Photo Quiz

The answer to last month’s quiz is…

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A comb!

Can you guess what this one is?


We’ll post the answer on September 17th. Good luck!

Object: Torah

Mid-19th Century
Materials: Parchment, Ink, Cloth, Thread, Metal, Silk, Plastic, Wood

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Mantle of the Law

This object is a Torah (Sefer Torah), which is a sacred text for Judaism. The Torah is a scroll that is made of parchment and the pieces of parchment are sewn together with thread. The spindles of the scroll are wood and when stored the scroll is held together by a piece of cloth, traditionally silk, that goes around it and latches to itself. The Torah has a cloth bag (Mantle of the Law) that it is “dressed” in, which is decorated. Typically the cloth used to make these types of covers high quality and is decorated with elaborate embroidered images and other decorations. The bag as two holes at the top for the wooden spindles of the scroll to go through, so that the parchment is completely covered by the bag. This particular Torah was used by the Congregation B’nai Abraham of Brenham, TX and the Jewish congregation of Navasota, TX.

The Torah is written in the Hebrew language and contains the Five Books of Moses (Chumash or Pentateuch) which are: Genesis (Bereishis), Exodus (Shemos), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Bamidbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim). The five books that make up the Torah are also the first five books of the Christian Bible. The Torah and the Old Testament contain the same books, but they are presented in a different order. The Torah is one of three parts of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), the other sections are the Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings) The Torah is referred to as the Written Law while the Talmud and Mishna make up the Oral Law. The Oral Law books help to explain the laws of the Torah and how they should be carried out in Jewish daily life. They deals with many topics, including: agriculture, sacred times, women and personal status, damages, holy things, and purity laws.

Due to the religious importance of the Torah, scrolls used for religious services are made from only kosher materials. The animal hide that is used to make the parchment must come from a kosher animal, generally calf hide is used. However, the animal can not be killed specifically for its hide but must either die of natural causes or be slaughtered for food. The sinew of the animal is typically used to sew the parchment pieces together to form the scroll. The needle used to sew the pieces together must be either a silver or gold-plated kosher needle, though gold-plated is the preferred choice. No other metal may be used in the production of a kosher Torah since metal is also used for the production of weapons for war and violence. The feather for the quill that is used to write the text comes from either a turkey or a goose. The ink must be black and again there is a special formula that is used to make the ink kosher.

Torah Scribe

Torah scribe Rabbi Reuven Yaacobov writes a paragraph of a Torah as part of the exhibition ‘The Creation of the World’ on July 10, 2014 at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Photo by: JOHN MACDOUGALL,JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

The materials used to create a Torah are only one part of creating a kosher Torah. The scribe who writes the Torah must be a specially trained individual who is devout and knowledgeable in the laws governing the proper writing and assembling of a Torah scroll. This person is referred to as a sofer or soferet (title of a female scribe), which translates from Hebrew as “to count.” For a Torah to be used in a religious context it must be written by a sofer. Part of the scribe’s job while writing a Torah is to count the letters and lines while writing to ensure that nothing has been added or omitted. This counting ensures the accuracy of the Torah text. The sofer/soferet must copy directly from a completed kosher Torah. The scribe may not write one letter from memory, they must have a text in front of them at all times when they are writing. There are several other guidelines that must be followed when writing a Torah to ensure that it is kosher. It takes one year to complete a kosher Torah, following this method. Traditionally women were not allowed to become sofers, but in modern times women have become rabbis, which has led to a push for women to become scribes. This is still not a common practice and the most traditional Jewish communities still do not allow women to become rabbis or scribes.

