A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Amanda Norman, University Archivist

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we will feature monthly posts from our staff—from faculty to student workers—offering a little peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection. Meet Amanda Norman, Baylor graduate (M.A. 2009), native Texan, and University Archivist:

Baylor University Student Union calendar, October 1963
This 1963-1964 calendar illustrates just how busy Baylor’s Student Union and Baylor student life in general could be, with organization meetings, Coke and Dr Pepper parties, lectures, movie screenings, and more.

I am the keeper of Baylor history. That’s the short version I tell people when they ask what I do. The usual reaction is something like, “Wow. That’s a big job.” It is—Baylor has grown quite a bit since its founding in 1845, and it has a wonderfully complex and storied past. And it’s a joy to share that history with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others interested in Baylor’s heritage.

My goal as University Archivist is to document the life of Baylor University by collecting, preserving, and providing access to university records. The Texas Collection became the official university archives in 2007, which is pretty late in the game for an institution that’s over 160 years old. Fortunately, The Texas Collection had been the accepted de facto institutional repository for many years, so we do have a very healthy-sized University Archives.

Problem is, it should be bigger. The records haven’t necessarily come in consistently—the archives tended to receive records when someone retired or an office moved, and not on a regular schedule. And I’m the first dedicated University Archivist. So I’m working to fill in the gaps from the past and lay the groundwork for scheduled deposits to the University Archives from departments, student organizations, and more.

Baylor University Immortal Ten scrapbook page
This scrapbook page from the Samuel Palmer Brooks papers features a few of the many telegrams Baylor University received after the Immortal Ten bus accident. The scrapbook is the second of three volumes documenting the tragedy.

I just began my second year in this role, although I am the child of two Baylor graduates and I worked in Baylor University Development for almost 5 years before I found my calling in the archives—I have a history with Baylor. (Pun intended.) My first year was one of planting seeds. I met with key Baylor administrators and leaders to discuss the role of the archives and the kinds of records that should be transferred to the University Archives. (We can’t keep everything, but we want the documents that we believe will have enduring, historic value.) I contributed to preparations to roll out Baylor’s new Record Retention and Archival Policy. I began a web archives program using Archive-It to document Baylor’s ever-changing web presence. With the help of graduate assistants and student workers, we organize record groups, address the backlog of materials to be processed, and other projects.

Baylor University Catalogue, 1851-52
This 1851-1852 catalogue, the earliest one from Baylor’s initial campus at Independence, tells current and prospective students about the Male Department.

I also contribute to The Texas Collection’s access, instruction, and outreach efforts. I facilitate this blog as a part of our integrated social media policy. I worked with a graduate class to assist with its Baylor history blog project, and spoke to several other classes and groups about resources that can be found in the University Archives. I responded to more than 200 research requests in my first year, ranging from simple questions about when an administrator was at Baylor to detailed fact-checking for historical timelines and exhibits on Baylor traditions.

When I talk to researchers and other visitors to The Texas Collection about the University Archives, I keep hearing, “You really love your job, don’t you?” Apparently I can’t hide it, and why would I? My archives work helps researchers access information they would not be able to find elsewhere. The records found in the University Archives were created when the history was happening—when traditions like the first Homecoming in 1909 began, when the university mourned the Immortal Ten, and more. I’m proud to be a part of preserving that history, these documents that tell the Baylor story.

Research Ready: February 2013

Paul Quinn College art class, circa 1916
Paul Quinn College art class, circa 1916. This photo taken by Waco photographer Fred Gildersleeve documents a historically black college formerly housed in Waco. The school was coed, but this class appears to be all men.

