Archive | Object Blogs RSS for this section

Object: Icebox

i-0331a

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.

Object: Contact printer

i-0397b-scan

I-0397b
Contact Printer
Ansco Company
American
Binghamton,NY
1920-1960
Materials: Wood/Glass/Wire

This object is a contact printer made by Ansco Company in Binghamton, New York.  Before photography became primarily digital, it was designed to create a photographic image from a film negative.  Several images from a strip of film would be lined up on a sheet, creating rows of small picture prints, called contact prints.  This contact printer was owned by James W. Zintgraff, Sr.  Zintgraff, along with his son, James, Jr., owned and ran a well-known photography business in San Antonio from the 1920s through the 1980s.

Wings (1927) film poster. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Wings (1927) film poster. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

James Zintgraff Sr. was a cameraman in Hollywood in the early 1920s.  After deciding he didn’t like the pace of the west coast, he moved back to San Antonio with the idea of starting a local film industry.  In 1927, he worked as a cameraman on a movie called “Wings,” which was filmed in several areas in and around San Antonio, and went on to become the very first movie to ever win best picture at the Academy Awards.

Around that same time, Zintgraff started a still photography business in his backyard.  In the early days, the owner of the Coca-Cola plant in San Antonio would enlist Zintgraff to take pictures of the plant and warehouse.  Zintgraff would run home, develop the pictures, and deliver them within four hours.  He believed the owner was doing him a favor to help him get started.

Though there wasn’t much competition in the early days, James felt that Zintgraff Studios could attribute his success to “having a lot of good friends” from his time in Hollywood.  When a movie premiere or famous people came to town, James would get the jobs through his Hollywood connections.  Most notably, Zintgraff photographed Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman when they came to San Antonio for presidential duties.  When James, Jr. joined his father’s business, he worked closely with Hollywood elites such as Cecil B. DeMille and even worked with John Wayne when he was filming The Alamo in Brackettville, a town about 130 miles west of San Antonio.

Through the years, Zintgraff Studios worked closely with some of the most well-known brands in the city, including Pearl, Lone Star, Rainbo Breads, and Coca- Cola.  In addition, they were official photographers for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, numerous Fiesta events, and captured thousands of photographs of area movie theaters, street scenes, parks, schools, and even the new Convention Center when it opened it the 1960s.

Roy Rogers and the "Sons of the Pioneers" singing in studio of KTSA Radio Station in Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, 1943. Image by Zintgraff Studios, via UTSA Special Collections Library, Digital identifier CD #1406: Z-2088-A-13.

Roy Rogers and the “Sons of the Pioneers” singing in studio of KTSA Radio Station in Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, 1943. Image by Zintgraff Studios, via UTSA Special Collections Library, Digital identifier CD #1406: Z-2088-A-13.

The photographs taken by the Zintgraff Studios span seven decades of history.  They tell the story of San Antonio and its people.  Today, more than 850,000 of the Zintgraff photographs are stored in the UTSA Special Collections Library, located inside the Institute of Texan Cultures.  The moments they captured are locked in time, preserving a bit of the past for future generations. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL READINGS

Lochbaum, Jerry.  Old San Antonio: History in Pictures.  San Antonio, TX: Express Publishing Co., 1965.

Tausk, Petr.  Photography in the 20th Century.  London: Focal Press: Focal/Hastings House, 1980.

Thompson, Frank T.  Texas Hollywood: Filmmaking in San Antonio Since 1910.  San Antonio, TX: Maverick Publishing, 2002.

Turner, Peter.  History of Photography.  New York: Exeter Books: Distributed by Bookthrift, 1987.

Object: Quilt

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2014.5.1
Quilt
African- American
United States
1950-1959
Materials: Cloth/Thread/Cotton

This object is a quilt, made in the 1950s, in the African- American tradition of quilt-making.   An appraiser from Antiques Roadshow was able to identify it based on the style, construction, and materials used.  It appears to be hand-quilted and pieced, assembled in the strip construction technique, in which strips of scrap fabric were sewn together to create a pattern.

