Tag Archive for maps

(Digital Collections) Where The Bears Made Their Dens Back Then: A Multimedia Visualization of Baylor Student Housing From 1913-1914

Student housing, 1913 style. From “Baylor University Students of 1913-1914: A Multimedia Project,” via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

Welcome back to a new year and a new post here at the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections blog! We’re excited to be back on campus and look forward to another year of providing you with unique insights into our ever-growing array of digital collections.

This week, we’re taking a multimedia look at a pair of resources related to Baylor University and Waco history: the 1913-1914 Waco City Directories and Baylor Round Ups

Abel Maud Miss, student Baylor Univ, res 727 S 17th

This entry for Maud Abel, a student at Baylor in 1913, is the first student-related entry in the 1913 Waco City Directory. The directory – which contains the names, addresses, ethnicities and occupations of Waco’s citizenry – is a rich resource for students of Waco history. While updating the navigation for a number of volumes this collection, I noticed a large number of entries for Baylor students and had an idea: what if we used Google Maps to plot the known addresses of those students on a current map of the city of Waco? And what if we added select photos of those students to the map, so modern researchers could get a sense of where Baylor students in the early 1910s lived during their tenure as Baylor Bears?

And so the Homes of Baylor University Students of 1913-1914 project was born. Using the names listed in the 1913-1914 directories and the 1913-1914 Round Ups, I plotted the hundreds of names in a custom Google Map, along with a sampling of photos of students, some single headshots and others group photos taken on the front steps of their boarding houses.

Exploring the Project

The Google Map plotting the student housing locations of 1913-1914. Click the image to access this resource.

The housing map is simple to navigate, but here are a few helpful tips to make your browsing more enjoyable.

–       You can navigate directly to an address by clicking on it in the list at the upper left of the screen. An entry marked with a blue star indicates a location marker that also includes a photo of the student(s) who lived there. Green markers indicate female students, yellow markers indicate male students, and brown markers indicate either mixed gender residences or students whose gender is unknown.

Navigation panel for the Google Map.

–       As you zoom closer to campus, you’ll see a green rectangle. This roughly represents the boundaries of campus as they stood in 1913-1914.

–       Clicking on a marker will pull up a list of the students who lived at that address. For large dormitories – like Burleson Hall – there are multiple markers with long lists of names.

Location marker for Maud Abel’s home address, 727 S. 17th St.

The photos for the project are housed as a set in our Baylor University Libraries Digital Collection’s Flickr photostream. In the descriptions of each photo, you’ll find a link to the corresponding page in the Round Up from which it was taken so you can explore each photo in its original context.

The Flickr set of images for the project. Click the image for access.


We hope you’ll enjoy exploring the topography of Baylor’s student housing in the earlier 1910s through this multifaceted project. Leave us your comments on what you found enlightening, interesting or confusing – we’d love to hear from you!

Images from the 1913-1914 Baylor Round Ups via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections, digitized from originals held by The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX. To see the digital copies of the Waco City Directories or the Round Ups, visit our Digital Collections homepage. To arrange access to physical copies, or to see more resources related to Baylor and Waco history, contact The Texas Collection.

(Digital Collections) The Rise and Fall of the Soash Empire: A West Texas Hard Luck Story

“Ye Olden Days”: An image from a 1909 promotional booklet produced by the W.P. Soash Company

Everything’s bigger in Texas, the hoary old chestnut reminds us, and no group of people understood the Lone Star State’s geographic expansiveness like the speculators who bought up acres of prime Texas land for pennies on the dollar and hoped to turn a quick profit by selling them to newly arrived immigrants and Yankees looking for a better life out West. From railroad companies to chambers of commerce and private corporations, concerns large and small poured their creative efforts into marketing the open range in publications featuring photographs, artistic renderings and glowing testimonials from satisfied customers.

These promotional materials flooded the market with wild claims and speculative gambles dressed up as fact. From pie-in-the-sky layouts of a future metropolis on the High Plains to photos of “modern homes” offered on a dusty, unpaved street on the edge of a field of kaffir wheat, they were masterpieces of salesmanship. To an immigrant family setting foot on American soil for the first time in a major port city, surrounded by an alien culture, they must have been appealing indeed.

One of our smaller – but no less impressive – digital collections is a set of 37 promotional publications related to Texas. These items, which are held by our colleagues at The Texas Collection, tell the stories of the many ways the untamed West was broken through hard work, fast deals and dogged perseverance.

