Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here are February’s finding aids:
BU records: Baylor Literacy Center, 1946-1988 (#BU/32): Contains the files of Baylor’s literacy center, which helped to teach members of the Waco community how to read. The collection contains brochures, subject files, and student work produced by the staff and students of the Literacy Center.
On January 24, The Texas Collection welcomed the Texas Jewish Historical Society to a special display of materials on Jewish life and faith in Central Texas. Members of the society viewed many different kinds of materials, including:
a letter to a German Jewish family by the German secret police, warning them to leave the country (they later came to Waco, Texas),
an elaborate green velvet scrapbook with photographs from the 1800s of the Goldstein family in Waco,
photographs of Jewish-owned businesses in Waco, such as the Goldstein-Migel and Sanger Brothers department stores,
membership cards and past meeting pamphlets from the Texas Jewish Historical Society, and
photographs of Temple Rodef Sholom and Congregation Agudath Jacob in Waco from the early 1900s.
“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection. This month’s story was contributed by Baylor graduate (BA ’14) and Sigma Tau Delta member Rebecca Hans.
On April 16, 1920, at five o’clock in the evening, poet William Butler Yeats shared about his life and influences and read his work in front of a packed house of Baylor students, faculty, and community. The evening, part of the university’s Diamond Jubilee celebration, had been eagerly anticipated in four Baylor Lariat articles articulating not only W.B. Yeats’s notability and talent, but also the hard work of Dr. A.J. Armstrong for orchestrating the visit. The Lariat especially emphasized the singularity of the event, urging students not to miss the unique opportunity. The first news regarding the event was an April 1st issue of the Baylor Lariat. The piece announced W.B. Yeats’s lecture and described him as a poet “considered by all competent critics the foremost English man of letters now living.” The lecture would be titled “Friends in my Youth” and was already expected to be “a great day in Baylor history” (“William Butler Yeats” 7). These early Lariat articles advertising Yeats’s appearance are particularly interesting from a modern perspective. In 1920, Yeats had not yet achieved the irrefutable eminence associated with his name today but was instead described as a brilliant poet on the rise. Many of the great works for which Yeats is known today had yet to be written; even “The Second Coming,” one of his most famous works, may have been unknown to the Waco audiences. Regardless, the literary community thought highly of Yeats. He was so respected even in 1920 that the Lariat accurately prophesied that his “name and work will take place in the front rank of the poetry that passes from this generation to posterity” (“W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th” 1). When the official invitation appeared advertising the “First Big Guns of Baylor Diamond Jubilee,” Former President William Howard Taft and the poet William Butler Yeats both shared the advertisement. Although President Taft’s portion was presented in a grander style, Yeats’s portion was given equal importance. The invitation emphasized Yeats’s appearance as an important event for anyone interested in “world affairs,” not just a night out for poetry enthusiasts. These instructions were heeded, and long before Yeats took the stage, a varied collection of people paid fifty cents to fill Carroll Chapel to capacity (“William Butler Yeats Delivers Fine Lecture” 1; “Yeats Friday, 5 O’Clock” 2). The poet laureate of Texas, Judd Mortimer Lewis, also came to Waco specifically for the event, and introduced W.B. Yeats to the crowd himself. Yeats began the lecture, “Friends in my Youth,” with details of his childhood, specifically the influence of his father, an artist. The larger part of the talk, however, focused on his mentors and other literary men who had profoundly influenced his growth as a man and poet. Of these influences Yeats mentioned Arthur Symons, Francis Thompson, and William Ernest Henly, and read examples of their work aloud to the Waco audience. To the delight of the crowd, Yeats read aloud from his own work for the concluding half hour, “a treat to lovers of poetry” (“William Butler Yeats Delivers Fine Lecture” 1). Although the bulk of Lariat coverage focused on Yeats himself, the writers did credit Dr. Armstrong’s work bringing influential speakers to the campus: “The policy of Dr. Armstrong in bringing men to Baylor is to get men who have a world-wide reputation” (“W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th” 1). In a letter to the University President, Samuel Palmer Brooks, Dr. Armstrong reflected on the events of the previous year and described in further detail what the Lariat titled “his policy”: My primary purpose is not to make money but to give the students an opportunity to come in contact with world forces and world geniuses. I believe it is one thing they will remember longer than anything else connected with their school days. I consider these attractions all of the highest type and I think my English Department is gaining launch for itself abroad. Today, Baylor University features visits from world-renowned thinkers, writers, and speakers who also share their work and experiences with the university and community. The English Department especially has preserved Dr. A.J. Armstrong’s tradition through events such as the Beall Poetry Festival, an annual event bringing internationally acclaimed poets to Waco. Many modern students can speak with a similar satisfaction as those of 1920, although many may wish they had been present to witness “the biggest literary man that has yet spoken in Carroll Chapel,” as William Butler Yeats shared his story and his art (“W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th” 1). Works cited: Armstrong, A.J. to Samuel Palmer Brooks, 4 April 1921, Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449, Box 1, Folder 1, Texas Collection, Baylor University. First Big Guns of Baylor Diamond Jubilee, Invitation. The Texas Collection, Baylor University Libraries, Waco. Print. W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th.” The Lariat 8 Apr. 1920: 1. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. “William Butler Yeats.” The Lariat 1 Apr. 1920: 7. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. “William Butler Yeats Delivers Fine Lecture.” The Lariat 22 Apr. 1920: 1. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. “Yeats Friday, 5 O’Clock.” The Lariat 15 Apr. 1920: 2. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.
