Summer in San Antonio is hot, sweaty, and a whole lot of family fun! For residents looking for entertainment in the summer of 1906, nighttime provided a new source of recreation.
Samuel Weiss opened the Electric Park Company across the street from San Antonio’s oldest public park, San Pedro Springs Park. Electric Park included all manner of attractions including a carousel, a toboggan track, a Ferris Wheel, shooting gallery, pool hall, and boat rides, among other exciting activities. In the 1950s, Renwick Cary’s “Around the Plaza” feature in the San Antonio Express recounted the exploits of “The Girl in Red” from Doc Carver’s Diving Horse act (one of the traveling companies that inspired the Disney movie Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken) that performed at Electric Park for several seasons.
The star of the Electric Park show came on after twilight fell. The theme park was fully electrified! Many of San Antonio’s children recalled summer nights at riding the circle swing and the roller coaster. The majority of electric parks would close by 1917 due to competition, increasing operating costs, and fires, but the memory of have fun at them would live on.
Come visit us tomorrow for a First Saturday exhibit all about summer fun in San Antonio! Some of our Texas Treasures will also be on display.
“The Alamo is not ancient history. It is no more ancient than love is an old story, for nothing is ancient and nothing is old which every day teaches something that is fine and beautiful and brave.” –Richard Harding Davis, 1892
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have been dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of Texans since their inception in 1891. Many of their most visible activities occurred at the Alamo Shrine in San Antonio. In response to Clara Driscoll, Adina de Zavala, and other women who called for the rescue of the neglected and decayed site of the 1836 battle, the Texas legislature made the Daughters of the Republic of Texas the custodians of the Alamo in 1905. Without state assistance (prior to 2011), they operated and improved the Alamo using the proceeds from the gift shop. They transformed the Alamo into a tourist site that introduces Texas history to millions of school children and visitors from around the globe while at the same time supporting preservation efforts of the historic structure.
One hundred and ten years later, their last day as the official caretakers of the historic shrine is July 10, 2015.
Their Alamo legacy, however, will live on.
Because they needed a representative to be the face of the Alamo to the public, the DRT installed a desk in the chapel for the volunteer Shrine Hostess. She answered questions and explained the history of the battle and the site to visitors. The first hostess was Florence Eagar, who held the post from 1905 until 1907. After she married Major Harris L. Roberts, her mother, Sarah Riddle Eagar, took over the duties of hostess. A citizen of the Republic of Texas herself, Sarah had been the first Anglo American child born in San Antonio.
The 1905 legislation required that the DRT operate and preserve the Alamo “without charge to the state.” Prior to 2011, the DRT provided all of the funding used to maintain and operate the Alamo historic site through the proceeds of souvenir sales. In the early years, the Daughters sold small trinkets such as vases and crockery from the Shrine Hostess’ desk. The hostess logged inventory and sales in her ledger. The souvenir shop was moved into the Alamo Sales Museum in 1936.Leita Applewhite Small, who served as Alamo Hostess, historian, custodian, and business operator for over two decades, represented all that is good about the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Upon her death in 1946, the Alamo Mission Chapter observed that Mrs. Small had left the Alamo “in first class condition more beautiful, more beloved, more expansive in its influence.” Mrs. Edith Halter kept Alamo scrapbooks during her time as hostess in the 1950s. These scrapbooks are housed in the DRT Library Collection at the Alamo Research Center. Jacqueline Runnels Espy was another long-serving hostess during the 1960s. She greeted a number of famous guests upon their visit to the Alamo, including John F. Kennedy, and often appeared in Renwick Cary’s “Around the Plaza” feature for the San Antonio Light.
The Shrine Hostess continued to be an important figure for the DRT and the Alamo. For eleven decades, these ladies have presented the public face of the history of the Alamo, the Texas Revolution, and the Texas Republic. The last shrine hostess, Anne Burney, retired in March of 2015. As the Mission Chapter put it in their tribute to Leita Small: “May these words…serve as a reminder…to learn the lesson of the Alamo as she learned it- ‘to carry on loyally and unafraid, never surrendering even though she must ask to have the cot lifted across the line.'”
Welcome to Resource Round-Up #3!
If you are interested in doing research in a library or archive, the chances are that you will encounter what archivists call a finding aid. So what is a finding aid, what can it tell you, and how can you use it? Let’s look at an example. For this exercise, we’ll be using the Bustillo Family Papers, a fairly large collection in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library Collection.
So you’ve already checked out the vertical files on your topic that we have at the Alamo Research Center. If you also explored our catalog, you might have come across an entry with an active hyperlink. Clicking on this link will take you to the digital copy of the finding aid hosted on TARO (Texas Archival Resources Online).
