Research Ready: September 2012

Baylor Cadets Letter, 1896
A June 2, 1896, letter requesting official student organization status for the Cadet Club: “We, the Baylor cadets, do respectfully petition that you recognize our “Cadet Club,” which we have organized subject to your approval, as a valid and permanent organization of Baylor University.”

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’s the scoop for September—it’s been a busy month but we’re a little behind on getting finding aids up. Look for a big batch in October!

A Fittin’ Home for the Fightin’ Baylor Bears: The 1949-1950 Baylor Stadium Campaign

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

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.

Aerial of Baylor Stadium-Bears vs. Texas A&M, 1950, Waco, Texas
The turnout was huge for this Baylor vs. Texas A&M game in 1950. Notice towards the bottom of the image that cars are parked along Dutton Avenue to Highway 6 (now South Valley Mills Dr.). The hard work of the Baylor Stadium Corporation turned what was an empty field a year earlier into a bustling, modern sports facility. Photo by Jimmie Willis and digitally scanned from the original 4×5 photo negative.

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.

Municipal Stadium, Waco, Texas, 1949 (2), Baylor University
This picture was intended to highlight the aging Municipal Stadium in 1949 that both Baylor Football and Waco High School shared. This facility could no longer hold the crowds that Baylor football games were drawing. Photo by Jimmie Willis and digitally scanned from the original 4×5 photo negative.

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.”

The Baylor Stadium Corporation's "The Invisible Line" (excerpt)
An infographic from a fundraising publication compared Municipal Stadium to others in the SWC. It pleads, “Baylor is a poor cousin in the Southwest Conference. Its stadium is the smallest and the poorest among the seven universities.”

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.

Groundbreaking Ceremony of the "new" Baylor Stadium, 1949 (2)
Baylor President W.R. White digs the first shovel of dirt to at the Baylor Stadium groundbreaking on May 28, 1949. (The event started at 5 pm, hence the large array of lighting.) Photo by Jimmie Willis and digitally scanned from the original 4×5 photo negative.

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.

Baylor (Floyd Casey) Stadium-First Game?
This may be the dedication game, Baylor v. Houston, that took place on September 30, 1950, but we are not certain. It is indeed a very early photograph of Baylor Stadium, with construction still in progress in the end zone. Additionally, tracks from construction vehicles can be seen around the field. This is a U.S. Air Force photo.

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.

“Carroll and Dillard Tour Texas Towns…” The Daily Lariat, November 5, 1949.

“Stadium Building Committee Will Read Bids in UB Today.” The Daily Lariat, November 2, 1949.

“Shiver Declares December 2 As Statewide ‘Baylor Day.’” The Daily Lariat, November 9, 1949.

“Stadium Progress Is Good Despite Weather Conditions” The Daily Lariat, January 20, 1950.

W.R. White Letter, March 8, 1950. Baylor University Subject Files: BU Buildings: Baylor Stadium: 1950. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

“Nash is Named To Head BU Stadium Group.” Waco Tribune-Herald, February 11, 1952.

“Baylor Stadium Site Chosen,” Baylor University Newsletter. Baylor University Subject Files: BU Buildings: Baylor Stadium: 1948-1949. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

“Swigert Submits Lowest Bid for Baylor Stadium.” The Daily Lariat, November 5, 1949.

“Speeches, Bands Will Dedicate Fittin’ Home for Fightin’ Bears”. The Daily Lariat, September 29, 1950.

“Football Is Booming for Centex.” Waco Tribune-Herald, February 10, 1957.

