Object: Eyeglasses

I-0267l (3)

Atlanta, Georgia
ca. 1870
Materials: Glass & Metal

Humans have five senses: hearing, sight, touch, taste, and smell. Although all are important for the human experience, many argue that sight is the most important. This object is a pair of eyeglasses which were made around the year 1870. It is estimated that most of the U.S. population uses eyeglasses or contacts. Today with modern technology there are all kinds of options to help if ones vision starts to fail. However, the most common and the earliest form of vision assistance are eyeglasses.

Before the invention of glasses, people had to go about their lives in a blur. However, people used whatever was available to help them see. For example in a letter written in about 100 B.C. by a Roman, he states that because he could no longer see and read for himself and had to rely on his slaves. It was also said that the philosopher Seneca read books by looking at them through a glass globe in water. The oldest known lenses were found in ancient Nineveh and were made of polished rock crystal. The reading stone, a simple type of magnifying glass, was created around 1000 A.D.

Reading stone.

Reading stone. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Ziko van Dijk.

It is not known who exactly invented glasses or in what year they were invented but it is estimated that they were developed between 1268 and 1289, based on written accounts of their use. For example, in a manuscript dated 1289 it was written “I am so debilitated by age that without the glasses known as spectacles, I would not longer be able to read or write.” By the year 1306 a monk from Pisa, Italy gave a sermon in which he stated, “It is not yet twenty years since the art of making spectacles, one of the most useful arts on earth, was discovered.” By the year 1352 eyeglasses began to appear on people in paintings.

In the beginning, glasses had lenses made out of quartz and were set into bone, metal or leather. These glasses however, did not look like what we think of today. In the early days of glasses they were simply balanced on the nose of the person who wore them. This proved to be a problem because everyone’s nose is different.  One invention to try to help with this issue was using ribbons that attached to the frames and looped over the ears. The modification traveled to China but the Chinese used metal weights attached to the strings. Slowly the use of eyeglasses began to spread from  Italy to places like Germany, Spain and France.

Man wearing a monocle.

Man wearing a monocle. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

By the 1700s eyeglasses were being worn in many places around the world. Vision aids began to improve and evolve. In 1780 Benjamin Franklin is credited with inventing the bifocal lens. This lens made it possible for people with multiple vision problems to only use one set of eyeglasses. There were many types of glasses that were produced besides the traditional ones we know of. The monocle was one of them, which was a circular lens used when vision needed to be corrected in one eye. Another type of eyeglass was the lorgnette, which had a handle to hold them instead of being worn.

Today although many people still wear eyeglasses, contact lenses are very popular. Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with coming up for the idea of contact lenses in 1508. However, his ideas were never really implemented. There were many people who tried to come up with a suitable contact lens that could be worn comfortably in the eye. Many failed and others used the failed ideas and perfected them. Contact lenses started out made out of glass and then as new materials like polymethyl methacrylate were developed, plastic versions were invented. By 1949 contact lenses could be worn for up to 16 hours a day and more people were interested in them, even though they were expensive. As the years have gone by contact lens have improved drastically and serve many aspects of correcting vision. Many people also wear contact lenses for cosmetic purposes.

A pair of contact lenses.

A pair of contact lenses. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Today many people who have trouble with their vision are opting for not wearing either glasses or contact lenses. With modern technology it is now possible to correct ones vision with a procedure called LASIK. This procedure, also known as laser eye surgery, is a surgery which corrects multiple vision problems by reshaping the eyes cornea.  With this surgery many people no longer need to depend on eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, as with all surgeries there are some pros and cons to having the procedure done.

Glasses, contact lenses, and LASIK surgery are all options to help correct ones vision. However, for many people whose vision cannot be improved by any of these options, other tools must be used to replace their natural sight. These tools include canes which help them detect obstacles when trying to move from one place to another. Guide dogs are also an option to help with mobility. When it comes to things like reading, people who have severe visual impairment use braille, a writing system made up of raised dots. For other every day activities, people with visual impairment might use equipment such as calculators, or GPS devices which can speak to the user. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Darrigol, Olivier. A History of Optics: From Greek Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Gaustad, Edwin S. Benjamin Franklin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

United States. Lasik Laser Eye Surgery. [Rockville, MD]: FDA Office of Women’s Health, 2007. <http://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/gpo21770>.

