Tag Archive for panoramas

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: A Springtime Brazos Flood, 1908

The Brazos River at flood stage, 1908
(Click to enlarge)

For residents of early twentieth-century Waco, the Brazos River was a study in contrasts. It provided a reliable source of potable water for myriad daily uses, but its temperamental nature made it prone to violent floods that damaged property and took lives. The Brazos could be both savior and destroyer, a source of community pride – embodied in the suspension bridge built across it in the 1870s that still stands today – and of widespread destruction.

This panoramic view of the Brazos in flood stage was captured on May 24th, 1908. It is actually a series of five individual photos that were printed and pasted together onto a cardboard backing to create the appearance of a single, panoramic photograph. That approach accounts for the somewhat distorted and disjointed nature of the image when viewed as a whole. But owing to the technology available at the time, it is an effective way to capture a stunning view: the Brazos River at a flood stage level of 36 ft. 8 in. – the “highest ever recorded” according to a note written on the print.

Notes on the print also reveal the image was captured by a photographer from The Kodak Place who mounted the steps to the top of the Crow Brothers Tower to capture the scene. The Crow Brothers were long-time Waco launderers who had taken up residence in the former courthouse at 2nd and Franklin Avenue.

The scene captured by our anonymous photographer on May 24th is one of great devastation. The focal point of the photo is the river itself: a shining path stretching the entire length of the scene, it is easy to note how the Brazos has surmounted its banks and intruded into the city itself, especially east Waco along Elm Street. This low-lying region of the city contained a mix of industrial and residential buildings in 1908, much as it does today. Wacoans unlucky enough to find their dwellings on this side of the river repeatedly bore the brunt of the destruction left behind after one of the Brazos’ many floods.

A closer look at the various bridges across the river give some context for just how high the river had risen on this particular date. First up (from left to right in the photo) is the “iron” bridge (today’s Washington Street bridge), built less than a decade prior to the date of this photograph.

Washington street / “iron” bridge

Next is the suspension bridge, a sight familiar to residents of Waco since the 1870s. Although its facade was covered with stucco and “updated” in the 1970s as part of the American bicentennial celebration, its iconic towers and unsupported span are instantly recognizable. Also visible in this photo are ads on the bridge’s downtown side for the Miller-Cross Company and the Sanger Bros. dry goods and clothing store.

The suspension bridge

Finally, this view of two railroad trestles a bit further down the river shows two important links in the city’s commercial viability being seriously threatened by critically high water levels.

Railroad trestles

The photo below – of another Brazos River flood, this one in December 1913 – gives us a closer look at flood waters lapping the bottom of a railroad trestle as dozens of spectators risk being swept away for a chance at a first-hand perspective. Water levels for this flood were nearly identical to those from the 1908 flood pictured in the panorama above.

Spectators line a railroad trestle to view the flooded Brazos River, 1913

While nature’s destructive power is the central player in this panorama, it also bristles with small details about a prosperous Texas town at the dawn of the twentieth century. Scanning the image, we see the names of local businesses on buildings, signs and fences, including:

  • The Morning Star Lunch Room
  • Pippin & Fuston, Horses and Mules
  • T.J. Cunningham
  • Louis Lipshitz (A family name associated with a present-day business located on Elm Avenue)
  • Riverside Livery Stable
  • D. June Machinery Co.
  • Industrial Cotton Oil Co.

Advertisements for Miller High Life beer, Lawrence Barrett and Mild Havana Cigars and the National Biscuit Company (now known as Nabisco) can also be spotted in the image.

Lastly, in the center foreground of the image is a single railcar sitting on a siding. It bears the name “Missouri Kansas and Texas,” the well-known “Katy” railroad with a major presence in Waco for decades.

An M-K-T boxcar on siding

While the obvious occasion of this series of photos was the record-breaking flood, the wealth of detail available to modern viewers helps us construct a better mental image of what Waco looked like on a late spring day during one of its most productive decades. And though the Brazos would continue to flood until engineers built a series of dams decades later, the people of Waco continued to rebuild after each one, proving their tenacity in the face of great difficulty.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this closer look at another of the panoramic treasures from the holdings of The Texas Collection. There are dozens of large format photos in the collection, with more being digitized and added online regularly, so be sure and check out http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu for more great photos.

Images enhanced for online presentation. Digitized from original prints housed in the photographic holdings of The Texas Collection. Visit The Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: A Springtime Brazos Flood, 1908

The Brazos River at flood stage, 1908
(Click to enlarge)

For residents of early twentieth-century Waco, the Brazos River was a study in contrasts. It provided a reliable source of potable water for myriad daily uses, but its temperamental nature made it prone to violent floods that damaged property and took lives. The Brazos could be both savior and destroyer, a source of community pride – embodied in the suspension bridge built across it in the 1870s that still stands today – and of widespread destruction.

