The man who would become Waco’s most famous photographer, Fred A. Gildersleeve, was born near Boulder, Colorado, on June 30, 1880, to Captain Allen Jesse and Sarah Ellen Pew Gildersleeve. His father, Allen Jesse Gildersleeve was a Civil War veteran having served as a Union Army Captain in the Missouri Cavalry, 14, Regiment, Company D, and died in 1881 at the age of 46. After the father’s death the family moved to Kirksville, Missouri, near the mother’s family. There, young Fred attended the Model School (part of the Normal School) graduating at the age of 16. His photography career began at the age of eighteen when he was given a Kodak box camera by his mother. He photographed students at the school and sold them for twenty-five cents each. In 1903, Gildersleeve graduated from the Illinois College of Photography in Effingham, Illinois, and soon after, his career as a professional photographer began.
In 1905 Fred Gildersleeve came from Texarkana, Arkansas, to Waco to work in the photography business having had a brief photography career in that city. His sister, Jessie Ellen, arrived in Waco around the same time to work as a doctor of Osteopathy. Their mother, Sarah Gildersleeve later joined them and lived with her daughter. Fred married Florence Jennette Boyd on December 24, 1908, in Texarkana, Arkansas, who then joined him in Waco. They had no children.
Fred Gildersleeve became a pioneer in the field of industrial photography in Texas. Examples include his commercial photography from the air in the mid 1910s. He photographed oil fields in Mexia and took the first aerial photos known to exist of Baylor University. His ability to use magnesium powder to create “flashlight” to illuminate night-time photographs broke national records. His 1911 photo of Waco’s Prosperity Banquet set a record for being the largest flash photo ever at that time. The event seated 1200 people and ran the length of two city blocks. His skills at photo enlargement also set records. In 1913, he enlarged a panoramic photograph of Waco’s Texas Cotton Palace to 120 inches wide becoming the largest photo print made up to that time. He had a representative from Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York, bring him the photo paper to do so. He also photographed the construction of the Amicable Life Insurance Company Building “Alico” in Waco. The structure, being 22 stories tall, held the title of being the tallest building in the Southwestern United States upon construction in 1911.Continue Reading
Edward Charles “E.C.” Blomeyer’s time in Texas was brief but well-documented. From telephone poles to animals, floods to parades, and much more, the amateur shutterbug committed many views of early 1900s Texas to film—and we reap the benefit today with the Edward C. Blomeyer photographic collection.
Born in Missouri in 1882, Blomeyer moved in 1912 with his family to Waco, Texas, to work as auditor for the Brazos Valley Telegraph and Telephone Company. He came with knowledge of the telephone industry gained while working for the Southeast Missouri Telephone Company in Charleston, Missouri, where he served as rate collector and in management. He would spend only eight years in Texas, but his knowledge and experience quickly helped to improve a rural, and in some areas quite primitive, telecommunications network.
In 1914, Blomeyer began working for the Texas Telephone Company after it expanded to include many independent companies in Lorena, Mart, McGregor, Moody, Waco, West, and the Brazos Valley Telegraph and Telephone Company. This expansion of the Texas Telephone Company gave Blomeyer many opportunities for improving the existing telecommunications infrastructure. He first served as secretary-treasurer of the Waco-based Texas Telephone Company and worked his way up to be president by 1918.
But Blomeyer wasn’t just a career man—he was a photographer as well, capturing many images of Waco. He recorded many scenes of this booming city including trains, airplanes, bridges, rivers, animals, military, the cotton industry, and significant events. His professional interests overlapped with his hobby, providing a rare look into the early telecommunications network in and around McLennan County. These scenes include many early telephone poles—some of which are just sticks with wire attached to barbed wire fence posts! Additionally, Blomeyer documented his travels, with destinations ranging from Galveston, Texas, to Niagara Falls.
In 1920, Waco lost one of its pioneering men in the telecommunications industry. Blomeyer went to work for the Automatic Electric Company, based in Chicago. He stayed with the company as it changed ownership throughout the years, eventually merging with what would become GTE (General Telephone & Electronics). Blomeyer retired from the telephone industry in 1956, having worked his way up to the position of Vice-President of GTE. After retirement, he spent some of his remaining years in Palm Beach, Florida, where he died in 1964.
When The Texas Collection acquired Blomeyer’s photographic collection in 2012, consisting of approximately 1,500 photographic negatives and prints, they were neatly filed in a tattered old box. Its original owner or photographer was not known—the seller from whom we purchased it thought the creator was Fred Gildersleeve, a noted Waco photographer. However, Gildersleeve was just the person who developed several of the printed photographs. But we needed more information to tell properly the story behind these photos and the person who took them.
The first big lead in our case was a small business card sandwiched between a group of negatives. It read: “E.C. [Edward Charles] Blomeyer, Waco, Texas, President of the Texas Telephone Co.” The subjects in the pictures helped confirm Blomeyer as the photographer and creator of the collection. Now that there was a name to link this collection to, we turned to the Internet. Blomeyer turns out to have been a prolific writer of articles on the telephone industry and its management, photography, and various hobbies, we learned from several digitized magazines.
