On August 3, 1914, the British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey remarked, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Grey was commenting on the seemingly unstoppable slide into a cataclysmic war that was overtaking his country and all of Europe. The lights being extinguished across Europe did not go unnoticed in central Texas. A survey of Waco newspapers from early August 1914 demonstrates that people in Texas had practical economic concerns about the events in Europe as well as deep personal connections to the land and people that would soon be plunged into World War I.
The events following the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914, were fast moving and complex. Over the course of July and early August, the major European powers found themselves tangled in alliances that resulted in a major war. Even a century later the situation can be hard to fully understand, and this was no different for people all over the globe in 1914. Local newspapers had the difficult job of tracking and reporting each turn in the unfolding events. On August 5, 1914, the popular daily newspaper The Waco Morning News displayed in red ink across the front-page “GERMANY VS. WORLD” to mark the news that Great Britain had declared war on Germany. The Waco Morning News typically focused on national and international news stories from the Associated Press. On the front page of the August 5, 1914, edition, stories were filed from London, Berlin, Paris, New York, Quebec, New Orleans, and Constantinople, giving Waco readers a truly global perspective on the war.
However, on the editorial page a voice was given to local uneasiness about the developing conflict. Titled “Cotton and War,” the article points out that nearly 10 million bales of cotton that the United States annually exports were currently being readied for the international market, a market that was in danger of disappearing due to the war. If that were to happen, the cotton prices could plummet, causing an economic crisis for Texas and the entire US south. A proposal was put forth that if the cotton cannot be shipped overseas, then the federal government should buy the surplus. In one action the United States could aid cotton farmers and invest in a soon-to-be high demand commodity. It wouldn’t be long before European armies clamored for cheap fabric for uniforms and war material.
Another perspective on the war, unique to Waco, can be found in the August 8, 1914, edition of The Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune. This newspaper focused more on local events and was able to capture personal reactions to the outbreak of the war. The article, “Thoughts Evoked by the War,” recognized that many Wacoans were German veterans of the Franco-Prussian War of the early 1870s. With the Germans and French again marching to war, these residents were most likely feeling a mix of emotions over the lands of their birth. Ultimately, the editorial called for understanding of people’s regional loyalties.
Both articles concluded with the hope that the conflict would be short-lived. Unfortunately the War only grew larger in scale and loss. By 1917 these Waco newspapers would be printing the names of drafted local men as the United States entered World War I.
Spender, J.A. Life, Journalism and Politics, Volume II. New York: Fredrick A. Stokes Company, 1927.
The Waco Morning News, “Cotton and War,” August 5, 1914.
The Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune, “Thoughts Evoked by the War,” August 8, 1914.
“Print Peeks” is a regular feature highlighting select items from our print collection.
This month, we’re introducing “Print Peeks,” a regular feature examining select items from our print collection. Did you know that The Texas Collection has more than 167,000 books and more than 3,000 active serials titles? And that does not even get into our vertical files and other material types. Our first entry looks at one of our Texas newspapers. Enjoy!
By Sean Todd, Library Assistant
From 1892 to 1901, the Artesia was a popular Waco newspaper with a circulation of over 2,500 at its height. As a society paper, the Artesiafocused its coverage on social events and comings and goings of Wacoans. A typical issue included columns titled “Happenings of the Week—Movements of People You Know,” with items on the Shakespeare Club, the ladies of Waco organizing the parade for “Street Fair Week,” and reports of the local dinner parties with a list of interesting visitors from Houston and San Antonio.
The paper was founded by a prominent member of the Waco Jewish community, Isaac Goldstein, and thus featured more activities of Jewish organizations of the time than did other papers. Goldstein, along with Louey Migel, owned a successful department store in Waco. Not surprisingly, Artesia’s pages were full of advertisements proclaiming the latest fashions and their availability at Goldstein-Migel. Vital to the Artesia’s publication was Kate Friend, who served as editor. Along with her duties at the paper, Friend was an authority on Shakespeare and an advocate for animal rights, even speaking on the subject in Washington, D.C., in 1935.
