Trust but verify: looking at a fragment of Civil War history

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.

C.H.

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.

Anson Jones’ Cookie Jar

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.

Renovating the Frances C. Poage Map Room

Frances C. Poage

The newly relocated Frances C. Poage Map Room was Archivist Ellen Brown’s brainchild. She thought there needed to be a larger, better organized, user-friendly space for our growing map collection. Room 201 on the 2nd floor of Carroll Library was ideally located for crafting and creating this space. The challenge was keeping the space functional and inviting–not merely drawers of black steel.

While working on the new interior design, we recognized that the character of the 1903 library structure needed to shine forth.  After much effort, the Poage map room has become a happy union of functionality and warmth. The countertops are made of marble that is similar to the original marble used on the entrance steps. The dark cherry wood makes the room seem more like a home library rather than a university map room. The large 9 X 9 foot table anchors the room and invites you to sit awhile in comfortable Windsor chairs and dwell on places you have never been.

Two determined students, Robin and Travis, put the maps in order, preserved them, and protected the fragile ones in Mylar. Once order was returned to the space, thoughts of showcasing some of our maps through an exhibition seemed the next logical step, but we wondered how best to display them. Seeing the first framed map relieved my anxiety about framing.  A 340-year old map was elegantly attired in acid-free matting, UV-protected glass, and a black-gilded framing befitting a Spanish map.  Instead of a tattered bit of paper, the map was a thing of beauty, telling a story about exploration, discovery, heartache, fortunes won and lost.

The “map room project” has been a source of great joy, learning, hard work, and pride. We hope it will be a destination for scholars and Texas enthusiasts for many years to come.

John S. Wilson

Interim Director. The Texas Collection

Mapping it Out: A Cartographic History of Texas

Detail from Mitchell's Map of Texas, 1836

Thursday, October 28th will be a big day here at The Texas Collection. It’s the grand opening of the Frances C. Poage Map Room. We’ll be celebrating with a ribbon cutting, a new exhibit of some beautiful maps, and a special guest lecture from Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name.

Our newly installed exhibit is called Mapping it Out: A Cartographic History of Texas. On display are twenty-one original maps dating from 1656 to 1887. These maps tell a story of Texas: from early exploration by the Spanish, through colonization, struggles for independence from Mexico, and statehood before and after the Civil War. They demonstrate technological improvements and record political conflicts. They bring us closer to understanding the craftsmen and entrepreneurs who made it their business to show settlers the way to Texas. And these maps connect us to the land which captured cartographers’ imaginations.

We hope you’ll join us at Carroll Library at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday to celebrate the new Frances C. Poage map room, the art of mapmaking, and the story of Texas.

Questions for you from The Texas Collection

In the days of the fountain pen, before the invention of the ballpoint, blotting paper was an everyday essential and advertising blotters were as common as today’s business cards. Advertising blotters were small cards, usually with colorful pictures, printed with advertising on the front.  Nearly every company handed them out. The pictures might be related to the product being advertised, or they could be movie stars, pinup girls, calendars, or patriotic and historical images. To get a sense of how blotters fit into daily life, read “Tips from the Traveling Salesman” by Frank Farrington in which a frustrated man tears up a poor quality advertising blotter and gives the writer a lesson in best practices for blotter advertising [Grand Rapids Furniture Record , Vol. 36 (February, 1921), p.121].

The Texas Collection has in its archives, as part of the Frank Watt collection, a salesman’s sample book of advertising blotters. This book contains page after page of beautiful advertising artwork from what we think is the early 1900s.  Businesses could choose the blank blotters they wished to imprint with their advertising and place an order with the salesman.

We hope you’ll share with us what you know about advertising blotters. Can you help us date this sample book? Do you recognize any of the artists responsible for the images? Add your comments below!

–GPH


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Blogging about Texas

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.

Sincerely,

John S. Wilson

Interim Director. The Texas Collection

Cameron Park: 100 Years


 

If you find yourself in Waco, come by and see us at The Texas Collection. We’re located in Carroll Library on the Baylor University campus. Visit before October 15th, and see our current exhibit: William Cameron Park: 100 years. You can learn more about the display on our Flickr page. Just click on any image in the slide show above to continue on to Flickr.