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Object: Vest

i-0407d-scan

I-0407d
Vest
Swedish
1922
Materials: Cloth/Thread

This object is a Swedish women’s vest.  It is part of a traditional costume made in 1922 in County Skane, Sweden.  Costumes like this can still be seen worn by women of Swedish descent during celebrations of Swedish culture.

The first Swedish immigrant to enter Texas was Swen Magnus Swenson in 1838.  He was an entrepreneur who started many businesses throughout his life, and founded SMS Ranches in west Texas- consisting of more than 300,000 acres.  He became a wealthy man due to his cotton plantation, and in 1844, he was joined by his uncle- Swante Palm– who was the first person to emigrate from Sweden with the goal of living in Texas.  Up until that point, most Swedish immigrants entered through Ellis Island in New York and established communities in the Northeast and Midwest.

In 1848, Swenson was convinced by his friend, Sam Houston, to bring more Swedish families to Texas.  The first group he brought over consisted of twenty-five people, mostly family and friends.  Swenson and his uncle then began operating an informal immigration company, initially paying people’s travel expenses to Texas from Sweden.  In turn, these people would pay back their credit by working as indentured labor on Swenson’s ranch.

By 1850, Swenson sold his ranch in west Texas and purchased 100,000 acres around Austin.   He continued his efforts in immigration throughout his life, establishing the strongest concentrations of Swedish-Americans, first around Austin, then fanning out to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Waco.

Swedish Hill Historic District of Austin, TX. Photo by Renelibrary, via Wikimedia Commons.

People left Sweden mainly for economic and political reasons.  Population growth made farmland scarce, and the overpopulation made it nearly impossible for families to support themselves.  Another factor was the growing resentment against the Swedish Lutheran State Church, which was repressing the citizens and emphasizing the snobbery of the Swedish monarchy.  As with most other immigration groups, the promise of personal freedom, open spaces, and uncharted land attracted many to a new life in Texas.

By 1900, more than 4,000 Swedes were in Texas.  They proved to be hardworking and successful in business as well as ranching and farming.  Swedish immigrants were responsible for building churches and colleges, including Texas Wesleyan College in Austin and Trinity Lutheran College in Round Rock.

More than 160,000 Texans claim Swedish ancestry today.  Through organizations such as the Linneas Society, Vasa Lodges, New Sweden Cultural Heritage Society, and the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, Swedish-Americans have both assimilated to the United States cultures, and kept their heritage alive.  These organizations were designed to give support to new immigrants, help them learn English, and provide an extended family in a new land.

Today, these organizations strive to provide education about Swedish culture, and preserve their heritage.  Though the Swedes of Texas value the culture of their homeland, they also embrace their life as Americans, and most prefer to be known as Swedish-Americans. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Haverlah, Elroy.  History of Swedish Lutheran Churches in Texas.  Texas: E. Haverlah, 2015.

Hoflund, Charles J. and H. Arnold Barton.  Getting Ahead: A Swedish Immigrant’s Reminiscences, 1834-1887.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1989.

Scott, Larry E.  The Swedish Texans.  San Antonio, TX: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1990.

Vassberg, David E.  Stockholm on the Rio Grande: A Swedish Farming Colony on the Mesquite Frontier of Southernmost Texas (1912-1985).  Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003.

Object: Doll

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I-0277a
Doll
Mexican
20th Century
Materials: Wood, Fabric, and Hair

This doll is a figure of a dancing woman wearing a stylized Hispanic dress. Dresses like these were typically worn in a traditional Mexican folk dance. Baile Folklórico is Spanish for “folk dance” and is the term for the various traditional dances of the Latin American people, from South America to Mexico and Central America. These dances are expressions of the lives and culture of the Latin American people, they use indigenous and inherited folk dances to make a religious, social, or political statement. The dresses used are typically brightly colored and have a long skirt with many layers so they flare out when the dancer spins.

With the end of the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century came a new era in Mexico, the war had ended but the culture and government was radically changing. The cultural renaissance happening in Mexico at this time provoked a dialogue on the social inequalities and the ambiguity of the Mexican identity. Famous modern artists, such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, expressed these inequalities through public art. Baile Folklórico dances became popular at this time as well, while dramatic changes were happening in society the dances revived the awareness of the native heritage.

The Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, created by Amalia Hernández in the late 1950s, was the first professional folklórico performing company. It is internationally recognized and serves as ambassador of Mexican folklore and arts across the world. The Ballet Folklórico has helped significantly in not only the preservation, but the growth of the Mexican Baile Folklórico traditions. Many of the Mexican States have their own distinct techniques and costumes, attributed to geographic differences or influences of indigenous or European groups. A variety of Ballet Folklórico dances are featured every year here at the Institute of Texan Cultures during the Texas FolkLife Festival.

The cultural renaissance in Mexico resonated throughout the 20th Century, no doubt inspiring in the Mexican American population in the U.S. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Along with African Americans, all people of color including Chicanos began to assert their cultural and historical heritage through art during this time. The intended audiences of these works were la gente del barrio, or the people from the local communities or neighborhoods. These various art mediums confront and affirm traditions, beliefs, and practices of the culture. They are intended to not only express heritage, but to educate and empower people by celebrating their cultural identity and confronting social issues. Today, muralism is still popular in asserting the identity of a culture. San Antonio is known for its downtown murals where artists, such as Adriana Garcia, and other local artists unite and inspire the community through public art. The San Anto Cultural Arts, established in 1933, has a public art program that encourages members of the community to participate in the creation of murals, inspiring pride in the community. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. 1970. [Mexico City]: National Institute of Fine Arts.

Candelaria, Cordelia. 2004. Encyclopedia of Latino popular culture. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Coffey, Mary K. 2012. How a revolutionary art became official culture: murals, museums, and the Mexican state. Durham: Duke University Press.

Herrera-Sobek, María. 2012. Celebrating Latino folklore: an encyclopedia of cultural traditions. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Márquez, Raquel R, Louis Mendoza, and Steve Blanchard. 2006. “Neighborhood Formation on The West Side of San Antonio, Texas”. Latino Studies. 5 (3): 288-316.

Object: Beer bottler

I-0220a
Beer bottler
Bottlers Specialty Mfg Co.
American
Chicago, IL
1912-1914
Materials: Metal

Interior of the Peter Brothers Brewery, ca. 1912. In front row (l. to r.’ Edward Peter, Gus Peter, and an unidentified man. John Peter (back row, right) holding beer mug. Photo via UTSA Special Collections, Digital Identifier CD# 430; 073-0019.tif

This object is a beer bottler from the Peter Bros. Brewery, which was in business from 1905 to 1910 in San Antonio, Texas. The brothers, John, Augustus “Gus”, and Edward bought a small house on East Commerce street in 1903 and began their brewing business in 1905. During prohibition the brewery no longer made beer, but operated as a soft-drink stand instead. In 1933, after the repeal of prohibition, the brothers open a lunchroom and sold local beers instead of producing their own.

The tradition of brewing in Texas began as early as the 1840s, when a large influx of German immigrants moved to Texas. For Germans, beer-drinking was an integral part of everyday life. When they began moving to Texas, it became important for them to have beer available to them, so people started brewing businesses.

One of the first known breweries in Texas was Julius Rennert’s, which he licensed in 1849 in the town of New Braunfels. The beer he made supplied many surrounding town’s saloons, including those of San Antonio. He stayed in business until the added competition of William Menger ‘s Western Brewery, or Menger Brewery, and the Lone Star Brewery caused him to close his brewing company in the 1880s and his son became a distributor for Lone Star.

Rennert was only one of the many people to start up brewing companies in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Most stayed small and were only in business for a few years, with exceptions like Menger’s Western Brewery, Anheuser-Busch of Lone Star, Pearl Brewery, and the still operational Blue Star. Large commercialization of these companies, as well as prohibition in 1919 caused most of the small brewing companies to go out of business fairly quickly. The Peter Brothers’ Brewery was one of those short-lived businesses, but it seemed to enjoy a great deal of popularity in its time.

Be sure to visit the Institute of Texan cultures this fall to learn more about the history of beer in Texas in our upcoming exhibit Brewing Up Texas, scheduled to open on October 14th, 2017. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Banas, Jeremy, and Travis E. Poling. San Antonio Beer: Alamo City History by the Pint. United States: Arcadia Publishing Inc, 2016.

Brown, Marissa. “Timeline: a history of beer in San Antonio.” San Antonio Express News. 2017.

