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Object: Pike-halberd

I-0126a
Pike-halberd
1970s replica of a 15th century halberd
Materials: Cast iron

Castle of Nideggen, exhibits in keep (pole arms, including halbred, voulge and pollaxe). Photo by Sir Gawain, via WikiMedia Commons

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]

Additional Resources:

Snook, George A. The Halberd and Other European Polearms, 1300-1650. Bloomfield, ON: Museum Restoration Service, 1998.

The Art of Chivalry: European Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1984.

Guilmartin, John F. “Military Technology”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. December 28, 2011.

Bailey, Anne J. “Twenty-first Texas Cavalry.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. April 11, 2011.

Object: Clock

EX2014.1.1
Clock
J. Rubio
American
Huntsville, Texas
2014
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.

A southern chain gang. Image published by Detroit Publishing Co., via Wikimedia Commons.

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]

Bibliography

American Academy of Political and Social Science, E. Stagg Whitin, and James P. Lichtenberger. 1975. Prison labor. New York: Kraus.

Bair, Asatar P. 2012. Prison labor in the United States: an economic analysis. London: Routledge.

Blue, Ethan. 2014. Doing time in the depression: everyday life in Texas and California prisons.

Colvin, Mark. 1997. Penitentiaries, reformatories, and chain gangs: Social theory and the history of punishment in nineteenth-century America. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Melossi, Dario, Glynis Cousin, and Massimo Pavarini. 1980. The prison and the factory: origins of the Penitentiary system. Macmillan.

Stein, Abby. 2012. Back on the chain gang: The new/old prison labor paradigm. The Journal of Psychohistory 39 (4): 254.

Van Zyl Smit, Dirk, and Frieder Dünkel. 1999. Prison labour: Salvation or slavery? : International perspectives. Brookfield Vt;Aldershot, UK;: Ashgate/Dartmouth.

Walker, Donald R., and Inc NetLibrary. 1988. Penology for profit: A history of the Texas prison system, 1867-1912. 1st ed. Vol. no. 7. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.

Object: Newspaper

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I-0208pp
Newspaper article
“Confederate Soldier Walter W. Williams Dies in Houston, Funeral Held Wednesday” The Franklin Texan
American
Franklin, Texas
1959
Materials: Paper/Ink

This is the December, 1959 edition of the Franklin Texan. In this issue, the story concerns the death of Walter Williams, a man who claimed to be a former confederate soldier and the last veteran of the Civil War. Texas seceded in 1861, alongside other southern states to form the Confederacy. The Civil War experience for Texas, was different from other states.

Despite the obvious threat of the Union army, there were other threats that were more serious in the minds of many Texans. With the withdrawal of Union troops at the start of the conflict, Texans were concerned that the immediate threat to Texas was from Native American raids. Texan and Native American relations had been complex in Texas, and at the time of the Civil War they had been very strained. Sam Houston, who was the first president of Texas, tried to build better relations. He attempted to enforce trade laws, remove trespassers from native land, uphold hunting rights, and establish fairer treaties. However, successive presidents would reverse these programs. Due to this strain between Texans and Native Americans, conflict would persist throughout the Civil War.

Edmund Kirby Smith. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1862, Texas would be placed into Trans-Mississippi Department. This was a group of Confederate states, west of the Mississippi river, that were placed under the command of Kirby Smith in 1863. This department was seen as necessary because of the massive distance between these states and the Confederate capital in Richmond. When the Mississippi was taken in 1863, the department would effectively be cut off from the rest of the Confederacy.

In 1863, the invasion of Texas was headed by Nathanial Banks. This invasion was made possible by the Union control of Vicksburg, securing the Mississippi river for the north. Texas was a strategic target for the Union for several reasons. Texas’ border with Mexico allowed them to get around the Union blockade of Confederate ports. Cotton was transported across the border, and shipped to Europe, and supplies and guns were shipped back through the same route. The Union couldn’t blockade Mexico, so they would have to invade to stop the shipments. Another reason also had to do with Mexico. After the start of the Civil War, France invaded Mexico to place a friendly government on the throne. The Union saw this as a threat, and wanted to show force in the region. If Texas and other confederate states could continue to sell its cotton and buy goods, there was a risk that European powers would get involved in the conflict.

