Dedication of the DRT Library
On December 2, 1950, members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and honored guests gathered to dedicate the new wing of the DRT Library. Since the opening of the library five years previously, the collections had been housed in Alamo Hall. The new wing, designed by architects Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, was built on the west side of the former city fire station; contemporary patrons know it as the library’s reading room.
The history of the DRT library began several years before the dedication. The charter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas states that one objective of the organization is to “encourage historical research into the earliest records of Texas, especially those relating to the revolution of 1835 and the events which followed; to foster the preservation of documents and relics; and to encourage the publication of records of individual service of soldiers and patriots of the Republic.” Beginning in the 1920s, several donations were given to the Alamo for a library. Mrs. Leita Small, custodian of the Alamo, noted in 1928 that:
“We are planning to make an appeal for old Texas publications that we might have a collection for the Alamo…I am continually called upon for historical data, and it will be a great help to have books and allow visitors to get the data they want from them. It is surprising the number of people who come to the Alamo for all kinds of information. When San Antonians cannot answer questions asked by strangers, they immediately refer them to the Alamo.”
San Antonio native and Dallas physician William Eager Howard provided the nucleus of the library’s collections, as he donated his private collection of Texana materials to the DRT in the late 1930s and early 1940s. On October 12, 1945 the library in Alamo Hall opened with the William E. Howard Collection. Mrs. Small, at that time Chairman of the William E. Howard Library Committee, described the arrangement of the library at that time:
“The front room of Alamo Hall holds the Texana Collection, the next room a case of very rare books…also…the collection of Civil War books. In the third room are the United States and miscellaneous books, and in the small fourth room is the western collection. Many paintings are hung in these rooms which make them attractive.”
During its earliest years, the library was open three days each week. In 1948, the library was allotted an annual budget of $150.00, and the following year its collection was comprised of 2,304 books, 213 pamphlets, 37 manuscripts, 69 rare documents, and 62 Spanish documents.
After the Texas legislature denied a request from the DRT for funds for the construction of a new library building, Mrs. Sallie Ward Beretta donated $30,000 so that the organization could add a wing to Alamo Hall. Mrs. Beretta wanted to honor the memory of her late husband, Mr. John King Beretta, who had been a close friend of Dr. Howard’s. Mrs. Beretta’s generous gift made possible the wing that was dedicated in 1950 and that remains the heart of the library.