Research Ready: August 2012

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’s the scoop for August:

"Big Auto Race at Cotton Palace Track, 1916"
Pictured is a “Big auto race at Cotton Palace track, 1916”–one of the many attractions held at the Texas Cotton Palace exhibitions in Waco, TX. The Texas Cotton Palace Records cover the life of the exhibition, from 1910 to 1931, and include correspondence, minutes, programs, and many fascinating photographs.
    • Cego German Evangelical Church Records: These records contain the minutes of Cego German Evangelical Church (located in Falls County, Texas), produced by secretary A.A. Miller during the Great Depression.
    • Matthew Ellenberger Papers: The Matthew Ellenberger Papers contain Ellenberger’s research notes and correspondence as well as literary publications concerning Texas Revolutionary Albert C. Horton and American Revolution figures Thomas Walker and Jack Jouett.

      B. H. Carroll on Evangelism--an address at the Southern Baptist Convention in 1906
      A leader among Texas Baptists, B. H. Carroll contributed many years to Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, among other denominational efforts.
    • Texas Cotton Palace Records: This collection contains correspondence, legal and financial documents, literary productions, photographs, and an artifact pertaining to the Texas Cotton Palace and its festivities in Waco, Texas.
  • Benajah Harvey Carroll Papers: The Benajah Harvey “B.H.” Carroll Papers consist of correspondence, financial records, and literary productions regarding the various positions Carroll held throughout his life, including pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, professor and chairman of the board of trustees of Baylor University, secretary of the Texas Baptist Education Commission, and founder and president of Baylor Theological Seminary/Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Baylor Bear Facts: Fun and Games at The Texas Collection

Baylor Bear Facts trivia game
Although we can tell the game was created in the 1980s, we don’t know much about its origins. Anybody out there know more about this project?

The Texas Collection’s holdings include many weighty academic tomes and important archival records. Even the paintings that hang in our reading room tend to the serious side—neither Samuel Palmer Brooks nor Pat Neff look amused in their portraits. But we have many fun items too, like the Baylor Bear Facts.

Baylor University Registration in the 1990s
Baylor women in this 1990s registration photo are taking advantage of the dress code rule passed in 1969. (#4)

A trivia game centered on Baylor, the game was produced in the 1980s and includes trivia tidbits in the categories of sports, clubs, history, personalities, and potpourri. Below are just a few of the many questions available in the game. Try your hand at some Baylor trivia and find out how well you know Baylor! You might be surprised by some of the “bear facts.” (The photos are clues for a few of the questions—and answers are below the photos.)

  1. What was Baylor’s first women’s social club?
  2. Were there any dancing classes taught at Baylor in 1922?
  3. What did S.P. Brooks abolish in 1906?
  4. On April 7, 1969, what could Baylor coeds wear for the first time anywhere on campus?
  5. Baylor played a cross-town rival in its first-ever Homecoming football game. Who did Baylor beat in that historic game?
  6. What year did the senior class gifts become a Baylor tradition–1907, 1931, or 1945?
  7. Who was Baylor’s first clean shaven president?
  8. He is a Baylor grad, [was] director of the Student Center, and was elected mayor of Waco in 1984. Name him.
  9. This famous folk group performed in Marrs McLean Gym in a three hour show in 1969. The show was referred to as the P, P, and M show. What was the name of the group?
  10. This former Baylor student of 1856 rescued Cynthia Ann Parker from the Indians. Who was he?
Sul Ross, a Baylor alumnus, Texas governor, and president of Texas A&M
After rescuing Cynthia Ann Parker, this gent went on to serve in the Civil War, as Governor of Texas, and as president of Texas A&M. The elementary school that was behind the Whataburger near campus bore his name. (#10)
William Carey Crane, Baylor University's fourth president
This president helped Baylor survive through the end of the Civil War and the university’s last years in Independence, Texas. A program for gifted undergraduate students in Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning bears his name. (#7)

 

1899 Baylor football team--the first!
As rough a sport as football can be today, in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, it was brutal. Baylor was among many universities that were concerned about such a violent sport being a part of their campus life. (#3)
Baylor University Centennial Monument, 1945, located on Founders Mall
The Centennial Monument, located on Founders Mall, was not the first senior class gift. Here we see students bring forward the time capsule to be placed in the monument. The capsule is to be opened in 2045. (#6)