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by r aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

African textile traditions have not been well-documented in comparison to other types of folk art, however, it is thought that their origins can be traced back to four civilizations of Central and West Africa.  In Africa, most textiles were made by men.  It wasn’t until African slaves were brought to the United States that women took over the tradition, with work being divided based on Western gender roles.

By the time African-American quilting had become a tradition, it had been combined with traditions from the Caribbean, Central American, and southern United States.  However, some distinct characteristics survived, and can still be identified in quilts today.  Bold colors, strips of fabric, and symbolism are all dominant features in African-American quilting.

Large shapes and bright colors were used in African tribes to distinguish people from far distances.  The ability to identify different warring tribes or hunting parties was crucial to survival.  This use of bold colors and oversized shapes has endured in African- American textiles.

Combined with that is a distinct tradition of asymmetrical patterns and improvised designs.  There are many reasons for this.  The ability to change or alternate the pattern allowed quilters to get the most use of scrap fabrics, as opposed to a repeating pattern, that required specific colors in set quantities.

More importantly, breaks in patterns held  great symbolism for African cultures.  A break in pattern could symbolize rebirth in the power of the wearer or creator of the quilt.  Pattern breaks were also believed to keep away evil.  It was believed that evil traveled in a straight line, and by breaking the pattern, evil spirits would become confused and be slowed down.  Improvising the patterning also ensured that the pattern could not be copied, and gave the creator and owner and strong sense of ownership and creativity.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Once in the United States, African quilts took on even more meaning.  Many women would create story quilts, in which they would applique pictures onto their quilts.  By doing this, they could record their family history- like a photo album- or tell a story in pictures. One of the most famous women to create story quilts was a freed slave named Harriet Powers.  In 1896, she created an intricately-crafted quilt which she entitled “Bible Quilt”, depicting several Biblical stories.  In 1898, she crafted the “Pictorial Quilt”, illustrating three rows of Bible stories, historical events, and significant weather anomalies.  The “Pictorial Quilt” now hangs at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the “Bible Quilt” is housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

Few examples of African- American quilting tradition have survived through the years.  They were considered necessities rather than luxuries, and most were worn out.  However, men and women of African descent have kept the essence of the traditions alive, and are illustrated in pieces such as this quilt from the 1950s.  What was once  simply a functional piece of bedding, we know know is artistry to be preserved and celebrated. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Hicks, Kyra E.  Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003.

Lyons, Mary E.  Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers.  New York: Scribner’s Sons; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993.

Wahlman, Maude.  Signs and Symbols: African Images in African American Quilts.  Atlanta, GA: Tinwood, 2001.

Wilson, Sule Greg.  African American Quilting: The Warmth of Tradition.  New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 1999.

Object: Insignia

i-0118b

I-0118b
Insignia
African-American
United States
Mid-19th to early 20th Century
Materials: Metal/Paint/Enamel

This object is an insignia pin for the 10th Cavalry of the United States Army.  It was used to distinguish the members of the regiment.  The 10th Cavalry was formed in the summer of 1866 as part of the Army Reorganization Act, which was enacted to rebuild the United States Army after the Civil War.

Liberators of Cuba, soldiers of the 10th Cavalry after the Spanish-American War. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Liberators of Cuba, soldiers of the 10th Cavalry after the Spanish-American War. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Civil War had depleted the troops, and the Army needed to replenish their numbers for a peacetime military.  As part of their reorganization, the Army created six regiments of black soldiers- two cavalry and four infantry– approved by Congress.   These regiments consisted entirely of enlisted black men, but were led by white officers.

Many of the men who joined these regiments had served during the Civil War and were farmers, bakers, painters, and many other occupations.  However, the military offered an opportunity for social and economic advancement.  As soldiers, these men earned $13 a month, along with food, clothing, and shelter- much more than their other jobs offered.