In my pursuit of making our collections more accessible and easier to browse, I was enhancing the navigation on these items this past week when I came across three promotional brochures issued by the W.P. Soash Land Co. of Waterloo, Iowa. The design work on two of the brochures was nothing remarkable, while the third was a veritable tour de force of early 20th century design including illustrations, photographs and overblown rhetoric. They tell the story of one company’s gamble on marketing land in the South Plains of Texas and boldly declare the bright future of the towns of Big Spring and Soash: “destined to be the Twin Cities of the Plains!”

The “Empire Builder”: W.P. Soash and His Company

William Pulver Soash lived a life typical of many of the newcomers to Texas in the waning years of the 19th century. Born in the Midwest, his early life included frequently moving from town to town with his father, a railroad contractor. He dabbled in carpentry and worked as a deputy United States marshal before settling on land colonization. He founded the W.P. Soash Company in 1905 and set his sights on cheap land in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains regions.

Illustration from 1909 Soash Co. brochure

Soash sought to differentiate himself from his competitors by creating a company that would serve as an all-in-one concern. His company purchased the land and sold off its parcels directly to buyers, thus avoiding the stigma of merely serving as an agent or middle-man between the landowner and the buyer. Soash attempted to “[familiarize] himself with every feature of the business,” from studying climate reports to creating special excursion trains – dubbed “Soash Specials” – that ran passengers from the Union Pacific Depot in Kansas City through Ft. Worth and eventually to a terminus in Big Spring.

The Soash Company grew prosperous enough to justify locations in more than a dozen towns across ten states. As its reach grew, the company professed to have been “built along permanent lines and expects to always be in business.” It claimed (somewhat paradoxically) to be the “largest, most progressive and most conservative organization of its kind in the world.” As to Soash’s personal credentials, his brochure claimed that ““… it can be stated without fear of contradiction that W.P. Soash has sold more land contracts than any other man in the United States today.” In short: purchasing land from the Soash Company was a safe bet for opportunity seekers of all stripes, with a track record to match its uniformly positive claims.

Establishing a Namesake on the Texas South Plains: “Why Soash is Destined to be a Large City”

Battling perceptions of the South Plains of Texas was accomplished through the development and distribution of a series of promotional brochures focused on the “Big Springs Ranch Country” of Texas. The company had purchased some 300,000 acres of land comprised of the Big Spring Ranch and adjacent properties for $3 million in January 1909 and quickly set about hacking out smaller parcels for immediate sale.

To counter notions that this area was home only to rowdy cowboys, “untamed Indians” and arid, desert-like conditions, Soash produced a 50-page promotional booklet (“at a very large expense”) outlining the advantages of purchasing a farm or ranch site near Big Spring. The booklet contains a good overview of the company’s history, testimonials from landowners in the Big Spring area and plenty of data on climate and crop futures. A second, smaller pamphlet with similar information on the area was also produced.

Big Spring Ranches of South Plains brochure, cover and back cover, W.P. Soash Co., 1909

For reasons of business success, the enticing opportunity to leave a lasting legacy or inescapable hubris, the company founded a town in the land between Big Spring and Lamesa and called it Soash. The company produced another booklet entitled, “Why You Should Invest In The New Town [of] Soash, Texas,” which included a series of photos depicting scenes from the “Grand Celebration of July 5, 1909.” They show a large gathering of people mingling among several completed buildings, patriotic bunting and American flags in prominent locations.

The pamphlet describes the city in expectedly glowing terms:

“Soash, the new town started a few months ago on Big Springs Ranch, is conceded by every one cognizant of conditions to have a splendid future. The new railway which this company is to build will aid materially in developing the town. Already there has been a good start made as is evidenced by the illustrations on this page. We want to tell you more of Soash, Texas, at some time in the near future.”

Soash built the Hotel Lorna (named after his daughter) and a company headquarters, and within a few months the town boasted several permanent structures and electricity service. New settlers began arriving in increasing numbers and a post office was established by the end of the year. The future seemed secure.

A bright future seemed assured: image from the 1909 brochure for Soash, Texas

Ominous Silence from Rail and Sky

Warning signs mounted quickly, however. Despite repeated assurances that a railroad line from Big Spring would be laid to the city within twenty months of the city’s founding, the line never materialized. The Santa Fe Railroad instead chose to run a line through nearby Lamesa. For frontier towns of the early 20th century, access to a rail line was crucial for long term sustainability.  A railroad meant crops could be exported to market and finished products imported for consumption. It meant quicker access to major cities – with all their social and mechanical innovations – and a sure way for more immigrants to arrive. And its absence from Soash was only the first of two major blows for the fledgling community.