Once the scribe has finished writing, they review and double check their work to ensure the text has no mistakes. A person who is trained in Hebrew may also assist in proofreading the text, this helps to ensure the accuracy of the Torah but also fulfills a Jewish person’s obligation to write a Torah in their life, which is the final commandment of the 613 Mitzvot. Due to the lengthy process and difficulty in writing a Torah, there are other ways for people to fulfill this obligation. A person can proofread a Torah, or fill in a single letter, or help to pay for the writing of a new Torah. These are not universal practices, each Jewish congregation decides what is the best way for a person to fulfill this commandment. Even though women traditionally are not able to write a kosher Torah, they could still copy a Torah for personal use, but there are some who believe that women are exempt from this commandment.

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Inscription at the end of the Torah.

If there is a mistake found when proofreading a Torah, then it must be corrected before the Torah may be used. There are complicated rules that govern corrections to certain words, the name of God being the most critical. To correct a mistake, the scribe painstakingly scrapes dried ink off the parchment, and then removes the rest of the ink residue with an architectural eraser. Finally, the scribe applies chalk to the spot to restore the color and then makes the correction. The Sefer Torah donated to the Institute of Texan Cultures has an inscription added at the end which states that the Torah was corrected in 1897. A translation of the inscription, provided by the donor, reads, “I corrected this Sefer [Torah] for the Navasoto congregation in the month of Menachem Av, 5657 [1897]. Chaim Schwartz, watchman of the House of Israel in Texas.” We do not know what the correction was, but it is interesting to see this inscription in the scroll. [Jennifer McPhail]

Click here to view a short presentation from Rabbi Yehuda Clapman on writing a Sefer Torah.

Additional Resources:
Gribetz, Judah, Edward L. Greenstein, and Regina Stein. 1993. The timetables of Jewish history: a chronology of the most important people and events in Jewish history. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hertzberg, Arthur. 1961. Judaism. New York: G. Braziller.

Kessler, Rainer. 2008. The social history of ancient Israel: an introduction. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Winston, Pinchas, and Mordecai Plaut. 1986. The unbroken chain of Jewish tradition: a visual overview of the history of the Jewish people. Jerusalem: Aish ha-Torah.

Object: Magazine

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LIFE Magazine
May 23, 1949

first cover

First cover of “Life” magazine. Image via NPR’s “The Picture Show.”

Life magazine started out in the 1800’s but not as the magazine people are familiar with today. The magazine started out as a humor magazine, but did poorly during the Great Depression. The magazine was then bought by Time publisher Henry Luce, “Unlike Time whose mission was to tell the news, Life’s mission was to show the news.” The magazine focused on using photographs instead of long written pieces to tell a story. Luce stated, “The magazine was meant to see life; to see the world; to eye witness great events…to see things 1,000 miles away.” The magazine would do just that and the first issue was published on November 23, 1936 featuring Fort Peck Dam. When published, the magazine had about 8 million copies in circulation and remained popular for about 4 decades.


V-J Day Kiss in Times Square. Image from

Life magazine became one of America’s most influential magazines, bringing its audience photographs of places near and far. However the WWII era was when the magazine really captured audiences. The magazine had a tremendous impact on the American public by showing actual images of the soldiers during WWII. The photographs did something that text and radio could not. It was in Life magazine where the first photograph of dead soldiers from WWII were published. Although, the magazine showed gruesome photographs, it also showed photographs of happier times as well. Some of these photographs are still popular. One of the most recognized photographs in today’s pop culture is the image of a sailor kissing a nurse during VJ Day. The magazine also captured different kinds of celebrations at the end of WWII. The iconic photograph was taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

After WWII, the magazine switched focus as the public became fixated with celebrities. Even though important world issues were still covered, the public wanted to see images of the rich and famous. The magazine photographed actors, actresses, athletes and musicians. People like Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, and Babe Ruth were photographed and featured in the magazine. In this issue, actress Sarah Churchill is on the cover. She was the daughter of UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill who served as Prime Minister during WWII. Sarah Churchill was also an officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force where she did photo reconnaissance, before becoming an actress. She was best known for the movies Daniele Cortis (1947), Royal Wedding (1951), and Serious Charge (1959). In this issue, the magazine article is about the actress crossing over to American stardom with her new movie titled All Over the Town (1949). The movie is about two reporters who are trying to save a newspaper in England. The movie was received well in London the magazine states. Inside the magazine a large photo of Sarah curling her eyelashes is shown.