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’s the scoop for February:

  • [Waco] Evangelia Settlement Records, 1912-1975: Evangelia Settlement was the first day care program for underprivileged children in Waco. The organization’s records consist of correspondence, legal, financial, and literary manuscripts generated by the  settlement or written about the settlement, along with scrapbooks that contain newspaper clippings and photographs.
  • Gildersleeve-Du Congé Collection, 1910-1918: Former Waco Mayor, Roger Conger, received the extensive collection of Waco photographer Fred A. Gildersleeve
    some time after his death. The subject matter of the photo negatives contained in this collection were either requested by Oscar DuCongé, Waco’s first African-American mayor, or selected by Conger to present as a gift.
  • Francis Gevrier Guittard papers, 1811-1960: This collection contains the personal papers of Dr. Francis Gevrier Guittard, a prominent history professor who served Baylor University for much of the early twentieth century.
Francis Guittard's diploma documenting his PhD from Stanford University, 1931
Francis Guittard’s passion for history and teaching was evidenced by his personal, lifelong devotion to learning. On April 3, 1931, at the age of 64, Guittard received this Ph.D. diploma from Leland Stanford Junior University. His dissertation, also found here at The Texas Collection, examined Theodore Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation.

Looking Back at Baylor: Thanks for the Buggy Ride

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in August 1975, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

Watch your step! This couple departs the Baylor University campus for a buggy ride to Cameron Park, Waco, Texas, circa 1925
Boarding a buggy at Baylor! The photos in this student album were taken during the day, so they’re not part of the buggy protest, but they were taken around the same time period.

Today students grumble about the challenges of finding a parking spot on the Baylor campus, but back in the 1920s, the issue with cars was different. Enjoy a ride back to the days when cars were relatively new on the scene and students found creative ways to protest strict university policies. We’ve complemented Keeths piece with photos from a student album depicting a buggy ride to Cameron Park—you’ll see that students took this opportunity for romance. Happy Valentines Day!

If Baylor’s administrators give much thought to student-owned automobiles these days, their chief response is a sigh at the number of parking spaces they require. Fifty years ago, however, the student-operated motorcar elicited more than just a sigh from the university’s officials. The freedom from supervision which the automobile permitted seemed highly suspect to an institution which proudly stood “in loco parentis” to its students; and as the number of vehicles increased, the administration took action to safeguard its position.

In September, 1925, the dean of women, Miss Edna McDaniel, called a meeting to announce a new prohibition against “car riding” by Baylor girls after 6 p.m. “This is done, not because the women of Baylor can’t be trusted,” said Dean McDaniel, “but because they have the reputation of a Christian institution in their care.” President Brooks, who also spoke at the meeting, cautioned the young women to “avoid anything that begets gossip,” and assured them that “every gentleman will respect the wishes of a lady.”

Two couples in a buggy somewhere in Cameron Park, Waco, Texas, circa 1925
At this point, cars were on the rise and buggies weren’t in use as much. But, if the only way you can go on a double date is in a buggy, a buggy ride to Cameron Park it is!

For a time the new ruling went unchallenged. However a steady diet of evenings spent on campus soon began to pall on the students, and within two or three weeks men and women alike began to prepare counter-measures. On Saturday, October 10, senior women presented a unanimous petition to President Brooks. They were old enough and had been Baylor girls for long enough, they said, to know how to behave themselves. They therefore requested for themselves “the privilege of riding in an automobile to and from engagements after six o’clock p.m.” President Brooks promised to consider the petition.

In the meantime the men of Baylor had not left the initiative entirely to the ladies. They had proceeded on their own to organize for the same Saturday night an excursion which the Daily Lariat later described as follows:

Buggies, wagons, hacks, and surreys of every description were called into service by enterprising Baylor youths who evidently sought to prove that while night auto riding may be under the ban for women of the University, night riding of another kind is interpreted to be on the “permissible” side of the list.

Riding in every kind of a dobbin-drawn hack, some forty Baylor boys drove up to Burleson Hall shortly after six o’clock, claimed their dates, then untied their nags. ‘Giddap Napoleon’ through the streets of Waco followed.

Headed by a phaeton with glaring headlights and drawn by a blind horse, the procession set off up Speight Street, came back to the University campus, and then proceeded down Fifth to town. There the bright lights illuminated a sight long out of vogue and therefore exceedingly amusing to all motorists, shopkeepers, and street corner ornaments.