The 10th Cavalry was formed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was commanded by Colonel Benjamin Grierson.  Their biggest assignment was to aid in westward expansion and protect American settlements.  Tasked with keeping order, they were often confronted with raids by bands of numerous Native American tribes, who were growing more and more desperate due to buffalo- their main food source- going extinct from sport hunting by white settlers and soldiers.

Fighting bravely in over one hundred battles against the Native tribes, even when outnumbered, soldiers like those in the 10th Cavalry earned the respect of tribal leaders.  To the tribes, the soldiers’ hair was thick and curly, like that of a buffalo, and the American Indians believed the soldiers were brave like a buffalo, so began calling the black soldiers “Buffalo Soldiers.”  It was a term of respect toward what they considered a valiant opponent in battle.  The symbol of the buffalo became the regiment’s official insignia in 1922.

Besides their contributions in battle, the soldiers of the 10th Cavalry, as well as the other buffalo soldier regiments, had countless accomplishments.  Constantly subjected to racial prejudice, and making due with cast-offs like aging horses and worn out equipment from more prestigious regiments, the buffalo soldiers carried out missions that were vital to America’s success.

In 1871, the 10th Cavalry accompanied General William T. Sherman on an inspection tour of Texas.  They were instrumental in mapping the uncharted territories of the state.  In addition, they strung thousands of miles of telegraph line, opened new roads, escorted stagecoaches and wagon trains, protected railroad crews, and were the driving force behind building and renovating dozens of frontier forts, including Fort Stockton in west Texas.

The 10th Cavalry, and all buffalo soldiers, hold an enduring legacy in American history.  Their success in the face of adversity makes them true heroes, and their contributions to the expansion of the United States can be seen throughout the stories of the American west. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Christian, Garna L.  Black Soldiers in Jim Crow Texas, 1899-1917.  College Station:  Texas A&M University Press, 1995.

Cox, Clinton.  The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers.  New York: Scholastic, 1993.

Glass, Edward L.N.  The History of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921.  Ft. Collins, CO: Old Army Press, 1972.

Leckie, William H. and Shirley A. Leckie.  The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.

Object: Safe

i-0098g-scan

I-0098g
Safe
Alamo Safe and Lock Co.
American
San Antonio, TX
19th Century
Materials: Metal/Paint

This object is a heavy metal safe, manufactured by Alamo Safe and Lock Co. in the late 19th- early 20th century.  It was owned by John Lincoln Clem- an army officer who served in the Civil War.

Sgt. Johnny Clem / Schwing & Rudd, photographers, Army of the Cumberland. Image via Library of Congress.

Sgt. Johnny Clem / Schwing & Rudd, photographers, Army of the Cumberland. Image via Library of Congress.

Clem was born in Newark, Ohio in 1851, with the name John Joseph Klem.  When he was young, he changed his middle name to Lincoln because of his deep admiration for President Abraham Lincoln.  He also changed the spelling of his last name from “Klem,” to “Clem.”  When he was nine, his mother died,  and he ran away from home to join the Union army.  Although the 3rd regiment out of Ohio wouldn’t accept him because of his age, a year later, the 22nd Infantry Regiment in Michigan let him follow them, adopting him as their unofficial drummer boy and mascot.

He was allowed to officially enlist in 1863, at the age of twelve.  Clem, carrying a musket that had been sawed down for him to handle better, became famous after the Battle of Chickamauga.   During the battle, he became separated from his group, and was ordered to stop and surrender by a Confederate Colonel.  Rather than surrendering, Clem swung around with his musket and fired, shooting the Colonel.  He returned safely to Union lines.

As a result of his heroism, he became known as the “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga,” and was promoted to sergeant- the youngest soldier ever to become a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.   A month later, he was captured by Confederate soldiers in Georgia and used as a propaganda tactic by the South, who stated “when they have to send their babies out to fight us.”  He was soon released in a prisoner exchange with the North.