With millions of Americans reading Life magazine, companies were eager to use it to advertise their products. Some of the products advertised in this issue are products no longer sold, while others are still household names today. Some of the brands that advertised in the pages of Life were Chevy, Ford, Palmolive and Kraft. The advertisements caught the reader’s attention since they were in bright colors in contrast to the stories that were in black and white. However, as television became more popular, the success of the magazine went down. People could watch events on television and products were advertised during commercials. So in 1972 the last issue of the weekly magazine was published. However, today many vintage Life magazines can be found at bookstores and the amazing photographs that captured a nation can be found on their website. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Centanni, Rebecca. 2011. “Advertising in Life Magazine and the Encouragement of Suburban Ideals”. Advertising & Society Review. 12 (3).

Doss, Erika Lee. 2001. Looking at Life magazine. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 

Life Magazine. 2011. America in pictures: the story of Life magazine. [S.l.]: BBC 4. 

Halsall, Christine. 2012. Women of intelligence: winning the Second World War with air photos. Stroud, England: Spellmount.

Hoy, Frank P. 1986. Photojournalism: the visual approach. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 

Thompson, Edward K. 1995. A love affair with Life & Smithsonian. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Object: Uniform

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United States
Cloth, Thread, Metal

This uniform is from World War II and contains: hat, jacket (pictured), tie, pants, and belt. The uniform belonged to native Texan, Dr. Harold W. Diserens, M.D. who served in the United States Army from 1943 to January 1946. During this time, he was deployed to Europe from late 1944 till late 1945. Dr. Diserens served in the U.S. Army 78th Division Infantry “Lightning” Band.

Military uniforms, like this one, can provide a great deal of information about their owners. For instance, this jacket has a number of patches and ribbons on it that identify the soldier’s rank and tells of some of his experiences. The patch on both arms that has the three stripes over the “T” symbolize Dr. Disernes’s rank of Technician 4th Grade. The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon with it’s three bronze stars over the left breast pocket indicates that he served in 3 campaigns, which we know from his service record were served in the European theater. The three gold bars on the bottom left sleeve represent three 6-month tours. The diamond shaped patch over the right breast pocket with a golden eagle with a circle around it is known as the “Ruptured Duck” and was only issued to those who were honorably discharged. The patch on the left shoulder that is a red semi-circle with a white lighting image is the unit insignia patch for the 78th Division Infantry.


78th postcard WWI – front. Image from

The 78th Division Infantry was first activated on August 23, 1917 and  consisted of four infantry units and three artillery units. During World War I the 78th served in France and was involved in two of the major campaigns of WWI: St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. The St Mihiel campaign was fought southeast of Verdun, France and took place from September 12 to September 16, 1918. The Meuse-Argonne campaign was fought immediately north and northwest of the town of Verdun on September 26 to November 11, 1918. At the end of WWI the 78th was demobilized in June of 1919. It was during WWI that the 78th became known as the “Lightning” Division. The French likened the battles of the 78th Division to a bolt of lightning, leaving the field blood red. Thus the insignia for the 78th became a single streak of lightning across a red field.

78th stars and stripes

Stars and Stripes, Vol 1- No. 57. 78th Infantry Division makes the front page of the March 17, 1945 edition. Image from