Object: Pamphlet

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Materials: Paper/Ink

This object is a pamphlet entitled “Mexican Cookery in American Homes” containing recipes by Willie Gebhardt, the inventor of Chili Powder. William Fredrick Gebhardt was born in Germany in 1875. His family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Braunfels. Willie had a passion to cook and opened a café in 1892, that he owned for 4 years.  While living in New Braunfels, Willie met his wife Rose Mary Kronkosk. Gebhardt would often visit San Antonio roughly 30 miles south of New Braunfels and was fascinated by the variety of spicy Mexican food available. Willie soon began to experiment cooking with different chilies. In his café Willie served chili to his patrons and gained a reputation as a great chili cook. At this time people all over Texas knew about chili and enjoyed it with venison which was easily found around the country side. Although popular, chili was a seasonal food and only served from late spring through summer. During the 1800s it was difficult to keep chilies fresh during the winter months but Willie discovered if he dried the chilies and ground them into powder the potency of the chilies would remain fresh.

Mexican official examining chili powder.

Mexican official examining chili powder. Photo via UTSA Libraries

Gebhardt decided to order ancho peppers from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. He ordered a wagon load so he could have a stock for an entire year. He continued to experiment with the chilies and came up with a method for grinding and mixing them to transform them into what is now known as chili powder, or as he called it “Tampico dust.” Willie would package the chili powder and sell it around town. In 1896 Willie registered his trademark chili and changed the name to Gebhardt’s Eagle Brand Chili Powder. He also opened an establishment in San Antonio to manufacture the chili powder. The Powder was a huge success, however, the market for chili did not go beyond Texas because few Americans living outside of the state knew how to cook with chili powder.

In order to get Americans to embrace chili powder a cookbook entitled “Mexican Cooking” was created. This cookbook was one of the first Tex-Mex cookbooks. By the time Gebhardt received his butchers license in 1908 the name of the company had changed to Gebhardt’s Chili Powder Company. Tamales as well as canned chili con carne were added to the items sold by the company. Although Gebhardt was the first person to make a large scale business from selling chili con carne he was not the first to sell it. In fact there was a whole culture surrounding the sell of chili con carne in the city of San Antonio.

From the 1860s till the late 1930s women called the Chili Queens would sell chili con carne and other Tex-Mex and Mexican foods outside in the plazas from dusk until dawn. The plazas had a festive atmosphere filled with musicians and singers. Many authors who passed by San Antonio and encountered the Chili Queens wrote about them in their stories. Travelers passing by San Antonio were also fans of the Chili Queens. The Chili Queens were in business until about 1940 when they were shut down by the health department. San Antonio however, became a forerunner in the production of Tex-Mex food which included William Gebhardt’s foods, as well as Pace Picante Sauce, and Fritos.

Advertisement from Gebhardt's Chili Company

Advertisement from Gebhardt’s Chili Company. Image via: UTSA Libraries

As the Gebhardt company grew more cookbooks were created, and advertising for it was everywhere including radio commercials, and newspapers and magazines. The slogans for the ads included sayings like “Gebhardt’s. If you think its just a great chili, you might be missing something.” Willie Gebhardt died in 1956 at the age of 81. By this time he had been retired from business for 20 years. The company was acquired by a Chicago based company in 1960 and that company was acquired by another. In 1984 the company was renamed Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company and sales increased in places like California, Arizona, and Oregon. Some products can be found in Texas stores like H.E.B. and today chili powder is one of the most common seasonings found in American homes. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Arreola, Daniel D. Tejano South Texas: A Mexican American Cultural Province. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Gabaccia, Donna R. Why We Eat What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans. Harvard: Harvard university press, 2000.

Martinello, Marian L. The Search for a Chili Queen: On the Fringes of a Rebozo. Fort Worth, Tex: TCU Press, 2009.

UTSA Libraries. “Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Collections.” Gebhard Exhibit. 2016. http://webapp.lib.utsa.edu/Gebhardt/.

Object: Painting


“Milton Holland and Medal Of Honor, 1864”
Bruce Marshall
20th Century
Materials: Paper, Paint


Typeset, signed, and framed copy (“Leland-Boker Authorized Edition”, printed in June 1864) of the Emancipation Proclamation on display at the Pennsylvania State University Special Collections Library. Image via Wikimedia Commons

During the American Civil War there was an estimated of 4 million slaves in the United States and 500,000 free African Americans. Though many African Americans wanted to serve in the army they simply were not allowed. It was not until 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued that they would be welcomed. This object is a painting entitled “Milton Holland and Medal of Honor, 1864” painted by Bruce Marshall.  Milton M. Holland was an African-American soldier who served during the Civil War.