Hennech, Mike. Encyclopedia of Texas Breweries: Pre-Prohibition (1836-1918). Ale Publishing Company, 1990.

Lucio, Valentino. “Small breweries being crafted to quench beer lovers’ thirst.” San Antonio Express News. November 12, 2012.

 

Object: Miter

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2013.13.7a-b
Greek Bishop’s Miter
Greek
20th Century
Materials: Cloth/Paper/Ink/Metal/Thread/Glass

This object is a Greek Bishop’s miter, or ceremonial headpiece.  It’s an elaborate headdress made from brocade, with elaborate embroidery and embellishments, and depicting Christian symbols and figures.   It belonged to Bishop John of Amorion, who was the first American-born bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church.  He was ordained in 1971 at the Annunciation Cathedral in Houston, Texas.

The Greek immigration story into Texas is a colorful and adventurous one.  The first recorded Greek immigrant, known only as Captain Nicholas, entered Galveston Island with the well-known pirate, Jean Lafitte in 1817.  He married a woman from the Karankawa tribe, but lost her in a storm.  He then sailed with Lafitte around the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, before finally returning to Galveston in 1842.

By 1860, Captain Nicholas was one of only two Greeks registered in Texas. He lived out his life selling fish and oysters, and transporting charcoal from the mainland to the island until his death in the Galveston storm of 1900.  He was nearly 100 years old when he died.

Many Greeks emigrated out of Greece to escape political, social, and economic problems.  Despite gaining independence after almost 400 years of Turkish rule, many people were still feeling oppressed, and by 1910, almost 10% of Greeks had emigrated out of their homeland.

Greek immigrants to Texas didn’t come as families, but rather as single men, looking for opportunities in the cities.  The first Greek colony in Texas was in Galveston, where 37 Greeks worked in saloons, markets, and cotton gins. They saw opportunities  to move up the economic ladder, working entry level jobs while learning English, saving money, and eventually opening their own businesses- often as restaurant owners, real estate investors, and owners of confectioneries– shops where candy was made and sold. By the early 1900s there were several thousand Greeks living in Texas, but they were scattered over 250,000 square miles of the state.

St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church of San Antonio. Photo by Casca L., via Yelp.com

The first Greek Orthodox Church was finally established in Texas in 1910, near the Ft. Worth stockyards. It didn’t take long to determine that one parish serving the entire state was impractical, and soon, several more churches were built in cities around the state. In San Antonio, the untimely death of a small child due to illness was followed by a two week delay in burial because there wasn’t a Greek Orthodox priest nearby. The local Greek community, grieving the loss of the child, knew this wasn’t acceptable.  In response, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church was finally established in San Antonio in 1924.

Today, there are more than 32,319 Greeks in Texas.  They celebrate their heritage and customs proudly.  Through decades of growth and change, they have had one enduring source of stability and connection to their roots- the Orthodox Church. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL READINGS

Callinicos, Constantine.  The Greek Orthodox Church.  London, New York:  Longmans, Green, and Co., 1918.

Fairchild, Henry Pratt.  Greek Immigration to the United States.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911.

Greene, Meg.  Greek Americans.  San Diego: Lucent Books, 2003.

Witliff, William D.  The Greek Texans.  Texas: Encino Press, 1974.

Object: Comb

I-0647a
Comb, Ornamental
Mexican
Mexico
20th Century
Materials: Plastic

This comb was donated by a descendant of Dr. Aureliano Urratia, who was an exile from Mexico during the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Before the revolution, Mexico was led by Porfirio Diaz. Diaz and his government was essentially a dictatorship, running Mexico from 1876 to 1911. During his years in power, Diaz achieved a level of political stability and economic development that had yet to have been seen. This fast development caused many changes in Mexico, some of these changes would eventually lead to the revolution.

One of the avenues for economic development was commercial agriculture. Mexican and foreign entrepreneurs expanded their land holdings and focused their efforts on raising cash crops such as sugar, henequen, and cotton. However, this would lead to problems with smaller villages and peasants. These massive estates controlled all the farm lands in rural Mexico. Prior to the growth of commercial agriculture, some of the land had been rented out to the local villagers and peasants to use for food and grain production, but now the landlords devoted all their lands to cash crops which were more profitable than renting the land. Without access to land, rural villages and peasants struggled to get food to support themselves. The size of these estates and the amount of land taken was so great, that a quarter of the land in Mexico was held by only 834 people.