When the United States entered World War II, the 78th was reactivated on August 15, 1942 and was used as a training unit for two years before entering into combat in the European Theater. The 78th took part in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater which was treated as a separate war from the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. There were three campaigns that the 78th took part in during the war and they were Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The Rhineland campaign took place from September 15, 1944 to March 21, 1945 and was along Germany’s defensive line from Holland to Switzerland. The Allies were able to break the defensive line due to the success of the Ardennes-Alsace campaign which is better known as the Battle of the Bulge. This campaign started on December 16, 1944  and concluded on January 25, 1945. The Ardennes forest is located primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but it also extends into France and Germany. The Central European campaign took place following The Battle of the Bulge, from March 22, 1945 to May 11, 1945. When Germany officially surrendered on May 7, 1945, the 78th became part of the occupational forces that stayed in Germany. The 78th was then deactivated again on May 22, 1946. In November of 1946 the 78th was reactivated and in May of 1959 it was reorganized as a training division. [Jennifer McPhail]


Additional Resources:
78th Division Veteran’s Association. 1967. Fiftieth anniversary, 1917-1967, 78th Division. Ft. Dix, N.J.: The Association.

Cole, Hugh M. 1994. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army.

Dzwonchyk, Wayne M., and John Ray Skates. 1992. A brief history of the U.S. Army in World War II. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army.

United States. 2000. Lightning: the history of the 78th Infantry Division. Nashville: Battery Press.

Wijers, Hans J. 2009. The Battle of the Bulge. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books.

Object: Book

Signal Book
Paper and Ink

This object is a United States Signal Book from the year 1916. The book contains information and instructions on how to communicate using different systems. This booklet has the Army Signal Corps symbol stamped in the front with the words “Signal Book, United States Army, 1916.” Some of the communication methods included in the book are, American and International Morse Code, and the Semaphore method. This signal book was published by the Military Publishing Company in New York City. This signal book shows a message from the War Department Chief of Staff H.L. Scott.

In today’s modern world there are many different types of communication. All of these forms of communication make in incredibly easy for people around the globe to get in contact with each other. Cell phones have made it possible for people to have a face to face conversation with someone 3,000 miles away, this can be achieved with the push of a button. However, 100 years ago communication was much more difficult. In a time when messages had to be written and could only travel at the speed of a horse, getting a message to someone could take days. This signal book gives an example of the many forms communication could take in 1916. At this time World War I was in its 2nd year and although the U.S. did not enter until April 1917 the military still needed to know these forms of communication.


US Army Signal Corps telephone operators or “Hello Girls,” Tours, France, WWI. Elizabeth Anne Browne Collection, Gift of L.C. Jones. Women’s Memorial Foundation Collection.

Signal books like the one here were used by members of the Signal Corps established in 1860 and responsible for all forms of communications and information systems. The father of the Signal Corps was Albert J. Myer a doctor stationed in Texas, he developed a military signaling system based on his dissertation. The Signal Corps played an important role during the Civil War when Myer’s invention named the “Wig Wag was used. The “Wig Wag” used one flag instead of the two that had previously been used. However, this form of communication was not reliable due to weather causing visibility problems at times. During WWI the Signal Corps were made up of carrier pigeons and the hello girls. The “hello girls” were part of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit 25. Because these women had to operate switch boards in both France and England, bilingual women were usually recruited. The Signal Corps is still an important part of the United States Army.

One form of communication featured in the signal book is “Morse Code which is a result of the telegraph. Although forms of telegraphy were used in Europe they were mostly made up of visual telegraphy. Samuel F.B. Morse and Alfred Vail invented the first long distance electric telegraph. This invention would go on and transform long distance communication. The telegraph worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations. The code worked by assigning letters in the alphabet and numbers a set of dots (short marks) and dashes (long marks) based on the frequency of use; letters used often (such as “E”) got a simple code, while those used infrequently (such as “Q”) got a longer and more complex code. In 1844 Morse made a sucessful demonstration from Washington D.C. to Baltimore with the words What hath God wrought.  This demonstration helped to promote the use of the telegraph and by 1866 many American cities had telegraph posts.