A finding aid is the chief tool that we use to figure out what is in a particular archival collection. The finding aid can be index cards, an inventory or box list, or any other format that documents the general contents of a collection. There are professional standards for what to include the type of finding aid we use at the Alamo Research Center. Here, we are referring to finding aids that include information about the creator of the collection, the scope (breadth) and content (topics covered) contained within the collection, the administrative history of the collection, and other information about the collection. One of the main functions of the archivist is processing, arranging, and describing a manuscript collection using these standards so that it is usable to the public. The finding aid will be your guide as you navigate the collection.
The first division you may see in a finding aid is the “Series.” Depending on the materials in the collection, the series may indicate different types of documents- i.e. a Series for Correspondence, Personal Papers, Business Materials, Photographs, and more. Alternatively, the collection may be separated by creator–this is particularly true in family papers, where each family member may have their own series. Within each series, collections are commonly processed down to the “folder level.” For a collection processed to that level, you can see folder designations (i.e. Correspondence, 1860-1865), but not individual items within the folder. In the case of the Alamo Research Center, many of our finding aids are processed down to the “item level.” This means that you can see individual documents listed on the finding aid. You can see this on the finding aid for Bustillo Family Papers. When you locate an item that you would like to look at, you can request it by providing us the collection name (Bustillo Family Papers) and number (Col 879) plus the box and folder number. It’s like providing coordinates on map that tells us exactly where we need to go!
Here’s a little tip if your catalog search takes you to an entry that links to a large finding aid. If you are looking for mentions of a particular person, place, or event, click on Edit–>Find or use the Ctrl-F shortcut to open the “find” box, type the name in the box, and search for each instance of that term appearing on the web page. It will save you from having to scroll through every page to look for your person!
You can do this! If you get stuck, you can always send us an email (there is a contact option in TARO, or send it directly to firstname.lastname@example.org) or give us a call. We’re here to help. Schedule your research appointment today!
“From Mountaintop to Mountaintop of Knowledge:” Willie H. Maverick graduates from the University of Virginia
Congratulations to all of the recent and upcoming graduates out there! The Alamo Research Center would like to salute your achievement. So here’s to you, 2015 Graduate!
You are joining historic company. In June of 1870, William H. (Willie) Maverick graduated from the University of Virginia with the degree of Bachelor of Law. Willie was the second son of prominent San Antonian Samuel Maverick, one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He had to pass rigorous examinations that include questions such as:
State the doctrine in Virginia as to private statutes; the definition of an ex post facto law; the doctrine in Virginia as to Retrospective Laws; the power of the Courts of England and in Virginia severally, to declare a statute void and why; of what the laws of Virginia consisted previous to the Revolution; Sheriff’s civil liability for escapes; and the coroner’s ministerial duties.
And that’s just one question out of over two dozen for Willie’s four classes!
You can explore more about Willie and the rest of the Maverick family by reading their extensive correspondence, school papers, business records, and other documents in the Maverick Family Papers here at the Alamo Research Center. Schedule your research appointment now!
May is Preservation Month, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation! In our state, Preservation Texas is a big sponsor of events. Preservation Month is big deal here at the Alamo Research Center because preservation is one of the most important activities we do. We take care of documents, books, photographs, art, maps, a few artifacts, and more, but we also support the preservation of historical structures around San Antonio and Bexar County. One of our largest collections is the Leo M. J. Dielmann Collection of architectural plans, drawings, schematics, presentation drawings, and personal papers. This collection and its additions include blueprints of dozens of buildings in San Antonio, including such iconic locations as Joske’s Department Store (now being converted into part of Rivercenter Mall) and the original Beethoven Maennerchor, now the Magik Children’s Theater.
Leo Dielmann was also the architect for several of the stately homes of the King William district. In 1906, he built the imposing neoclassical revival house at 1146 S. Alamo for Joseph Courand, Jr., the son of an immigrant to Castroville. Courand lived in the house until his death in 1946, and the house has served many purposes over the years. It has housed the Oblate Fathers for Mary Immaculate College, a home for unwed mothers, a Mission Salvation property, a party space, a restaurant, and an immigration law firm before returning to its original purpose as a private home in 1988. The house has undergone several renovations, and when the current owner was looking to make repairs to the front portico, he came to the Alamo Research Center to find evidence of what the house looked like in 1906. The staff at the ARC enjoys being able to help with research projects like this that will contribute to preservation efforts of the historical homes and other buildings in San Antonio.
Schedule your research appointment now! There is a whole world of history in the Alamo Research Center that we would love to help you explore.
Vertical File—San Antonio—Historic Sites—Courand House
Leo M. J. Dielmann Papers, Col 883, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Collection, Alamo Research Center, San Antonio, Texas.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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 email@example.com to schedule your research appointment. We can’t wait to help you explore the Vertical Files and the rest of our outstanding collection!