This panoramic view of the Brazos in flood stage was captured on May 24th, 1908. It is actually a series of five individual photos that were printed and pasted together onto a cardboard backing to create the appearance of a single, panoramic photograph. That approach accounts for the somewhat distorted and disjointed nature of the image when viewed as a whole. But owing to the technology available at the time, it is an effective way to capture a stunning view: the Brazos River at a flood stage level of 36 ft. 8 in. – the “highest ever recorded” according to a note written on the print.

Notes on the print also reveal the image was captured by a photographer from The Kodak Place who mounted the steps to the top of the Crow Brothers Tower to capture the scene. The Crow Brothers were long-time Waco launderers who had taken up residence in the former courthouse at 2nd and Franklin Avenue.

The scene captured by our anonymous photographer on May 24th is one of great devastation. The focal point of the photo is the river itself: a shining path stretching the entire length of the scene, it is easy to note how the Brazos has surmounted its banks and intruded into the city itself, especially east Waco along Elm Street. This low-lying region of the city contained a mix of industrial and residential buildings in 1908, much as it does today. Wacoans unlucky enough to find their dwellings on this side of the river repeatedly bore the brunt of the destruction left behind after one of the Brazos’ many floods.

A closer look at the various bridges across the river give some context for just how high the river had risen on this particular date. First up (from left to right in the photo) is the “iron” bridge (today’s Washington Street bridge), built less than a decade prior to the date of this photograph.

Washington street / “iron” bridge

Next is the suspension bridge, a sight familiar to residents of Waco since the 1870s. Although its facade was covered with stucco and “updated” in the 1970s as part of the American bicentennial celebration, its iconic towers and unsupported span are instantly recognizable. Also visible in this photo are ads on the bridge’s downtown side for the Miller-Cross Company and the Sanger Bros. dry goods and clothing store.

The suspension bridge

Finally, this view of two railroad trestles a bit further down the river shows two important links in the city’s commercial viability being seriously threatened by critically high water levels.

Railroad trestles

The photo below – of another Brazos River flood, this one in December 1913 – gives us a closer look at flood waters lapping the bottom of a railroad trestle as dozens of spectators risk being swept away for a chance at a first-hand perspective. Water levels for this flood were nearly identical to those from the 1908 flood pictured in the panorama above.

Spectators line a railroad trestle to view the flooded Brazos River, 1913

While nature’s destructive power is the central player in this panorama, it also bristles with small details about a prosperous Texas town at the dawn of the twentieth century. Scanning the image, we see the names of local businesses on buildings, signs and fences, including:

  • The Morning Star Lunch Room
  • Pippin & Fuston, Horses and Mules
  • T.J. Cunningham
  • Louis Lipshitz (A family name associated with a present-day business located on Elm Avenue)
  • Riverside Livery Stable
  • D. June Machinery Co.
  • Industrial Cotton Oil Co.

Advertisements for Miller High Life beer, Lawrence Barrett and Mild Havana Cigars and the National Biscuit Company (now known as Nabisco) can also be spotted in the image.

Lastly, in the center foreground of the image is a single railcar sitting on a siding. It bears the name “Missouri Kansas and Texas,” the well-known “Katy” railroad with a major presence in Waco for decades.

An M-K-T boxcar on siding

While the obvious occasion of this series of photos was the record-breaking flood, the wealth of detail available to modern viewers helps us construct a better mental image of what Waco looked like on a late spring day during one of its most productive decades. And though the Brazos would continue to flood until engineers built a series of dams decades later, the people of Waco continued to rebuild after each one, proving their tenacity in the face of great difficulty.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this closer look at another of the panoramic treasures from the holdings of The Texas Collection. There are dozens of large format photos in the collection, with more being digitized and added online regularly, so be sure and check out http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu for more great photos.

Images enhanced for online presentation. Digitized from original prints housed in the photographic holdings of The Texas Collection. Visit The Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: The Students of Baylor University, 1920

Photo of Baylor University students taken on Burleson Quadrangle, February 26, 1920
(Click photo to enlarge)

This installment of “Hidden in Plain Sight” features a group photo of Baylor students posed on risers on the Carroll Science Building side of the Burleson Quadrangle. The photographer – P.N. Fry of Kansas City, Missouri – would have been positioned near the Quadrangle side entrance of Carroll Science; this vantage puts portions of Old Main, Georgia Burleson Hall and Carroll Library in the background of this photo.

The students are segregated by gender, with female students and faculty members on the left of the photo and male students and faculty members on the right. One of the first things that jumps out at the viewer is a young man on the front row in the lower right of the frame.