The death knell for Soash came at the hands of something beyond human control. Despite a table in its Soash brochures showing the rainfall totals for the area as comparable to the highest producing regions of the Midwest, the South Plains experienced a three-year drought cycle beginning in 1909. This proved to be too much for the “highest examples of citizenship” to be found in the city, and the population dwindled rapidly. The town lost its post office twice – permanently in 1917 – and the site was abandoned after another drought cycle in 1917-1918.

Map of the Big Springs Ranch area of Texas, including Soash; from booklet by W.P. Soash Co., 1909

“Conservative methods, carried out courageously, will always win.”

The “Empire Builder’s” company could not outlive the death of its namesake city. The W.P. Soash Company filed for bankruptcy in 1912, and its founder would go on to a longer career in land development after a stint in the Texas Cavalry in World War I. The site of Soash returned to the earth from which it briefly sprang, the ruins of only a bank and office building remaining to mark this once much-ballyhooed Texas town. Its name survives only in occasional street names in the counties around Lamesa and Big Spring.


The story of the Soash Company and its namesake West Texas town is but one of the hundreds of boom-bust stories to be told throughout the colonization history of Texas and the greater West. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that so much money was spent on marketing and promoting the city using the height of early 20th century printing technology. The booklets created for Soash are a time capsule of high hopes, speculative marketing, urban planning, early 20th century prairie architecture and irrational exuberance during the waning years of Westward expansion. The Soash saga is a classic example of a man’s reach exceeding his grasp, but its legacy for the present may well be as a snapshot into the mindset of a Wild West-style capitalism and the marks it left – physical and psychological – on the history of our state.


Sources Consulted

Soash, TX on the Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvsaj)

William Pulver Soash on the Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fso01)

“Why You Should Invest in the New Town: Soash, Texas” from the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections (From the physical copy in the holdings of The Texas Collection)

“The Big Springs Country of Texas” from the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections (From the physical copy in the holdings of The Texas Collection)

“Why You Should Buy a Farm in the Big Springs Country on the South Plains of Texas” from the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections (From the physical copy in the holdings of The Texas Collection)

(Digital Collections) Bringing Cartography, Digitization and Texana Together for a Limited Time Via Our Digital Collections [UPDATED]

If you’ve followed our blog for awhile, you may recall a post about the special digitization equipment we utilize here at the Riley Digitization Center, including our large format map scanner, the Cruse CS-285. Well, the “big guy” got a workout this past summer when we digitized a number of rare and interesting maps from The Texas Collection in preparation for a joint physical and digital exhibit entitled “Mapping Waco: A Brief History, 1845-1913.”

The exhibit, which will be open at the Carroll Library on campus through December, features 11 maps from the earliest days of Waco and explores the development of our fair city’s boundaries as they extended beyond the original plot of land surveyed and staked by George B. Erath and Neil McLennan.

Maps featured in the exhibit include an 1845 “Map of Texas from the most recent authorities,” an 1873 Bird’s Eye View of the City of Waco and a 1913 Map of Waco, Texas and Suburbs. Each map is a fine example of the cartographer’s art, and true buffs will find much to intrigue them whether in person at The Texas Collection or via the digital exhibit presented via our Digital Collections.

Digitization and Exhibit Creation Process

The maps were scanned on the Cruse at a minimum of 300 dpi, with smaller maps scanned at higher resolutions. The Texas Collection’s staff delivered the maps in either Mylar folders or rolled in archival-safe tubes and Digitization Projects Group staff scanned them over the course of several weeks earlier this year. The files were checked for stability and backed up to our preservation server and other off-campus storage solutions before the originals were returned to The Texas Collection, and the process of adding the materials to CONTENTdm began.

Creating the digital records included attaching cataloging metadata to the maps, and for that we relied on information retrieved from BearCat, the university’s digital cataloging system. As we were putting together the digital exhibit, we added text and other information generated by staff at The Texas Collection to mirror the wording printed for labels for the physical exhibit, thus ensuring that visitors to either version of the exhibit would see the same information about each map.

To add some extra features to the digital component of the exhibit, we turned to two popular online tools, Flickr and GoogleMaps. For the Flickr content, we chose eight maps from the exhibit and digitally enhanced them to give users an idea of what the maps might have looked like when they were first printed. (As a rule, we do not enhance or otherwise alter the items in our Digital Collections, preferring to present them as they appear today. Enhancements are reserved for special cases like this exhibit’s Flickr stream.)