Partido Liberal Mexicano promotional button from 1911. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The takeover of vast amounts of peasant and village land was not the only reason for the revolution, but it was a major one. As Diaz’s reign continued, many started to become frustrated with the regime. Early in the 1900s, the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) was formed which called for a four year presidential term, minimum wage, eight hour workday, and an end to child labor.

The call for a four-year presidential term limit shows the frustration that was being felt by many. In the 1910 election, Francisco Madero would choose to run against Diaz. Diaz would go on to arrest Madero, and this would spark the revolution. In the early days, Madero would escape the reach of Diaz by hiding in many towns in the southern United States, including San Antonio. But despite not being in the country, many rose up and lead forces in his name, or in the name of revolution.

Many of those who rebelled against the government were poorer agricultural workers. This can be seen in the makeup of revolutionary leader Pascual Orozco’s men, who were primarily ranchers, peasant farmers, shepherds, or muleteers. This shows the resentment that the poorer agricultural workers had for the commercial farming program.

Álvaro Obregón, former President of Mexico (1920 – 1924). Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This revolution would take years and much bloodshed to reach its conclusion. In 1920 Alvaro Obregon would become president after ten years of conflict. With the signing of the Constitution of 1917, laws were put into place that addressed the issues that groups like the PLM were most concerned about. The constitution gave peasants the right to their land, a minimum wage, right to education, and more. The Revolution of 1910 in Mexico was very important in making the country we know today. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Calvert, Peter. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1914: The Diplomacy of Anglo-American conflict. Vol. 3. Cambridge; London: Cambridge U.P. 1968.

Easterling, Stuart. The Mexican Revolution: A Short History 1910-1920. Chicago: Haymarket Books. 2012.

Gonzales, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 2002.

 Knight, Alan. The Mexican Revolution. Vol. 54-55. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. 1986.

Object: Player Piano


EX2016.3.1
Player Piano
Stuyvesant Piano Company
American
New York
1922
Materials: Wood, Metal, Plastic

This object is a Stuyvesant player piano, manufactured in 1922 in New York. It was gifted to the museum by a local couple, along with over 700 rolls of music that still work in the piano.

A player piano is a piano that plays itself.  A roll of music was created with punch holes in a specific pattern.  When the roll fed through a reader on the piano, a mechanism would interpret the punch holes as musical notes, and the piano would play itself- like a music box.  Player pianos were hugely popular from about 1900-1930.

In the late 1800s, music was the most popular form of entertainment.  People would attend orchestra concerts or traveling Vaudeville– or variety- shows, and many people had pianos in their homes.  Although there were many talented musicians at the time, there was always a demand for live music at home parties, even if there wasn’t a talented piano player on hand.

In 1896, the first self-playing piano was introduced by Edwin Scott Votey, who invented the pianola– another word for a player piano- in his home workshop in Detroit, Michigan.  Early models of the pianola were cabinet-like boxes that were sold as add-ons to traditional pianos.  It wasn’t until 1902 that the self-playing mechanism was installed into the actual pianos, and by 1916, 60% of all pianos sold were player pianos.  Some music rolls even included the words to the songs in the margins, encouraging sing-alongs at parties.

Initially, pianolas were marketed to rich buyers, with models costing around $250 (today that would be about $6000).  Soon, cheaper models were launched, with a standard 65-note format.  This excluded the 6-note range at each end of the piano keyboard, but was able to hit most standard notes.  The Buffalo Convention of 1908 standardized roll formats, and broadened the key range to include all 88 notes on the piano keyboard.

Around this same time in Germany, an inventor named Edwin Welte developed a much more advanced version of the player piano, known as a reproducing piano.  The reproducing piano allowed for a much more sophisticated sound, allowing for automatic adjustments in expression and volume of notes, reproducing the original performance of an artist.  These models were very much the first sound recorders for music.

With this new advanced sound, many famous composers of the day- from Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin, to Claude Debussy and Sergei Rachmaninoff– were able to record their music specifically for the reproducing pianos.  People were able to enjoy anything from classical music to ragtime in their own homes.

