In November, 1861, Dr. Alex Morgan enlisted for a one-year term of service with the 19th Louisiana Infantry of the Confederate Army. He left behind his wife Fanny and their four children, and, though the couple expected to reunite at the end of his year of service, in fact they would not see each other again for nearly four years.
Two days after the Battle of Shiloh, Alex wrote his beloved wife to share “not an account of the battle, that you will see in the paper, but…my own impressions of things, as they passed before me.” His frank, poignant, and often wryly humorous letters tell a powerful story of enduring love during the war that would determine the future of a young nation.
Join us in waiting for news from the battlefield: each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from January 9 to March 9, 2012.
Alex Morgan’s letters to Fanny were preserved by their granddaughter, Maggie Scott Logue (1884-1985). In 2007, the children and grandchildren of Maggie Logue decided that the letters should be kept together, donated to the Texas Collection, and be available to the public. The Texas Collection is pleased to share the Morgan Letters through this exhibit.
Did you ever ask Santa for a pedal car? Was there ever a toy that seemed more simultaneously wonderful and out-of-reach? Maybe you wanted the fire truck with a bell you could ring, or the sporty car, or perhaps the airplane?
In the early days of automotive history, the irresistible desire to cruise and the immovable impediment of cost collided to bring in the era of the cyclecar. Cyclecars were lightweight vehicles, part motorcycle and part automobile. Compared to full-sized cars, they were inexpensive to purchase and operate, and were licensed and taxed at a reduced rate, further increasing their appeal.
The Hall Cycle & Plating Co. of Waco, Texas sold bicycles and motorcycles. Partners Lawrence Hall and John B. Fisher were active in the local Young Men’s Business League. (You can see one of their motorcycles with the Y.M.B.L. in the detail from a panoramic photograph below.) Then, in 1914, Lawrence Hall designed a chain-driven vehicle called the Hall Cyclecar. It had a four-cylinder, air-cooled 18 horsepower motor, seated two people in tandem, and could be converted into a light delivery van by removing the rear seat . Hall Cycle & Plating Company was reorganized into the Hall Cyclecar Manufacturing Co. and was incorporated with a capital stock of $25,000 by W. J. Lincoln, E.B. Baker, and Lawrence Hall. The 1914 edition of Automobile Topics reported that Hall hoped to sell the vehicle for $400. The prototype moved into production.
The cyclecar boom was brief. By the 1920s larger manufacturers began making affordable cars that undercut the cyclecar companies. In 1915, manufacture of the Hall Cyclecar stopped. Lawrence Hall moved to Los Angeles and a little bit of Texas history remained only in memory and photographs.
On Thursday, October 20th at 6:30 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium, James P. Bevill will tell the little-known story of financing the Texas Revolution and the sovereign nation of Texas (1835-1845). A gifted storyteller, Bevill’s powerful 50 minute visual presentation relays the history of Texas from an economic point of view rather than a political one. In the forward to The Paper Republic, Dr. Richard Bruce Winders, Historian and Curator at the Alamo poses the following questions: “How did a credit system based on a man’s word operate? Where did the funds come from to finance the Texas Revolution? What role did Texas’ lack of solvency play in her ultimate annexation to the United States?” Bevill expertly answers these questions and many others as he presents the history of money and finance in Texas—a history that is in some ways eerily similar to the current U.S. debt crisis.
James Bevill’s book, The Paper Republic, was named the 2009 winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Literary Award by the Sons of the Republic of Texas, and the Best Specialized Book on U.S. Paper Money by the Numismatic Literary Guild at the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money in Boston, August 2010.
Come hear James Bevill tell the captivating tale of economic struggle in the Texas Revolution; ask questions at the end of his talk. Meet the author at a book signing and reception at The Texas Collection following the lecture. This program is free and open to the public.
For more information about James Bevill and The Paper Republic, click here.
The Texas Collection staff decided to have a bit of fun over the summer and created video trailers to introduce you to some of our favorite collections. Our Texas Trailers are up on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. We’ve put together short movies about western pulp fiction, panoramic photographs, promotional literature, the Adams-Blakley collection, and Jules Bledsoe archival materials. We hope you’ll enjoy this look into the stacks and vaults here at Carroll Library. Leave your comments below!
The stories we tell ourselves about our past become as much a part of our identity as the truth of our history. The mythological American West–the Wild West–with its stories of rugged individualism, resourcefulness, and courage, began to take hold in the public imagination decades before the Civil War. Prior to the turn of the century, some people began to think that the settling of the frontier had formed our national character; that what is essentially American about the United States can be found in western frontier, not eastern culture.
The idea that “All Americans are Cowboys at heart” has great worldwide appeal. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, romanticized tales of cowboys and Indians, outlaws and lawmen could be found in dime novels and popular music, but it was the Wild West Show that brought the drama of the Old West right to your home town. Popular before the advent of radio or movies with sound, the Wild West Show was part circus, part vaudeville, part rodeo, and all spectacle–under the guise of historical accuracy. Wild West Shows celebrated a vanishing culture while allowing easterners and Europeans to experience the excitement of the legendary frontier.