When the war broke out people like Frederick Douglass believed that if African Americans fought in the war, the Union could win and it would be a step in the right direction for equal rights. However, President Lincoln worried that if African Americans were allowed to fight the border states would secede. By 1862 the number of white volunteers started dwindling and the war was nowhere near finished  Lincoln began to reconsider his decision about letting African Americans fight in the war. The first step was the creation of the Second Confiscation and Militia Act which was signed in 1862. This act allowed the president to “to employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary and proper for the suppression of this rebellion…in such manner as he may judge best for the public welfare.”

Milton M. Holland

Milton M. Holland Image via Wikipedia

With this many African Americans began forming infantry units. The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 specifically called freed slaves to join the Union. The first black regiment to be raised in the North was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment after a call was put by the Governor. It was this same year that Milton M. Holland joined the army. Holland was born in Austin, TX to a slave woman and Bird Holland, a white slave owner who later served as a solider in the Confederacy. In the 1850s his father purchased Milton’s freedom, along with his two brothers, and sent them to school in Ohio.  Holland worked as a shoemaker for the Union army quartermaster at the beginning of the war because he was too young to enlist.  Once able to join, he became part of the 5th United States Colored Troops.

Holland fought in the Battle of the Crater, during the Petersburg campaign and at Fort Fisher and rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. After all the white commanding officers were either wounded or killed in action at Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights, in 1864, it was Holland who assumed command and led the troops in battle. While he was leading, Holland was wounded and this earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Holland was the first African-American from Texas to receive it. Holland was promoted to captain but the commission was refused by the War Department because of his race.

After the war Holland lived in Washington, D.C. He worked in the Auditor Department of the United States. Holland also opened the Alpha Insurance Company which was one of the first African-American owned insurance companies in D.C. Holland died in 1910 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Berlin, Ira, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland. Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Reid, Richard M. Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Smith, John David. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Wilson, Keith P. Campfires of Freedom: The Camp Life of Black Soldiers During the Civil War. Kent [Ohio]: Kent State University Press, 2002.

Object: Print

I-0276c (2)

“Last Meeting of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson”
Kurz & Allison
19th Century
Materials: Paper, Ink, Glass, Wood

The Civil War resulted in the death of more than 600,000 soldiers and many more were injured. After the war ended many Americans wanted to commemorate the war with art, and people like Louis Kurz and Alexander Allison took advantage of this to sell Civil War chromolithographs of famous people or events from the ware. Many of the prints were inaccurate, but they were still popular.  Today they are one of the most sought after collectibles. This object is a print by Allison and Kurz depicting the last meeting between Gen. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

The Kurz and Allison publishing company was based out of Chicago, Illinois. Louis Kurz was originally from Salzburg, Austria. Before running his publishing company in Chicago, he had worked as a lithographer in Milwaukee and Chicago. In 1880 he teamed up with Alexander Allison who provided the money to finance the new company known as Kurz and Allison. The image depicted in this print shows Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, meeting before the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. Everett B. D. Julio is credited with creating this image in 1869, but it was a popular subject at the time, depicted by many artists.

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee Via: Wikimedia Commons

General Robert Edward Lee was born in Stratford Hall, Virginia and was the son of a Revolutionary War hero. A young Robert was able to get an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. Lee did not see battle until 1846 during the war with Mexico. Before that, he served in the Corps of Engineers. Lee was then the superintendent of West Point and would be in charge of many young men who would later serve under him as well as against him during the Civil War. Lee left the Academy in 1855 and took a position in the cavalry and was ordered to put down the raid at Harpers Ferry. Lee had a reputation of being a fine officer so it was no surprise that President Lincoln offered him a position to lead the Federal forces. Lee declined and left the army when Virginia seceded, arguing that he could not fight against his own people.

His first battle of the Civil War took place in Cheat Mountain, Virginia and, although it was a Union victory, Lee’s reputation held up to public criticism. Lee became a military adviser for President Jefferson Davis and throughout the war had both losses and victories. One victory was at Chancellorsville which followed the meeting depicted in this print. However, following the Union victories of Gettysburg and Vicksburg Lee realized that the end of the Confederacy was only a matter of time. On April 9, 1865, Lee and his army surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Following the war Lee became the President of Washington College in Virginia, he passed away on October 12, 1870.