DSC_0021Another form of communication technique featured in the signal book is the semaphore. The two arm semaphore can be used with stationary semaphore or two hand held flags. The first semaphore was invented by Claude Chapp and his brothers. The semaphore could be either a post or two signal flags. The signal flags are usually made up of two colors and are in a diagonal pattern. The flags are held in different positions and each represent a letter or number. Although using semaphore flags was not a primary form of communication during WWI it could still be used when troops were nearby and had visibility of each other. Knowing different forms of communication was important because troops had to be ready under any circumstance.

Although, the communication methods showed in the signal book have long been replaced with modern technologies such as phones and the internet. Inventions such as the telegraph and Morse Code have helped shape the way in which communication is conducted in the 21st century. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Reading:
Bates, David Homer. 1995. Lincoln in the telegraph office: recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps during the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Hochfelder, David. 2012. The telegraph in America, 1832-1920. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Raines, Rebecca Robbins. 2005. Getting the message through: a branch history of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific.

Bingham, Jane. 2011. Women at War the Progressive Era, WWI and Women’s Suffrage, 1900-1920. New York: Infobase Pub.

Object: Painting

Santos Benavides and His Brothers
Bruce Marshall
Late 20th Century
United States
Paper, Paint

This is a watercolor painting depicting Santos Benavides with his brothers entitled, “Santos Benavides and His Brothers.” The watercolor is by Bruce Marshall who is an artist, writer, and historian. He has produced several paintings that depict events and people from Texas History. In the painting the Benavides brothers are depicted on horseback in Confederate uniforms. In the background the flag of the 33rd Texas Calvary is shown; a flag similar in design to the Texas Flag with a a gold star that has the number “33” in the center of it and around the star it reads, “Texas Calvary.”


Santos Benavides (1823-1891), image taken around the 1960’s. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Santos Benavides was born in Laredo on November 1, 1823 to a prominent Laredo family. His great-great-grandfather founded Laredo and the family maintained a strong prominence and leading role in the area. Benavides was a successful rancher and merchant, who also distinguished himself politically and militarily. During the Federalist-Centralist wars in the 1830s and 1840s, Benavides fought for the Federalists. The Federalists supported local control for each area, whereas the Centralists wanted the power to be focused in Mexico City. This idea of area rights/state rights was something that Benavides would hold to and fight for throughout his life.

In 1856 Benavides was elected Mayor of Laredo and in 1859 he became the Chief Justice for Webb County. At the completion of the Mexican-American War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo forced Mexico to recognize the annexation of Texas. When the United States was annexing the Laredo area as part of the treaty, Benavides fought it because he thought it would change the independent nature of the area. When Texas seceded from the United States and joined the Confederate States of America, Benavides and his brothers joined the Confederate Army and served in the 33rd Texas Calvary together during the United States Civil War. Benavides joined the Confederacy because the issue of states’ rights was something he had been fighting for most of his adult life. He enlisted as a Captain and was later promoted to Colonel, though he had turned down a Generalship from the Union. He and his unit put down several revolts against the Confederacy. They also defended Zapata county from an attack on the county seat by Juan Cortina, who was defeated and retreated to Mexico. On March 18, 1864 Benavides defended Laredo with only 42 troops against 200 soldiers of the Union First Texas Cavalry; this is considered his greatest military triumph. He also secured safe passage of cotton from Texas along the Rio Grande to Matamoros when Union forces occupied Brownsville in 1864. During the Civil War he was the highest ranking Mexican American to serve in the Confederacy.


Perspective Map of the City of Laredo, Texas. The Gateway to and From Mexico, 1892. Photo via: WikiMedia Commons

After the end of the Civil War and with the defeat of the Confederacy, Benavides and his brother, Cristobal, continued their lives as merchants and ranchers. Benavides also continued in politics and served in the Texas Legislature three times during 1879 to 1884. He also served as alderman of Laredo for two terms. He still maintained his belief in a non-central form of government and this reflected in all his political dealings. His final act in his political career was to serve as a Texas delegate to the World Cotton Exposition in 1884 in New Orleans. Santos Benavides died in Laredo on November 9, 1891. [Jennfer McPhail]

Additional Resources:

Bailey, Anne J., and Grady McWhiney. Texans in the Confederate Cavalry. Fort Worth: Ryan Place Publishers, 1995. <>.

