This post was written by Jacqueline Devereaux, staff archivist at The Texas Collection
During the holiday season, a beloved food tradition across Texas is tamales. Generally, tamales are a Mesoamerican dish with cornmeal dough – masa – wrapped around seasoned meat, cheese, beans, or vegetables baked or streamed in corn husks. To assist with the labor-intensive process, a host may invite family and friends to a tamalada to make dozens and dozens of tamales. Because of the time and effort required for tamales, many home cooks choose to make tamales for celebration days. Our staff expert, Maria, brings in this delicious treat for the Texas Collection each year to our Christmas party!
If you are interested in learning more about the history of tamales or finding a recipe to test out yourself, we have plenty of options to explore at The Texas Collection…including an extensive collection of cookbooks – over 9000 of them Texas cookbooks!
Here are cookbook highlights featuring different tamale recipes:
The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh presents a historic look at the development of Texan traditions; it also includes a Christmas tamale recipe! The first picture on page 89 provides a recipe for the masa and a pork filling. The other picture is from page 84, and it shows a woman collecting corn husks for the tamale preparation. The La Gloria school in La Gloria and nearby Falfurrias, Texas community cookbook compiled recipes during the 1990s from students, teachers, and the community. Page 74 includes a pork tamale recipe.
Tantalizing Tamales by Gwyneth Doland shares over 40 different possibilities for tamale fillings. From the sweet cinnamon to the savory green chile chicken or salmon tamales with peach salsa, this cookbook offers numerous options.
Doland, Gwyneth. Tantalizing Tamales . Tucson, Ariz: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2007. Print.
La Gloria School Cookbook, Falfurrias, Texas. Collierville, TN: Fundcraft Publishing, 1996. Print.
Walsh, Robb. The Tex-Mex Cookbook : a History in Recipes and Photos . 1st ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2004. Print.
This article was written by B.J. Thome, a graduate assistant at The Texas Collection pursuing his PhD in English.
In celebration of National Black Business Month this August, The Texas Collection is spotlighting a few historic Black-owned businesses in Waco and the accomplishments of their owners.
M. Sublett and Son
One of the first Black-owned businesses in Waco was L. M. Sublett and Son Grocery Store. The store operated during the early twentieth century, becoming one of the largest and most successful Black-owned businesses in Waco, on par with any other grocery store in Waco at the time. Sublett’s business focus wasn’t limited to just the grocery store, however; he also owned a couple farms and several houses that he rented out. By 1928, Sublett’s monthly income from his business endeavors was estimated at approximately $2,000.00 per month (roughly $31,000 per month when adjusted for inflation). Sublett’s endeavors weren’t limited merely to the business sphere. He was also politically active. In particular, he fought for voting rights for his fellow Black men and women. In the early twentieth century, one form of voter suppression was restricting primary elections to white voters only. In 1923, Sublett, among others, successfully sought and received an injunction from Judge Irvin Clark to prevent the Democratic party from excluding Black voters from the city’s primary elections.
Mecca Drug Store
Another prominent early twentieth-century Black-owned business was the Mecca Drug Store, located in the Fridia Building in downtown Waco. The drug store was originally opened by Dr. J. Walter Fridia, who first started practicing medicine in Waco in 1898. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Fridia purchased a three-story building on the corner of Bridge and Second Streets, opening the Mecca Drug Store on the first floor and providing space for physician and dental offices on the second floor and space for other business offices on the third floor. Around 1912, E. E. Clemmons, who had earned a pharmaceutical degree from the University of Michigan, came to work for Dr. Fridia as a druggist. In 1921, Clemmons bought the store from Dr. Fridia and continued to operate it for several decades afterwards. Clemmons even weathered the 1953 Tornado which devastated downtown Waco and severely damaged the Fridia Building. Clemmons rebuilt and reopened the store after the storm, continuing to operate it until 1968.
