Part II: Compromise Leads to Conflict: The Adams-Onís Treaty

by Rachel DeShong, Special Event Coordinator and Map Curator

This blog post is the second in a series of three posts highlighting John Melish, a 19th century cartographer, and the impact his 1816 map,  Map of the United States with the Contiguous British & Spanish Possessionshad on U.S. history.

John Quincy Adams
Popular Graphic Arts, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-10486.

The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 was the culmination of prolonged boundary disputes between Spain and the United States. Spain was attempting to retain their colonial empire in the Americas which was crumbling at the hands of revolutionaries. The United States, on the other hand, was rapidly expanding its borders but was highly concerned about the British presence in Florida. Although officially recognized as Spanish territory, Florida was heavily influenced by British mercantilism. During the War of 1812, British naval vessels used Florida as a launching point for attacks on New Orleans and other ports of the American South. Moreover, the United States had growing concerns regarding the number of runaway slaves and Native Americans residing in Florida. For these reasons, both Spain and the United States sought a mutually beneficial compromise with Florida at the heart of the deal.

Luis de Onís y Gonzalez was the Spanish Foreign Minister who negotiated the treaty. Arriving in Washington, D.C. in October 1809, he was not recognized as a legitimate government representative at first due to a civil war in Spain. It was not until December 1815 that the United States formally accepted Onís’ credentials. Although negotiations commenced under Secretary of State James Monroe (before he became the fifth president), most of the results occurred under Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (who would become the sixth president.) After the finer points were settled, the Adams-Onís Treaty accomplished two of the Unites States’ major priorities:

  1. Spain ceded Florida to the United States.
  2. The United States now claimed a solid, international boundary extending from the American South to the Pacific Northwest.

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Women’s Collections at Baylor University

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Assistant

In honor of Women’s History Month in March, Baylor University Libraries Special Collections and the Institute for Oral History launched a website for researching the various women’s collections and oral memoirs held across campus. The website includes materials from the Institute for Oral History; Armstrong Browning Library and Museum; Central Libraries Special Collections; Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society; The Texas Collection; and W. R. Poage Legislative Library.Continue Reading

Part I: The Lines are Drawn: John Melish and His Map of the United States

by Rachel DeShong, Special Event Coordinator and Map Curator

This blog post is the first in a series of three posts highlighting John Melish, a 19th century cartographer, and the impact his 1816 map,  Map of the United States with the Contiguous British & Spanish Possessionshad on U.S. history.

Although John Melish is not a name most people are familiar with, his map entitled Map of the United States with the Contiguous British & Spanish Possessions (1816) played a significant role in American history. Maps were often critical to international diplomacy, and inaccuracies usually led to conflict.Continue Reading

When Did the Lights First Shine Bright?: Electricity Comes to Baylor

Inside a dorm room at the Georgia Burleson Hall with a light hanging in the middle of the room, circa 1900. Found in Photograph File BU: Buildings: Georgia Burleson Hall-F.L. Carroll Chapel & Library, 1902- 1922, Baylor—Buildings—Georgia Burleson Hall—Interior, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

by Rachel DeShong, Special Event Coordinator and Map Curator

Today, we think nothing of flipping a switch and having instant light. But life was not always that simple. Prior to the spread of electricity, cities primarily used gas lamps for public lighting. Even Baylor used gas lights in its early years. The 1886 university catalog mentions gas lighting in the women’s boarding hall, although students were instructed to maintain candles on hand for their own rooms. So when did Baylor University first get electricity? Before we attempt to answer that question, it is important to learn when Waco first got electricity.

Wabash, Indiana is the first city in the world to be fully illuminated by electric lights when, on March 31, 1880, four 3,000-candle power lamps were lit above the town courthouse. Shortly thereafter, other cities began exploring the potential advantages of electric lighting. Despite the growing nationwide demand for electricity, on January 1, 1885, Waco decided to table the decision of converting to electric power. Writers from Waco newspaper The Day lamented, “Alas! For the prospects of electric lightening in Waco. They are dim.” However, officials experienced a quick change of heart, and on September 18, 1885, the city council voted 5 to 4 in favor of installing electric street lights, making Waco the second Texas city (after Corsicana) to get electric lights. Four days later, the contract with Jenney Electric Company from Indianapolis was approved. Work began, and on March 1, 1886, Waco officials turned on their electric street lamps for the first time. By 1892, there were three electric companies in Waco, proving that Wacoans were absolutely de-light-ed by the transition to electricity.Continue Reading

The Day of the Bear

by Joseph Lipham, Student Assistant

Here’s a photograph of President W. R. White, celebrating with students in 1958. Found in General Photo Files, Accession #3976.