A horse and buggy ride up to Lover's Leap at Cameron Park, circa 1925
Then and now, the view from Lover’s Leap in Cameron Park inspires romantic moments. (We assume this is what the 1920s Baylor administrators worried about!)

After the “drag” had been made twice and three cheers given for Baylor, the fiery steeds were turned back toward the University and the procession broke up at the campus where a rush was made for the one surviving hitching post

The report of the buggy ride was picked up from local newspapers and humorous accounts of the students’ ingenuity appeared nationwide and in at least one Canadian daily. According to Mr. R.G. Winchester ’27 of Yoakum, who recalled the incident for this column, the students’ prank inspired a popular song, “Thanks for the Buggy Ride,” [see p. 6] which was published in San Francisco in the same year. Click on the YouTube video below to hear a recording of the tune.

While university administrators may have been amused, they were not swayed. On the following Friday President Brooks refused the senior women’s petition and the ban on evening automobile rides remained effective. Though the ploy failed, the effort was not without its rewards. The students made their point, a good time was had by all, and the buggy riders clip-clopped their way into Baylor legend. (To see more photos from the Cameron Park buggy ride, click on the flickr slideshow below.)

Photos selected and prepared by Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Sharing Student Scholarship Online: Religion at Baylor, 1900-1920

For the first five weeks of the spring 2013 semester, we’re putting up teasers about the fascinating Baylor history that Higher Education and Student Affairs students analyzed and shared on the class’ blog. So far we’ve explored students and student organizations, curriculumfinance, and access at Baylor. This final week we’re examining the role of Religion at Baylor. Students write about how non-Baptist students were received at Baylor, how Baylor students and administrators lived their faith, and how the BGCT interacted with Baylor. Did you know that…

HESA Baylor History blog

  • Among the statistics one would expect in a university catalog—enrollment numbers, student hometowns, the denominational breakdown, and so forth—the Baylor Bulletin in the early 1900s also included the number of students who had converted to Christianity. Learn more about the dynamic at Baylor for non-Baptist students.
  • 88 percent of Baylor students chose to attend Sunday School in addition to the church service, according to the 1915 Bulletin. Read more about how Baylor talked about, wrote about, and enacted its Baptist and Christian culture.
  • The formation of the Education Commission within the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1897 helped free Baylor from the need to fundraise (temporarily), but also meant that the BGCT would be more involved with the university and its activities. Explore how Baylor and the BGCT interacted from 1900-1920.

We hope you’ll explore these blog posts and enjoy the benefits of the HESA students’ research and scholarship. If you’re inspired to dig deeper, most of their sources can be found in the University Archives within The Texas Collection and in our digitized materials available online in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

Background on this project: Students in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) masters program have taken on the challenge of creating original scholarship that adds to what is known about Baylor’s history between 1900 and 1920. As part of Dr. Nathan Alleman’s Foundations and History of Higher Education course, students were grouped under the five class themes: curriculum, finance, students/student groups, access, and religion. In collaboration with Texas Collection archivists and librarians, students mined bulletins, newspapers, correspondence, and other primary resources as they researched their topics. Final papers have now been posted on a University-hosted EduBlog site and grouped by their particular sub-topic so that patrons, researchers, and other interested persons could benefit from these students’ work. This is the first installment of an annual accumulating project–please visit again for future installments.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: The Musical Heritage of Jules Bledsoe and New Hope Baptist Church

The Texas Collection is proud to present our newest exhibit, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot:  The Musical Heritage of Jules Bledsoe and New Hope Baptist Church.” In honor of African American History Month, this exhibit traces the interweaving stories of Jules Bledsoe and New Hope Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.

Jules Bledsoe and his 1929 Packard Dual Cowl Phaeton, New York City
Jules Bledsoe standing outside what appears to be the Ziegfield Broadway Theatre, where he appeared in the original stage production of “Show Boat.”