In 1864, after fighting in several more battles, Johnny Clem was discharged from the army, and returned home to finish school.  He graduated high school in 1870 and tried to enlist in West Point.  After failing the entrance exam several times, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him as 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  In 1875, Clem completed artillery school in Virginia, and then transferred to the Quartermaster Department, where he was eventually promoted to captain.  Near the end of his career, John Clem was the chief quartermaster at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio (1906-1911).

By the time he retired in 1915, he was 64 years old, had risen to the rank of brigadier general and actively served in the military for 45 years.  After retirement, he was promoted to major general.  He was officially the last Civil War veteran to actively serve in the United States Army.  Clem died in San Antonio in 1937, and was taken to Arlington National Cemetery to be buried.

John Clem lived a life of bravery and adventure.  His story has inspired many over the years. The song “The Ballad of Johnny Shiloh,”  written by Andrew Landers, commemorates him, and there has been speculation that the popular Civil War song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was inspired by Clem.  Even Walt Disney produced a film in 1963- exactly one hundred years after Clem enlisted- called “Johnny Shiloh,” based on Clem’s time as a young drummer boy in the Union army.  John Lincoln Clem was a larger than life, true American patriot and legend. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Abbott, E.F., Steven Noble.  John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy.  New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2016.

Kendall, Sandra A., Gilson L. Kendall.  Drummer Boys of the Civil War.  Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1998.

Rhodes, James A., Dean Jauchius.  Johnny Shiloh: A Novel of the Civil War.  Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959.

Wisler, G. Clifton.  When Johnny Went Marching: Young Americans Fight the Civil War.  New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2001.

Object: Card game

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

FIC2013.160
Trivia Card Game
American
Galveston, TX
1907/1908
Material: paper

This object is a trivia card game called “Texas Heroes: An Instructive Game,” created by Sally Trueheart Williams in 1908. The cards have three to five questions listed with a picture of the answer above. The people on the cards are those widely known by Texans, such as James Bowie, Sam Houston, David Crockett and many others. There are also historic places included that also have an important role in the history of Texas such as San Antonio, Nacogdoches, and Austin.  A pamphlet is included with testimonials from Texas educators promoting the game as a useful educational tool.

Sally Trueheart Williams

Sally Trueheart Williams. Image via the Rosenberg Library Museum of Galveston.

Sally T. Williams (1871-1951) daughter of Henry M. Trueheart and Annie Vanmeter Cunningham, was an active member of the Galveston, Texas community. She had a passion for history, education, and charity. She was member of the Equal Suffrage Club, the Wednesday Club, First Presbyterian Church, American Red Cross, Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Colonial Dames.

In 1900, a hurricane devastated much of Texas, in Galveston over 3,000 buildings were destroyed and around 6,000 people were killed. In the wake of the storm the American Red Cross, founded by Clara Barton, played a large role in the relief efforts. Women’s clubs and associations in the area also volunteered, thus women had more visible public roles in the community. The efforts of these women’s civics clubs evolved to a suffrage movement. As a member of the Equal Suffrage Club, Sally T. Williams stood for the right of women to vote and argued that municipal maintenance can be compared to public ‘housekeeping.’ The argument was an attempt to convince other women that participating in women’s suffrage was not violating the traditional roles of women in the home.

Women’s clubs in the late 1800s to early 1900s gave way to the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs (TFWC) which encouraged progressive movements and activism. The TFWC has accomplished and influenced numerous developments in Texas such as children’s health laws, traffic and highway safety, food purity standards, and historical preservation, to name a few. In its infancy, the TFWC consisted of mainly wealthy women and teachers, though today the membership is much more diverse. Many of the projects and activities of the federation have become the responsibility of the government in modern times, however the TFWC is still active and takes on projects involving aid to abused women and cancer patients and their families. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources

Jones, Marian Moser. 2013;2012;. The american red cross from clara barton to the new deal. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press

Goldfield, David. 2013. Still fighting the civil war LSU Press.