Here, you can see the difference between the current state of the 1869 map of Waco and its digitally reconstructed version, presented via Flickr.

We also wanted to give people a sense of how the maps looked compared to current maps  of Waco, so we used the GIS data presented via GoogleMaps to overlay the boundaries of the historic maps with their modern-day contemporaries. Here, you can see the way the Farwell Heights Addition to Waco Map relates to the current map of Waco. We also added points of interest listed in the original map which are no longer extant today, including a proposed car shed for an electric street car line and the site of the Waco Female College.

A GoogleMap showing the boundaries of the Farwell Heights Addition


We hope you’ll take some time today to click over and explore this unique exhibit. It will give you a deeper appreciation of the changing landscape of Waco’s streets and buildings, and – we hope – a feel for how digital and physical exhibits can work together to present information to visitors in-person and online. Special thanks to our colleagues at The Texas Collection for their invaluable contributions to the exhibit, and to the DPG staffers and student workers who digitized the maps.

View the Exhibit

View the Flickr Set of Digitally Enhanced Maps

Visit The Texas Collection’s Website

“Mapping Waco: A Brief History, 1845-1913” is a joint exhibit of The Texas Collection and the Digitization Projects Group and will be available in person and online through December 2012.

UPDATE: November 7, 2012

Our friends at The Texas Collection have written a blog post about the exhibit as well. You can view it via their blog.

(Digital Collections) Feeding Our Nostalgia: A Sampling of Waco’s Favorite Former Restaurants, Via the BU Libraries Athletics Archive

Although the temperatures outside our offices here on campus don’t reflect it yet, the calendar says we’ve officially entered fall. And with its arrival come the requisite things we love about autumn like changing leaves, cooler days, and a tidal wave of foods flavored with pumpkin and cinnamon.

But nothing says “fall” on a university campus like the return of college football, and as our Baylor Bears are riding a 3-game winning streak this week, we thought it fitting to turn our attention to our Baylor University Libraries Athletics Archive (BULAA) for inspiration for this week’s post.

And so it was that while perusing football programs from the 1930s-1980s, I stumbled upon a recurring theme: the ads for restaurants that don’t exist in Waco anymore. Be they beloved staples mourned to the present or mere one-time wonders barely remembered by anyone, they still took the time to invest in advertising space in programs for Baylor home football games, so their impact on our university was easily measure in terms of ad revenue and column inches – if only for a season.

We thought it might be fun to showcase a few of those ads and, as a bonus, add their locations to a custom Google map so you can see exactly where they were located “back in the day.” Longtime Wacoans may well remember dining at some of these establishments; likewise, newer residents (or those just passing through town) can gain a better understanding for our fair city’s historic culinary offerings.

Leslie’s Chicken Shack (from November 24, 1934 game vs. SMU)

Jack’s Café (from October 23, 1948 game vs. Texas A&M University)

Pat Rutherford’s (from November 11, 1950 game vs. University of Texas)

Taco Patio and Mr. Chuc Wagun (from November 12, 1977 game vs. Rice University)

The Water Works (from November 22, 1980 game vs. University of Texas)

This is just a sampling from the smorgasbord (sorry!) of eatery ads to be found in the football programs of the BULAA. We hope you’ll take time to look through the programs for your favorite Waco restaurants, and take a minute to leave us a comment on your fondest food memories. Bon appetit!

(Digital Collections) “War of the Rebellion Atlas” Puts DPG on the Map in Tennessee

The Digitization Projects Group’s efforts to put the War of the Rebellion Atlas online have once again led to an exciting collaboration, this time with Zada Law, Director of the Fullerton Laboratory for Spatial Technology at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Law will be utilizing high-resolution copies of several Atlas maps of the Nashville area to see if defensive earthworks built around the city by Federal forces might still be discoverable today, almost 150 years after the war ended.

Law, a PhD candidate at MTSU, plans to overlay the Atlas images with “modern high resolution orthographic aerial images,” she told me via email. Using records from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and enhanced elevation (LiDAR) datasets, she hopes to locate “previously unrecorded extant earthwork sections or identify where archaeological traces of entrenchments may still remain.” (1)

Defenses of Nashville, Tenn. from the War of the Rebellion Atlas

Before she located the Atlas using a simple Google search, Law was relying on hard copies of the Atlas and other records to conduct her research. That all changed when she found our Digital Collections.