With the Wall Street crash of 1929, interest in player pianos effectively came to an end.  Radios became a household convenience, and people found other forms of entertainment.  However, in the 1960s, there was a renewed interest in player pianos, and Aeolian– one of the largest manufacturers of player pianos- even produced a modern version.  Many households, including the donors of this piano, enjoyed the player piano at parties all the way through the 20th century.  [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL READINGS

Bowers, Q. David.  Put Another Nickel In: A History of Coin-Operated Pianos and Orchestrions.  New York, NY: Bonanza Books, 1966.

Dolan, Brian.  Inventing Entertainment: The Player Piano and the Origins of an American Musical Industry.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.

Holliday, Kent A. Reproducing Pianos Past and Present.  Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 1989.

Suisman, David.  Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Object: Helmet

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I-0178a
Helmet (pickelhaube)
Prussian
Germany
1904
Materials: leather, brass, lacquer

This object is a helmet, specifically a pickelhaube, from 1904. This helmet is believed to have been worn by the 67th infantry regiment of the Prussian army signified by the eagle shaped plate (or wappen) on the front of the helmet.

Prussian uniforms in 1845. Image via WikiMedia Commons.

The Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm invented this style of helmet in 1842. The original design of the helmet was highly impractical for use when it was first designed – it was much too tall and unbalanced. Soldiers had problems with the helmet falling off and it being much too heavy for use during battle or even drills. In 1856 when King Wilhelm took over from his brother King Friedrich, adjustments were made the helmet so that it was more functional for military use. The height was lessened and the materials adjusted to the style that was kept by the military up until the end of World War I.

The helmet itself consisted of a leather shell with visors on both the front and rear, the latter being used for neck protection. Both visors had brass reinforcement on the trim to help the helmet and visors keep their shape. The leather was covered in a black lacquer that could be polished and kept shiny. Each regiment in the army would have its own wappen, or insignia, in brass or silver on the front of the helmet above the visor. The distinguishing feature of this style of helmet was the spike on the top of the helmet – it was immediately recognizable to everyone at the time as belonging to the the German military.

World War I propaganda poster for enlistment in the US Army, ca. 1917. Image via WikiMedia Commons

During World War I, the image of the pickelhaube was used as propaganda against the Germans, as it was something everyone understood to be distinct to German soldiers. There is an iconic image from World War I of a large gorilla wearing a pickelhaube and carrying a unconscious woman with the words “Destroy this Mad Brute” across the top. It was a propagandist poster to encourage people to enlist in the army. The pickelhaube was the most iconic part of the German uniform and was easily incorporated into the idea that Germans were brutes that needed to be stopped.

Propaganda against Germans spread quickly in America. Suspicion of anyone of German descent grew as the war went on and Americans began to become fearful of the thought of German spies living among them. Any German societies, newspapers, or services of any kind were shut down. There are even records of German-Americans getting lynched.

In 1916, the pickelhaube was replaced with the similarly iconic stahlhelm, or steel helmet, because the pickelhaube was not suitable for trench warfare; it was not durable and was very expensive to produce because of the British blockade of South America, where Germany imported the leather for the helmets. The stahlhelm was made out of a single sheet of steel – it was inexpensive, easy to produce, and provided much better protection for the soldiers in combat. The pickelhaube, however, remains one of the most recognizably German styles of World War I military dress.

Visit the Institute of Texan Cultures today to see an exhibit about Texas in the First World War [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud].

Additional Resources:

Rankin, Robert H. Helmets and Headdress of the Imperial German Army 1870-1918. New Milford, Conn: N. Flayderman, 1965.

Bowman, J A. The Pickelhaube. Lancaster, England: Imperial Publications, 1989.

Paddock, Troy R. E. A Call to Arms: Propaganda, Public Opinion, and Newspapers in the Great War. Westport Conn. etc.: Praeger, 2004.

Bell, Brian. Wehrmacht Combat Helmets 1933-45. London: Osprey Pub, 2014.

Object: Trunk

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I-0402c
Trunk
1870-1950
Italian
Materials: Wood/Metal

This object is an Italian travel trunk that was owned by Pompeo Luigi Coppini, a renowned Italian sculptor.  Travel trunks were originally used as luggage for long trips by steamship, train, or stagecoach.

Portrait of Pompeo Coppini, image via Wikimedia Commons

Pompeo Coppini was born in Mantua, Italy in 1870.  By the time he was 10 years old, his family had moved to Florence, where Pompeo got a job making ceramic horse-shaped whistles.  After that, he worked for a sculptor who made knock-offs of famous artworks for tourists.  When he was 16 years old, Coppini studied at the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno, a world-renowned art and design academy in Florence.