The other man shown in the print is Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, he was born on January 21, 1824 and was a good friend of Robert E. Lee. Jackson graduated from West Point in 1846 was a second lieutenant in the Mexican-American War when he first met Lee. When the Civil War broke out Jackson became a Colonel of the Virginia militia and also commanded at Harper’s Ferry. It was after the battle of the First Manassas (aka Bull Run) where he earned the nickname “Stonewall.” With successful military maneuvers at battles including the Second Manassas and Sharpsburg he was eventually designated as Lieutenant General. Jackson was in command at the victory in Fredericksburg and in Chancellorsville.


Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson Image via: americancivilwar.com

Following the battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was returning to his camp with some staff and they were mistaken for a Union Calvary by the Confederate troops.  They open fire and Jackson was hit by three bullets, two in the left arm and one in the right arm. Jackson was unable to get immediate medical attention as it was after dark and there was a great deal of confusion. As a result of his injuries Jackson’s left arm had to be amputated. He survived the amputation but had signs of pneumonia which were ignored. Jackson passed away from complications of pneumonia on May 10, 1863.

Both men continue to be studied by historians for their military tactics today. They are both commemorated with various monuments, parks, and schools named after them. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Logue, John, and Karen Phillips Irons. Battles of the Civil War: The Complete Kurz & Allison Prints, 1861-1865. New York: Fairfax Press, 1979.

Neely, Mark E., Harold Holzer, and G. S. Boritt. The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Neely, Mark E., and Harold Holzer. The Union Image: Popular Prints of the Civil War North. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Object: Bumper Sticker


Bumper Sticker
San Antonio
Materials: Paper and ink

In 1981 Henry Cisneros became the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city. This object is a bumper sticker used during Henry Cisneros’ campaign for mayor of San Antonio. Henry Gabriel Cisneros was born in a neighborhood that bordered the predominately Mexican West side of San Antonio, Texas in 1947. Henry was the son of Elvira and George Cisneros, Elvira’s father was Romulo Munguia a renowned journalist from Mexico. Henry attended catholic school at the Church of the Little Flower then at the Central Catholic Marianist High School. After graduating high school, Henry attended Texas A&M University in 1964, and graduated in 1968 with a Bachelors of Arts in City Management. He continued his education at Texas A&M and got a Masters degree in Urban Regional Planning and then got an additional Masters from Harvard University in urban economics. Henry, having learned from his parents that education merit led to a better life, received a Doctor of Public Administration from George Washington University.

Henry Cisneros’ political career began after he returned to San Antonio from Washington D.C and took a teaching position at the University of Texas San Antonio. Henry noticed that the Mexican American community had been neglected for far too long and most city council members were all from wealthy zip codes. Henry decided to run for city councilman and won making him the youngest city councilman at the time. During his time as a councilman he allied himself with groups whose focus was to develop funding for Latino communities.  He would serve on the city council for six years.

2015_1_1In 1981 Henry Cisneros decided to seek candidacy for mayor of San Antonio. He ran as and an independent and his campaign focused on the future San Antonio could have. Cisneros’ was able to appeal and unite wealthy conservatives of San Antonio as well as the Mexican American community. Gathering national attention during the campaign, Henry was featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and Esquire. Cisneros was also listed as one of the 10 rising stars in politics. Henry won the election making him the first Mexican-American mayor since 1842. The last Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio had been Juan Seguin. At the time San Antonio was the 10th largest city in the country. Cisneros went on to get reelected three more times, winning by large margins including 94% of the vote in 1983. Cisneros was popular not only with the Hispanic community but with all ethnic groups in the area.

Henry was mayor of San Antonio for 8 years, during this time he focused on developing economic growth and promoted cooperation between all ethnic groups in San Antonio. During his time as mayor Cisneros was was able to convince both Sea World, and Fiesta Texas to invest in San Antonio. He was also able to get the city to approve construction of the Alamodome and helped to get Pope John Paul II to visit San Antonio during his tour of the United States. He was even named “Texas Mayor of the Century” in Texas Monthly.

Cisneros announced that he would not be running for another term in 1987. Following his time as mayor he then went on to become the chairman of a company. Cisneros also was the host of a television show called “Texans,” as well as a host for a radio show. In 1992 he served as an adviser on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. He later moved to Los Angeles and served as an officer of Univision Communications. Cisneros has since returned to San Antonio and established a firm to help with affordable housing. In 2015 he served as a chairman for the City of San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Cisneros is also the author of several books and has received multiple awards. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Cisneros, Henry, Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, and Jane Hickie. Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

Cisneros, Henry, and John Rosales. Latinos and the Nation’s Future. Houston, Tex: Arte Publico Press, 2009.