Dr. Garry Radford, Sr./East Side Cab Company
Another prominent Black business owner in mid-twentieth century was Dr. Garry Radford, Sr. In 1944, Dr. Radford moved to Waco and set up his own dental practice in the Conner Building, another Black-owned building in downtown Waco housing several Black-owned businesses and offices. Eventually, his practice expanded to have sixteen employees and gathered enough income to be listed by Dunn & Bradstreet. Like other prominent Black doctors/businessmen, Dr. Raford didn’t restrict himself to just his dental practice. He also invested in other Black-owned businesses, including the East Side Cab Company. The East Side Cab Company was originally organized by Johnnie Boy Holland in 1945. In 1946, Holland, along with J. D. Fikes, bought the Bridge Street Cab Company from Herbert Walker and merged it with the East Side Cab Company. (There were several Black-owned taxi companies in Waco at the time, responding to the demand for taxis that would carry Black passengers since companies like Yellow Cab refused to offer service to non-white customers.) In 1949, Dr. Radford bought half interest in the East Side Cab Company and even purchased several new cars for the company. As a result of the 1953 Tornado, however, the East Side Cab Company’s office and fleet were severely damaged, prompting Radford close down the company and refocus his efforts on community service and politics.
Like Sublett, Radford was actively involved in politics. In fact, in 1966, he decided to run for his district’s seat on the Waco City Council. At first, his chances of winning appeared slim. In fact, the radio announcers initially proclaimed his opponent, Les Tooker, to be the winner of the election. They even went as far as conducting an interview with Tooker, a white man, regarding his plans for his presumed tenure in office. After all, Tooker was ahead by three hundred votes with only a single box of votes remaining to be counted. However, that single remaining box of votes was Box 10C—the box from Radford’s home district where Radford himself went to vote. When the votes from that final box were counted, 455 votes had been cast for Radford and only 2 votes had been cast for Tooker. Despite the radio’s premature announcement of Tooker’s victory, Dr. Radford actually won the election by a margin of only 146 votes, becoming the first Black man elected to a public office in Waco’s history.
Garry Hamilton Radford papers, Accession #2221, Box #1, Folders #2-3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
Hall, Ida Legett. History of the Negro in Waco Texas : Sociology 232, Spring 1928. Waco, Texas: Ida Legett Hall, 1928.
Radford, Garry H., Sr. African-American Heritage in Waco Texas: Life Stories of Those Who Believed They Could Overcome Impediments. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 2000.
Hunter, Selese. “A Study of Negroes Engaged in the Professions and Business Activities of Waco, Texas.” Waco, Texas: Baylor University, 1927.
This post was written and the images curated by Rachel DeShong, Map Curator at The Texas Collection
The first transcontinental railroad in the United States, connecting the east coast to the west, was completed on May 10, 1869 when the “Golden Spike” was hammered into place at Promontory Summit, Utah. Constructed over an arduous six-year period, the railroad was actually a decades-long process. As early as the 1830s, discussion concerning the need for a transcontinental railroad, referred to as the Pacific Railroad, raged on. As more interest developed in the 1840s, the issue was debated by Congress several times with few results.
Congress finally approved the Pacific Railroad surveys in 1853, authorizing four east-to-west surveys (between the 47th and 49th parallel, between the 37th and the 39th parallel, the 35thparallel, and the 32nd parallel) to be conducted from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast. Additional surveys were also completed along the Pacific coast from San Diego to Seattle. The goal was to survey several different paths to determine the most appropriate and cost-effective route. The surveys were under the purview of the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, and were initially set to conclude in 1854. However, as one might expect, the process took over three years to complete. The idea of a Pacific Railroad became so firmly rooted in the American psyche that both the Democratic Party and the newly formed Republican Party included it in their presidential platforms for the 1856 and 1860 elections.
What is interesting to note is that two of these routes, the 32nd and the 35th parallels, ran through Texas. Although authorized to begin at the Mississippi River, the surveys actually began at the western borders of Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. The 35th parallel route began in Fort Smith, Arkansas and crossed the Texas panhandle into New Mexico and Arizona to end in San Pedro (now Los Angeles). It was roughly estimated to traverse 2,100 miles and cost $99 million (in 1850s money).