Hinojosa, Gilberto Miguel. A Borderlands Town in Transition Laredo, 1755-1870. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1983. <>.

Meyer, Michael C. The Mexican Federalist-Centralist Struggle, 1824-1960. Thesis (M.A.)–University of New Mexico, 1960.

O’Connell, Kim A. The Mexican American War. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Pub, 2003.

Riley, John Denny. Santos Benavides: His Influence on the Lower Rio Grande, 1823-1891. Thesis (Ph. D.)–Texas Christian University, 1976.

Photo Quiz

The answer to last month’s quiz is…


© CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

the Ifugao (or Ipugao or Igorot) culture of the Phillipines.

Can you guess what this month’s object is?

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We’ll post the answer on August 20th. Good luck!


Object: Staff

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Metal, Gold Plate, Gemstone

This object is a staff that was used by Bishop John (Kallos) of Amorion of the Greek Orthodox Church. This particular staff is called a crosier which is a stylized staff that represents the Orthodox Bishops and senior monastic officers and is a symbol of their jurisdiction and authority.  This particular staff is in five pieces, with four of them making up the actual staff and then the fifth is the staff head which is two intertwining snakes with a crown and cross above. The cross is made up of 9 crystals with 5 of them in a vertical line and 2 crystals on the left and 2 on the right forming the arms of the cross. There are also 8 red crystals on one side and 8 green crystals on the other side.


Orthodox crosier. Image from Orthodox Answers.

The two intertwining snakes on the staff head piece are generally associated with the story of Moses and the Bronze Serpent. In Numbers 21:4-9, Moses is told to put a bronze serpent on his staff and when those who are bitten by snakes look upon this symbol they will be healed. The serpents are to represent the duality of the serpent that it both can kill and heal. The serpents on the staff are also associated with Exodus 4, where God turns Moses’s staff into a serpent and when Moses grabs it, it becomes a staff again. Exodus 7:8-13 is also related, as it recounts how Aaron’s staff is turned into a serpent and the Pharaohs’ Magicians do the same with their staffs, but Aaron’s staff/serpent devours the the Magicinans’ staffs/serpents. There are several more references to serpents in the Bible and this entry by Jonathan Pageau from the Orthodox Arts Journal gives a more in depth look at how serpent imagery is associated with the Orthodox crosier.

When a Bishop is consecrated, he is given his crosier by the chief concentrator following the dismissal at the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is the primary worship service that takes place in the Orthodox Church. Senior monastic officers are also given a crosier when they are consecrated, these positions are Archimandrite, Abbot, or Abbess. An Archimandrite is just below a bishop in authority and in the Orthodox tradition he is head of several monasteries. An Abbot is in charge of a single male monastery and an Abbess is the head of a single female monastery. For the Archimandrite, Abbot, and Abbess the crosier is conferred at the time they are invested with their position. When a Bishop is in his vestments of office he carries the crosier, except into the altar itself. When the Bishop enters the altar, he leaves the crosier placed against the iconostasis next to the icon of Christ to the right of the Royal Doors. When the Bishop is not wearing his vestments, he carries a smaller walking stick that is topped with a silver pommel.


Bishop John Kallos. Image from Obituary on The Orthodox Church News/OCP Media Network.

Bishop John of Amorion was the first American-born man to be selected and ordained bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1971. He was ordained as the Bishop of Thermon in Houston, Texas, and appointed to administer the Eighth Archdiocese District of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, but raised and educated in the greater Boston area. He attended several religious and theological universities and became a deacon of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1955. He served as the Auxiliary Bishop in Houston, TX from 1971-1973, but moved the the regional headquarters to Denver, CO in 1974 and served there till 1977. In 1978 he became the Diocesan Bishop in Charlotte, NC and served there till 1980, when he moved to Atlanta and remained the Bishop till 1988 when he retired due to ill health. Even though Bishop John of Amorion was retired he was still an active member in the church till his death on December 1, 2012. [Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:

Callinicos, Constantine N. 1953. The Greek Orthodox catechism: a manual of instruction on faith, morals, and worship. New York: Published under the auspices of Greek Archidiocese of No. and So. America.

