price of $2 a ticket, over 40,000 spectators came out to the pop-up town of Crush, Texas, to see the “famous duel of the iron monsters.”
  • Just after 4 pm, Crush threw a hat up into the air, signaling red No. 1001 and green Old No. 99 to begin racing at 90 miles an hour towards each other. The thundering crash of the locomotives sent flying debris towards the massive crowd, causing three deaths and other injuries.
  • One of the two photographers capturing the event, Jarvis Deane, was among the injured. He lost his eyesight after a missile put out his eye and a metal bolt lodged into his head.
  • The incident inspired Scott Joplin to write “The Great Crush Collision March.”

See all of the images in our Flickr set. GIFs and factoids prepared by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant.

Posted in Crush, Jarvis Deane, Kansas and Texas Railroad, Missouri, Texas, Texas over Time, William George Crush | Leave a comment

Armstrong’s Stars: Robert Frost

Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Land.

Frost portrait by Farmer

Signed photograph of Robert Frost by Farmer, Waco (Celebrities Visiting Baylor photo file, Armstrong Browning Library)

When he arrived at Baylor in 1922, Robert Frost was one of the most famous poets in America. He had yet to win many of the accolades that would come later in life, but he was well on his way to becoming the household name that he is today. By the time Dr. A.J. Armstrong asked Robert Frost to come and read at Baylor, the poet was already known for his dramatic monologues and innovative blank verse celebrating the lives of New England farmers. Many of his more famous works like “Mending Wall,” “Birches,” and “The Road Not Taken” were well on their way to becoming staples in the American literary canon and poems to study for many American students.

Because of this popularity Frost earned a series of teaching jobs and public readings around the country. However, his confessed love for “barding around, ” a phrase he used to describe his itinerate lecturer lifestyle, had not really brought him very far south, and it apparently would take some convincing before the poet would come to Baylor in 1922 (Burnshaw). To sell Frost on the merits of reading poetry in Texas, Dr. Armstrong relied on his relationship with other literary luminaries who had previously read here. It even took the efforts of fellow poet and mutual friend Carl Sandburg to write Frost on Dr. Armstrong’s behalf and promise him that “they [Baylor students] not only read a man’s books before he arrives but they buy them in record-breaking numbers” (Sandburg 213).

We may never know whether or not Sandburg’s promise of profits and literate crowds was the tipping point in convincing Frost to come to Texas, but we can say that within a few months of Sandburg’s letter, Frost arrived in Dallas for a five city tour of Texas universities. Throughout November of 1922, Robert Frost gave readings at Southern Methodist University, Mary Hardin-Baylor, the City of Temple, and Southwestern University in Georgetown, in addition to Baylor; all of course were arranged by Baylor’s own Dr. A.J. Armstrong. According to the Baylor Lariat, Frost was said to have enjoyed his time at Baylor so much that he frequently said over the next few years that he would like to return to Waco (“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here” 1).

A "heavy Frost...in the form of Robert, the Poet" was featured in the 1923 Baylor yearbook The Round Up (The Texas Collection)

A “heavy Frost…in the form of Robert, the Poet” was featured in the 1923 Baylor yearbook The Round Up (The Texas Collection)

It may have taken him a decade, but in 1933 Dr. Armstrong again convinced the New England poet to return to Texas for a second reading. By that time Frost’s reputation as a poet had only grown exponentially. Just two years earlier, he won his second of four Pulitzer prizes for his collected works and was well on his way to completing his seventh volume of original poetry. When he arrived for the second time, Frost was greeted with close to 500 audience members, all eager to hear him recite his most famous works (“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here” 1). Ultimately, Frost’s two visits to Baylor left a lasting mark on the University. When he died in 1963, the Lariat dedicated two full pages to the poet’s life and praised his contribution to the American literary landscape. In the end, Robert Frost’s time at Baylor might be best summed up by the students themselves who claimed in their 1923 yearbook that Robert Frost’s visits “materially help[ed] put Baylor on the map” (The Round Up 161).

Works Cited

Burnshaw, Stanley. “Robert Frost.” American National Biography Online. American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000. Web. 5 June 2015

“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here.” The Daily Lariat [Waco] 19 Apr. 1933: 1. Web. 5 June 2015

The Round Up. Ed. Enid Eastland. Vol. 22. Jefferson City: Hugh Stephens, 1923. 161. Web. 5 June 2015

Sandburg, Carl. Letter to Robert Frost. Summer 1922. The Letters of Carl Sandburg. Orlando: HBJ, 1968. 213. Print.

