Renovating the Frances C. Poage Map Room

Frances C. Poage

The newly relocated Frances C. Poage Map Room was Archivist Ellen Brown’s brainchild. She thought there needed to be a larger, better organized, user-friendly space for our growing map collection. Room 201 on the 2nd floor of Carroll Library was ideally located for crafting and creating this space. The challenge was keeping the space functional and inviting–not merely drawers of black steel.

While working on the new interior design, we recognized that the character of the 1903 library structure needed to shine forth.  After much effort, the Poage map room has become a happy union of functionality and warmth. The countertops are made of marble that is similar to the original marble used on the entrance steps. The dark cherry wood makes the room seem more like a home library rather than a university map room. The large 9 X 9 foot table anchors the room and invites you to sit awhile in comfortable Windsor chairs and dwell on places you have never been.

Two determined students, Robin and Travis, put the maps in order, preserved them, and protected the fragile ones in Mylar. Once order was returned to the space, thoughts of showcasing some of our maps through an exhibition seemed the next logical step, but we wondered how best to display them. Seeing the first framed map relieved my anxiety about framing.  A 340-year old map was elegantly attired in acid-free matting, UV-protected glass, and a black-gilded framing befitting a Spanish map.  Instead of a tattered bit of paper, the map was a thing of beauty, telling a story about exploration, discovery, heartache, fortunes won and lost.

The “map room project” has been a source of great joy, learning, hard work, and pride. We hope it will be a destination for scholars and Texas enthusiasts for many years to come.

John S. Wilson

Interim Director. The Texas Collection

Mapping it Out: A Cartographic History of Texas

Detail from Mitchell's Map of Texas, 1836

Thursday, October 28th will be a big day here at The Texas Collection. It’s the grand opening of the Frances C. Poage Map Room. We’ll be celebrating with a ribbon cutting, a new exhibit of some beautiful maps, and a special guest lecture from Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name.

Our newly installed exhibit is called Mapping it Out: A Cartographic History of Texas. On display are twenty-one original maps dating from 1656 to 1887. These maps tell a story of Texas: from early exploration by the Spanish, through colonization, struggles for independence from Mexico, and statehood before and after the Civil War. They demonstrate technological improvements and record political conflicts. They bring us closer to understanding the craftsmen and entrepreneurs who made it their business to show settlers the way to Texas. And these maps connect us to the land which captured cartographers’ imaginations.

We hope you’ll join us at Carroll Library at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday to celebrate the new Frances C. Poage map room, the art of mapmaking, and the story of Texas.

Questions for you from The Texas Collection

In the days of the fountain pen, before the invention of the ballpoint, blotting paper was an everyday essential and advertising blotters were as common as today’s business cards. Advertising blotters were small cards, usually with colorful pictures, printed with advertising on the front.  Nearly every company handed them out. The pictures might be related to the product being advertised, or they could be movie stars, pinup girls, calendars, or patriotic and historical images. To get a sense of how blotters fit into daily life, read “Tips from the Traveling Salesman” by Frank Farrington in which a frustrated man tears up a poor quality advertising blotter and gives the writer a lesson in best practices for blotter advertising [Grand Rapids Furniture Record , Vol. 36 (February, 1921), p.121].

The Texas Collection has in its archives, as part of the Frank Watt collection, a salesman’s sample book of advertising blotters. This book contains page after page of beautiful advertising artwork from what we think is the early 1900s.  Businesses could choose the blank blotters they wished to imprint with their advertising and place an order with the salesman.

We hope you’ll share with us what you know about advertising blotters. Can you help us date this sample book? Do you recognize any of the artists responsible for the images? Add your comments below!