Answers:

  1. Alpha Omega (now Pi Beta Phi)
  2. Yes, in the Physical Education department, folk dancing was taught. (The first official dance at Baylor wouldn’t be till 1996, however.)
  3. Football (due to the brutality of the game—but the sport was reinstated in 1907, due to popular opinion and modifications to the game to make it safer)
  4. Shorts and slacks (Before, even if a woman had a physical education class, she had to wear a long coat over her gym attire while walking to class.)
  5. Texas Christian University (before its move to Fort Worth)
  6. 1907 (The gift was a circular bench to sit outside Carroll Library–and it is still there in Burleson Quadrangle.)
  7. William Carey Crane. (The Texas Collection holds the William Carey Crane papers in its archives. The Royston Crane papers also have a good deal of information about Crane’s presidency and Baylor at Independence.)
  8. Ruben Santos (He served 35 years as director of the Student Union Building. Santos also was active with the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair, which is now housed within The Texas Collection.)
  9. Peter, Paul, and Mary. (To learn more about the wide variety of guests Baylor has hosted, check out this Digital Collections blog post on the Baylor press release digitization project.)
  10. Sul Ross (He rescued Parker in his role as a Texas Ranger. He went on to serve as a Confederate general, President of Texas A&M University, and Governor of Texas. The Texas Collection holds the Ross Family papers in its archives.)

The Texas Collection has archival records on many of these historical figures and events. Come visit us to learn more!

Geyser City, Waco: Reading a Photograph of the Crystal Palace Pool

Crystal Palace Pool, 1910s, Franklin Avenue, Waco, Texas
The imposing structures in the background of the Gildersleeve photo are the R.T. Dennis Furniture Co. (left) and the Tom Padgitt Co. (right). Both of these buildings were destroyed in the 1953 tornado that struck the heart of Waco. The portion of the Dennis building was located on Austin Avenue and is now a parking lot. The buildings were so large they were practically back-to-back when they stood.

An old photo allows us to take a dip into the past…and in no image is that comparison more apt than these views of Waco’s Crystal Palace pool! Such an image almost allows you to see, hear, and feel the environment that people experienced many decades ago. By taking one photo (above, by Fred Gildersleeve, circa 1910s) and breaking it down into pieces, we can “read” so much about the former landscape of downtown Waco, Texas, and the city’s history…including one of Waco’s most cherished but now mostly vanished natural resources: artesian well water.

Crystal Palace pool fountain
This fountain was the source of the warm artesian water that flowed into the pool. Due to this natural spring and its widespread use, Waco was known as “Geyser City.”
Crystal Palace pool, streetview
The second deck entrance is directly from South 5th Street at ground level. Notice the cars visible here and how much below street level the pool was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crystal Palace pool had its source of water from one of the city’s many natural artesian wells. A pipe can be seen where this natural resource freely flowed (above, left). Maybe a little too freely, as the people of Waco would learn.

The first artesian well in Waco was drilled by J.D. Bell in 1886. Bell later established the Bell Water Company and in 1904 it was sold to the city of Waco. Many more wells were drilled and consequently, Waco became known as “Geyser City.” This name was well deserved as it was recorded in 1890 that one of this city’s wells was 1,800 feet deep and had an output of 1.5 million gallons of water per day!

This natural resource supplied business needs such as the water supply for the Amicable (Alico) Building. Additionally, it supplied the nearby Artesian Bottling Co. that later became the Dr Pepper Bottling Co. The Natatorium Hotel boasted Waco’s first indoor pool being supplied by this same artesian water. These warm natural waters were even purported to have medicinal effects when consumed or used for bathing.

But in the 1920s the artesian wells below downtown Waco began to run dry and could no longer sustain a constant supply for water-based establishments such as the Crystal Palace pool. Factors for their demise included more demand from changes in population, the arrival of Camp MacArthur in 1918, and the constant strain from various businesses.