Wolff, Nelson W., and Henry Cisneros. Mayor: An Inside View of San Antonio Politics, 1981-1995. San Antonio, Tex: San Antonio Express-News, 1997

Object: Dog Tag








United States
San Antonio
Materials: Metal

This object is a metal identification tag also known as a dog tag. This tag was worn by Jose M. Valdespino who enlisted in  Sept 1942 at Duncan Field, in San Antonio. After training, he was assigned as the Ball Turret Gunner in a B-17 with the U.S. Army Air Corps in the the 367th Bomb Squadron, 306th Bomber Group, based in England.  He flew 24 missions with “The Clay Pigeon’s” in a B-17, his missions included the bombing France which was occupied by Germany. Joe’s combat service ended when he was injured in a jeep accident. He was discharged in October 1945. Watch the following video to hear more about his story. 

Identification tags for the military have been used since around the 1850s. The earliest known example where dog tags were used was during the Taiping Revolt in China.  The soldiers fighting in this rebellion wore wooden tags on their belt. The information on the tag included name, age, birthplace, unit and the date they were enlisted. In the days of the American Civil War more than 150,000 soldiers were unidentified. Some knew that if they were to perish in the war there was a possibility that they would not be identified. So many went to great lengths to have some sort of identification on them. Many attached notes to their bodies while others wrote their name on their belts, and some wrote their name on the bottom of their shoes.

Example of a identification tag used during the American Civil War

Example of a identification tag used during the American Civil War. Image via: http://www.ephemerasociety.org

With the high demand for some type of identification tag, merchants started selling metal disks to soldiers. In many periodicals such as Harper’s Magazine there was advertisements for tags called “soldier’s pins” which were made of silver or gold with the soldiers name and unit. By the 1890s dog tags were being issued to the U.S. Army and Navy. By the time the United States entered WWI all soldiers were required to use a identification tag.

During WWII a new type of tag was introduced, this new tag changed in style from a disk to a rectangle tag, known as the M1940. The rectangular tag had a notch at the end like the tag from our collections. It was during WWII that the tags got the nickname “dog tag.” The tags not only had the name of the soldier but also other information such as blood type, tetanus shot information, and religious preference. During WWII however, there was only 3 options for religious preference: Protestant, Catholic, and Hebrew. Since then more options have been added and soldiers even have the option to put “none” or “no religious preference.” Early versions of identification tags included the name and address of the soldier’s next of kin. During the war, the enemy used that information as a tool for psychological warfare, so the practice was discontinued by 1943. Silencers for the dog tags were also introduced during WWII. The silencers were used to prevent the dog tags from making noise when coming into contact with each other.   The M1940 tag was in use until it was replaced by the M1967 which was made of a T304 stainless steel. This type of tag has no notch and is what is used today.

Example of current dog tags issued today with silencers.

Example of current dog tags issued today with silencers. Image via: http://www.armydogtags.com

With technology being so advanced, the future of dog tags looks promising. The U.S. Army is currently developing and testing dog tags that would use RFID, microchip, or USB technology. The dog tags would hold the soldiers medical information as well as dental records, which would make it easier if in identifying them. These dog tags would be worn in addition to the current ones. The Marine Corps is developing dog tags with advanced technology also including RFID and the possibility of even being able to use GPS data to help locate wounded soldiers. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Braddock, Paul F. Dog Tags: A History of the American Military Identification Tag, 1861-2002. [United States?]: P.F. Braddock, 2003.

Cucolo, Ginger. Dog Tags: The History, Personal Stories, Cultural Impact, and Future of Military Identification. [United States]: Allen House Pub, 2011.

Maier, Larry B., and Joseph W. Stahl. Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War: A Complete Classification Guide and Illustrated History. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2008.

Object: Telephone

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Bell Telephone System
United States
Materials: Metal/Plastic/Wire

The way people communicate with each other, as well as the devices used to communicate have changed over the years.  This object is a telephone created by the Bell Telephone System in 1959, called the Princess Telephone. Today landline telephones similar to this one are usually only seen only at businesses. In 2013 41% of Americans only had a cell phone and that number continues to grow. The history of the telephone goes back to 1876 and a man named Alexander Graham Bell. Before 1876 communication happened via telegraph, or through the mail. The telegraph was invented in the 1830s by Samuel Morse and other inventors. The telegraph worked by sending electrical signals over a wire. Samuel Morse created a code that was used to communicate using these electrical signals, known as Morse code. The code assigned dots and dashes to each letter of the alphabet. Alexander Graham Bell wanted to go further than just dots and dashes, he wanted to transmit sound and voice.

