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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 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.
The beginning of this month marked the 173rd year since Baylor was chartered in Independence, Texas. This spring, it will be 132 years since Baylor moved to Waco, Texas. Which leads us to ask, what prompted the move? Read on to find out.
In 1885 Baylor at Independence reached a turning point in its history. For the past quarter-century the forty-year-old school, whose heyday had occurred in the decade of the 1850’s, had suffered from a variety of social, political and economic problems in Southwest Texas which were beyond its control. The death in February, 1885, of President William Carey Crane, whose efforts alone had kept the struggle school alive, signaled the need of desperate measures if Baylor went to survive.