Waco ISD building, Franklin Avenue
The pool was located where the Waco Independent School District administration now stands at 501 Franklin Avenue. If you were to walk down the street today in the area of the Crystal Palace pool’s former location, you also would see the South 5th Street side of the City of Waco Water Office at 425 Franklin.
Pedestrian walkway connecting Waco ISD building to the Waco water office, Franklin Avenue
Present day: Seen above is the current pedestrian walkway from the WISD Administration building that many decades ago had it existed would have transported one to the Tom Padgitt Co. building. The City of Waco Water Office at 425 Franklin now stands in its place.

Gildersleeve took his picture with a large format view camera that used 8×10 film to capture the image. The digital version seen here was scanned from Gildersleeve’s original 8×10 inch cellulose nitrate negative now held in The Texas Collection. (We’ve digitized many of our Gildersleeve prints if you’re interested in seeing more views of Waco in the first half of the 1900s. We now are working on processing the many negatives we also house.)

Crystal Palace pool diving girl
Why is this young girl about to dive into the pool wearing shoes and socks? We are guessing that Gildersleeve had her pose for the image. (And we love her bathing cap!)

The remarkable detail of the photo is due to the size of the negative that Gildersleeve’s large format camera used; a high-resolution digital scan makes it even more amazing! Indeed, even today’s digital cameras would be hard-pressed to match the kind of detail seen in this nearly 100 year-old image. The artesian waters dissipated, but we still have wonderful photos like this one to preserve Waco’s history as the Geyser City.

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Research Ready: July 2012

A.J. Armstrong, Adventure, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Annexation Temperance Society, Archives, Armstrong Browning Library, Baptist history, Baptist missions, Baylor at Independence, Baylor English department, Baylor University, Ben Milam, Bosque John McLennan, Brazos County, Brenham Texas, Bryan Texas, Cartoonists, Charles Chaplin, Cherokee, Chippewa, church history, Civil War, Clark Herring, Confederate States of America, Daughters of the American Revolution, Delaware Indians, Edward Rotan, Edwin James, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Gordon Bradley chapter DAR, First Baptist Church Austin Texas, First Baptist Church Brenham Texas, First National Bank Waco, First Presbyterian Church Waco, Francisco Banda, frontier and pioneer life, Galveston College, genealogy, Henry Downs chapter DAR, Historic Waco, Indian captivities, Indians of North America, John Gill Pratt, John Kern Strecker, Jotham Meeker, Kate Harrison Friend, Kate Sturm McCall Rotan, Lucy Exall Chaplin, Lykins Johnston, Mary Maxwell Armstrong, McLennan County, Medicine, Medina County, Milam Park, Milam's Colony, missionaries, missions, Moses Merrill, National Association of Railway Surgeons, National Catholic News Service, Neil McLennan, Noname Club, Oakwood Cemetery, Ojibwa, Oto, Ottawa, Pat Neff, Potawatomi, Railroads, Reconstruction, Religious journalism, Republic of Texas, Research Ready, Richard Pryor, Robert Browning, Robert Hodges Jr., Roger Conger, Roy Crane, Royston Crane, Sam Houston, Santa Anna, Shawnee, Sidebars: Reflections by a Missionary Journalist in New York, Snyder Texas, Tennessee history, Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, Texas land grants, Tracy Early, United Methodist Church, Waco, Waco Humane Society, Washington County Texas, William Carey Crane, William Maury Darst, William Shakespeare, Women social reformers, Woodmen of the World--Texas, World Church Council, Wright's Brigade, Zoology

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’s the scoop for July:

William Butler Yeats and William Howard Taft speak at Baylor Diamond Jubilee, 1920
A.J. Armstrong secured many renowned authors, politicians, explorers, and more, to visit Baylor. (See blogs.baylor.edu/armstrongbrowning to read more.) The Armstrong papers document some of his efforts to bring these speakers to Waco, among his many other activities.
    • Andrew Joseph (A.J.) Armstrong papers: The Andrew Joseph Armstrong papers consist of correspondence, literary productions, and other materials collected during his tenure as Chairman of the English Department at Baylor University. His wife Mary’s genealogical records comprise the final series of the collection.
    • Francisco Banda papers: Papers regarding Francisco Banda in relation to a 1922 conflict with his landlord, Clark Herring. Texas governor Pat Neff was asked to intercede.
    • Baptist Missionary Publications: Indians of North America collection: This collection contains religious and educational publications in American Indian languages, most of which were translated and printed by Baptist missionaries in the Midwest.
    • Bryan First United Methodist Church records: The Bryan First Methodist Church Records, 1903-06, consists of documents created by members of Bryan First Methodist Church (now First United Methodist Church of Bryan). The papers contain meeting minutes, financial ledgers, and attendance records.
    • Charles and Lucy Exall Chaplin papers: The Charles and Lucy Exall Chaplin papers contain literary scrapbooks, and photographs pertaining to the Chaplin and Exall families in Texas. The papers document the lives of important Baptist leaders in Texas during Reconstruction, and the family’s service at several important churches around the state.
    • Charles "Charlie" Exall, 1861-1862
      The Chaplin papers contain many photographs of family members around the time of the American Civil War, including this one of Charles Exall in 1861-1862.
    • Royston C. Crane collection: The Royston C. Crane collection contains personal and family correspondence, financial documents, legal documents, literary productions, and photographic materials belonging to Royston C. Crane, the son of former Baylor University President William Carey Crane.
    • William Maury Darst papers: The William Maury Darst papers consist of manuscripts collected from 1894-1973. These papers contain literary productions and photographic materials, with essays, notes, slides, and other printed materials, reflecting his historical research interests and medical work in Texas.
    • Daughters of the American Revolution: Elizabeth Gordon Bradley Chapter records: The [Waco] Daughters of the American Revolution: Elizabeth Gordon Bradley Chapter Collection contains materials concerning the organization’s activities in the McLennan County area. These include minutes, scrapbooks, video tapes, yearbooks, programs, clippings, handbooks, and directories.
    • Tracy Early collection: The Tracy Early collection contains professional and personal materials pertaining to newspaper and magazine articles written by Early, including correspondence, diaries, photographs, school work, books, and sermons.
    • William Carey Crane's home in Independence, Texas, 1912
      A reunion of friends in Independence, Texas. The Royston C. Crane papers include a good deal of genealogical work on the extended Crane family and historical research on Baylor's early days.
    • Kate Harrison Friend papers: The Kate Harrison Friend Papers consists of correspondence, literary manuscripts, scrapbooks, and photographs. The majority of the letters were to Kate Harrison Friend, philanthropist of Waco.
    • McLennan Family collection: The McLennan Family Collection consists of correspondence, legal, financial, literary, and photographic materials. This collection focuses on Neil McLennan, namesake of McLennan County.
    • Ben Milam papers: One letter from Ben Milam to Richard Pryor regarding the settling of Texas.
    • Rotan (Edward and Kate Sturm McCall) papers: The Rotan Papers contain literary productions, correspondence, photographs, clippings, and a ledger book. Edward served in the Civil War, then became a business leader in the Waco community as president of First National Bank, among other positions. Kate was very active in various civic organizations and helped establish Waco’s first public library.
    • John Kern Strecker papers: The John Kern Strecker Papers consist of correspondence, financial documents, literary productions, and a photograph. Strecker was curator of Baylor’s museum, which was named the Strecker Museum in his honor.

    You can see how wide and varied The Texas Collection’s holdings are! These records—and the finding aids we have online—are just a small representation of the thousands of collections we preserve for future researchers. We’re working hard to make our collections more visible and hope that one of them will spark your interest!