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts.

Posted in A.J. Armstrong, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Armstrong Browning Library, Armstrong's Stars, Baylor University, Robert Frost | Leave a comment

Research Ready: May 2015

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here are May’s finding aids:

Civil War letter from Thomas Cope, 1863

Letter from Confederate soldier Thomas Cope to his brother. At the time of this letter, he was in a hospital in Tunnell Hill, Georgia. He passed away eight days after writing this letter. Cope family Civil War letters, Accession 3949, Box 1, Folder 1, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

 

  • M. P. Daniel papers, 1907-1986 (#3919): The M. P. Daniel papers contain the correspondence, legal, and literary documents of Marion Price Daniel, Sr., a prominent businessman in southeast Texas in the early 20th century.
Letter from Price Daniel to M.P. Daniel, 1929

In this 1929 letter home, one of M.P. Daniel’s sons, Price Daniel, provides a glimpse into Baylor student life in the late 1920s, with topics ranging from hunting to being the editor of the campus paper, The Daily Lariat. Although he did not attend Baylor University, M.P. Daniel was an active supporter of the university and all three of his children attended Baylor. M.P. Daniel papers, Accession 3919, box 6, folder 4, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Posted in American South, authors, Baylor at Independence, Baylor Female College, Civil War, Confederate States of America, Frontier and pioneer life, genealogy, Gordon Singleton, letters, Liberty County, M.P. Daniel, performing arts, Research Ready, student life, Texas Baptists, Uncategorized, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Waco | Leave a comment

Texas over Time: Waco Hippodrome Theatre

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

We’ve got something a little different for you this month. These images were shot in Texas, but feature promotional movie displays that were probably seen across the country. Our images are from the Waco Hippodrome Theatre in the 1920s-1930s. Check out some of the elaborate productions enticing visitors to these early films.

Waco Hippodrome movie promotional displays

  • The Hippodrome, first operated and constructed by Earl Henry Husley, began as a road show house known as “Hulsey’s Hipp” and offered major vaudeville attractions and movies. Construction for the theater house began in 1913 and opened on February 7, 1914.
  • For a whole ten cents, or a quarter for box seats, the opening night featured a live seal act, a five-piece orchestra, and a magic act.
  • An affiliate of Paramount, the Hippodrome served as a silent movie theater until a fire started in the projection and destroyed the front of the building in 1928. The renovations resulted in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that still remains today.

Waco Hippodrome movie promotional displays

  • Under new management, its name was changed to Waco Theater and attracted many celebrities to Waco, including Elvis Presley (as a moviegoer) and John Wayne. More than 10,000 people gathered to see Wayne’s promotion.
  • The Junior League of Waco and the Cooper Foundation helped revitalize the theater (which had suffered from competition from suburban theaters) in 1987. The Waco Performing Arts Company operated it till 2010.
  • After much change throughout its lifetime, the Hippodrome reopened in 2014 and now offers first-release films as well as live theater, concerts, and other entertainment (and dining).

Sources

George, Mary Helen. “1910-1919 Skyscrapers & Beyond.” Waco Heritage & History 28 (Summer 1999): 45. N.p., n.d. Web. Print.

Warren, Jennifer. “Waco Hippodrome Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. Cinema Treasures, LLC, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

See all of the images in our Flickr set. GIFs and factoids prepared by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant, and Amanda Norman, university archivist.

Posted in Austin Avenue, Hippodrome, Historic Waco, Texas over Time, Waco | Leave a comment

Armstrong’s Stars: Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson, Baylor Lariat, March 24, 1939

Friday’s Lariat announced the expectation of a performance on Monday by Marian Anderson. Baylor Lariat, March 24, 1939.

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity who Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Amanda Mylin, graduate assistant, The Texas Collection.

When renowned African-American singer Marian Anderson was not permitted to sing in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington, D. C. in March 1939, the nation reacted (in large part) with astonishment. Anderson is quoted in an article published in the Baylor Lariat saying, “It shocks me beyond words that after having appeared in the capitols of most of the countries of the world, I am not wanted in the capitol of my own country” (“D.A.R. and Americanism,” 2).

