Research Ready: April 2015

Photograph of the Conners, 1923-1939
Photograph of the Conners, 1923-1939

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 April’s finding aids:

  • George Sherman and Jeffie Obrea Allen Conner papers, 1866-1980 (#372):                                                                 Contains correspondence, speeches, notes, and other materials about African American life in Waco, education, home economics, and New Hope Baptist Church.
  • Duer-Harn family papers. 1832-1928, undated (#26):                                                                    Diaries, letters, legal and financial papers from the Republic of Texas and American Civil War. Notable documents include several diaries from the 1830s and 1840s written by German immigrant Johann Christian Friedrich Duer.



  • Gertrude Wallace Davis papers, 1896-1959 (#2166):                                                  Includes correspondence, notebooks, newspaper clippings, and other materials about the life of Gertrude Wallace Davis. Several items are from the Catholic-affiliated Academy of the Sacred Heart, in Waco, Texas, where Davis attended school.
German-language diary of Johann Christian Friedrich Duer, 1832
German-language diary of Johann Christian Friedrich Duer, 1832


Armstrong’s Stars: Katharine Cornell

Text by Geoff Hunt

“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 Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator, The Texas Collection.

Andrew Joseph Armstrong, and Katharine Cornell at Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University
Katharine Cornell and A.J. Armstrong enjoy a moment of laughter on the dedication day of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, on December 3, 1951. Cornell was the main speaker at the event, along with Baylor President W.R. White. Jimmie Willis photographic collection, 4×5 photo negative 1038.

While A.J. Armstrong’s stars included celebrities with little to no connection to the Brownings—his primary area of interest—some had very deep affiliations with the poets. In fact, a few of the stars played them!

Katharine Cornell visited Baylor twice, both times in relation to her role as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Rudolf Besier’s play, “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.” The part became her signature role, one she started playing in 1931. According to her 1974 New York Times obituary, “The Barretts’” ran for a year on Broadway, and then Miss Cornell shepherded her company on a 20,853-mile tour of the United States, a daring venture in the Depression…” Cornell was “actress-manager” for this performance, and her husband, Guthrie McClintic, was director.

Of course, Armstrong could not miss an opportunity to have this production come to Baylor, and the tour made a stop in Waco in 1934. In her obituary, Cornell is quoted saying, “‘The Barretts’ never played to an empty house—the receipts would be something like $33,000…so we came back having more than broken even. We really felt prideful.” Additionally, Cornell, along with Brian Aherne (playing Robert Browning), performed this production for servicemen and women during World War II in USO Camp Shows.

It was thus fitting that when Armstrong’s efforts came to fruition at the dedication of the Armstrong Browning Library on December 2 and 3, 1951, Cornell would be a part of the festivities. The library was a $2 million facility and called “a shrine to the poet, Robert Browning.” Armstrong stated it is “not far below the Taj Mahal in beauty.” For such a special occasion, the dedication called for a grand ceremony.

Katharine Cornell and group at the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, TX
Left to right: Baylor President William Richardson White, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Katharine Cornell, Marrs McLean, former Baylor president and Texas governor Pat M. Neff. This photograph was taken on the dedication day of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, on December 3, 1951. Jimmie Willis photographic collection photo negative 1045.

Well-known in the world of Browning enthusiasts, and those of the stage and Broadway, Katharine Cornell was the main speaker for the event. Waco Hall was the venue for Cornell’s appearance in what A.J. Armstrong called the “the cultural and literary dedication program” for the new Armstrong Browning Library. Although Basil Rathbone played Robert Browning in the 1934 touring production, Brian Aherne was the original Robert, “brought from his native England by Miss Cornell,” and he came with Cornell to the dedication.

On the day of the event, Cornell and Aherne received an honorary Doctor of Laws during a dedication convocation, along with D.K. Martin, Marrs McLean, A.J. Armstrong, and Herbert Dunnico. Robert Roussel of the Houston Post, upon witnessing a portion of the dedication, commented: “It was indeed an inspirational day… All the humane arts were represented, and the theatre was as handsomely served as it could have been with Katharine Cornell and Brian Aherne as its messengers.”

Katharine Cornell Portrait, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University
Katharine Cornell portrait by the artist Alexander Clayton. The painting depicts the actress in the role of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The item was unveiled at Waco Hall on February 9, 1956, and hangs in the Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University. Photo by Geoff Hunt.

Roussell uses the term “messengers,” and Katharine Cornell rightly served the part as one for the Browning’s legacy. That legacy lives on in the portrait that adorns the wall of the Armstrong Browning’s Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon, as well as her other donations such as the shadow box depicting a scene from the “Barretts” stage production. Further, her impact far beyond Baylor as “messenger” for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in her role in the “Barretts” made many audiences more familiar with their poetic works while entertaining and bringing joy to many along the way.


“Baylor Opens World Shrine to Poets…,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Dec. 2, 1951.

“Broadway Stars To Be Here For Browning Dedication,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Nov. 4, 1951.

Campbell, Reba. “Waco Dedicates Its Taj Mahal,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Dec. 4, 1951.

“Death Claims Dr. ‘A’,” Baylor-Line, v.16 (March-April, 1954): p. 5.