Soaring on Wings like Eagles: Greaver Miller, Rich Field and World War I

A German Albatros D.V war plane, captured during the war and brought to Rich Field in Waco, Texas
A German Albatros D.V war plane, captured during the war and brought to Rich Field in Waco, Texas

The year was 1918. The United States, under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, had struggled to remain neutral in a conflict that had engulfed the European powers and their colonial empires in war. For three years, Wilson successfully navigated his nation on the path of peace, but by 1917 it was painstakingly clear that the United States could not condone the belligerency of Germany. The sinking of passenger liners such as the Lusitania and provocations like the infamous Zimmerman Note had infuriated American officials. On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war against Imperial Germany.

An American pilot in training during World War I
An American pilot in training. It is evident throughout Miller’s collection that while learning how to fly, pilots at Rich Field were often trained in aerial photography. Diagrams for how to capture a good landscape photograph are included within these materials.

World War I witnessed shocking innovations in the realm of warfare. German U-Boats patrolled beneath the waves of the Atlantic for unsuspecting targets. The Allies and the Central Powers alike shelled their opponents from miles away with debilitating chemicals. Yet perhaps one of the most influential shifts in modern warfare theories arrived on the wings of the airplane. All nations, including the United States, understood that future military victories would require control of the skies.

Greaver Lewis Miller in his pilot gear, ca. 1918-1919
Greaver Lewis Miller was born on July 2, 1897. He enlisted with experience in the “automobile trade.” Here he is seen donning his pilot gear. His shin guards (not pictured) are in excellent shape and can be seen in the collection.

Thousands of miles away from the nearest battlefield, in the small town of Cooper, Texas, Greaver Lewis Miller was preparing to fulfill his civic duty. At twenty years old, Miller enlisted with the Army’s Signal Officer’s Reserve Corps with the hopes of becoming a certified pilot. With no prior aviation experience, Miller graduated from the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Texas at Austin on July 13, 1918. Armed with the latest aviation theories, Miller put his knowledge to the test at Rich Field.

An airfield near Waco, Texas, Rich Field was devoted to the training of American pilots in the 1910s and 1920s. It was named after Perry Rich, a soldier who had died in a flying exercise in 1913. Abandoned shortly after the war, the airfield was used as a civilian airport for a number of years. (And for our Waco readers—yes, Richfield High School was constructed on part of its site.)

Greaver Lewis Miller's pilot book
A small sample of Miller’s pilot book that he kept while training at Rich Field. Notice how detailed these records were. (Click on the image to see a larger view.) There were sharp variations in what type of plane was used, what type of exercises were conducted, the duration of the flights, and the maximum altitude reached.
Greaver Lewis Miller's certificate of promotion to Second Lieutenant, 1919
On February 15, 1919, Miller was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. His certificate was signed by the U.S. Adjutant General and the Assistant Secretary of War.

In its prime, Rich Field was home to some of the best pilots the U.S. military had to offer. Flying an airplane was an art, and Miller excelled at it. On December 13, 1918, he officially became a “Reserve Military Aviator” by passing the required examinations. While Miller’s papers don’t tell us much about the particulars of his WWI service, we know he continued to impress his superiors—he rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant on February 15, 1919.

Like many young boys, Miller had a dream to one day soar through the skies. Thanks to his determination and the opportunities that pilots had during the First World War, Miller’s dream became a reality. He had earned his wings.

Greaver Lewis Miller's pilot wings
This is the dream of anyone aspiring to become a pilot. Miller received his wings in 1918. The intricate detail of the feathers and the shield are nothing short of astounding.

The Greaver Lewis Miller papers, a small collection of Miller’s personal records, are available for research at The Texas Collection, thanks to the generosity of his son, Jerry. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, The Texas Collection thanks Greaver Lewis Miller and all those who have served our country.