Carroll, Mike. 1996. Orthodox iconography: the icons of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte, NC: Herb Eaton Publishers, for Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Constantelos, Demetrios J. 1982. Understanding the Greek Orthodox Church: its faith, history, and practice. New York, N.Y.: Seabury Press.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, Gallup Organization, and Princeton Religious Research Center. 1980. Study of the Greek Orthodox population in the U.S. New Jersey: Princeton Religious Research Center.

Papastratou, D̲orē. 1990. Paper icons: Greek Orthodox religious engravings, 1665-1899. Athens: Papastratos.

Object: Painting

Prospero Bernardi at San Jacinto, 1836
Bruce Marshall
United States
20th Century
Paint, Paper

The watercolor painting is by Bruce Marshall and titled “Prospero Bernardi at San Jacinto, 1836.” Bruce Marshall has done several watercolor paintings that depict different events and people from Texas History. He is an award winning artist and writer that is well known for his work as a Texas historian and his attention to detail in his paintings. This particular painting depicts Prospero Bernardi, an Italian who fought in the Texas Revolution, and an unidentified African American at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Prospero Bernardi

Bust of Prospero Bernardi created by Italian artist Pompeo Coppini. Photo via:

Prospero Bernardi was born in Italy in 1794 and arrived in Texas on January 28, 1836 as part of a volunteer group that had been raised in New Orleans. He joined the Texas Army on February 13, 1836 and fought bravely in the Battle of San Jacinto. During that battle he was seriously injured and was medically discharged in January or February of 1837. He received a bounty grant and a first-class headright grant for his military service, but he gave both of these land grants away. By 1838 it was unclear as to where Bernardi was, or if he was still alive. In February of that year two former fellow soldiers testified that they understood he had died. There is a bust of Bernardi at the Hall of State, located in Dallas’ Fair Park, commissioned for the Texas Centennial Exposition. The bust is to honor not just Bernardi, but all Italians who are a part of Texas History. Though we don’t know much about Bernardi before or after the Texas Revolution, he is still an important piece to Texas History.


Map via: Larry S. Bonura,

He was not the only Italian who fought in the Texas Revolution, he is just one of the few that we have record of. Italians are the 6th largest ethnic group to make up Texas. Though there were Italians in Texas before the Revolution, during and after, their major immigration came during the 1880’s. Many of these immigrants were farmers, and sought out farm lands in three main areas: the Brazos Valley, mainland Galveston County, and the Red River Valley. Italians immigrants to Texas eventually found work in a number of different fields. As farmers, some started vineyards, while others worked in the mines, on the railroads, or made bricks. Today Italian Texans are an intricate part of what makes Texas what it is culturally, their dances, food, and churches are all part of Texas culture. [Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Belfiglio, Valentine J. 1983. The Italian experience in Texas. Austin, Tex: Eakin Press.

Parsons, Jim, and David Bush. 2012. Fair Park deco: art and architecture of the Texas Centennial Exposition. Fort Worth, Tex: TCU Press.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. 1973. The Italian Texans.

Warneke, Jack, and Kenneth M. Holtzclaw. 2008. San Jacinto. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub.

Object: Drinking Bottle

Drinking Bottle
Unknown Origin
Materials: Glass

This object is a greenish-colored drinking bottle that most likely held wine or champagne. It is thought to date between 1850s and 1920s because of its lip. This particular lip has a sheared top with a tooled ring. The lip is the tip of the bottle where the liquid pours out. The tooled ring is a ring that goes around just below the lip. Since there were many variations of sheared tops and tooled rings throughout the years it can be difficult to narrow down specifically when this bottle was made. However, we know that this style became popular around the 1850s and was less common after 1920s. Around the time this type of bottle declined in production, the American alcohol industry went through a drastic change.