Following the tragic death of Baylor President Samuel Palmer Brooks in 1931, the newly elected Pat Morris Neff inherited a rather difficult situation. After the United States Stock Market crashed in 1929, crippling the American economy, President Neff came into his presidency during the Great Depression. By 1932, the face of Baylor was covered in signs of the Depression. Students were not immune to the financial shockwave that the Great Depression sent throughout all of America. President Neff, seeing the falling enrollment rates and a nation turning apathetic towards college, declared an annual one day reprieve from classes, so as to enhance the overall student experience. Initially titled “All-University Day”, this day off was meant to provide students with a reprieve from both academic and financial burdens that tended to become more cumbersome towards the latter half of the semester.Continue Reading

Looking Back at Baylor: A Stroll Around Burleson Quadrangle in 1908

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 1989, 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.

Exactly 110 years ago, a Waco University alumnae came to the Baylor University campus in Waco, TX to see what had become of her alma mater. In the years since her graduation in 1873, the campus had changed quite a bit. If only she could see it now! Read on to hear her description of the expanded campus in 1908.Continue Reading

To Sisal: More Than We Bargained For

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Assistant

Sometimes when working in a library, unexpected items cross your path. That was certainly the case with a document The Texas Collection acquired last year known as To Sisal. The To Sisal document is a mariner’s diary from the mid-nineteenth century, and the catalog the library purchased it from said it included an account of an overland journey to El Paso. When I began transcribing the diary, however, I realized the journey it described had nothing to do with El Paso, Texas; instead, it tracked the movements of a merchant ship in the Gulf of Mexico and recorded an overland journey across the Yucatan Peninsula. To Sisal provided several surprising episodes as well as new insights about trade in the Caribbean in the 1840s.

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Looking Back At Baylor: ‘The length of the tail should vary according to the age of the child’

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 1981, 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.

One of the most magnificent and well-known buildings on campus is the Armstrong Browning Library, known for its large collection of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning works and beautiful stained glass windows. But before the iconic building was constructed, the Baylor Browning collection was housed within Carroll Library. Read on to learn more about the collection and performance based on one of the stained glass windows. 

For the first four years after its inception in 1918, Baylor’s Browning collection shared quarters with the university’s general library in the Carroll Chapel and Library Building. Starting with Dr. A. J. Armstrong’s gift of his personal library of Browning manuscripts and publications, the burgeoning young collection rapidly acquired a large oil portrait of Robert Browning painted by his son, its famous bronze casting of the Brownings’ clasped hands, and additional writings and memorabilia.Continue Reading

Right Under Baylor’s NoZe

by Joseph Griffith, Graduate Assistant

Circa 1941, the NoZe Brothers strike a pose. Notice the portrait of Brother Long Nose Shoaf, the first President of the club (center). General Photos collection, box 75.01, folder 1.

Hello! Or in the language of the NoZe Brotherhood: “Mini-Mini-Techni, Ufarsus; Keko-de-Muckity-Muck, Satchel!”

What did I just read, you’re asking? Welcome to the bizarre world of the NoZe Brotherhood, the secret and satirical society on the campus of Baylor University.

Named after its first president, Leonard Shoaf, whose nose was apparently so huge you could form a club around it, the NoZe Brotherhood was founded in the mid-1920s as a satire on men’s social organizations.

They’ve had a long and checkered history at Baylor University, to say the least. At best, university administration has tolerated their jokes. The oldest social club at Baylor University, the NoZe Brotherhood is not–I repeat, not–an official student organization.

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Jules Bledsoe: Waco’s Famous Baritone

by Amanda Neel, Graduate Assistant

Jules leads the program at New York City’s Town Hall on 28 July 1940. You’ll find this item in the Jules Bledsoe Papers #2086, box 4, folder 2, at The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

The shelves here at the Texas Collection hold many collections about the lives and experiences of African American Texans. One of these collections, the Jules Bledsoe Papers, concerns the life and musical career of Jules Bledsoe. Julian (Jules) Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe was born in Waco, Texas on December 18, 1898 and went on to travel the world for his career as a baritone singer. His papers include his library of sheet music, recordings of performances, personal correspondence, programs, and much more.

Jules served in the military during World War I and moved to New York City after the end of the war. While in New York, he received an Honorable Discharge. However, his stint in New York only lasted a short while. Jules signed a performance contract with the Young Men’s Christian Association, Colored Branch in Penniman, Virginia. While in Virginia, Jules sat for photographs in dress uniform for, in his own words, “40 years from now I might want to point back to when I was a soldier in the World War and you know nothing is better evidence than a picture.” Though he lived and performed in Virginia, he set his sights on returning to New York City.

Jules returned to New York by 1920 and saw his career take off by 1925. He performed in places like the Manhattan Opera House and critics hailed him as one of the greatest baritones of the day. His letters home mention his work with great New York composers. He even performed his own compositions during recitals, including his most well-known piece, “Old Man River.” Though based in New York City and traveling the world, Jules never forgot about home. He returned to Waco many times throughout his career and performed multiple times at the New Hope Baptist Church.Continue Reading