Of the hundreds of students in the photo, he is one of two who managed to sneak in a copy of the day’s Lariat, which he made a specific point of positioning so it would be visible in the finished photo. Enhancing the scan reveals the headline for the issue: “Annual freshman reception will be brilliant affair.” This headline, coupled with the fish in the masthead of the issue led me to the February 26, 1920 issue. This just happened to be a special edition of the Lariat dedicated to the freshmen (alluded to in the masthead fish, as freshmen were called “fish” by upper classmen).

Above-the-fold portion of Lariat issue of February 26, 1920 (visible in panoramic photo)

Seated front and center in the photo is the president of Baylor, Samuel Palmer Brooks.


Brooks served as president from 1902 to 1931 (the year of his death) and is the namesake of Brooks Residential College at Baylor. Among his many notable achievements at the helm were allowing students to vote for the university’s first mascot (won by a bear, of course) and instituting Baylor’s first homecoming celebration.

Another notable Baylor luminary seen in the photo is Frank Allen.

Allen served as registrar for decades and was well-respected by students and faculty alike. In fact, the senior class of 1911 dedicated that year’s issue of the Round-up to Allen as a mark of their esteem for his service to Baylor and her student body.

A note written on the original of this photo indicates it was either owned by or autographed by O.B. Darby. A search of the 1920 Round-up uncovered this page:

Darby is shown in the first position at the top left of the page. A search of the panoramic reveals a student thought to be Darby, shown below first in a larger setting and then under magnification.

If this is indeed Darby, it is interesting to see where he was positioned in the photograph and to know that it was his decision to keep a copy that ultimately led to its digitization and presentation as part of his alma mater’s digital collections.

One last image of note concerns the architecture of Old Main, seen in the background at right.

The windows in this photo are the original configuration of windows found in Old Main. They are four-over-four sash windows, where the lower four panes slide up into the frame to allow air to circulate. A later renovation to the building installed single pane, energy efficient windows visible in current photos like this portion of a desktop wallpaper available from Baylor’s website.

Although the newer windows make good sense from an energy efficiency and modern craftsmanship point of view, some have lamented the change to one of Baylor’s oldest buildings, with one professor likening it to having the same effect as painting modern sunglasses onto the subject of a Renaissance painting.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this closer look at another of the panoramic treasures from the holdings of the Texas Collection. There are dozens of large format photos in the collection, with more being digitized and added online regularly, so be sure and check out http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu for more great photos.

Images enhanced for online presentation. Digitized from the original print housed in the photographic holdings of the Texas Collection. Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: Looking Closer at the Diamond Jubilee, Baylor University, 1920

Baylor University was in the mood to celebrate in 1920, for that was the year of its diamond jubilee. Seventy-five years earlier, in the Washington County town of Independence, the university was established and named for Judge R.E.B. Baylor; the ensuing decades had seen it grow into a thriving institution in a new city, Waco.

This photograph was taken on June 16, 1920, Commencement Day for the proud new graduates. The scene is Burleson Quadrangle, a tree-covered swath of campus bounded by Carroll Library (at left), Georgia Burleson Hall (middle left), Old Main (middle right) and Carroll Science Building (right). The photographer’s perspective is centered on the statue of Rufus C. Burleson, crafted by Italian-Texan sculptor Pompeo Coppini. (Coppini’s work can be seen in the statuary of another famous figure from Baylor’s past: the seated statue of Judge Baylor located in front of Waco Hall is also his handiwork.)

As with the YMBL panoramic we examined in an earlier post, it is worth looking deeper into this photograph for glimpses of the vignettes taking place before the unblinking eye of the photographer’s camera. We note from the inscription that the photo was signed by Fred Gildersleeve, indicating his studio took the shot and developed the print, but evidence we’ll outline below indicates that it may have been Gildersleeve’s assistant who actually captured this particular image.


But we begin our journey in the upper left, where the dome of Carroll Library peeks out above the treeline. No one who saw the building after February 11, 1922 would ever see this sight again, for a massive fire would severely damage the building on that fateful day, and the reconstructed Carroll Library would not feature a restored dome.


Near the Burleson statue we see this gathering of women and children enjoying a summer day on the quad. The women are all wearing hats, including one that features a row of flowers encircling the crown (second from right). Even the youngest among them is sporting her Sunday best, with clean, bright dresses and fancy hats in evidence on the children playing in the grass in the foreground.


The tower of Old Main looms in the middle background, and a faint “’15” can be seen emblazoned on its shingled surface. This is the fading evidence of a tradition that for many years led graduating seniors to paint the numbers of their graduating year (in this case, 1915) on the towers of Old Main. It is a testament to the long-lasting nature of the class of ‘15’s choice of paint that it is still evident after five years exposed to Texas’ notoriously mercurial weather.


This scene in the background at right, near the steps to Carroll Science Building, reminds us of the purpose for the gathering: graduates in caps and gowns gather with friends and family to celebrate the newly minted alums’ big achievements.