“Finding Baylor’s freely accessible high resolution image of an original copy of the War of the Rebellion Atlas plus searchable metadata was the tipping point for me to finally proceed beyond the dreaming phase,” Law said. “And, as GIS becomes an accepted part of scholarly research in the humanities, I’m certain the need for access to digital copies of original maps will increase.”

The metadata Law refers to is the cataloged information that accompanies each image in our digital Atlas, including information like city names, names of battle participants, descriptions of geographic formations and more. This is the fully-searchable information that makes finding specific locations or persons in our Atlas much faster than using traditional printed indices and page-by-page searching available elsewhere.

In addition to her work on the Federal defenses of Nashville, Law shared access to the Atlas collection to Dr. Wayne Moore of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Moore is heading up a project called the Tennessee Civil War GIS Project, where he and his team are working to “inventory and describe the geospatial data points for approximately 700 Tennessee Civil War military engagements” throughout the state. “Having the Atlas’ maps available online and searchable and ‘zoomable’ through your website will improve our workflow and will be less tedious that looking at hard copies of the maps with a magnifying glass,” Law said.

Finally, Law hopes to use an image of the area around Murfreesboro – specifically a location called Fortress Rosecrans – to search for the location of a nearby contraband camp. “Contraband” during the Civil War referred to Confederate-owned slaves who sought protection in Federal camps or who lived in areas that fell under Federal control. The public history program at MTSU is documenting a “rural post-emancipation African American community that likely had former residents of that camp,” Law said, and the maps provided by Baylor could help them in their work.

Topographical Sketch of Fortress Rosecrans from the War of the Rebellion Atlas

We’ll keep you posted on how Law’s research goes, and we wish her and her colleagues all the best in their efforts. We’re happy to be collaborators in this important work, and we look forward to seeing where it leads as the Civil War Sesquicentennial continues through 2015.

(1) Excerpts from email from Zada Law, received 1/5/2012

Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) Semper (Hi-) Fi: Marine Corps Command and Staff College Utilizes High-Resolution Images from Digitization Projects Group for Officer Training

In June of this year, Lt. Col. Shawn Callahan of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College contacted the Digitization Projects Group with an exciting request. As part of his planning for a major training course for officers from all branches of the United States military, Callahan was trying to find maps of the 1862 Peninsular Campaign, which had been led by U.S. Gen. George B. McClellan against the Army of Northern Virginia, led by Gen. Robert E. Lee. A Google search led him to our Digital Collections, which includes a fully searchable, freely accessible copy of the “War of the Rebellion Atlas,” the definitive source for maps related to the U.S. Civil War.

Callahan’s idea was to use primary resources derived from the campaign – particularly maps – to pose this problem to his students: based only on the information available to McClellan at the time, how would you have planned and conducted this campaign?

After finding what he needed in our “War of the Rebellion Atlas” collection, Callahan contacted the DPG to request high-resolution versions of the maps that he could then print out and provide as reference materials for his students. Of course, we were eager to help and readily provided Callahan with the maps he requested. Digital Collections Consultant Eric Ames also worked to identify other maps that embraced the time, place, and force outlays related to the campaign, ultimately providing 30 images to Callahan for use in the course.

The training was held in late September, with members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and international officers from 28 nations participating. These photos show the officers consulting large-format printouts of the maps as they formulated their strategy for the Peninsular Campaign.


We received a letter of appreciation from Col. Royal P. Mortenson, Director of the College, expressing his thanks for providing access to the high-res files, as well as our efforts to support “an educational initiative which has sharpened our military leaders and will help maximize their contributions to our national defense.” He went on to say, “Your efforts to coordinate access to Baylor University’s digital archives for the Command and Staff College faculty were instrumental to the success of this exercise.” (2)

From everyone at the DPG – and on behalf of our colleagues at the Texas Collection, where the pristine original copy of the “Atlas” is preserved – we want to thank the fine men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps for allowing us to participate in this exercise, and we are proud of the opportunity to help support their efforts to keep our country safe.

Semper Fi, and Sic ‘Em, Bears!

You can view the entire “War of the Rebellion Atlas” in our Digital Collections, located at http://contentdm.baylor.edu.

(1) Photos courtesy Lt. Col. Shawn Callahan
(2) Letter from Col. Royal P. Mortenson to Eric S. Ames, 10/7/2011