“Woman’s Holy War. Grand Charge on the Enemy’s Works.” An allegorical 1874 political cartoon print. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

In the early 1800s people in the United States started speaking out against the drinking of alcohol, this was known as the Temperance Movement. At first, supporters of temperance hoped to slow down public consumption of alcohol. After the Revolutionary War the American economy experienced difficult times. Citizens went through an economic depression, the Civil War, and hard working conditions. Men who worked in manual labor jobs, where physical strength was required, were offered liqueur to help them work through the day. People began relieving stress by drinking in public. Alcohol also was considered safer to drink than water, since many water sources were contaminated with bacteria. All of these factors led to an increase in alcohol consumption, and a greater number of people suffering from alcohol addiction. Later Temperance advocates began to support the total banning of alcohol. Many people, often wives of alcoholic husbands, took a pledge to never drink an alcoholic beverage. This movement eventually led to the country’s ban on all alcohol sales and manufacture. This time period was called Prohibition and it lasted from January 1920 to February 1933.

The temperance/prohibition movement had been quite active in Texas even before it became a state in the Union. The movement gained in power and support in Texas in the 1840’s. In 1843 the Republic of Texas passed what may have been the first local option measure in North America. The “local option measure” allowed individual cities and counties to decide if they wanted to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol within their borders.  In 1845 the temperance movement helped pass a law which outlawed saloons, but was largely unenforced and finally repealed in 1856. In 1895, fifty-three of the 239 counties in Texas were dry, and another seventy-nine counties were partly dry under the local option measure. In 1919 Texas voters approved a state prohibition amendment, which had already been passed by the United States Congress and was being ratified in each state.

Supporters of Prohibition hoped that the ban would increase economic and social productivity. It was thought that without alcohol, there would be no more public intoxication, less crime, and a healthier public. However, the results they hoped for did not materialize after alcohol was banned, instead prohibition led to a boom in organized crime. Many people took to crimes of “moonshining” and “bootlegging” during the ban. Moonshining is the process of making illegally distilled alcohol. Bootlegging is the illegal transportation and distribution of alcohol, whether it is produced legally or not.


Al Capone while incarcerated at Alcatraz. Image taken by Federal Bureau of Prisons and found on Wikimedia Commons.

During Prohibition bootlegging was the only way people could buy alcoholic beverages. Since alcohol was in high demand by many citizens, more and more people went into bootlegging as a way to make money. This is how organized crime quickly spread across the country, contributing to the rise in the now infamous criminals known as gangsters or mobsters. One of the most famous gangsters was Al Capone, also known as Scarface. He was one of the many outlaws that illegally sold alcohol. The government tried on a number of occasions to put Capone in prison for his role in bootlegging and organized crime, but had trouble successfully prosecuting him. In 1931, two years before the end of Prohibition, Capone was charged with tax evasion and violations of Prohibition. Later the Prohibition charges were dropped because witnesses feared to face Capone in court. However, he was still convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined $50,000. Although Capone and several other gangsters were imprisoned, the illegal sale and transportation of alcohol continued. Bootleggers and mobsters continued bootlegging alcohol until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed with the 21st amendment. [McKayla McCarty, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Fentress, James. 2010. Eminent gangsters : immigrants and the birth of organized crime in America. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.

Iorizzo, Luciano J. 2003. Al Capone a biography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Jurkiewicz, Carole L., and Murphy J. Painter. 2008. Social and economic control of alcohol: the 21st amendment in the 21st century. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Kyvig, David E. 1985. Law alcohol and order: perspectives on national prohibition. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood press.

Rumbarger, John J. 1989. Profits, power, and prohibition: alcohol reform and the industrializing of America, 1800-1930. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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