Object: Safe


Alamo Safe and Lock Co.
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.

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Object: Card game

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Trivia Card Game
Galveston, TX
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.

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Object: Fence


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]



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.

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