Between 1958 and 1978, the Urban Renewal Agency of the City of Waco, along with the federal government, created a master plan to redevelop ten areas of the city between Waco Drive and LaSalle Avenue. By the late 1970’s, efforts by the agency had resulted in the demolition of 1,200 homes and 300 commercial structures. This multi-million dollar effort was to eliminate dilapidated buildings and improve the aesthetics of the city. Affected homeowners and businesses received aid to help improve their properties or were moved completely to more suitable and habitable conditions. Part of the greater plan was known as “Brazos Urban Renewal Area TEX R-104” and covered much of downtown and included what was to become the “Austin Avenue Mall.”
The mall’s construction extended from the Ninth to Third Streets blocks of Austin Avenue and closed this portion to vehicular traffic while leaving side streets open. This location allowed the mall to link up with the recently constructed Waco Convention Center. The original planners called for: “a pedestrian mall on Austin Avenue and outlined space for a convention hall on the old City Hall Square.” The Waco City Council had no objections and a federal grant was approved on October 31, 1968 for the project. Construction began in early 1970 and the Austin Avenue mall was formally dedicated on January 16, 1971. After completion, the mall was heralded as “the beginning of a new era for Downtown Waco.”
Details included removing tall curbs to make a seamless surface across the street for pedestrians to access storefronts lining the mall. Large awnings were built to keep “window shoppers” in the shade or sheltered from rain. Fountains, modern lighting, and cement blocks were used for seating and aesthetics. Large planters held trees and plants. The mall also used electric-powered “Free Shopper Trams” that were ahead of their time for the early 1970’s. The Austin Avenue mall got off to a hopeful start with retailers seeing increased sales. One merchant claimed: “Sales are definitely up. We’re getting more people from out of town and a lot of Waco people are coming back downtown to shop because of the inviting atmosphere.”
However, the success of Austin Avenue’s transformation proved difficult to sustain as the years went by. As early as 1977, several key businesses moved to other locations throughout the city, diminishing the area’s desirability. These included some of the main attractions such as Goldstein-Miguel, Cox’s, Monnigs, and Bauer McCann. J.C. Penney was soon to follow when it moved to Richland Mall by the late 1970’s.
In May 1977, Jack Denman, president of Downtown Waco, INC., remarked to the Waco City Council, “There is no reason for anyone to be on the mall. It is the most beautiful, tranquil place in town but is functionally useless.” Further, Denman stated, “I receive calls from women who are scared, and have a paranoia about walking on the mall, they feel alone, isolated…”
After several more years of similar sentiments regarding the pedestrian mall project, in 1985, the Waco City Council decided to change it back to a two-way street between Third and Ninth making Austin Avenue fully accessible to vehicular traffic. The existing remnants that made the pedestrian mall unique, such as cement planters, ponds, fountains, and electric trams, were cleared. Indeed, the idea may have been ahead of its time but now makes for an interesting chapter of Waco’s past.
“20 Years Transform Heart of Our City” Waco Tribune Herald, September 3, 1978.
“Downtown Revitalization Underway; Main St. 2-Way.” The Waco Citizen, August 30, 1985.
“Office of Economic Development, Urban Renewal in Waco” (Waco, Texas), 1989; Subject File: Waco Urban Renewal. Thomas E. Turner Papers, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
“Parking on Mall Asked.” The Waco Citizen, May 20, 1977.
“Urban Renewal in 1968: An Annual Progress Review” The Waco News-Tribune, March 26, 1969.
“Urban Renewal in 1970: An Annual Progress Review” The Waco News-Tribune, March 24, 1971.
“Urban Renewal in 1971: An Annual Progress Review” The Waco News-Tribune, March 29, 1972.
Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. We also have the last two finding aids completed by the Archival Collections and Museums class that worked on archival processing projects with us here at The Texas Collection last spring. Here’s the scoop for August:
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.