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Le Bon Ton: A Paris Fashion Magazine, 1859, or How to be Stylish on the Texas Frontier

April 30, 2015

It’s Fashion Week here at the Alamo Research Center! On First Saturday, this May 2, the Alamo Complex is taking a look at fiber-craft and textile history in Texas in memory of Alamo Living History actor and quilt maker extraordinaire, Cathy Jones. The ARC will have a special exhibit showcasing materials from our collection that help us learn more about the clothing choices that people in Texas have made over the years.

Cased daguerreotype of an unidentified woman, mid 1800s. Cumings Family Papers, Col 8978, DRT Library, San Antonio, Texas.

Cased daguerreotype of an unidentified woman, mid 1800s. Cumings Family Papers, Col 8978, DRT Library, San Antonio, Texas.

Cased daguerreotype of an unidentified woman, mid 1800s. In this image, you can see the bonnet that was a must in every woman's wardrobe. Cumings Family Papers, Col 8978, DRT Library, San Antonio, Texas.

Cased daguerreotype of an unidentified woman, mid 1800s. In this image, you can see the bonnet that was a must in every woman’s wardrobe. Cumings Family Papers, Col 8978, DRT Library Collection, Alamo Research Center, San Antonio, Texas.

From the early days of colonization, looking good was important to women who left their homes and lives in the East for Texas. They worked very hard to maintain their appearances at or near the level they were accustomed to despite being hundreds of miles from the nearest port and thousands of miles from cities with the fanciest couturiers. With no movies, television, or internet, how did the fashionable ladies of the Texas frontier keep up with the most current trends?

Unidentified couple from the mid 1800s Texas, probably San Antonio. They are very fashionably attired. Cassiano-Perez Family Papers, Col 880

Unidentified couple from mid 1800s Texas, probably San Antonio. They are very fashionably attired.  Cassiano-Perez Family Papers, Col 880, DRT Library Collection, Alamo Research Center, San Antonio, Texas.

Almost all clothing for the family was made at home. Many of the fabrics were made of cotton or silk, and the prices could be very high if you had to buy it from the local general mercantile or traveling salesman. Early on, ladies would pattern their new or repurposed dresses after one worn by new arrivals from the East Coast or visitors passing through. The very wealthy and well-connected sometimes had access to the dressmakers and milliners in the cosmopolitan city of New Orleans. As fashions began to change more rapidly around the mid-nineteenth century, however, women began to rely on a new way to trend-watch—the subscription fashion journal.

Some of the best known ladies’ fashion journals were Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, Peterson’s Magazine, and later, Harper’s Bazaar. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Collection includes a beautiful example of one of these magazines. Le Bon Ton, or “Good Taste,” is a Parisian publication from 1859. The full color fashion plates illustrate bonnets, caps, shawls, sleeves, shirtwaists (blouses), skirts, dresses, petticoats, and outerwear. Subscribers would have been eager to refit their best dresses with the billowing puff sleeves and lace shown in these images.

Fashion plate from Le Bon Ton magazine. Two ladies in a garden showing off the voluminous skirt and sleeves that were in vogue in 1859.

Fashion plate from Le Bon Ton magazine. Two ladies in a garden showing off the voluminous skirt and sleeves that were in vogue in 1859.

Fashion plate from Le Bon Ton magazine. Women would receive these catalog and try to find ways to incorporate these trends into the clothing they already had if they could not afford a whole new dress. A fancy bonnet, a bit of lace, or new sleeves would be just the ticket to revive last season's gown.

Fashion plate from Le Bon Ton magazine. Women would receive these catalog and try to find ways to incorporate these trends into the clothing they already had if they could not afford a whole new dress. A fancy bonnet, a bit of lace, or new sleeves would be just the ticket to revive last season’s gown.

Fashion plate from Le Bon Ton magazine. This image shows children's finery.

Fashion plate from Le Bon Ton magazine. This image shows children’s finery.

Click here for a full citation of the documents and images included in this entry.

Vertical Files at the Alamo Research Center: A Gateway to Your Research Project

April 13, 2015

Resource Round-Up #2

When you visit the Alamo Research Center for a research appointment, staff members will often direct you to our vertical file on your topic first. What is a “vertical file?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “vertical file” is a “collection of articles (as pamphlets and clippings) that is maintained (as in a library) to answer brief questions or to provide points of information not easily located.” These subject files can be immensely useful, especially when you are starting out on your research quest. So, you may be asking yourself some questions. What kind of material can you find in a vertical file, who would want to use these files, and what subjects do we cover in the ARC’s vertical file collection?