The most famous of the Wild West shows was, of course, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West which ran from 1883 to 1913. However, an enterprising Oklahoman, Gordon W. Lillie, “Pawnee Bill,” was also quite famous in his day. Pawnee Bill was an astute businessman whose traveling shows (Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West and Great Far East) thrilled audiences with demonstrations of horsemanship and marksmanship, including that of his wife, May Manning Lillie, “Champion Girl Horseback Shot of the West.” His exhibitions featured reenactments of historical events, showing stagecoach attacks, daring rescues, and battles with Indians. The Great Far East show included the “spectacle of the war between the Russians and the Japanese” which enlisted “the services of over five hundred people and horses.” Among his ever-changing troupe were Arab jugglers, Mexican cowboys, Cossacks, Japanese, and Pawnee. And, while celebrating the astonishing equestrian accomplishments of the world’s peoples, Pawnee Bill always championed the American Cowboy–“the perfect embodiment of natural chivalry.” A program from the show describes cowboys as
the most daring, most skillful, most graceful, and most useful horsemen in the world. They fulfill the metaphor of the fabled centaur, believed to have been a demi-god, half horse, half man, only that the cowboy excels the centaur in being an independent man who controlled the best points of the quadruped and made “man’s best friend” subservient to his needs, his pleasures and his pastimes. Without the cowboy, civilization would have been hemmed in, and the fair States and Territories of the glorious West would have remained a howling wilderness to date.
Show business has always been an up-and-down experience financially. In 1908, Gordon Lillie invested in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, which was deeply in debt. The “Two Bills” show was successful for a time, especially during its run as Buffalo Bill’s farewell tour, but eventually the enterprise failed when Cody’s creditors foreclosed in 1913.
After that, Pawnee Bill and May Lillie settled down on their buffalo ranch on Blue Hawk Peak, near Pawnee, OK. Lillie continued as a businessman and invested in banking, oil, and real estate. Still interested in the entertainment industry, but looking to the future, he started a movie production company on his ranch. In 1935, May died as a result of injuries suffered in a car accident. Pawnee Bill died in his sleep in 1942.
If you ever find yourself looking for excitement, you can learn more about Pawnee Bill and the American West right here at The Texas Collection. The Adams-Blakley Collection contains several souvenir items from The Historic Wild West and Great Far East Shows, and The Texas Collection has a significant number of Dime Novels. Don’t expect it all to be true, but it is great fun.
(Click on the center of any image in the slideshow to see it full-sized.)
Many thanks to Michael Toon for assistance with Dime novels at The Texas Collection.
If you love real-life stories of the cowboys and outlaws, lawmen and showmen of the American West, now is the time for you to visit The Texas Collection. Currently on display are some choice titles from the Adams-Blakley Collection–an amazing group of books assembled by Ramon F. Adams, the Western bibliographer, lexicographer, and author, for William A. Blakley, a U.S. Senator from Texas. The collection, which was given to Baylor University in 1971 by William Blakley, contains books capturing the excitement and the struggle of Westward Expansion and telling the story of the larger-than-life characters who made it happen. The collection includes close to 3000 works of history, biography, fiction, ranching and branding, promotional literature, poetry, art and folksong, and works on hunting, trapping, and roping. Many of these are rare titles and first editions, often beautifully bound, and signed by their authors. Stop by the Texas Collection to enjoy this exhibit which runs through June 30, 2011.
Click here to listen to a field recording of cowboy songs and poetry from the Adams-Blakley Collection.
Special thanks to Chuck “Drag” Treadwell for sharing his musical and interpretive talents and to Ian Campbell for production assistance. As always, thanks to Lance Grigsby for his support and enthusiasm for new ventures.
One of my fellow librarians at The Texas Collection tells me that if I get through a day without learning something new, I’m not doing my job. Well, yesterday I learned about a larger-than-life Texas cowboy: John “Catch-Em Alive Jack” Abernathy.
I was cataloging some items from the Adams-Blakley Collection–a fabulous group of books assembled by Ramon F. Adams, the Western bibliographer, lexicographer, and author, for William A. Blakley, a U.S. Senator from Texas. In that collection I came upon A Son of the Frontier by John Abernathy, and I saw a picture of Abernathy, a wolf, and Theodore Roosevelt. I had to find out more, and here’s the story.