The 32nd parallel route was the southernmost proposed route and began on the Red River in Fulton, Arkansas. The route bisected Texas, connected to El Paso, and passed into New Mexico and Arizona, ending in San Diego. It was estimated to be less than 1,700 miles and cost approximately $72 million. This route was the most popular for a variety of reasons:
Jefferson Davis was a Southerner and naturally favored a southern route.
It was the shortest length and the lowest cost of all the possible routes.
The route would have encountered lower elevations and better weather.
The route passed through states and territories that had already been organized.
The primary downside to this route, which was addressed before the survey was even completed, was that a portion of the route passed through Mexican territory. To remedy this, the Gadsden Purchase was finalized on June 8, 1854. In exchange for $10 million, Mexico sold the United States 29,670 square miles south of the Gila River in present-day Arizona.
Despite the popularity of the proposed Pacific Railroad, the upcoming Civil War (1861-1865) stalled any decision-making. Once Confederate states seceded in 1861, the opposition to a central route was moot and the idea of a southern route was dismissed. Ultimately, a central route along the 42nd parallel, starting in Council Bluff, Iowa, (far enough away from the fighting) was approved.
Although the first American transcontinental railroad did not go through Texas, the routes surveyed had been viable options, as evidenced by future transcontinental railroads built along them. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe was constructed along the 35th parallel, and the Texas and Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads were built along the 32nd parallel.
Galloway, John Debo. First Transcontinental Railroad: Central Pacific, Union Pacific.
Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 1983.
Explorations and surveys for a rail road route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean route near the 35th parallel: Map no. 2: from the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean. 1853-4. Cubby 58, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
This post was written by Benna Vaughan, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections & Manuscripts Archivist
The Laura Wise Maverick papers, consisting of a scrapbook, diary, and travel journal, are now open for research at The Texas Collection. Though the Maverick name has long been associated with Texas and her growth (Laura’s grandfather, Samuel Augustus Maverick, was a land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, her father a rancher and prominent developer of San Antonio), Laura would make her name on the stage as a contralto, touring throughout the United States and Canada, and performing with the Metropolitan Orchestra and the Russian Symphony Orchestra.
Laura was born on November 22, 1878 in San Antonio, Texas, to William H. Maverick and Emilia Virginia Chilton Maverick. Growing up on a ranch allowed Laura free reign for her adventurous spirit and she was often seen on the back of a horse riding at full speed around the grounds. She attended St. Mary’s Hall Episcopal school and graduated from the San Antonio High School for Young Ladies in May of 1895. She then attended Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts. Sources differ as to the exact year of her marriage to Dr. Amos Lawson Graves, but the couple wed on April 19th in the early 1890s. They had two children, Amos Maverick and Laura Maverick. They couple would later divorce, with Laura and the children moving to New York to pursue her career in music. She trained abroad in the ensuing years with noted instructors, and by 1911, was making a name for herself in New York and Texas music circles.
On January 28, 1912, Laura appeared with the Russian Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. The New York Press said of her performance:
She was received with many manifestations of approval. Miss Maverick is a mezzo-
contralto of pleasing personality and sings with taste and intelligence. Her voice has
exceptional purity and quality and her diction in three languages was admirable, as
well as her phrasing and intonation.
Laura toured and performed throughout the United States and Canada, taking a summer off during 1912 for time at her ranch in Texas. It was during this time that Laura went to Mexico where she devoted weeks to the study of Mexican songs. She also married cellist and conductor Carl Hahn in 1912, and they would tour and perform together in the following years. The couple would later divorce. They had no children.