The Vertical Files are stored on moveable "compact shelving." This allows us to maintain our large collection of over 70,000 files in as small a space as possible.

The Vertical Files are stored on moveable “compact shelving.” This allows us to maintain our large collection of over 70,000 files in as small a space as possible.

What kind of material can you find in a vertical file at the ARC?

Over the years, the ARC collection of vertical files has grown with the dedication of staff and the generosity of visitors and researchers who are willing to share the information they have in their possession. Today, we house approximately 70,000 vertical files, with some folders including hundreds of pages of information and some that only have one document. The contents of the files may include newspaper clippings, magazine articles, newsletters, photocopies of primary documents, copies of images and photographs, published scholarly articles, factoids, family trees, researchers’ notes, promotional pamphlets and other business-related ephemera, funeral pamphlets and obituaries. These files have been accumulated over more than sixty years, and some of the items in them are almost one hundred years old! Our vertical file may be the only location in the world where that information is written down and preserved.

Who would be interested in a vertical file?

Everyone! Genealogists may find family information, including family trees, historians will find all kinds of relevant leads for their research topic, students can easily learn about a particular person, place or event, and reporters can get some quick background on their feature story. Vertical files are a great place to begin any research project because of the breadth of the type of materials that you can find in the files. You may discover that someone else has already generated some of the legwork that you need for your project but could not find because it was not published.

What subjects do the vertical files at the ARC cover?

Our most popular files are the biographical files that we have on each of the Alamo defenders. However, we have files ranging in subject from very broad Texas topics to specific San Antonio topics. If you wanted to read about Texas agriculture, we have that! If learning about major events related to the San Antonio Spurs interests you, we have that, too! All of our vertical files have entries in our catalog. The best way to figure out if we have a vertical file about your research topic is to start with a catalog search. Remember your search tips: start with broad search terms, narrow down your terms if you get too many hits, and try alternate spellings if you don’t get results right away.

Give us a call at (210) 225-1071 or email us at drtl@drtl.org to schedule your research appointment. We can’t wait to help you explore the Vertical Files and the rest of our outstanding collection!

April means Battle of Flowers is our First Saturday exhibit!

April 1, 2015

You’re invited! We hope that you will join us for our First Saturday exhibit this Saturday, April 4th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m!

April is Fiesta time in San Antonio, and the Alamo Research Center is no exception! Our exhibit this month is “A Medley of Beauty, A Dream of Fair Women,” a celebration of the long and storied history of the Battle of Flowers Parade and the Battle of Flowers Association that makes the parade possible. If you would like to learn more about Battle of Flowers resources here at the ARC or read up on the history of the parade and the organization, you can check out these links:

BATTLE OF FLOWERS RESOURCES ROUND-UP

The Battle of Flowers Association Records Finding Aid

The Finding Aid Goes Live!

Battle of Flowers Parade, 1952

A Look Back at the 1911 Battle of Flowers Parade

Battle of Flowers Parade on Film

Parades, Participants, and Floats

Battle of Flowers Parade and Fiesta Collections

Arrested! Letter Transmitting Order to Apprehend Stephen F. Austin

December 30, 2014

Hopefully your holiday season is going better than Stephen F. Austin’s did in 1833!

Stephen F. Austin spent much of the fall of 1833 in Mexico City trying to speak with Congressional leaders and the acting Mexican president, Valentin Gomez Farias, about a statehood petition for Texas. The petition was unsuccessful, but Austin left Mexico City with hopes that there was still a chance. Instead, upon arriving in Saltillo on January 2, 1834, he found himself arrested for the contents of a letter that he wrote to his Texas compatriots that was deemed seditious because it spoke of Texan separation from Coahuila.

Front page of a letter transmitting orders to apprehend Stephen F. Austin

Front page of a letter transmitting orders to apprehend Stephen F. Austin

The Gefe Politico of Monclova (where the government of Coahula y Tejas had been moved) received word that Austin had left Mexico City but was subsequently wanted to answer for the charges of sedition. The Mexican government had issued an order of arrest on December 11. At the end of December, the gefe of Monclova, J. Maria Cantu, sent out letters ahead of Austin instructing alcaldes (mayors) and commandants to apprehend Austin on sight and return him to Mexico. One of the men who received a copy of these orders was the Mayor of Santa Rosa. This letter is preserved in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library Collection housed at the Alamo Research Center.