By Thomas DeShong, Library Assistant

Research Ready: June 2012

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’s the scoop for June:

Lane-JohnsonResidence-Waco
Roy Lane was one of the most famous architects to have ever resided in the Waco area. The Roy E. Lane Collection contains various sketches and photographs of local houses that Lane designed.
    • William Cowper Brann Collection: The William Cowper Brann Collection contains secondary materials and a few primary sources detailing the career and death of influential journalist William C. Brann, editor of The Iconoclast.
    • Robert F. Darden, Jr. Collection: The Robert Darden, Jr. Collection contains correspondence, literary productions, and photographic materials belonging to Darden, a veteran of the Korean War and a resident of Texas.
    • De La Vega Land Grant Papers: This collection includes original correspondence, court documents, financial receipts, and newspaper clippings pertaining to the De la Vega Land Grant and Roger Conger’s research on the land grant.
    • Roy Ellsworth Lane Collection: The Roy Ellsworth Lane Collections consists of correspondence, literary productions, photographs, and blueprints highlighting Lane’s impressive career as an architect in the central Texas region.
Luper-BrazilMission-program
The Lupers were a Baptist missionary family who served in Portugal and Brazil during the 20th century. This program is indicative of their conscientious efforts to spread the gospel to the rural regions of Brazil.
  • Luper Family Papers: The Luper Family Papers are comprised of correspondence, literary productions, and other materials pertaining to a missionary couple and their experiences during the mid-1900s in Portugal and Brazil.
  • Greaver Lewis Miller Collection: The Greaver Lewis Miller Collection contains materials from an American pilot who trained at nearby Rich Field in Waco, Texas, during World War I. Materials include photographs, certificates, and artifacts from Miller’s time in the Army.

You can see how wide and varied The Texas Collection’s holdings are! These records—and the finding aids we have online—are just a small representation of the thousands of collections we preserve for future researchers. We’re working hard to make our collections more visible and hope that one of them will spark your interest!

The Most Horrible Storm: A Firsthand Account of the 1953 Waco Tornado

If you have lived in Texas for any amount of time, you’ve experienced a tornado watch, and maybe even a tornado warning. The TV program you were watching is interrupted with dire weather maps, the radio DJ advises folks out in their cars to take shelter, the whole family huddles up in the bathtub—it’s all a little scary, especially when the sirens start to go off. And if you think your town is immune to tornados—as Huaco Native American legend said about Waco—well, an actual F5 storm striking your town is downright terrifying.

"Evidence of the might of a tornado"
Some structures were flattened, some remained standing. Their fates were determined both by structural supports and the tornado's whim.

Harry Gillett’s letter to his mother, started on May 11, 1953, and continued the next day, brings to life that experience of waiting for the Waco tornado and then witnessing its aftermath. Sent home early from the school where he taught, Gillett put pen to paper to describe the storm as it escalated. First he writes of a driving rain, and then of hailstones the size of half dollars. “It has gotten so dark outside that it is practically night and it is only about 4:25.”

Then the hailstones increase to the size of baseballs, and one breaks a shingle of his roof. His father calls and tells him the hail downtown is the size of his fist. The phone lines go down shortly after their conversation. “I have never seen anything like this before. No telling how much damage will be done. There go the lights.”

How much damage will be done, indeed.  In the next paragraph, Gillett writes, “I am continuing this letter at 5:00 the morning after I started writing it. Waco had the most horrible storm you can imagine.” The tornado entered the Waco city limits at 4:32 pm, and the funnel cloud was downtown by 4:36. Gillett’s North Waco home is unscathed, apart from the broken shingle. He’s lucky. His letter describes the damage done to the homes of relatives and friends—from a flooded home to a house blown off its foundation, moved a few feet, and “simply ruined.”

Harry Gillett letter describing the 1953 Waco tornado, page 4
Harry Gillett's letter to his mother gives us insight into the before and after of the 1953 Waco tornado.