McArthur, Judith N., and Harold L. Smith. 2010. Texas through women’s eyes: The twentieth-century experience. 1st ed. Vol. bk. 24. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Megan Seaholm, “Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs,” Handbook of Texas Online, June 15, 2010. Texas State Historical Association

Turner, Elizabeth Hayes, and Inc NetLibrary. 1997. Women, culture, and community: Religion and reform in galveston, 1880-1920. New York: Oxford University Press.

Object: Fence

i-0010h-7

I-0010h
Fence
German
San Antonio, TX
19th Century
Materials: Metal

Vereins Kirche, Fredericksburg, Texas. A replica of an 1847 early church. In modern times it was nicknamed the Coffee Mill for its unique shape. Image by Ernest Mettendorf, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vereins Kirche, Fredericksburg, Texas. A replica of an 1847 early church. In modern times it was nicknamed the Coffee Mill for its unique shape. Image by Ernest Mettendorf, via Wikimedia Commons.

This object is a section of a metal fence with a detailed design on the end posts.  It is a lasting symbol of German-style architecture found throughout central Texas.  Though German-Texas immigrants began mixing in Anglo building methods, some elements of German craftsmanship endured throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and into today.

Germans are currently the third largest national-origin group in Texas, behind Anglos and Hispanics, comprising about 17.5% of the total population of the state.  The majority of immigrants settled in a belt-like pattern, called “chain migration,” across the south central part of the state, forming a chain from Galveston along the coast, to Austin, New Braunfels, and San Antonio, and west into Kerrville, Mason, and Hondo on the far side of the Hill Country.  Chain migration often occurs when immigrants enter a new place and settle there.  They then start to branch out to farther points, creating a “chain” of connected communities- in this case, German communities.

The influence for so much migration to Texas was rooted in the so called “America Letters” that were written by immigrants, sent to their homelands, and often published.  They sang the praises of their new homeland, and severely understated any downfalls.  The letters were written by true pioneers who saw emigration as the solution to issues in their homeland, seeking economic, political, or religious opportunity.

In the case of Texas Germans, Friedrich Diercks was the most notable pioneer to bring attention to opportunities in Texas immigration.  Originally intending to immigrate to Missouri, he switched gears when he heard about land grants being offered to European immigrants in Stephen F. Austin’s colony in Texas.  Diercks applied for, and received over 4,000 acres in the northwest corner of Austin County (near Round Top, Texas).

As a result of the “America letters” written by Diercks, a steady stream of immigrants flowed into Texas from northwestern Germany.  By 1850, the German Belt was well established.  Towns like Fredericksburg and New Braunfels were founded during this time, and still house some of the largest concentrations of German descendants in Texas.  Many of those people still speak German to each other.

The settlers who migrated during this time were by no means poor.  They were generally solid middle-class peasants.  Many were land- owners and artisans, and a few were college educated.  The vast majority were farmers though.  The Germans were ambitious though, and felt their futures in Germany were being stifled by their current social and economic system.  In their new home of Texas, though many stayed in the cities such as Austin and San Antonio, many others moved to the rural areas of the Hill Country and farmed the land.

During the Civil War, migration was halted by the Union blockade of Confederate ports.  Once the War ended though, more Germans than ever before arrived in Texas.  Between 1865 and 1890, the number of German Texans jumped to over 40,000, and since 1930, the reach of German settlements has changed very little.

Before the World Wars, German heritage was widely preserved due to their relative isolation in their clustered colonies.  However, due to German prejudice surrounding the World Wars, many folkways were lost, and many settlers stopped speaking German.  As more and more of the Anglo- Texan culture intertwined with German heritage, even more of the pure German culture in Texas was lost.

German dancers and music bring a festive atmosphere to McKinney’s Oktoberfest. Image via visitmckinneytexas.wordpress.com

German dancers and music bring a festive atmosphere to McKinney’s Oktoberfest. Image via visitmckinneytexas.wordpress.com

Today, we still see the imprint of German culture in celebrations and historic architecture.  Events like Oktoberfest, Saengerfest, and Wurstfest celebrate the culture that so many Texans have roots in.  Buildings like Sunday Houses, and even modern German Texas farmhouse style homes, pay tribute to the heritage of 19th Century German immigrants.