Jules Bledsoe, one of the first major African-American opera stars in the United States, was born in Waco in approximately 1899 and sang his first concert at New Hope Baptist Church at age five. He sang for audiences around the world, wrote music, and performed on stage, radio, and television. His most famous piece was “Ol’ Man River” from the musical “Show Boat.” After a career of just twenty-two years, Bledsoe died in Hollywood in 1943.

New Hope Baptist Church Choir and Orchestra, Waco, Texas, by Fred Gildersleeve.
The New Hope Baptist Church Choir and Orchestra, in an undated photo by Waco photographer Fred Gildersleeve (who worked in Waco from around 1905-1958). New Hope is one of the oldest African-American churches in Waco.

New Hope Baptist Church, a historically African-American church in Waco, has been in operation since 1866. Stephen Cobb, grandfather of Jules Bledsoe, served as the first pastor of the church. Through the years the church has been known for having a vibrant musical tradition, with many choirs, an orchestra, and various musical performances.

“This exhibit represents some of Waco’s best musical traditions,” co-curator Paul Fisher explains. “Bledsoe’s international fame as an opera star was fantastic for the African-American community and Waco, as was New Hope’s national reputation as a musically gifted, vibrant church.” Visitors to this exhibit can see Bledsoe’s music, photographs of New Hope Baptist Church, and information about both Bledsoe and New Hope.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot:  The Musical Heritage of Jules Bledsoe and New Hope Baptist Church” was curated by Texas Collection staff Paul Fisher, Geoff Hunt, and Amie Oliver, and graduate students Amanda Dietz, Adina Johnson, and Mary Ellen Stanley. Archival manuscripts donated by New Hope Baptist Church and ancestors of Jules Bledsoe made the exhibit possible, and these materials are open for research. New Hope Baptist Church continues to worship every Sunday at their church on 915 North 6th Street, Waco, Texas. You can see the exhibit through May at The Texas Collection in Carroll Library.

Sharing Student Scholarship Online: Access at Baylor, 1900-1920

For the first five weeks of the spring 2013 semester, we’re putting up teasers about the fascinating Baylor history that Higher Education and Student Affairs students analyzed and shared on the class’ blog. So far we’ve explored students and student organizations, curriculum, and finance at Baylor. This week we’re exploring Access at Baylor, and students found that for women, students wishing to gain a more global education, and students lacking financial means, access could be limited. Did you know that…

HESA Baylor History blog

  • While Samuel Palmer Brooks and other leaders supported women’s suffrage, traditional roles also were celebrated for Baylor women, for whom studies in the domestic sciences and arts were emphasized over other academic pursuits. Explore the constraints and opportunities for Baylor women in the early 1900s.
  • Foreign language clubs and visiting lecturers helped give students a broader worldview in the early 1900s. But professors who had traveled and studied abroad were the main resource for opening students’ eyes to the international community beyond Texas and the U.S. Learn more about how students learned about other cultures before study abroad became readily available at Baylor.
  • President Brooks allocated more than $13,000 (about $300,000 in today’s dollars) to tuition and other financial support of ministerial students in 1912. Discover other ways that Baylor responded to student financial needs, from scholarships to jobs to correspondence courses.

We hope you’ll explore these blog posts and enjoy the benefits of the HESA students’ research and scholarship. If you’re inspired to dig deeper, most of their sources can be found in the University Archives within The Texas Collection and in our digitized materials available online in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

Background on this project: Students in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) masters program have taken on the challenge of creating original scholarship that adds to what is known about Baylor’s history between 1900 and 1920. As part of Dr. Nathan Alleman’s Foundations and History of Higher Education course, students were grouped under the five class themes: curriculum, finance, students/student groups, access, and religion. In collaboration with Texas Collection archivists and librarians, students mined bulletins, newspapers, correspondence, and other primary resources as they researched their topics. Final papers have now been posted on a University-hosted EduBlog site and grouped by their particular sub-topic so that patrons, researchers, and other interested persons could benefit from these students’ work. This is the first installment of an annual accumulating project–please visit again for future installments.