19th – 20th century
Materials: Iron and wood
The scythe has been around for centuries. Scythes are used as a tool for harvesting crops, such as wheat, or cutting away unwanted weeds, or tall grass. The scythe has a curved razor-sharp iron blade attached to the end of a wooden staff that has three handholds for easier control. This tool was widely used throughout Europe since before the Middle Ages, to the present, in countries like India, Nepal and the Americas. It is believed that the sickle was replaced by the scythe because of the scythe’s ability to quickly cut crops during the harvest season, which cuts the chances of losing valued crops due to the time it took to retrieve them with the sickle.
It was not uncommon for a woman to use this tool starting in the colonial period, however, back in the 1600s it was typically a “mans job” to cut the crop and bind the cut stalks together. The women would have followed close by collecting the banded work, therefore known as gatherers. Today you can find scythe competitions, with events testing who can cut an area of grass the fastest using a scythe. There are also events that test if a person with a scythe can be faster than modern-day machines, which often ends in favor of the scythe. These competitions are found primarily in southern states.
The scythe is often depicted as the tool of the Grim Reaper, also known as death, as seen in many artistic works depicting the plague. The plague has existed for centuries. Today, it can be treated with medicine, which did not exist back then. Two of the most well-known plagues were the Plague of Justinian of 542 C.E and the Black Death of 1348, both are credited with killing millions of people. There have been other outbreaks of illnesses throughout the world. For instance, malaria, yellow fever, and cholera struck North America hard in the 1800’s. People who were infected would sometimes flee to Texas, where the climate was hotter and more humid, in hopes of escaping the illness or to heal from it. Although the climate of Texas helped with some forms of sickness, it certainly was not without its epidemics. Migrants would spread the sickness that they were trying to escape to others of their new community. Therefore, malaria, yellow fever, and cholera were still very much a problem in Texas. However, tuberculosis was one of the most dangerous diseases in Texas during the 1800s and early 1900s, killing many.
The Grim Reaper, as we know him today in popular culture is often depicted standing close by his chosen victim until he chooses to take the person’s life, or he acts as a guide to lost souls and show them the way to heaven or hell. In video games, Death normally acts as one of the many adversaries a gamer needs to defeat to move onto the next level. Death is also associated with biker gangs and military unit mascots. In the past Death would even find its way to be immortalized as statues in cathedrals. Death has always held a special place in man’s mind because of fear and respect of mortality; the inevitable end. [Arland Schnacker, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Rock Painting reproduction
Materials: Stone, Red Paint
This is a reproduction of a piece of cave art found at Bonfire Shelter in Eagle Cave near Langtry, Texas. Eagle cave is located in Mile Canyon, commonly referred to as Eagle Nest Canyon, which is a tributary canyon of the Rio Grande entering on the north side of the river just downstream from Langtry, Texas. Eagle Canyon gets its name from a pair of nesting eagles in the region. The canyon has been an important area of many archaeological and geological expeditions over the past century due to the region’s rich history of early human inhabitants and rock art.
Cave paintings are found across the world from state-parks in North America, to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Often these cave paintings outline stories of hunting and gathering, fishing, or natural disasters. The Lower Pecos region in southwest Texas is home to several examples of rock art from Texas’s ancient past. In fact, many of the paintings found in these caves give us a glimpse of the type of animals that were around during the time of these ancient peoples. It is possible that some of these paintings were made by the Clovis people who inhabited Texas during the time when the woolly mammoths roamed the earth, 11,000 years ago. These ancient Texas inhabitants hunted Woolly Mammoths and other creatures for food, clothes, and tools. They would have used caves, ridges, or bluff shelters, like the one shown on the right, to protect themselves from weather and animals.
Paints made were by mixing plants and/or animal blood with different types of clay and dirt. For example, the paint for many red cave markings is made with iron oxide called red ochre, a pigment found in many medieval art works. The ancient artists would use their hands, fingers, or objects from the ground to create shapes on the wall. They also would have used animal hair and bones from the animals that they hunted for brushes or as tools to carve into the rock wall. The ancient indigenous people were very interested in the animals they hunted depicting some possible traits of the Animism religion which dates to the Stone Age.