In 1896, Coppini immigrated to the United States with only his trunk of clothes and $40.  Almost immediately, he got a job in New York, sculpting figures for a wax museum.  Happy with the work, but frustrated with the lack of fame and recognition, Coppini moved to Texas in 1901 to work as an apprentice under the German-born sculptor Frank TeichCivil War memorial statues had become a popular request, and Teich needed help filling orders.  Coppini was commissioned to create a statue of Jefferson Davis and other confederate soldiers, which now stand at the state capitol.  Those sculptures were so well recieved that Coppini decided he could make it on his own, rather than working under Teich for seventy-five cents an hour.

Coppini lived and worked in San Antonio for the next fifteen years.  By 1910, he had recruited his own apprentice and “foster daughter”- Waldine Tauch– who he worked with for the rest of his life. Around 1919, Coppini moved to New York, where he oversaw the casting of the Littlefield Fountain Memorial, a centerpiece of the University of Texas campus in Austin.

In 1937, Coppini won the bid to commission the Alamo Cenotaph, also known as the “Spirit of Sacrifice,” a memorial to the heroes of the Alamo.  He won out over other well-known sculptors, including Gutzon Borglum, who went on to carve the faces of Mt. Rushmore. To complete the Alamo cenotaph project, Coppini opened a studio in San Antonio, which later became the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, which is still in operation today.  Believing that art training should be a branch of learning at universities, he also became the head of the art department at Trinity University in San Antonio from 1943-1945.

Pompeo Coppini’s work spans multiple countries, but the vast majority of his sculptures can be seen in Texas.  His work consists of thirty-six public monuments, sixteen portrait statues, and seventy-five portrait busts.  Though his sculptures have elicited some criticism through the years, they stand as a three-dimensional history of our state, and the country. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL READINGS:

Coppini, Pompeo.  The Alamo Cenotaph.  Tate, GA: Georgia Marble Company, 1940.

Little, Carol Morris.  A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Texas.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Tauch, Waldine.  Pompeo Coppini: Sculptor.  San Antonio, TX: ND, 1940.

Wright, John R.  Pompeo Coppini and Corpus Christi’s First Experiment With Public Art.  Corpus Christi, TX:  J.R. Wright, 1989.

Object: Icebox

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I-0331a
Icebox
American
1850s-1930s
Materials: Wood/Metal

This object is a wood and metal icebox that was popular in homes before electricity was widely available.  It is currently being exhibited in the sharecropper’s cabin in the museum.  Iceboxes were developed and used before modern day refrigerators, and were designed to preserve foods.

Basic iceboxes were made of wooden frames, and had a gap on the inside, with a smaller metal lining.  The iceboxes had separate drawers and shelves to store different types of foods. Ice would be packed in the space between the wood and metal, and then insulated with straw, sawdust, seaweed, or cork.  Cheaper versions would just have a drip pan underneath to catch the melting ice, but fancier models would have a container that caught the water, and a faucet to drain it.

Shows iceman holding block of ice in tongs behind horse drawn ice wagon. Photo by Russell Lee for Farm Security Administration/WPA via WikiMedia Commons

Every year when the weather turned warm, ice was delivered daily to homes by the iceman.  The iceman would drive from home to home, on a wagon lined with straw and full of ice blocks.  For each home, he would chip off pieces of ice for the icebox, and for an additional fee, he would insert the ice into the icebox for the homeowners.  During the summer months, kids would hitch a ride on the wagon of ice, or chip off small pieces of ice as a treat. Icemen worked for ice houses, which stored ice year round.  Every winter, ice was harvested from frozen lakes and stored in ice houses.  Ice harvesting and storage became a huge trade for states in New England, with many people becoming rich from shipping ice to the Southern states and the Caribbean.

However, ice houses were around long before the dawn of the icebox.  Records dating back to 1780 BC talk about construction of an icehouse in Mesopotamia.  Starting as dug out pits lined with straw, ice houses evolved around the world over the years, into everything from brick buildings to underground tunnels. By 1930, electric refrigerators like we use now began replacing the old iceboxes.  As the need for ice delivery declined, so did the business of ice houses.  By 1960, ice houses no longer served a purpose, and most were closed. In Texas however, ice houses were more innovative and started selling groceries and beer.  They became gathering spots for people to get together and relax.  The national convenience store 7-Eleven developed from ice houses that were operated by Southland Ice Company in Dallas and San Antonio in the 1930s.