In 1865, the last battle of the Civil war would be fought in Texas. The Battle of Palmito Hill would mark the end of resistance in Texas and the remaining confederate states. Next would come reconstruction, and the emergence of a new Texas. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Bailey, Anne. Between the Enemy and Texas: Parsons’s Texas Cavalry in the Civil War. Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2013.

Gallaway, B. P., and Inc NetLibrary. Texas, the Dark Corner of the Confederacy: Contemporary Accounts of the Lone Star State in the Civil War. 3rd ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1994.

Grear, Charles D. The Fate of Texas: The Civil War and the Lone Star State. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.

Henderson, Colonel H. M. C. Texas in the Confederacy. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2015.

Howell, Kenneth W. The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas During the Civil War. Denton, Tex: University of North Texas Press, 2011.

Jewett, Clayton E., and Inc NetLibrary. Texas in the Confederacy: An Experiment in Nation Building. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. 2002.

Jewett, Clayton E. On its Own: Texas in the Confederacy. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. 1998.

Townsend, Stephen A. The Yankee Invasion of Texas. Vol. no. 8. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. 2006.

Object: Lithograph

I-0287a
Lithograph
Hermann Lungkwitz
German American
Fredericksburg, TX
1813-1891
Materials: Paper and ink

Karl Friedrich Hermann Lungkwitz, “On the Pedernales River,” oil on paper. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This object is a lithograph of the Texas Hill Country in Fredericksburg made by the artist and photographer Hermann Lungkwitz in the mid nineteenth century. Karl Friedrich Hermann Lungkwitz was a German artist trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Dresden, Saxony in the 1840s. In 1850, Lungkwitz and his family immigrated to the United States, moving from New York to Texas, where he started in New Braunfels in 1851, but eventually moved and settled in Fredericksburg in 1852. They purchased a farm on the Pedernales River, where he and his brother-in-law, Richard Petri, also an artist, grew potatoes and began their first paintings, sketches, and lithographs of the Texas countryside around their farm. In the mid-1850s, he began sketching and painting the San Antonio area as well – particularly the missions and town scenery.

By 1859, Lungkwitz began learning the art of photography with William DeRyee and Wilhelm Thielepape. They traveled between Texas towns to take photographs and display their images in magic lantern shows, in which pictures and portraits were projected on to a screen for an audience to view.

In the last years of the Civil War, the political climate in Fredericksburg became too much for the family to handle and they moved to San Antonio in 1864. Here, with the help of Thielepape, he sold his paintings to provide a small income before opening a school for drawing and drafting. In 1866, he opened a photographic studio with Carl von Iwonski, focusing primarily on offering inexpensive portraits of the people of San Antonio, which he continued until 1870 when he was made the official photographer of the General Land Office in Austin, a position he held for four years.

By 1874, Lungkwitz turned back to his love for painting – he sketched and painted scenes all around the Austin area and taught drawing at the Jacob Bickler’s German-American Select School for Boys. He continued painting and teaching for the remainder of his life.

Hermann Lungkwitz is responsible for the majority of the images we have of the 1800s Texas Hill Country, the missions of Texas, and much of old San Antonio. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Von, Rosenberg M. German Artists of Early Texas: Hermann Lungkwitz and Richard Petri. Austin, Tex: Eakin, 1982.

McGuire, James P. Hermann Lungkwitz, Romantic Landscapist on the Texas Frontier. Austin: Published by the University of Texas Press, Austin, for the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1983.

McGuire, James P. “Lungkwitz, Karl Friedrich Hermann.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. June 15, 2010.

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

i-0277a-2

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

2013_13_7

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.

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