Sadly, many of the paintings are being destroyed by time, weathering, and treasure hunters. In Seminole Canyon State Park, located in Texas, the Parks and Wild Life Services had partnered up with archaeologists in hope of preserving these natural time capsules by way of 3D scanning of the caves and rock faces. As well as, in Eagle Nest Canyon where Texas State University has an ongoing dig site to help preserve some ancient indigenous artifacts. This is also going on in other parts of the world, such as Australia’s outback.
Australian rock art, created by ancient Aborigines, predates that of North American rock art by thousands of years. The ancient aborigines, like the Clovis people of America, also depicted hunting animals and fishing in their paintings. These ancient people would paint or engrave lines, circles, and patterns to create scenes of humans, reptiles, fish, and whales in the stone. Today, decedents of these ancient people keep up with the traditions of their ancestors by painting in the same method but on canvas. [Arland Schnacker, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Benjamin, Roger; Andrew Weislogel; Fowler Museum at UCLA; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art; and Grey Art Gallery. 2009. Icons of the desert: Early aboriginal paintings from papunya. Ithaca, N.Y: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art:2009.
Shafer, Harry J.; Georg Zappler; Jim Zintgraff; and Witte Memorial Museum. Ancient Texans: Rock Art and Lifeways along the Lower Pecos. Houston, TX: Published for the Witte Museum of the San Antonio and Museum Association by Gulf Pub. Co.: 1992.
This object is a plenary indulgence, which is a religious document used by the Catholic church. Indulgences are used to grant the forgiveness of sins without having to do penance for them or be punished by spending time in purgatory. In the Catholic belief system, purgatory is where a person’s soul goes after death to be cleansed of its sins and prepared to enter heaven. This cleansing process is usually thought to involve being punished for any sins the person committed while alive. The most famous description of purgatory was written by Dante in his Divine Comedy. Dante described it as an island mountain, and divided it into three sections, Ante-purgatory, Purgatory proper, and the Earthly Paradise. Ante-purgatory was located on the lower slopes of the mountain, and was essentially a waiting area for souls who have yet to enter the punishment area of purgatory. The upper part of the mountain consists of seven terraces, each of which corresponds to one of the seven capital sins (popularly known today as the “seven deadly sins”). Eden, Dante’s Earthly Paradise is found at the very top of the mountain.
There are two types of indulgences. These are partial or plenary, meaning complete or absolute. The difference between these two forms is in how much punishment in purgatory they forgave you for. These were given by bishops and church officials starting in the 11th and 12th centuries. These documents have a long history and have a large importance for the church and it’s members.
Indulgences have stirred controversy in the past however. Some felt that the church needed to reform and indulgences were at the top of the list. In the Ninety Five Theses, Martin Luther criticized catholic doctrine of the time, and in particular, the way indulgences were used. These criticisms would add fuel to a fire that had been strengthening for centuries. While the Protestant Reformation happens soon after Luther’s theses were published, earlier events show that the desire for reform in the Catholic church was not a new concept. The religious movements among the Waldensians, Hussites, as well as the Lollards were all challenges to the Catholic system long before Luther. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Cassone, Alberto, and Carla Marchese. “The Economics of Religious Indulgences.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) / Zeitschrift Für Die Gesamte Staatswissenschaft 155, no. 3 (1999): 429-42.
Needles like this one are used by women of the Kickapoo tribe to make woven mats using cattails and other plants. These mats are used to make Kickapoo wickiups, the traditional style of Kickapoo housing. These mats could be rolled up and transported from place to place, making them very convenient for travel, but they were also used at permanent settlements.