Eleanor Roosevelt’s response was the most notable: the First Lady protested the move by resigning from the DAR, and encouraging a concert at an even more prominent venue. Anderson performed a free open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, encouraged and arranged by the First Lady, Anderson’s manager, Walter White of the NAACP, and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes.

In the midst of this drama, Anderson came to Baylor. Two weeks before her famed Easter concert, Anderson performed at Baylor University’s Waco Hall at the behest of Dr. A. J. Armstrong and Sigma Tau Delta. She was the first African-American soloist to grace the Hall. Her March 27 performance included an array of spirituals and compositions by Handel, Schubert, and Carissimi. The Baylor Lariat for March 3 stated that Sigma Tau Delta had taken the “liberal side of the week’s race question” by selecting Marian Anderson to perform (“Negro Singer Will Follow First Lady,” 4). The same article also noted that Mrs. Roosevelt would speak in Waco Hall on March 13, two weeks before the concert. A nationwide commotion had found its way to Baylor’s campus in a small capacity.

Seats went quickly for Anderson’s upcoming performance, The Waco News-Tribune, February 26, 1939, Newspapers.com (accessed April 9, 2015).

“‘Procrastination is the thief of time’–and good seats!” Tickets sold quickly for Anderson’s upcoming performance, according to this ad in tThe Waco News-Tribune, February 26, 1939. Newspapers.com.

Anderson’s performance was well-received by the Waco audience even though it was primarily formed of a distinct “cross-section of the community’s white citizenship.” The Waco News-Tribune for the next day stated that this turn-out “was pretty much proof that the DAR of Washington, D. C., acted in silly fashion to say the least” (“Marian Anderson is Well Received by Waco Audience”). Furthermore, this article mentioned that Anderson’s well-attended performance was an instance of a slow but steady “solution of a leading American problem.”

Interestingly enough, even Waco Hall remained segregated for Anderson’s concert, with a special portion of the balcony reserved for African-Americans. Eventually, Anderson would insist upon what she called “vertical” seating for her concerts, with available seats throughout the auditorium reserved for African-Americans, and by 1950, she refused to sing for segregated audiences. Yet in the wake of the Constitution Hall incident, Anderson was pleased to perform at Baylor by invitation of Dr. Armstrong.

Dr. Armstrong attempted to bring Anderson back to Waco again in the 1940s, but her schedule was full. Her booking agency offered instead the Don Cossack Chorus, which did come to Waco that February.

Dr. Armstrong attempted to bring Anderson back to Waco again in the 1940s, but her schedule was full. Her booking agency offered instead the Don Cossack Chorus, which did come to Waco that February. Anderson, Marian, Records of Visiting Celebrities, Armstrong Browning Library.

Although Anderson was in a hurry and allegedly declined to discuss her recent deterrence by the DAR and the First Lady’s defense of her attempt to perform, she did offer a small informal interview to the Baylor Lariat. She had never been to Waco and commented on the beauty of driving through the Texas countryside from San Antonio. Her enthusiasm and unstoppable energy seemed to bubble over as she explained, “I think America offers vast unlimited opportunities for youthful singers who have the seriousness and determination to become great artists no matter what their race of color” (“Eleanor Roosevelt Versus D.A.R. Feud is Closed; Field Unlimited, Says Anderson,” 1).

Sources:

Negro Singer Will Follow First Lady,” Baylor Lariat, March 3, 1939.

D.A.R. and Americanism,” Baylor Lariat, March 23, 1939.

Eleanor Roosevelt Versus D.A.R. Feud is Closed; Field Unlimited, Says Anderson,” Baylor Lariat, March 28, 1939.

Marian Anderson to Sing in Waco Hall: Famous Conductor Says Negro Artist is Best Living in This Day,” Baylor Lariat, March 22, 1939.

http://marian-anderson.com

“Marian Anderson is Well Received by Waco Audience,” The Waco News-Tribune, March 28, 1939, Newspapers.com (accessed April 9, 2015).

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts.

Posted in A.J. Armstrong, African-Americans, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Armstrong Browning Library, Armstrong's Stars, Baylor University, Daughters of the American Revolution, Marian Anderson, Waco Hall | Leave a comment