The 1900 Easter Artesia was one of the few instances that the Artesia featured a color front and back page. Color printing was a much costlier process and reserved for special occasions. Major holidays such as Christmas and Easter were more likely to be celebrated with full color pages because of the positive feelings associated with the event. (Occasionally, Sunday comic pages might get some red ink, and major news headlines would sometimes be printed in red.)
This Easter edition of the Artesia was published on April 15, 1900, and the content is typical of the publication. Notes from recent club meetings and social gatherings fill all four pages. However, the front and back covers are far from standard. The front cover (see above) features a powerful image of an angel, standing with purpose and eyes fixed upward. The mix of soft Easter pastels with a vibrant red and yellow background is striking.
The back cover (to the left) includes festive scenes of children holding flowers and coloring Easter eggs. At the top is an advertisement for the Auditorium as a summer venue for people to come and enjoy the warmer weather. This seems to be a reference to the Auditorium Theater which, according to the 1900 Waco City Directory, was built at the corner of 6th and Columbus and had a seating capacity of 7,000. At the bottom of the page is an advertisement for the self-assured dress maker Miss Poyntz, who proudly claims that “I can not do poor work; I don’t know how.” Both advertisements seem to be well timed as Waco began to anticipate the summer and upcoming social events.
The artwork featured in this edition of the Artesia is not only beautiful but provides the modern reader with a window in which to view holiday traditions that are more than a century old.
Interested in learning more about the Artesia? We believe we have the full run of the paper, which you can come and peruse in our reading room…among many other newspapers, Texas and otherwise!
Although intriguing, newspapers as historical sources can be problematic. As history’s “first draft,” mistakes are bound to happen. But as a way to gauge daily life, contemporary reactions, or to read accounts of major historic events, newspapers are invaluable primary resources.
With this in mind, one particular issue of a New York newspaper—the June 11, 1836 issue of The Albion—caught my eye as I began to inventory newspapers at The Texas Collection. To anyone familiar with Texas history, the year leaps off the page—surely events of the recent Texas Revolution would be mentioned! In fact, news of the battle of San Jacinto had been slowly filtering to the New York media.
When a major event happens today, reports are instantly available, but in the 1830s, communication was still very dependent on the mail. Most newspapers didn’t have correspondents to report on national and international events. Instead, travelers often wrote letters back to their local editors or, more commonly, editors received copies of newspapers from other major cities. In the case of The Albion in 1836, an account of the battle of San Jacinto on April 21 had reached their offices through two New Orleans newspapers.
The account was a firsthand description of the engagement at San Jacinto, though unfortunately anonymous. The author describes the shock of the unprepared Mexican army as the smaller Texas force charged through their camp: “Some of the men were sleeping, some cooking, some washing, in short, in any situation but that of preparation for battle, when they were pounced upon by us at about 4 o’clock P.M. of the 21st.” The Texas fighters are described as shouting “The Alamo and La Bahía”(La Bahía being a common name for the location of the Goliad Massacre) in an early version of the now famous battle cry.
The description is very candid about the brutal close-contact fighting as the Mexican army fled. As the battle intensified, there was no opportunity to reload and firearms became clubs. Some heavy stocks were said to have been broken over the heads of the enemy. For all its intensity and political ramifications the battle was over quickly—just nineteen minutes before the Mexican army was routed. The author estimates that there were over 600 Mexican killed in the battle with only eight Texans killed. The casualty numbers in the account closely mirror Sam Houston’s official report (630 Mexicans killed and nine Texans), giving weight to its accuracy.
The United States was coming to grasp the battle of San Jacinto’s significance. By the date of this publication,the Treaties of Velasco had been signed and people began to speculate about Texas’ future. This was evident in the preceding pages of the June 11, 1836 issue of The Albion. A published speech by former President, and then current member of the House of Representatives, John Quincy Adams, addressed the “consequences” of the Texas Revolution. Adams strongly opposed Texas annexation, citing conflicts with Mexico and European powers, and an already unstable, ill-defended territory in the U.S. South. And so, of course, Texas did not become a state until 1845.
In a single issue among thousands of newspapers at The Texas Collection, I found an example of Texas history at its most dramatic. Enjoy San Jacinto Day this weekend!