The items in the collection date from 1906 to about 1923. Although he was not a professional photographer, his high-quality work provides a great history of the Central Texas community. Blomeyer was an interesting person to research. He left many traces about what he did professionally through his writings and about many aspects of his personal and family life through his photography.
This post shows just a small sampling of Blomeyer’s work—look for our upcoming series on Blomeyer’s photography, Texas in the Teens. We’ll travel with Blomeyer all over Texas (and maybe outside the state, too), and take a look at transportation, animals, and more.
Check out our Flickr set below for your first view of Blomeyer’s work. You can see more images in the finding aid in BARD—just do a search for Blomeyer, then enjoy!
Roxy Harriette Grove papers, 1906-1953, undated: Grove was chair of the Baylor School of Music from 1926 to 1943, when Baylor became the first school in Texas to attain membership in the National Association of Schools of Music. Her papers consist of correspondence, literary productions, financial papers, and teaching materials.
Frances Cobb Todd papers, 1899-1990, undated: The Todd papers represent the third generation of Smith-Cobb-Bledsoe family heritage and New Hope Baptist Church materials at The Texas Collection. The collection contains items from Todd’s life and work in Waco and New Hope Baptist Church.
Meet Geoff Hunt, originally from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, and Audio and Visual Curator, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:
The Texas Collection has an estimated 1.4 million photo prints, negatives, slides, and digital image files. Additionally, we have thousands of moving image items, and the collection holds an equal number of sound recordings including interviews, music, and many other memorable events. My job as Audio and Visual Curator is to manage all of these materials.
Currently the photograph collection keeps my extremely helpful student photo assistants and me the busiest. Photographs are our most requested materials—lots of people need images, whether they’re looking for photos to use in publications, to supplement their research, or to decorate an office. My undergraduate student workers assist me in scanning, filing, and pulling photographs for projects and researchers. Our main goal is to serve the university and the general public with their needs.
How do we make such a large amount of images available for use? As with most libraries and archival facilities, you’ll get the most of your experience by visiting us in person. However, we are always working to make more photographs, as well as other materials, available online. The Texas Collection has thousands of photographs made accessible through Baylor’s Digital Collections site, which can be found in Texas Collection-Photos. Our Flickr page is another way for people to enjoy a small sampling of our large photographic collection.
Among our visual holdings, The Texas Collection is home to the archives of noted Central Texas photographers Fred Gildersleeve, Fred Marlar, and Jimmie Willis. However, these photographic materials, mostly dating from the early 1900s-1950s, primarily consist of negatives. The first priority in working with items such as these is preserving the original negatives and printed photographs as best as possible. We spend much time doing so by replacing old acidic sleeves and folders with ones that are acid-free and by using protective sleeves (Mylar) for the photo prints.
Some of the negatives are made of glass but most are cellulose; these can range in size from 16 millimeters to 8 x 10 inches. Glass is fragile, and cellulose deteriorates with age and climate. By reproducing these negatives and printed photos with specialized photo scanners, a digital “preservation file” and user access copy can be created. We do still keep the original negative and/or photo print—that’s the master copy!—but by digitizing items, we can allow access to the photo without endangering the original. People of today and future generations will be able to see this history of Baylor, Waco, various Texas cities, and many other locations for years to come. [Check out our Preservation Week video if you’re interested in learning how you can scan your own negatives.]
Scanning this variety of media and preserving the originals are what I spend the majority of my time doing. It is a very large collection to work with but I enjoy learning and finding something new and interesting everyday in our holdings. My position at The Texas Collection as Audio and Visual Curator is challenging but I sincerely find it to be “a labor of love.”
The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here. (Read more about one student assistant’s work with the photography collection in our March post.)
This week marks the 60th anniversary of the May 11, 1953, tornado that hit Waco, Texas, causing the deaths of 114 people. To honor those who lost their lives on this tragic day, and the great loss of a large part of Waco’s central business district, we have put on our Flickr page some unseen or seldom seen photographs of the affected areas of Waco, before and after this storm.
This group of images includes digitized 35mm, 4×5 and 8×10 photograph negatives, Kodachrome slides, stereo-slides, and printed photos, and features images captured by Waco photographers such as Hiram Blaine Sherrill, Randall W. Todd, Fred Marlar, and the Army Air Force Photography Division. We also included “before” photos, giving us a sense of what these stricken parts of Waco were like before the catastrophic storm.
Fred Gildersleeve, a well-known Waco photographer, also documented the storm’s wreckage. In a 1977 oral history interview, Waco historian Roger Conger remarked of Gildersleeve that “…Waco was most fortunate in having him here because he rode the crest of Waco’s remarkable development during the first twenty-five or thirty years of this century.” But sadly, just a few years prior to his death in 1958, he also saw the destruction of part of the city he had made a living photographing. He likely lost friends in the tragedy. However, like his earlier work, his documentation of the aftermath of the 1953 Waco Tornado helps to record an important part of the city’s history.