Before moving south to Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico, the Kickapoo were found in western Wisconsin, and parts of Michigan. While living in these northern areas the Kickapoo made their houses out of tree bark and cattails, but when fighting with European settlers and other tribes, such as the Osage, caused the Kickapoo to migrate south into Kansas, and finally Texas and Mexico, the materials they used for building changed to match the environment. Birch trees weren’t available in the southern plains, so Kickapoo used more cattail and native grasses in their houses. In the 19th century, the Kickapoo bands divided into two groups, the northern and southern Kickapoo. The northern Kickapoo went to reservations in states like Oklahoma, while the southern Kickapoo continued to migrate south, into Texas and Mexico.
While in Mexico, the Kickapoo developed a language that isn’t used by their sister tribes in America. The language is believed to have been created by the younger Kickapoos and was created for courtship rituals. Young Kickapoo men and women would use this whistling language to communicate without older members of the tribe being able to understand. This language was called onowecikepi, and is still in use today. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This sword is a dress sword for the Philippine Constabulary, but was found here in Texas. This sword, though it is from the Philippines, represents an interesting time in American history, the Spanish American war and the subsequent occupation of the Philippines by the United States. During this occupation, there were conflicts between American and Filipino forces.
In the aftermath of the Spanish American war, the United States would find itself in control of the Philippines, which had up to that point been a colony of Spain. The Filipinos however, had already been fighting for independence, and on January 23, 1899 the First Philippine Republic was created, with Aguinaldo as its leader. The Americans had different plans for the Philippines however. President McKinley would release the “Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation,” which called for the United States to take over. This would lead to war between the two young republics.
The initial conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States lasted until 1902. After 1902 however, guerilla warfare would continue until 1913. To govern the Philippines as the revolt continued, Congress passed the Spooner Amendment, which authorized the president to create a civil government there. The first civil governor appointed was the future president Howard Taft.
From this new civil government was created the Philippine Commission, which was formed to look over the creation of local governments and maintain law and order. To accomplish this task, the commission saw the need to create a police force made up from the local populace. The Philippine Constabulary was created with the passing of Act No. 175 on July 18, 1901. The job of the Constabulary was to establish law and order, whether it was fighting revolutionaries and guerillas, or patrolling already pacified areas. They would accomplish this task over the next 16 years.
United States involvement in the archipelago would become substantial as the fighting continued. At its peak, the United States Army had 70,000 men trying to pacify the area, not including local forces like the police or the constabulary. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine-American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984.
Materials: Wood, metal, leather, plastic
This object is an accordion, a musical instrument invented in Europe in the 1800s. It was brought to America by European immigrants and is especially popular in French-Louisiana and along the Texas/Mexico border.
In Texas, the accordion is mainly used in a genre of music developed by working class Texas-Mexican peoples at the turn of the nineteenth century. This genre is known as conjunto music. In the 1890s, Texas had strong German, Polish, and Czech influences from all the immigrants settling in the area. These cultures brought their music and instruments along with the rest of their culture, and the local Tejanos began to pick up their musical influences – particularly the polka, which used the violin and the accordion prominently.
There were many prominent Texan artists famous for their skill in playing the accordion. Men like Narciso Martinez, known as El Huracan del valle or “The Hurricane of the Valley,” Santiago Jimenez, and Valerio Longoria made the conjunto style of music popular throughout the twentieth century.
San Antonio, Texas holds an annual International Accordion Festival which has been conducted since 2001. It incorporates not only conjunto style music, but Cajun, zydeco, Czech, and German styles as well. There is also the Accordion Kings and Queens concert that takes place in Houston, Texas, hosted by the Texas Folk Life organization. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This object is a coffee grinder that was manufactured in 1873 in Philadelphia by the Enterprise Manufacturing Company. The coffee beans would be placed in the top compartment, and the wheels on the side would be turned. This would cause the beans to be ground into a fine powder, which would be deposited into the compartment on the bottom that could be removed to collect the powdered coffee grounds.
Coffee drinking has become a part of everyday life for people all over the world. The consumption of coffee is believed to have its origin in the ancient land of Abyssinia, which is now called Ethiopia. Their legend holds that the first to discover the energizing properties of coffee were goats – and soon after, their herder.
According to the legend, a man named Kaldi was following behind his flock of goats in the mountains as they roamed for food. When it was time for them to go home, Kaldi played his flute to draw the goats back to him, but they did not come. He finally found them frolicking in a clearing – running, dancing on their hind legs, and butting each other playfully. Kaldi could not figure out what was making his goats act that way. He initially thought someone had bewitched them until he spotted the goats eating bright red berries off a nearby tree. Fearing the berries might be poisonous, Kaldi kept a close eye on the goats for hours until they finally settled down enough to be led home. The next day, the goats ran directly to the same clearing, ate more of the berries, and began their frolicking all over.
This time, Kaldi decided he would try the berries as well, at first spitting out the seed, which was black and bean-looking, then later eating that too. After eating some of the seeds, Kaldi began feeling a slow tingle and an overwhelming burst of energy. He took some of the berries home and shared them with others, rapidly spreading the knowledge of the miraculous energy-giving bean.
Another version of the ending is Kaldi taking the berries to a monk, who disdainfully threw them in the fire. Upon smelling the rich aroma of the roasted beans, he promptly scraped the beans out the fire and ground them, pouring water over the grounds making the drink we know of as coffee. This energy giving drink rapidly spread through the land.
Coffee trees eventually were spread and traded all over the world, making coffee one of the most popular drinks in the world. By the 15th century, coffee was growing in Arabia and the drink became so popular they began opening coffee houses called qahveh khaneh. It spread to Europe by the 1600s and coffee houses sprang up there as well, as social centers. By the middle of the 17th century, coffee had come to America. Its popularity was slow going until the time of the Boston Tea Party, when the people revolted against taxes and dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor. With tea being out of fashion, Americans discovered a love of coffee that continues to this day. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Pankhurst, Rita. “The Coffee Ceremony and the History of Coffee Consumption in Ethiopia.” Ethiopia in Broader Perspective: Papers of the Xiiith International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Kyoto, 12-17 December 1997. (1997): 516-539.
Reproduction Based off of an 1860s Model
Materials: Metal, Leather, Cloth
This canteen is a reproduction of the canteens that would have been issued to the Buffalo Soldiers during the Indian Wars era. Buffalo Soldier is a name that refers to African American soldiers that served in the United States Army during and following the American Civil War.
Before the Civil War, African Americans were not officially permitted to fight in the Army. During the war, combat roles and positions in the army would be opened up to African Americans after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. With this new opportunity, many signed up to serve over the course of the war. Over 175,000 African Americans served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT). From 1863 to the end of the war the USCT fought in 39 major engagements and hundreds of smaller skirmishes.
After the Civil War, the size of the military was cut down drastically. This affected African American units as well. In 1866, Congress called for the creation of six African American regular army regiments. Two of these regiments were cavalry, the 9th and 10th. These six regiments were represented far fewer soldiers than the massive numbers that fought in the Civil War, but they would distinguish themselves with bravery in the post war period. African American troops also served in state militias after the war ended. In 1882, Texas boasted nine companies, with 352 men, and in each state African American troops were 20 to 40 percent of the state militia.
These new regiments of Buffalo Soldiers would have a hard task in front of them in the post Civil War era. This was a time of conflicts between the United States and Native American groups. The first task for the 9th cavalry was to guard mail routes and travel routes in Texas. Native American and Mexican raiders had plagued these routes during the Civil War. Union troops were no longer in the state and the Confederate government was too busy to protect Texas. In the following years the Buffalo Soldiers would see intense fighting in Texas. In 1875 and 1876, there was fighting in west Texas, and the panhandle as well. In the Texas Panhandle was the Red River War.
In the late 1870s, disaster struck the Buffalo Soldiers. 60 men from the 10th cavalry regiment under the command of Captain Nolan got lost scouting for a Comanche war party that had undertaken raids in the area. Due to heat and drought, the expedition dissolved and failed. Four men were court-martialed, and four died. Although segregated into their own units, the Buffalo Soldiers served bravely in the years after the Civil War. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Barr, Alwyn. “The Black Militia of the New South,” in Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and volunteers, 1866-1917, edited by Bruce Glasrud, 73-85. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011.