Replica of Bell's liquid transmitter. Image via sciencemuseum.org.uk

Replica of Bell’s liquid transmitter. Image via sciencemuseum.org.uk

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Bell studied elocution and speech with his father and grandfather, likely inspired by his own deaf mother. Bell and his family worked with schools for the deaf in England, developing new ways to help the deaf to communicate. It was this work that ultimately led him to develop the telephone. Bell and his family immigrated to Canada in 1870 and a few years later he relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, where he established a school for the deaf. It was during this time Bell began to brainstorm the idea that voice communication could be made possible through electricity. In March of 1876 Bell applied for the patent and days later the famous words “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you” were transmitted.

With the help of Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders, who financed Bell’s work, they created the Bell  Telephone Company. In 1878 the company opened the first telephone exchange in New Haven, CT. AT&T was formed in 1885 as a subsidiary of the American Bell Telephone Company with the goal to build the first long distance network. This goal was reached in 1892 when a long distance line connected New York and Chicago and the first long distance call was placed. When Alexander Graham Bell’s patent expired 6,000 independent telephone companies opened around the country. In 1919 the Bell System’s first dial telephones arrived in Norfolk, VA. By 1930 the Bell companies were holding demonstrations to show customers how to use the new dial phones.  From then on different models of telephones were introduced constantly. In 1949 for example, AT&T introduced the 500 series telephone, the most recognized phone in the world at the time. A few years later the same phone was produced but in different colors.

Ad for the Princess phone.

Ad for the Princess phone.

The model of phone in the Institute of Texan Cultures collection was created in 1959 and called the Princess telephone. The Princess telephone was built for convenient use in the bedroom. The phone also had a light up dial which could be used as a night light. It was originally designed by Henry Dreyfuss and later Donald Genaro made improvements to the design. The phone was marketed towards women and it was available in the colors: pink, yellow, moss green, black, white, light blue, ivory, beige, turquoise and gray. When advertised, the slogan used was “It’s little…It’s lovely…It lights.” The Princess model phone went through several changes during the time it was in production. Changes included switching the dial to touch-tone. The Princess phone was in production until 1994 and was incredibly popular. Today the Princess phone has become a collectible item. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Grosvenor, Edwin S., and Morgan Wesson. Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man Who Invented the Telephone. New York: Harry Abrams, 1997.

Morse, Samuel Finley Breese, and Edward Lind Morse. Samuel F.B. Morse: His Letters and Journals. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1914.

Shulman, Seth. The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell’s Secret. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008.

Object: Handbill

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Womans Pavilion for HemisFair 1968
ca. 1968
Materials: Paper/Ink

This is a brochure from the Woman’s Pavilion for HemisFair ’68 requesting donations. Sister Mary Corita of the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California designed the cover. The cover features the words, “The joyous responsibility of being a woman and as a woman responsible for joy.” The inside of the pamphlet has a quote attributed to Carl Sandburg “There is only one woman in the world, and her name is All Woman.”

Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin (left), president of the Women's Pavilion at HemisFair

Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin (left), president of the Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair

The President and Principal Executive Officer/Protocol Officer of the group behind the construction of the Woman’s Pavilion was Vivian Johnson Hamlin Terrett, also known as Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin. Her responsibilities included supervising all the meetings and directing the activities of the staff involved. The purpose of the pavilion was to exhibit the contributions of women to society from all over the world. In January of 1967 Nellie B. Connally sponsored a luncheon at the La Paloma del Rio Restaurant in San Antonio which two hundred women attended to lend their support. Fay Sinkin, the president of the League of Women Voters, hosted the first coffee party benefiting the effort. Membership included up to 12,000 women from all over the world. The Woman’s Pavilion was the only one at the HemisFair built from the contributions of individuals. The architect, Cyrus Wagner, and Margaret Lynn Batts Tobin worked together to design the building. It featured 12,000 square feet of space meant to be used after the HemisFair ended. The building included a recording studio and a wall made of clay tiles with the hand prints of its founders.