Another photographer whose work is being brought to light is Dr. Hannibal “Joe” Jaworski. He resided in the nearby Roosevelt Hotel (400 Austin Avenue) and had a medical practice on the third floor of the Amicable (ALICO) Building, on the corner of 5th and Austin. In the aftermath of the storm, he led medical care of the wounded at Waco’s Hillcrest Hospital. Jaworski previously served as a colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corp, and so his experience earned during WWII made his contribution vital in helping those injured in this catastrophic natural disaster.
When going to some of these hard-hit areas now, all that remains are some empty lots and historical markers. However, there is nothing like a photograph taken during this time or just before to help us realize why this event was sometimes referred to as the “Monster from the Skies.”
Check out more before and after images of the 1953 Waco tornado in our Flickr slideshow. Click the arrow to make the slideshow start, and click the crosshairs in the bottom right corner to make the slideshow full-screen.
Every good Baylor Bear is abuzz with excitement about the new Baylor Stadium. The first time in more than 75 years that Baylor Football will play on campus! A new boat harbor and footbridge along the beautiful Brazos River! Baylor is partnering with the City of Waco to make a wonderful new event space for the entire community to enjoy.
But what do you know about the last time Baylor and Waco teamed up to build a football stadium for the Bears? That story begins around 1936, when Baylor Football’s home turf was Municipal Stadium, located at 15th and Dutton Avenue. With a maximum seating of 20,000, it didn’t take long for the Baylor Football program to outgrow this facility.
And so a 500 member-strong Baylor Stadium Corporation formed in the late 1940s. Baylor President W.R. White banded together with Waco civic leaders including Harlon M. Fentress, Jack H. Kultgen, A.M. Goldstein, Gordon Rountree, and Walter G. Lacy Jr., to get the job done. The preliminary cost to build the stadium was projected to be $1.5 million dollars in 1949. (That would be about $14 million in today’s dollars, according to inflation calculators.) The city was to cover $500,000 towards the project, and it was estimated that $1 million dollars could be raised from non-Waco resources such as Baylor alumni, football fans, and “outstanding Baptists [sic] laymen.”
So how did they go about raising that money? The Baylor Stadium Corporation issued 30-year stadium bonds at 3% interest. If bonds of at least $100 dollars were purchased, this would count for tuition credit and prospective students would receive “entrance priority.” (This is not how fundraising works today at Baylor!) Supporters also had the option of purchasing seat options, which guaranteed a seat for all home games for 20 years after the construction of the stadium, with prices varying according to stadium seat locations.
Fundraisers traveled across Texas, with exhortations from President White that “Baylor is not asking for a gift. The bonds are sound investments from a financial standpoint. The [seating] options are investments in future entertainment for sports lovers.” The rhetoric must have worked—by January 1950, $1,001,836.70 and counting worth of bonds and stadium seat options were sold.
While fundraisers were out stumping, Baylor had to figure out the right location for the stadium. Their first choice was to stay in the same area as Municipal Stadium, on the grounds of the former Texas Cotton Palace. But then as now, parking was an issue, and a geological fault on the land caused construction concerns. On to Plan B—a February 1949 news release announced the purchase of a 100-acre plot in “Waco’s west suburbs” for the new Baylor Stadium.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Baylor Stadium was held on May 28, 1949, and construction began in November of that year. And even though the stadium wasn’t quite done yet, the Bears played their first game at Baylor Stadium on September 30, 1950, against the University of Houston. The President of the Baylor Stadium Corporation, Jack Kultgen, presented the stadium to Baylor University.
The stadium’s seating capacity was 49,000 at the time and it was hailed as a “Fittin’ home for the Fightin’ Baylor Bears.” Opening ceremonies included the nearby Connally Air Force Base sending a group of planes to do a flyover of the new facility, while the University of Houston played the national anthem and the Baylor Air Force ROTC color guard raised the colors. Baylor even beat the University of Houston 34-7 on this long-awaited opening day.
The final costs of the stadium? Legendary sportswriter Dave Campbell reported in a 1957 Waco Tribune-Herald article that “the show-piece stadium” where “every seat is good” cost “$1,668,790.27, and that figure includes a $70,000 outlay for a lighting system in 1955. The debt will be paid off by 1980.”
The city of Waco, Baylor University, and a vast network of alumni and sports fans made this vision a reality. Baylor Stadium (which became Floyd Casey Stadium in 1989) was a true investment in the future of Baylor Football and for the Waco community, serving both for more than 60 years. The new Baylor Stadium, with the dedication and support of Baylor fans and Waco citizens alike, also will turn a lofty vision into a stunning reality.
Enjoy a Flickr slideshow with more early photos of Baylor Stadium and its construction. Click the large arrow to start the show–and if you want to see the photos full-screen, click on the crosshairs that will appear in the lower right corner of the photo.
Read more about Baylor Stadium/Floyd Casey Stadium’s early beginnings:
The Invisible Line (The Baylor Stadium Corporation: Waco, Texas, 1949). Baylor University Subject Files: BU Buildings: Baylor Stadium: 1948-1949. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
Waco and the Baylor Stadium Campaign: a handbook for workers and a prospectus for investors. Baylor University Subject Files: BU Buildings: Baylor Stadium: 1948-1949. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.