1970s replica of a 15th century halberd
Materials: Cast iron
This object is a replica of a halberd – a type of pike weapon used in Medieval Europe. A halberd is a medieval weapon that evolved from a two-handed axe. Over time, parts of the axe changed: the handle became much longer, more like a spear, the axe head became more oblique instead of square, a beak was added on the opposite side of the blade, and a long, pointed blade was added to the top end. Not all these changes were made simultaneously, but gradually and by different peoples.
The halberd was useful in battle when fighting against heavily armored foes, as the long handle allowed for a full body swing, enabling the blade to cleave through metal. The point at the end could be used for thrusting, and the beak on the back allowed the fighter to hook and drag horsemen from their mounts.
Halberds were used primarily between 1300 and 1650. They provided a weapon with a longer reach for infantry to use, especially when fighting against mounted enemies since they could be used as both a pike and an axe. They began to decline in use after that time, however, when fighting styles began to change. By the 1800s when firearms started to come into use, the halberd became almost exclusively ceremonial, instead used as a symbol of authority as with the Papal Guards.
During the Civil War in 1861, Company B of the Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers consisted entirely of soldiers armed with lances, which are a type of pike similar to a halberd but without the axe head. The idea of being a lancer was very popular in Southern Texas and in 1862, George Washington Carter received permission to recruit an entire brigade of lancers, which were designated as the Twenty-first, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth cavalry regiments. The Twenty-first regiment was divided into eleven companies. They served mainly as scouts and raiders to protect Texas from invasion and were finally disbanded in the spring of 1865. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Materials: Leather, wood, metal, plastic
This item is a clock made from a leather stirrup, mounted on a wooden base. It was made by an inmate of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at Huntsville, Texas. For hundreds of years, prisons have used prison labor for a variety of reasons. Texas has had prisons utilizing prisoner labor since before the Civil War. In Texas, evidence for local governments wanting to use prisoners for labor can be seen as early as 1829, where officials of the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas looked to build two prisons in Bexar and Parras. These prisons were to provide labor and money to both the state and those running the prison. Ultimately, these prisons would not be built, but the idea would not be lost. On March 13, 1848 legislation was passed for new prisons to be built close to the water and provided with equipment and machinery so that goods could be manufactured and moved. The spot chosen for this new initiative was the town of Huntsville, the same town from which this clock was created.
In 1853, Governor P.H. Bell called for money to install cotton mill equipment at the prison. This was done in hopes to make the prison self-sustaining. This shift in production, and new equipment would prove to be valuable for Texas during the upcoming Civil War. During the Civil War, the penitentiary was a major source of revenue for Texas, amounting to $800,000 in the state treasury in just 1863 alone. After the Civil War, that would no longer be the case however.
After the Civil War, and the emancipation of slaves in the South, prisons and prison labor was used by many southern states and businesses to control the newly emancipated African Americans and their labor. During Reconstruction, laws called the Black Codes were put into place to achieve this goal. The most absurd of these laws made it illegal for African Americans to do things such as use insulting gestures or language, “mischief,” and not having written evidence of employment for the year. Under these codes, blacks could be arrested for these or other dubious reasons, and could be leased out as unpaid labor to plantations or southern business, or kept at the prison to work.
During the first half of the 20th century, The United States began phasing out commercial prison labor all across the country. Between 1929 and 1943 prison based industries and leasing prisoners to outside businesses were made illegal. By the 1950s, chain gangs and their like had disappeared. However, legislative acts within the past few decades shows that the idea of prison labor has not faded away completely. In 1995, the Prison Industries Reform Act and the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIE) have created an expansion in business and prison partnerships. This is due to several reasons, including the massive amount of prisoners and the cost of maintaining prisons in the United States. However, this reintroduction of labor into prisons was very controversial. In 1995 in states such as Alabama, chain gangs were seen for the first time since the 1950s. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]