(1)

Lastly, seated in the shade of a tree near the far right of the photograph, is a man wearing a striped shirt. Behind him is a camera on a tripod, and the figure has his hand to his chin as if pondering the best way to capture the scenes playing out in front of him. From his posture, trademark cap, and profile, it appears that this is Fred Gildersleeve, former jockey and master of the photographic art. Gildersleeve had been snapping photos in Waco since at least 1907, and over the course of a half-century he captured some of the most iconic images of a Waco transitioning between frontier cotton town and major Texas city. “Gildy” employed assistants over the course of his career, and since it appears he is the man in the chair, it seems logical to assume that we have an assistant to thank for capturing this view of the Diamond Jubilee Commencement Day’s celebration.

(1) Images excerpted from an original panoramic photograph from the Texas Collection; images enhanced for Web viewing.

To view the original online, visit http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/tx-phot/id/63/rec/35

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

(Digital Collections) Hidden in Plain Sight: Deconstructing a 1912 Panoramic Photo

Our first post of 2012 featured this photograph of a train excursion taken by the Young Men’s Business League (YMBL) to the Texas town of Comanche in 1912. It turns out there’s a lot going on in this one photo, so we’re going to take some time today to look a little closer at what lies within.

Since it’s unlikely these yardsticks were on-hand in case the people of Comanche had a spontaneous need to measure something in 3-foot increments, it’s likely they were branded with the name of a Waco company and passed out on the stops along the YMBL’s route. During this stop, the men took the opportunity to use them to spell out WACO, just in case later viewers of this photo were unsure of the train’s point of origin.

Of course, with almost every man in the photo wearing a hat reading, “Texas Cotton Palace/November 2 to 17/1912/Waco, Texas,” it would be hard to miss the source of these itinerant community spokesmen. The YMBL was a forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce; using their motto of “Come to Waco,” the YMBL toured Texas while touting the benefits of relocating to Waco for business or pleasure. In a book published by the League in 1912 (the same year this photograph was taken, coincidentally), the group listed “Situation [location], Natural Resources, Railroad and Capital” as reasons for choosing Waco as a permanent residence.

The Cotton Palace was another major point of pride for Waco, and a big draw for visitors from other cities. It made sense to promote the exposition to people across the state, as their attendance meant additional revenue for business owners in Waco. The hats worn by the men in this photo were just another way to get the message out about the date of the Cotton Palace – and they made a handy shade from the sun, to boot.

But what’s a pep rally for an entire city without a band? On this particular trip, the YMBL brought along a contingent of the Baylor University band, seen here posing with their instruments. Unlike the men wearing the Cotton Palace hats, the BU students are seen wearing a motley assortment of headgear, including what appear to be “slime caps,” or felt hats worn by Baylor freshmen.

Baylor wasn’t the only Waco institution of higher learning represented on the trip to Comanche. Here was see a small group of students from Toby’s Practical Business College, a school that purported to teach its students the most up-to-date techniques in the world of business. With branches in Waco and New York City, Toby’s was a fixture on the local scene and even fielded a football team – in fact, Baylor’s first football game in 1899 was played against Toby’s, with Baylor winning handily 20-0.

The real focus of the trip was commerce, and what better way to show Waco’s importance to the regional economy than to wear the message on one’s sleeve – or, in this case, across one’s back. This young man turns his back to the camera to reveal a message: “Ten Wheeler Overalls/Made in Waco/by Longley Mfg. Co.” While history may have forgotten his face, his endorsement of a favorite brand of local overalls is captured for posterity.

(1)

If ever a group of men could appreciate the importance of good overalls, it would be the engineer and fireman of the locomotive pulling the YMBL special along. The badging on the cab of the locomotive identifies it as belonging to the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, part of a conglomerate known more commonly as the Cotton Belt Line. Servicing major cotton markets in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, the Cotton Belt is recognized as one of the more famous regional railroads in the South.

These little vignettes within the larger photo make for a more interesting composition than might otherwise be expected. But the real challenge for historians when confronted with photos like this is the overwhelming lack of documentation associated with them. The caption in the upper left gives us some good information, but we’re not told if this photo was taken in Comanche or at a whistle-stop along the way. An even bigger challenge is identifying the men in the photo with any sense of accuracy. Precious few of these photos contain listings of people seen in them, and in this case, their identities may be lost forever.

But we have to emphasize the word may. The unique approach of using Internet users to identify elements of historic photographs – called “crowdsourcing” – can be helpful in identifying people, places, and events in historic photos. So, if you recognize your great-great-grandfather in this photo, drop us a line. You just might be able to help save a small part of Waco history.

(1) Images excerpted from an original panoramic photograph from the Texas Collection; images enhanced for Web viewing.

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