But other parts of Waco saw much greater devastation. Some houses were blown to bits. Gillett’s school in East Waco was destroyed, with his classroom the only one left standing on the top floor. And in downtown Waco, the toll, both property and human, was enormous. “R.T. Dennis [building] fell in completely and most of the buildings from there to the river were completely blown apart. Hundreds of people were killed…Downtown Waco has been put under martial law and Daddy will not be able to get to work. Many gas lines are broken down town and everyone is afraid of a terrible explosion.”

The Waco tornado is tied with the 1902 Goliad tornado as the deadliest in Texas history, and is one of the most deadly in US history. 114 people were killed, and property damage was in excess of $50 million—with inflation, that would be about $400 million today. The Waco tornado helped incite the development of a nationwide severe weather warning system. On this week of the 59th year since the tornado, we remember those who were lost.

You can read the complete letter at The Texas Collection in the Harry Gillett papers. Gillett also saved a few postcards depicting the 1953 tornado’s impact, which we’ve featured in the slide show below. If you’re interested in reading, watching, or listening to more accounts of the storm, check out Waco Tornado 1953: Force that Changed the Face of Waco (an oral history project by the Waco-McLennan County Library and the Baylor Institute for Oral History), “Living Stories: Radio and the 1953 Waco Tornado,” a collaboration of the Institute for Oral History and KWBU-FM, and the “Waco Tornado: Tragedy and Triumph” video at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The Portal to Texas History and Waco Tribune-Herald also have compelling images and contemporary news coverage of the storm.

Preserving Texas Folklore

On a cold December day in 1909, two English professors acted on a common thread of interest—preserving the songs, music, and tales of Texas, known collectively as folklore. John A. Lomax and Dr. Leonidas Payne created the Texas Folklore Society to begin collecting folklore across Texas and the Southwest. Today, the organization still stands as the second oldest such society, behind only the American Folklore Society. Members write papers and articles on different types of folklore and can present their work at the annual meeting that is held in a different Texas town each year.

Texas Folklore Writers exhibit at The Texas Collection

In recognition of their work and in conjunction with the Baylor University Libraries’ “A Celebration of Texas: Literature, Music & Film,” The Texas Collection is hosting “Texas Folklore Writers,” an exhibit examining the roots of the Texas Folklore Society and its current role. Texas Folklore Society exhibit detailThe exhibit displays photographs of the early “pioneers” of the Society, such as Lomax, Payne, Dorothy Scarborough, and J. Frank Dobie; a wide array of the Society’s yearly publications; the story of its symbol, the roadrunner; and the Society’s current activities.

A Baylor literary legend, Emily Dorothy Scarborough, is featured centrally in the exhibit. Ms. Scarborough taught English at Baylor and at Columbia University in New York during the early twentieth century. Detail of Scarborough songbookMs. Scarborough was passionately committed to preserving folklore and spent summers writing down the “elusive” folksongs of Southern mountain families and African-Americans.

Dorothy Scarborough portraitKnown for her adept and sensitive portrayals of Texas life around the turn of the century—likely aided by her folklore work—Ms. Scarborough wrote novels set in almost every region of the state. One of her most famous novels is The Wind, written in 1925 and set in West Texas. The book weaves a tale of a young woman from the East driven mad by the howling Texas winds. First published anonymously for media speculation, the book was a hit and made into a movie at MGM studios in 1929, starring Lillian Gish. Original transcriptions, documents and manuscripts, photographs, quotes, and first edition volumes by Ms. Scarborough are on display.

Visit The Texas Collection from March 29–May 31 to see the exhibit. Be sure to drop by  the other “Celebration of Texas” exhibits at the University Libraries, including a Texas Writers exhibit at Moody Memorial Library, Texas poetry at Armstrong Browning Library, and Texas works from the Hightower Collection at the W.R. Poage Legislative Library. Check out our calendar of events, too!

By Ann Payne, exhibit curator