Jack Abernathy was born in 1876, in Bosque County, Texas not too far from Waco. He worked as a cowboy, a farmer, and a piano and organ salesman, but became famous for catching over a thousand wolves alive with his bare hands. It seems that Abernathy once accidentally discovered that by thrusting his hand into an attacking wolf’s mouth and holding the lower jaw to keep it from closing, he could capture the animal without losing the hand. Teddy Roosevelt heard about his unique skill, and arranged to join Abernathy in Oklahoma for six days of wolf-coursing. They say that the president wanted to try Abernathy’s technique himself, but the Secret Service talked him out of it. A wise decision, for in his book Abernathy notes,
“Men whom I have tried to teach the art of wolf catching have failed to accomplish the feat. I have tried to teach a large number, but when the savage animal would clamp down on the hand, the student would become frightened and quit. Consequently, the wolf would ruin the hand.” (p.20)
Roosevelt was quite taken with “Catch “˜Em Alive Jack” and appointed him the youngest U.S. Marshal in history. As U.S. Marshal for Oklahoma, Abernathy “captured hundreds of outlaws single-handed and alone, and placed seven hundred and eighty-two men in the penitentiary.” (p.1)
One final note: Abernathy’s sons Louie (Bud) and Temple became famous in their own right. In 1910, at the age of 10 and 6, they rode alone on horseback from their home in Frederick, Oklahoma to New York City to greet President Roosevelt upon his return from a trip to Europe and Africa. Several years later they set out for further adventures on an Indian motorcycle. Temple tells about their journeys in Bud and Me: the True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys.
Jack Abernathy’s story is only one of the many great titles that make up the Adams-Blakley Collection. There are outlaws and lawmen, pioneers and entrepreneurs. Someday, we’ll have to sit a spell and I’ll tell you more.
At some point in our lives most of us pass through that phase where we believe “if you see it in print, it must be true.” In the world of Special Collections, this can also mean that when an object has a handwritten note identifying it, you accept the note as factual. Unfortunately, real life is rarely so reliable.
Take for example, a set of reprints we found of the Ulster County Gazette dated January 4, 1800 and reporting the death of George Washington. Accompanying several obvious reprints was a very nice copy on rag paper in a folder marked “Original.” Was this in fact an incredibly valuable original? Had we discovered a long lost treasure hiding in the archives? Our hearts beat a little faster until we determined that, no, it was a reprint too. Someone creating that folder (in the days before internet access) had been mistaken.
But even with all the resources of scholarship at your fingertips, authentication remains a tricky business. Consider the framed bit of cloth pictured above and its two captions. The first, handwritten on the paper to which the cloth is attached, reads
Ft. Moultrie (S.C.)
Garrison Flag ““ size about 15 ft. by 18.
It flew while Heroic Sumter was bombarded April 12th – 13th 1861.
The second note is on a separate sheet at the bottom and says:
Piece of bunting from the flag
that floated above Ft. Sumter
during its bombardment April 12-13, 1861.
It was 15 ft. by 18 ft.
Sent to Hon. Geo. Clark in a letter.
R.E. Pare, Macon, GA
So where did the flag fly and whose flag was it? The original object indicates that this flag flew over Fort Moultrie–a position from which the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter. The second caption says the flag came from Fort Sumter–which would mean it was a Federal flag. And, while it seems likely that this second note is an error made by a descendant or a later owner, if this is a Confederate artifact, what do the words “Heroic Sumter” mean?
If you have any thoughts you’d like to share with us on our latest puzzle, we hope you’ll leave us a comment below. By the way, there is a Texas connection to the Battle of Fort Sumter: a completely unauthorized surrender was arranged with the Union troops by Texan Louis T. Wigfall who rowed out to the fort in a skiff. Wigfall, a one-time U.S. Senator, went on to lead the Texas Brigade until his fondness for whiskey and hard cider made it necessary for him to resign his commission. He was replaced by John Bell Hood.
One of the many delights at The Texas Collection is our growing collection of Texas and Southwestern cookbooks–some dating back to the early 1900s. You can find so much more than recipes in these books! They’re filled with history and heritage, clues to cultural values, and strategies for coping with sometimes scarce resources. Many of these cookbooks seem to have a voice or a personality, because they document facts and foods that someone believed were important enough to both preserve and share.
We’re looking forward to blogging about some of our favorite finds in the Texas Cookbook Collection. Here’s just one example from a 1950 cookbook:
“Few may think of Presidents of Republics dipping into a cookie jar, yet it is said on good authority that Anson Jones, last President of the Republic of Texas, kept a well-filled cookie jar, and that these Soft Molasses Cookies were usually the most popular item in it.
Soft Molasses Cookies
1 cup molasses 1 level tablespoon ginger
¼ cup shortening 1 level tablespoon soda dissolved in
½ cup Imperial Pure Cane Sugar ½ cup cold water
½ teaspoon salt
4 to 5 cups flour.
Scald molasses, pour over shortening, add Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, salt, and ginger; add dissolved soda to cooled molasses. Then stir in from 4 to 5 cups sifted flour, making a soft dough to drop and spread in a pan or a stiff dough to be rolled and cut. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 5 dozen cookies.”
Romantic Recipes of the Old South and the Great Southwest, Selected and compiled for the Imperial Sugar Company by the Jane Douglas Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, p.25.
Welcome to the newly created Texas Collection Blog! The Texas Collection is steeped in tradition and history. There’s so much to share and show that we thought it was time to communicate more directly and informally with you–sharing highlights from our collections and projects, and providing a venue for your comments. We also want to learn from you because The Texas Collection houses a few mysteries that we’re hoping you can help us solve.
We’ll be updating this site regularly, so check back often to hear about our latest discoveries or read about what’s new. There’s always something exciting happening in Texas.