Center fold of a letter transmitting orders to arrest Stephen F. Austin and return him to Mexico City to answer to charges of sedition.

Center fold of a letter transmitting orders to arrest Stephen F. Austin and return him to Mexico City to answer to charges of sedition.

 

We wish all of you the best in the new year! We’d love to see you for a research session. Let us know how we can help!

The Harness Maker’s Dream: A Perfect Friday Book Talk

December 12, 2014

Thanks to everyone who joined us last Friday afternoon for our book talk with Nick Kotz, the author of The Harness Maker’s Dream! The talk was called American Family Histories: Lost, Forgotten, Found. Mr. Kotz discussed topics such as improved access to historical documents through the Internet and research techniques including reaching out to distant relatives.

 

Nick Kotz introduces his book to the group

Nick Kotz introduces his book to the group

 

We learned a lot about Nathan Kallison and his family. Nathan Kallison immigrated to Chicago from Russia to open a harness maker shop. He met his wife there, and they came to San Antonio to pursue their dream. The saddlery shop gained momentum, and Kallison’s saddlery and Western wear shop provided staples for ranchers and farmers coming to town. Nathan eventually bought a ranch, Kallison Ranch out near modern day Government Canyon State Park, that would become known for supporting the development of scientific agricultural improvements.

 

What a great talk!

What a great talk!

 

Keep an eye out for our next book talk!

Honoring Veterans at the Alamo Research Center

November 11, 2014

On November 11, we marked Veteran’s Day as a moment to commemorate the heroes of our Armed Forces who have sacrificed so much for our country. Veteran’s Day originated as Armistice Day, the day that heralded of the end of the “Great War,” which became known as World War I.  In the UK and Europe, November 11 is Remembrance Day, a time to recall the sacrifices made by their own soldiers and those living on the home front during that conflict, which was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.”

Guests viewing panorama of Armistice Day Speech by Mayor Black, 1921. First Saturday at the Alamo, Alamo Research Center.

Guests viewing panorama of Armistice Day Speech by Mayor Black, 1921. First Saturday at the Alamo, Alamo Research Center.

The Alamo Research Center observed Veteran’s Day at our First Saturday exhibit last weekend with a small display of photographs from a 1919 parade as well as a unique panoramic image of a speech given by San Antonio Mayor Black in 1921. This panorama has provided us with a wonderful opportunity. We regularly put it on display during our exhibits, and Alamo Assistant Curator Ernesto Rodriguez noticed an interesting object one day. He recognized a banner hanging from the front of the Alamo Shrine as one that the Alamo has in its collection!

Banner flown during a commemoration ceremony at the Alamo, 1921

Banner flown during a commemoration ceremony at the Alamo, 1921. Alamo Collection.

This magnificent banner includes stars for each individual from Bexar County who lost his life during American involvement in World War I. One of the stars represents David B. Barkley, a young man from Bexar County who gave his life for his country. Barkley was a member of the 356th Infantry, Company A. He died while returning from an information-gathering mission into enemy lines. For his bravery, Barkley was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first person of Latino origin to receive it. He was also granted the privilege of laying in state in the Alamo Shrine. Only four other individuals have been extended that honor, and it has not happened since World War II.

Star of Medal of Honor winner David B. Barkley, the first Latino to receive the award.

Star of Medal of Honor winner David B. Barkley, the first Latino to receive the award.

During the exhibit, one of our visitors made a remarkable discovery. Mr. Tom Pressley noted that he had always been told that his great uncle, a soldier from Bexar County, died during service in World War I. Upon inspection of the banner, we located the star honoring 1st Lt. John Montgomery, who was killed on the first day of American combat at the Battle of St. Mihiel.

 

Tom Pressley pointing to the star honoring his great uncle, 1st Lt. John Montgomery.

Tom Pressley pointing to the star honoring his great uncle, 1st Lt. John Montgomery.

 

 

The entire staff of the Alamo Research Center would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for the members of all branches of our Armed Forces.  Thank you for all you do!

 

You’re invited to a free book talk at the Alamo Research Center!

November 7, 2014

Invitation _Dec 5_2014

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