Though it’s easy to take ice for granted today, many things around us are reminders of our modern innovations.  Modern refrigerators still contain many elements of original iceboxes, such as shelving and drawers; and every time we pass a convenience store- it sits as a reminder of a bygone era, when ice houses served an exclusive purpose, still present in the bags of ice sold there. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Cornell, Brad and Renny Kranich.  Pocket Guide to Best Texas Ice Houses.  Houston, TX: Lone Star Books, 1999.

Frigidaire Corporation.  Food Preservation in Our Daily Life.  Dayton, OH: Frigidaire Corp.

Jackson, Tom.  Chilled: How Refrigeration Changed the World and Might Do So Again.  London: Bloomsbury Sigma, 2015.

Rees, Jonathan.  Refrigeration Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America.  Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

Object: Saddle

02105c

2016.4.12
Pack saddle
Kickapoo
Mid to late 19th century
Materials: Wood

“Girl with Burro”
by Ritzenthaler & Peterson, 1956. Photo via Milwaukee Public Museum.

This is a Kickapoo saddle, used for horse riding. This saddle is only the wood base of what would have been an elaborate piece of equipment. The horse’s back would have been covered with a saddle blanket and the saddle would rest on top. the blanket was made of leather, cotton, or wool which could be adorned with beads, and sometime feathers or quills. Often saddles like these are wrapped in leather, the stirrups and leather girth would be set in the space between the wooden sides of the saddle. The girth, sometimes called a cinch strap, wrapped around the belly of the horse to secure the saddle on the horse’s back.

The last prehistoric horses in North America died out over 11,000 years ago but horses remained and evolved in Asia, Europe, and Africa. In 1519 horses returned to the Americas with the conquistadors from Spain. In the land that is now Mexico, the Spanish began breeding their horses and taught Native Americans how to ride and take care of the herds of horses. These herders were the first vaqueros, or cowboys. Although the Native Americans were herding, riding, and caring for the horses, the Spanish kept the Native Americans from owning their own horses for many years. The first Native Americans to acquire horses were the Apache, in modern day New Mexico. As more groups of Native Americans adopted the horse, stealing, bartering and breeding horses became a significant part their way of life.

The Kickapoo are a group of Algonquian speakers originating from the Great Lakes area, east coast, and Canada. Before European contact they relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering roots, seeds and wild rice. The Kickapoo first encountered the French in the 1640s when they were still living in modern day northern Michigan. However, the threat of white expansion grew and the Kickapoo gradually migrated south. Resulting in the Kickapoo disbanding into the three distinct groups that exist today, the Oklahoma Kickapoo, the Kansas Kickapoo, and the Mexican Kickapoo (later Texan Kickapoo). During the Civil War Spain granted displaced Native Americans land in the northern part of the Spanish Territory of Mexico. These groups wanted to get out of the United States to get away from the American Armies who were either trying to recruit them to fight or massacre them for their resources. In 1865 a band of Kickapoo led by No-ko-aht traveling to Mexico to seek refuge, were attacked by Confederate soldiers and Texas Rangers, commanded by Captain Henry Fossett. The battle took place on a branch of Dove Creek, east of Mertzon, Texas. The Kickapoo were hunting when the battle began, chief No-ko-aht’s daughter was killed when she went to meet the troops with a white flag. The Battle of Dove Creek is well remembered because No-ko-aht’s account of the battle still exists, making it one of the rare occasions that the Native American side of these conflicts are heard. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Hunt, Frazier, and Robert Hunt. 1949. Horses and heroes, the story of the horse in America for 450 years. New York: Scribner’s Sons.

Latorre, Felipe A., and Dolores L. Latorre. 1976. The Mexican Kickapoo Indians. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Pool, William C. 1950. The battle of Dove Creek. [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not identified].

Taylor, Louis, and Lorence F. Bjorklund. 1968. The story of America’s horses. Cleveland: World Pub. Co.

Wright, Bill, and E. John Gesick. 1996. The Texas Kickapoo: keepers of tradition. El Paso: Texas Western Press.

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