After the charter obtained funding, Lady Bird Johnson participated in the dedication of the pavilion. Admission to the Woman’s Pavilion during Hemisfair was $1 for adults and 50¢ for children. Jewelry by Jeweler Irena Brynner, a sculpture called “Madre y Nino” by Bolivian Sculptor Marina Nunez del Prado, and artwork by Magazine Photographer Maria Martel were exhibited at the pavilion. During HemisFair, women volunteers staffed the pavilion.

An aerial view of the model for the Women’s Pavilion circa 1968

An aerial view of the model for the Women’s Pavilion circa 1968

After HemisFair ended, the intention was to make the building the home of the Inter-American Institute. The Institute would focus its research on different cultures, hosting seminars and housing a library that would include major works from different cultures. However, after HemisFair, the building reverted to the city of San Antonio and then was deeded to the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Eventually, the building fell into disuse and ended up as a storage warehouse for UTSA. The land was finally returned to the city and efforts to restore the building began. The Executive Director of the original project, Sherry Kafka Wagner, is now the President of the Women’s Pavilion board. The Women’s Pavilion board hopes to restore the building for future public events and women-focused exhibits, renamed as the San Antonio Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park. Currently, the city is working to revive the Hemisfair Park Area and provide the public with homes, businesses, and cultural spaces in the heart of San Antonio. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Crowder, Richard. Carl Sandburg. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1964.

Holmsely, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio. San Antonio: Maverick, 2003.

Stuhler, Barbara. For the Public Record: A Documentary History of the League of Women Voters. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park, Inc. Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park, Inc, 2008. Web.

Object Blog: Drawing

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“Tejanos del Siglo XVIII”
J. Cisneros
El Paso, TX
Materials: Ink/Paper

This is a pen and ink drawing entitled “Tejanos del Siglo XVIII” by artist J. Cisneros, commissioned by the Institute of Texan Cultures. The Spanish presence in Texas has a long history. Originally, Spanish emissaries ran Texas as part of New Spain from 1717-1821. They established missions and presidios to spread Christianity. They founded San Antonio in 1718, which was their most successful settlement in Texas. In fact, what we know as The Alamo is actually the remains of Mission San Antonio Valero. The Spanish population in Texas at the time was made up of only male settlers from Spain, so by the 1730’s they started to send for their families to come to the new world. From there, women also began marrying into the existing community.

Traditionally, Spanish policy did not allow foreigners into their territories. Although they permitted individuals to settle in some areas in the 1790’s, the Spanish were concerned about the potential danger of Anglo-Americans to inspire political conflict. However, in an effort to help protect their lands from hostile Plains Indians, the Spanish started to allow settlers from the United States into Texas. In January of 1821, the Spanish gave permission to the first Anglo-American settler, Moses Austin, to bring with him a group of Anglo-Americans to build homes along the Brazos River. After he passed away in 1821, the Spanish allowed his son Stephen F. Austin to assume his fathers property and bring more Anglo-American settlers with him. Anglo-American immigration into the southwest was largely male and the majority moved into Texas between 1821 and 1835. The extremely low cost of land encouraged them to settle in Texas. Up to 4,605 acres of land could be purchased for 40 cents an acre. The immigration of Anglo-Americans to Texas was complicated since both Spanish and Anglos were highly suspicious of one another. Settlers tend to believe their own culture was superior to others. They clung closely to their original cultures as they moved to Texas. Nonetheless, as Anglo-American men started to marry into the Spanish community, they began to integrate the two cultures.

Sketch of the Alamo in 1845 via tshaonline

Sketch of the Alamo in 1845 via tshaonline

Life for Spanish women in Texas at this time was very different from the life of Anglo-American women in the United States. Due to Spanish law, Spanish women in Texas had a number of legal rights, including the right to be party to lawsuits and the ability to act as witnesses at trial. A woman could manage her own property if she signed a declaration that she was responsible for her own actions. Women were equally able to inherit property as their male counterparts. They could write their own wills and act as executors of others’ wills, all without needing the legal permission of their husbands. After Spanish women were married, however, they lost a few rights, including the ability to accuse someone of a crime. Yet, they still maintained some property rights after marriage. After death or at the end of a marriage, the law required a wife’s land be returned to her or her descendants. Any property held in the name of both a husband and wife required the permission of both parties before the land could be sold. Anglo-American women in the United States had far fewer legal rights. When Anglo-Americans migrated to Texas, they agreed to abide by Spanish law.