Roussel, Hubert. “Some Out-of-Town Drama With Cornell In a Leading Role,” The Houston-Post (Houston, TX), Dec. 9, 1951.

Katharine Cornell Papers, Armstrong-Browning Library, Baylor University.

Thomas E. Turner, Sr., Papers, Accession #2200, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Whitman, Alden. “Obituary: Katharine Cornell is Dead at 81,” The New York Times (New York City, NY), June 10, 1974.

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts, and see more photos of Katharine Cornell’s 1950 visit to Baylor in our Flickr slideshow below.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Texas over Time: Waco’s Carnegie Library

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.

Waco Carnegie library

  • Local businessman, philanthropist, and Baylor alum Isaac A. Goldstein helped persuade Andrew Carnegie to contribute $30,000 in grants to construct Waco’s Carnegie library. It opened November 28, 1904 and was located at 12th and Austin.
  • The total cost of the building was $44,688, and the library opened with 3,279 volumes. The first book to be checked out was Emma by Jane Austen.
  • Working alongside Willie Durham House, the first female head of schools in Waco, Goldstein knew the library would be of great service to the city and extolled the Carnegie Library as a “classical temple” where men and women could be brought “closer together for the highest and best purposes of pure and enlightened citizenship.”
  • The library outgrew the space by the early 1940s and moved to the Cameron House. The library continued to grow, the Cameron House’s structure began to fail, and the Eighteenth Street and Austin Avenue location of today’s Central library branch opened in the early 1960s.


Darden, Bob. An Austin Avenue Legacy: 100 Years with the Waco-McLennan County Library. Waco, TX: Waco-McLennan County Library Margin of Excellence Trust Fund, 1997. Print.

Sawyer, Amanda. “Waco Public Library,” Waco History, accessed February 13, 2015, http:/​/​wacohistory.​org/​items/​show/​29.​

See all of these images on Flickr. GIF and factoids by Haley Rodriguez, student archives assistant.

A Love Story: Two Marines during WWII

By Amanda Gesiorski, Texas Collection graduate assistant and museum studies graduate student

Onnie Clem love letter to “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian, undated
Letter from Onnie E. Clem, Jr. to his fiancée, Julie, during his time at home in Dallas, Texas, circa 1944-1945. Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers, #3939, Box 1, Folder 2.

As impressive as the recent movie Unbroken may be, a better story about a WWII prisoner of war can be found within the Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers. Not only do we learn about Onnie’s harrowing experience overseas, but we also get a firsthand account of his passionate love affair with his future wife, Julie.

Onnie E. Clem, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas, and joined the United States Marine Corps in 1938 to see the world. He became a radio operator and was stationed in Peking, China, at the US Embassy. When the United States entered World War II, Onnie took part in the battles of the Bataan and was part of the Bataan Death March. Onnie survived the march only to become a POW at Camp O’ Donnell and Cabanatuan for two and a half years.

On August 19, 1944, Onnie was put into the hull of a Japanese “hell ship” with 750 other American prisoners. Nineteen days later, the ship was hit by an American torpedo. As the ship was sinking, the Japanese tossed a grenade into the hull and shot Americans as they tried to escape. Although injured from the torpedo and shot by the Japanese, Onnie managed to escape and swim three miles to shore, where he was rescued by Filipino guerilla fighters. Onnie was one of only 83 known survivors of this incident. By September 1944, Onnie was on his way back home. A transcribed interview with Onnie from 1972 reveals this harrowing experience.

Onnie’s story does not end there, though. Things heat up when Onnie arrives in San Diego, California, where he meets Staff Sergeant “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian, who was a member of the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (USMCWR). She served as secretary to the general in charge of public relations along the west coast in San Diego and later at the office in San Francisco.

Staff Sergeant “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian
This photograph shows Staff Sergeant “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian wearing her official United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve uniform, circa 1944-1945. It was enclosed in a letter she sent to her fiancée, Onnie, while he was in Texas. Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers, #3939, Box 1, Folder 3.

Julie’s office coordinated Onnie’s war bond tour in California. When Onnie walked into her office one day, there was an instant attraction. The couple had a whirlwind romance, and when Onnie returned home to Texas in November 1944, there was a passionate exchange of letters. In these letters, we learn about Julie and Onnie’s relationship as well as their social and work lives. We get a glimpse of Julie’s romantic history with other soldiers, and Onnie’s attempt to re-assimilate into civilian life. We also learn that upon returning home, Onnie is plagued by a constant stream of inquiries from people wanting to know if he has news about their loved ones. Also woven within these letters is the life of Onnie’s fellow escapee, Verks D. Cutter, and Cutter’s wife Janet Elliot, including their secret marriage. While Julie, Janet, Onnie, and Verks are friends at the beginning, as the letters continue we learn about a falling out between them. Onnie and Julie marry on July 13, 1945, and move to Texas, where they work and raise two children.

Onnie joined the Marines to see the world, and in that he succeeded—his papers tell that story. The Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers read like a novel full of passion and drama, but they also provide a unique historical insight into the daily personal, professional, and social lives of two Marines during WWII.