Texas is a melting pot of heritage and has, in many ways, seamlessly accepted and tied together countless cultures and practices.  From Hispanic, to Czech, to German, we all come together to celebrate what makes our state so unique. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Abernethy, Francis Edward.  Built in Texas.  Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2000.

Biesele, Rudolph Leopold.  The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831-1861.  San Marcos, TX:  German-Texan Heritage Society, Dept. of Modern Languages, Southwest Texas State University, 1987.

German Texan Heritage Society.  GTHS German Immigrant Ancestors.  Austin, Texas:  German-Texan Heritage Society, 1997.

Lich, Glen E.  The German Texans. San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1981.

Object: Mask

i-0581c

I-0581c
Opera Mask
Chinese
Unknown date, likely 20th century
Materials: Paper Mache and Paint

Sun Wukong at the Beijing opera "Journey to the West." Photo by d'n'c, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sun Wukong at the Beijing opera “Journey to the West.” Photo by
d’n’c, via Wikimedia Commons.

This mask represents a character named Sun Wukong (孫悟空), or the Monkey King, who appears in Chinese folklore and plays a large role in the 16th century classic Chinese novel Xiyou ji, or Journey to the West. In the mythology of Sun Wukong, he was born from a stone egg on top of the Mountain of Flower and Fruit, when the wind blew on the stone egg it turned into the monkey. The Monkey King gained immortality and supernatural powers but rebelled against heaven when the gods excluded him from a royal banquet. He stole Xi Wangmu’s peaches of immortality and Laozi’s pills of longevity, then destroyed many of heavens palaces. The Buddha captured the Monkey King and imprisoned him in a mountain for five hundred years. The Buddha released him in exchange for his aid protecting the famous monk Xuanzang in his pilgrimage to India to retrieve the Buddhist sutras.

The story of the Monkey king is an important myth in Chinese culture, and it continues to be a popular story in Chinese theater and cinema. Many Chinese operas use face paint rather than masks such as this one. In the Chinese Opera, colors have significant meanings and are used as a visual aid. Red is used to represent a positive character or to show courage, intelligence, or bravery, black is used as a neutral color, blue is used to show stubbornness and white is used as a negative color or to represent a sly or evil character. Gold and silver show characters such as gods, demons and spirits. While red is the predominant color in this specific mask, there are other depictions that have white as the main color, with red framing the eyes nose and mouth. The colors in different masks allow the viewer to better understand the character’s role in the narrative.

Many families enjoy visiting the Chinese Opera during the Chinese Lunar New Year. Each year is represented in the Chinese zodiac by an animal and last year, 2016, was the year of the monkey. To celebrate the year of the monkey many may have used a mask similar to this one in the festivities. The Chinese Lunar New Year celebration is a centuries old tradition that lands on the first new moon of the year, in 2017 that was January 28th. The celebration traditionally honors deities and ancestors and it is also a time to gather with family, cleanse homes to rid ill-will and welcome good fortune and prosperity for the rest of the year.

One of the first Asian groups that immigrated to Texas were the Chinese in 1870 who were employed to work on the Texas railroads. In the following six decades, because of the Chinese exclusion law, the only Chinese that entered Texas were called “Pershing Chinese” because of their aid to John J. Pershing‘s troops against the paramilitary forces of Mexican insurgent Francisco “Pancho” Villa. They were allowed to settle in San Antonio, where even in a hostile environment the culture remained. After the exclusion act was repealed, Chinese immigration resumed and continued through the decades allowing the Chinese population in the United States (and Texas) to grow.  Every year San Antonio celebrates our Asian cultures at the annual Asian Festival, held this coming weekend. Get your tickets HERE. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Briscoe, Edward Eugene. Pershing’s Chinese Refugees: An Odyssey of the Southwest. San Antonio: St. Mary’s University, 1947.