The scrapbook in the Maverick papers covers Laura’s musical career during the years of 1911-1913. Programs, repertoire lists, press releases, announcements, and news clippings are prominent throughout. The last clipping remarks on the passing of Laura’s mother and brother, within a week of each other (1913), and mentions the cancellation of Laura’s tour for that year. Loose materials within the scrapbook include photographs and personal mementos. The travel journal contains the month and day of each entry but not the year. It speaks of an early U.S. tour and reflects on the places she visited, events attended, and modes of travel. A letter from her granddaughter in 1954 is also found with the journal. The diary picks up later in Laura’s life from 1933-1937, with many entries discussing children, family, friends, colleagues, and life on the road. A poem inscribed in the front of her diary seems to echo her outlook: “Smile a smile/ While you smile/ Another smiles/ And soon there’s miles and miles of smiles/ And life’s worthwhile/ If you just smile.” (credited to Jane Thompson)
The Laura Wise Maverick papers offer an interesting facet of the Maverick family history, through a glimpse of the life of one of its female members. Rich and elegant in tone, the papers reflect the influence of music in society during the early 1900s, and the life of women working in music and theater.
November is National Aviation History Month! According to the Government Printing Office, the month is “dedicated to exploring, recognizing and celebrating America’s great contributions and achievements in the development of aviation. Aviation history refers to the history of development of mechanical flight — from the earliest attempts in kites and gliders to powered heavier-than-air, supersonic and space flights.” This post explores the history of Army Air Fields in Texas using items from our holdings.
Written by Rachel DeShong, Map Curator and Coordinator for the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair
On December 8, 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. Immediately, the United States government embarked on expanding their military operations as quickly as possible. These efforts included both recruitment and the building of new military installations. Texas offered ideal conditions for military installations as there was plenty of land and relatively warm climate year-around. When World War II ended, there were a total of 65 army air fields in the state of Texas alone. These air fields not only infused the local communities with some much needed income, but also brought in a large influx of young men and women from across the country.
To commemorate their training experiences, air field personnel created souvenir booklets, yearbooks, and postcards. The booklets and yearbooks (called “mug books”) were composed almost entirely of photographs and documented the lives of the cadets rather than the history of the air field. Only a few examples include any historical element, and those that do are very brief. Images depicting physical activity, daily messes, and classrooms were common. The yearbooks shared similar styles with high school yearbooks with elaborate covers and individual photographs of each cadet along with their name, their hometown, and sometimes their aviator call sign. One such yearbook in our collection from the Pampa Army Air Field includes the embossed name of the cadet on the front cover and signatures like those one would find in a typical high school yearbook.
These materials also provide a sneak peek into the cadets’ personal lives. Often included in these books are humorous drawings and captions with inside jokes. Others document the various extracurricular activities that the cadets participated in including sports, listening to music, and reading. Several even include images of their camp mascots which, contrary to what one might expect, tended to be furry, cute, and cuddly. The Amarillo Army Air Field claimed two puppies, a kitten, and a fawn as their post mascots. Other details hint at the romantic lives of the cadets such as the wedding photograph of an unidentified couple from the Blackland Army Air Field or the numerous illustrations referencing the cadets’ perpetual lack of female companionship. Some books also contain a section dedicated to the memory of cadets who died during training. While providing valuable historic insight to training and military installations, these resources help to humanize the pilots and remind us that they were just like us.
As the sounds of jackhammers echo throughout campus, it is difficult to ignore the ongoing renovation of the Tidwell Bible Building. On April 25, 2019, Baylor University announced a $15 million dollar gift from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park, Kansas dedicated to the Tidwell restoration fund. Less than a year later, the Baylor Board of Regents approved a total budget cost of $21.2 million for the project. The work began this summer and is projected to be completed in 2022.
Under construction from 1953 to 1954, the Tidwell Bible Building was named after the esteemed Dr. Josiah Blake Tidwell (1870–1946), former head of the Baylor Bible department, which later become the Department of Religion. Initially conceived in 1936 by former students of Dr. Tidwell, the building was a permanent homage to him as well as a physical representation of the significance of the Bible. Originally designed as a ten-story building with a “wall of light”, a more modest six-story building was ultimately built. The history of the building, what could have been, and what was, is a story often told. But how does one pay for a structure such as Tidwell? Therein lies an interesting tale…
The short answer is churches. According to a Certificate of Payment to Leslie Crocket Construction Co., the cost to physically build Tidwell was $590,000. (Considering inflation, that is an estimated $5,682,884 in today’s money.) Looking at the records of the Tidwell Bible Building Campaign Committee, it becomes very clear that Baptist churches throughout the state were major contributors to the building fund. Appealing to districts defined by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, churches of all sizes were solicited. For example, in 1944, First Baptist-Elm Mott donated $75, while Columbus Avenue Baptist Church donated $2,112.14 between 1944 and 1946 including amounts as low as $2.05. In spite of the Great Depression and World War II, by January 31, 1947, a total of $121,988.70 was raised. This amount, however, would not be enough.
In 1947, in an effort to raise the necessary funds, the Tidwell Bible Building Committee, in collaboration with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, approved a large-scale fundraising campaign. Setting an ambitious goal of $500,000, the committee “felt that the individual person approach was the best approach” to achieve said goal. Again, using the BGCT districts, the campaign focused mainly on churches and their membership. The Executive Committee minutes from their February 4, 1947 described the concerted effort thus:
“A plan whereby a solicitor from each church would contact members of his church, and ask them to fill out a pledge card, and select the plan of giving to the Bible Building Campaign Fund. These pledge cards would be sent to the churches all over the state and would be followed up by public appeals in sermons, and then presented to the members by a committee of solicitors.”
To oversee the fundraising campaign, Brother O.D. Martin from District 3 was employed full-time.  Setting monetary goals for each district to raise, he reported that “$515,000 worth of goals has been accepted by districts, churches, and association over the state.” The ledgers from 1947 and 1948 reveal churches from all over the state donating various amounts. First Baptist-El Paso donated $10 on September 9, 1947, while First Baptist-Amarillo donated over $3,000 between 1947 to 1949 usually in $100 payments. The concentrated effort paid off and by September 30, 1951, the building fund raised $628,665.02 (a little over $6 million in today’s money). Of course, not all donations came from churches. There were a significant number of individual donors in addition to Baylor University agreeing to contribute $100,000. However, it is undeniable that Baptist churches across Texas played an important role in making Tidwell Bible Building a reality.
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth was originally published in The Baylor Line in January 1990. Blogging About Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
As Baylor prepares for a shortened and socially distanced football season due to COVID-19, McLane Stadium will host the fewest number of fans since its opening in 2014. Capacity for McLane is listed at 45,140, the 25% allowed this season is only 11,285. The last time max capacity for Baylor Football was so low, the Bears played at Carroll Field which held about 12,000 fans during the 1930s. Read on to learn more about the legacy of Carroll Field.
Harvard has its ‘Soldiers Field,’ . . . Princeton its ‘Franklin Field’ and Baylor will have its ‘Lee Carroll Field,”’ boasted the Lariat on January 17, 1902. The campus newspaper was reporting an offer made to the university’s Athletic Association by athletics business manager Lee Carroll, who challenged students to raise $600 in order to receive his matching gift of $1,000 toward the creation of a sports arena.
At the turn of the century, when collegiate athletics were only just becoming established in Texas, specialized facilities for them were still relatively rare. At the time of Carroll’s offer, Baylor football was played on vacant lots where grass was minimal, weeds were rampant, and sandburs provided a powerful incentive to avoid being tackled. The designation of a purpose-built athletics facility would not only raise the school’s standards of competition, but would also give Baylor bragging rights relative to its peer institutions.
The university community responded to the challenge, and by fall Carroll Field was in use. Situated directly behind the new science building, its length extended as far as the banks of Waco Creek. At first it was little more than an open space along whose sidelines standing spectators ranged themselves. Not until 1915 was a grandstand erected on the west side, anchored to the sloping side of a wedge-shaped brick athletics building that housed dressing rooms, equipment storage, and coaching facilities. The area served for football, baseball, track, and assorted other sports, and while various circumstances would require temporary off-campus relocations of large events, Carroll Field constituted the true center of Baylor athletics until it was dismantled in 1940.
Though the field has been gone for fifty years, memories of it remain vivid to those who knew it. Former bookstore manager Bob Bright ’46, who grew up near the campus, remembers joining with other neighborhood children to watch games through knotholes in the field’s wooden fence; and retired mathematics and religion professor P. D. Browne ’21 recalls helping to erect that same fence during his student days. One prominent university benefactor who served as trainer for the football team during the 1930s still relives his embarrassment as the players removed his trousers in the end zone, under the fascinated gaze of coeds who watched from windows on the upper floors of the science building.
While the Lariat may originally have overstated Carroll Field’s significance in relation to the facilities of eastern universities, news of it did occasionally trickle through the Ivy League. On February 22, 1926, Baylor graduate Dixon Westor ’25 took time off from his graduate studies at Yale to write to former Baylorite Silas Vance at Harvard about “the fire which burned the [Carroll Field] athletic building down and the sweater of Mr. [Assistant Coach Jim] Crow off.”
The net effect of that fire, which had occurred on the night of February 10, was the reconstruction of the athletics building on a scale 50 percent larger, which also served to increase the limited seating capacity. During the field’s heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, further construction would eventually expand its permanent seating to 12,000 places, with temporary bleachers available to accommodate three thousand more in the end zones.
As the physical plant of the campus expanded, however, the university could no longer afford to devote so large and so central an area to athletics. Construction of Pat Neff Hall in 1939 crowded the western boundary of the field very closely, while the site selected for the new student union building impinged upon the gridiron itself.
In the summer of 1940, the Lariat rounded out Carroll Field’s history by reporting that its bleachers, grandstands, and walls were in the process of being leveled. Today — apart from the memories — only two known relics survive. Several courses of brickwork from the athletics building, uncovered during excavations for the Vera Martin Daniel Fountain Plaza, lie reburied under paving stones near Pat Neff Hall; and the elaborate sign from the Fifth Street gate which proclaimed Carroll Field as the “Home of Baylor Bears” still inclines, half a century later, against a wall in one of the university’s warehouses.
Serving our diverse patron base has always been the primary goal of the team at The Texas Collection, and how we use social media to interact with you is a large part of that commitment. Over the years, The Texas Collection has created and maintained several social media outlets on different platforms ranging from Twitter to Facebook, from Flickr to blogs, and YouTube to print newsletters.
In partnership with the University Libraries’ Marketing & Communications team, we are excited to announce a realignment of our social media channels to more effectively and actively connect our followers with the content we have to offer. Here’s what we’re planning to do for each of our social media channels in the coming weeks.
This will continue to be a major source of connection between The Texas Collection and our audiences, especially those who are interested in broader Texas history themes. Content will include exclusive photo posts, short stories, news updates, and links to stories on our other platforms.
The Texas Collection Blog (https://blogs.baylor.edu/texascollection/)
Our blog will serve as the home of longer stories, serialized stories, Research Ready (a digest of the newest archival collections available for research, published monthly), Texas Over Time (a photo series examining the changes in local and state landmarks), and other in-depth stories.
The Texas Collection on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/texascollectionbaylor/)
Our Flickr stream has been home to dozens of exclusive, high-quality images of the history of Baylor University and the State of Texas. We’ll continue to post intriguing images from our robust holdings on a regular basis.
Coming Soon: The Texas Collection joins @BaylorLibraries on Instagram! (https://www.instagram.com/baylorlibraries/)
Beginning later this month, The Texas Collection will begin featuring content from our collections and the life of the library on the official Baylor Libraries Instagram account! Look for fun, engaging images curated from our collections and focusing on the Baylor University experience to start on September 9th.
In addition to our ongoing and new engagement opportunities, we will be making big changes to two of our social media channels in the coming weeks.
Sunsetting The Texas Collection’s Twitter account
After careful consideration, we have decided to suspend our Twitter account on September 30. We encourage our Twitter followers to follow @BaylorLibraries, where we will be posting information about The Texas Collection, joining with content and collections from across the greater University Libraries ecosystem, starting this fall.
Sunsetting The Texas Collection’s YouTube channel The University Libraries have revitalized the central Baylor Libraries YouTube channel, and we have decided to shift our future videos into that space in order to consolidate the Libraries’ content into one central location, and to ensure that our videos reach a broader and more diverse audience. We will be migrating many of our older videos to that platform over the coming month, and new videos will appear there exclusively beginning on October 1st. We plan to keep The Texas Collection channel available for researchers through the end of 2020.
We are excited for the new opportunities to engage with our communities that will come with these changes to our social media presence, and we hope you will follow, like, share, and subscribe to each of them. We promise to continue to publish engaging, interesting, unique, and Texas-centric material on all our platforms for many years to come. Thank you for your support of The Texas Collection, and we look forward to seeing you all down the road.
The term “Prohibition” conjures up a variety of images including flappers, speakeasies, moonshiners, bootleggers, and extravagant parties. However, it is important to remember that the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol was not a moment in time, rather, the end of a long-waged campaign, one that often had local roots. Beginning in the 19th century, the Temperance Movement was an effort to combat the consumption of alcohol in the United States. The concept of temperance often found fertile soil among religious groups, particularly women. The original focus of the movement was on moderation and the individual person. However, by the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the focus had shifted to complete abstinence from alcohol (known as “teetotaling”) and an emphasis on the legal prohibition of alcohol throughout society. As Prohibition gained more support, reformers, known as “drys,” sought to implement local options on city and county levels. Initially met with great resistance, the push towards Prohibition ultimately gained significant traction.
Society’s gradual shift towards accepting Prohibition can be seen in the history of McLennan County. From 1885 to 1917, there were at least five elections regarding prohibition in the county. The Day, a Waco newspaper, reported on September 1, 1885 that Prohibition had failed with 3,681 votes against and only 1,733 in favor. Thirty-two years later, on October 24, 1917, the Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune announced that Prohibitionists had finally triumphed in an election by 1,273 votes. This newspaper article also examined the past four local option elections, starting in 1895. Over the 22-year period, it is evident that Prohibitionists were slowly gaining ground. As a result of the reformers’ perseverance, McLennan County went dry on December 1, 1917.
When considering these election results, it is important to remember that only white males over the age of 21 could vote at this time. Although African American men could theoretically vote due to the 15th Amendment (1870), they were, in reality, disenfranchised by various means including poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and violence. Women were also prohibited from voting.
The 1920 U.S. Census reported a population of almost 83,000 people. Taking into account the voting restrictions addressed above, a vote by an estimated 11% of the population caused McLennan County to transition to a dry county.
While the major focus of the Prohibitionists’ efforts tended to be on the county level, advocates were also working on the state and federal levels. An article in the Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune dated July 26, 1911 referenced the current state-level prohibition election as well as a similar election held in 1887. In 1907, the Baskin-McGregor Act was passed by the Texas Legislature. This law “defined licensing procedures and prescribed operating hours and conditions” for a wide array of activities and actively prohibited
prostitutes or lewd women;
any woman from entering or remaining in bars;
any vulgar or obscene pictures;
keeping or using any piano, organ, or other musical instrument;
any boxing, wrestling, or sparring;
and any games such as billiards tables, card, dominoes, etc.
Ultimately, Prohibition became the law of the land when the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on January 26, 1919. The law went into effect a year later. The state of Texas also passed a state constitutional amendment in favor of Prohibition in 1919. The state amendment was not repealed until 1935, although the 21st Amendment to the U. S. Constitution effectively ended national Prohibition in 1933. After alcohol was legalized in Texas once again, the local option persisted as a means to combat the consumption of alcohol. Over the past 90 years, McLennan County has remained a partially wet county, with certain precincts and cities oscillating between wet and dry.
 Motl, Kevin C. “Under the Influence: The Texas Business Men’s Association and the Campaign against Reform, 1906-1915.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 109, no. 4 (2006): 494-529. Accessed July 21, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/30242333.