The Spanish ended their rule of Texas in 1821 when Mexico gained independence. When it came to governing Texas, Mexico decided to maintain Spanish law regarding the rights of women. Though they no longer rule Texas, signs of the Spanish occupation can still be seen in the culture and cities of today. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Cantrell, Gregg. Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

Chipman, Donald E. Spanish Texas, 1519-1821. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Gauderman, Kimberly. Women’s Lives in Colonial Quito: Gender, Law, and Economy in Spanish America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.

Habig, Marion Alphonse. Spanish Texas Pilgrimage: The Old Franciscan Missions and Other Spanish Settlements of Texas, 1632-1821. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1990.

McCaleb, Walter Flavius. The Spanish Missions of Texas. San Antonio, Tex: Naylor Co, 1954.

Object: Magazine

I-0569i (2)
“The Saturday Evening Post”
March 1911
Materials: Paper/Ink

This object is an issue of “The Saturday Evening Post” from March 1911. The cover features the illustration of a woman wearing a broad brim hat, a white blouse, and holding a pink chain purse. She is checking her makeup in the mirror.  The featured article included with the illustration is “The Sin of Homeliness, the Duty of Every Woman to Be Well Dressed” by Dr. Woods Hutchinson. In the article, Dr. Hutchinson says that “beauty is the outward visible sign” of health. The article stresses the importance of attire to the appearance of a woman’s beauty. This includes buying the highest quality clothing that can be afforded.

Bianca Lyons in a dress, circa 1902

Bianca Lyons in a dress, circa 1902

The general public used to look negatively at women of the lower class who wore clothing similar to upper class women. They were viewed with distrust and judgment. The best fashions were only associated with the rich. The lower class was expected to buy clothing for its function and not its fashion. Women were made to feel embarrassed of their desire to imitate the look of wealth. In the case of women who lived in rural areas, women were made to fear fashion as a threat to their financial security. A writer from the Ladies Home Journal suggested that men could trace the source of their poverty to the expensive clothing and jewelry they gave to their female family members. However, more and more magazines were encouraging female readers to purchase upper class fashions. Popular magazines had increased in circulation from around 18 million in 1890 to 64 million in 1905. Articles similar to the one Dr. Woods wrote, which encouraged women to purchase up and coming expensive fashions, increased. The Ladies’ Home Journal emphasized the value of clothing when the editorial staff congratulated women for dressing well in 1923.

In reaction to a growing demand for cheaper fashions, programs started to develop around the country delivering advice to women on how to dress stylish inexpensively. The Cornell Extension Program offered presentations, the most popular of which was “The Well Dressed Woman” in 1924. Up to 4,597 rural women were known to attend these programs. Because some women sewed their own clothes at home, in 1863 the Butterick Publishing Company started to sell sewing patterns modeled after the popular styles of the time.

Patent US1313496” detailing the back of the “Deltor” Butterick pattern for an evening dress, from August 19, 1919 via Wikimedia Commons

Patent US1313496” detailing the back of the “Deltor” Butterick pattern for an evening dress, from August 19, 1919 via Wikimedia Commons

As serious shoppers, women helped to increase consumerism in the twentieth century.  The upper class were always changing their style in order to separate themselves from the lower classes that were copying them. Because of the constant changes, the demand for accessible fashion increased, stimulating production. Advances in technology allowed for the creation of the assembly line . As technology grew, so too did storefronts.  Between 1886 and 1912, the recorded number of chain stores increased from two chains with five stores total to 177 chains with 2,235 stores. The department store also increased in popularity. The department store embodied elements of smaller stores, offering multiple products to their customers. The first department store was opened in New York City in September 1848 called The Marble Palace, also known as A.T. Stewart Dry Goods Store. In 1877, R.H. Macy & Co in New York occupied 11 buildings. By 1924, it relocated to Herald Square and occupied more than 1 million square feet of space.

A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, Broadway and 10th Street” circa 1860-1905, via Wikimedia Commons

A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, Broadway and 10th Street” circa 1860-1905, via Wikimedia Commons

Some scholars suggest that the response to women’s consumer needs led to a growth in mass manufacturing and led to the consumer society we live in today. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Carter, Ernestine and Diana Vreeland. The Changing World of Fashion: 1900 to the Present. New York: Putnam, 1977.

Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910. Albandy: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Mower, Ralph M. History of Macy’s of New York, 1858-1919: Chapters in the Evolution of the Department Store. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1943.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc, 2014.

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