Rhoads, Edward J.M. “CHINESE.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 12 June 2010

Shahar, Meir. “The Lingyin Si Monkey Disciples and The Origins of Sun Wukong.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 52.1 (1992): 193-224.

Wu, Cheng’en, and Anthony C. Yu. The Journey to the West. Vol. 1. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1980.

Wu, Annie. “Chinese New Year Celebrations (2016) — What Chinese Do.” ChinaHighlights, 21 July 2016

Object: Doll

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I-0277tt
Doll
Japanese
Unknown date, likely 20th Century
Materials: Cloth, hair, Ceramic

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This Japanese doll is a depiction of princess Yaegaki-Hime, the heroine of a five-act drama called Honcho Nijushiko or The 24 Models of Filial Piety. This drama was originally preformed in 1766 as a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theater originating in Osaka, and then became a popular drama in the live acting Kabuki theater. The character of the princess Yaegaki-Hime has gained fame through the Bunraku and Kabuki plays. The Yaegaki-Hime doll presented depicts her holding the legendary helmet that had been gifted to a samurai lord named Takeda Shingen by a fox god called Suwa Myojin. The helmet is enchanted to protect the samurai who wears it so that the samurai will always win and, when in need, the helmet would summon 808 foxes to protect the owner. In the famous scene of heroinism, Yaegaki saves her lover, Katsuyori, from the wrath of her father. He had sent two men to kill Katsuyori because of a family feud, Yaegaki prayed there was something she could do and mourned for her lover. She touched the enchanted helmet and became possessed by its power, with the protection of two white foxes she ran across a frozen lake to warn Katsuyori. The climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki plays is Yaegaki’s dance as she becomes possessed by the fox spirit and saves Katsuyori. The story ends as the family feud is resolved, the lovers marry and live happily ever after.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Bunraku tradition, scenes are narrated by musical chanting with the accompaniment of a shamisen, which is a stringed instrument of the lute family. The narrator voices the characters using a unique emotional vocal style for each character, sometimes for important scenes there may be multiple narrators chanting together. The puppeteer, or chief handler, also plays a role in narrating the story with his own exaggerated facial expressions, he would operate the head and right hand while 2 assistants, dressed and hooded in black, control the left hand and lower body movement.

The tradition of puppet theater in Japan stems from 11th century traveling story tellers and may have been influenced by Central Asia. The style of puppets has evolved from simplistic, hand-less and leg-less puppets to intricate full bodied puppets with moveable mouths and eyes. Japanese puppet theater was considered a sophisticated, adult pastime and was immensely popular the during the Tokugwa, or Edo, Period (1600-1868). The Japanese puppet theater did not gain the name ‘Bunraku’ until the late 18th century, it derives from the troupe established by Uemura Bunrakuken in Osaka, Japan. The plays for the puppet theater were written playbooks, published in authorized editions and, at the height of the puppeteering tradition over 1,000 plays were written and performed.

A new type of Japanese entertainment emerged in the beginning of the 17th century called Kabuki, where women would play both male and female parts in storytelling with song and dance. Many of the stories in the original Kabuki tradition were those of everyday life however, many of the successful Bunraku plays were adapted for the Kabuki stage. During this period, when women played the roles, Kabuki was not deemed as sophisticated as its puppeteering counterpart. The themes of these stories were often comical, suggestive and the women were usually prostitutes. The Shogunate banned women from acting to discourage prostitution and became a tradition of performance with a completely male cast. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Visit the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 4th to see live performances of Asian music and dance.

Additional Resources:

Kennedy, Dennis. The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Levinson, David, and Karen Christensen. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002.

Sasaguchi, Rei. “A Master of Many Voices: Living National Treasure Tells a Bunraku Classic.” The Japan Times, September 5, 2001.

The TARL Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Museum Anthropology

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Center for the Future of Museums

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

TAMEC

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Smithsonian Collections Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

Exploring the digital humanities

ethnology @ snomnh

experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007

%d bloggers like this: