Object: Print

I-0364d (3)

Roy Crane
Materials: Paper, Pen, Ink

Art played a significant role during World War II; it was used in the United States to bring people together against a common enemy and to show Americans what they were fighting for. Posters, comics and advertisements once used to market items or make people laugh started to be used to market political agendas, leaders or causes. Collections of art, most significantly propaganda from the WWII era, are significant pieces of history because one can see what society was like at that time. They expose cultural ideals through how they motivated people to join the war, support their military or even hate the enemy. This object is a pen and ink print of the notable ‘Buz Sawyer’ drawn by cartoonist Roy Crane.  The ‘Buz Sawyer’ cartoon was one of the first of its kind, as cartoons were no longer just for laughs but were meant to talk about the war and depict realistic circumstances.


Cartoonist Roy Crane Image via: Lambiek Comiclopedia

Roy Crane, was raised in Sweetwater, Texas. Son of a lawyer and schoolteacher, he was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago as well as the University of Texas and went on to be a talented cartoonist. His first published piece was the cartoon strip, ‘Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune’. Beautifully crafted the ‘Captain Easy’ story-lines were made to make the viewers laugh. This cartoon strip was published each and every Sunday until Crane felt his artistic nature being stifled by the limitations of the newspaper he was working for.  He eventually left the Sunday newspaper pages of Cleveland for King Features in 1943 and put to paper his own experiences as a traveler drafting ‘Buz Sawyer’.


Image via: comicskingdom.com

Crane,  wanted to be the first cartoonist to create realistic plots and depictions of the war. He wanted to animate history and adventure, and believed ‘Buz Sawyer’ would do just that. This character was depicted as a WWII Navy pilot, clean cut and well behaved, a figure of American patriotism, courage and discipline. A more risky character, Rosco Sweeny, the comic relief of the strip, of course accompanied Buz. Roy Crane would influence other artists with the ‘Buz Sawyer’ comic strip to also tell action adventure stories rather than humor alone. As WWII ended so did the adventurous war stories of Buz Sawyer and Rosco Sweeney. Crane would follow the experiences of Americans at the time and as men came home from war so did Buz Sawyer. The strip did not end with Buz’s return home but the story-lines did become more serious and focused on family life after the war.

Cartoons are both history and art made for the public audience. Cartoons such as ‘Buz Sawyer’ can be looked at by historians to examine time and place.  The time in which they are written can be reflected in characters, buildings or clothing. Cartoons even can be used to teach history and current events, they spark conversation and innovation; cartoons are tools to teach the masses, because they are written for them. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]


Additional Resources:

Doherty, Thomas Patrick. Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Rhodes, Anthony Richard Ewart. Propaganda: The Art of Persuasion in World War II. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1976.

Scott, Cord A. Comics and Conflict: Patriotism and Propaganda from WWII Through Operation Iraqi Freedom. 2014.


Object: Relief


Limestone Relief
Frank Maurer
United States
Material: Limestone

The object above is a relief designed by Frank Maurer. A relief is any sculpted design that is raised or lowered from a flat background. This relief shows an armadillo, longhorn and a Celtic symbol  in the lower left-hand corner with the date 1998-2010. Frank Maurer designed this piece using only a mallet and chisel. The relief was to celebrate April 6th, National Tartan Day. National Tartan Day recognizes the anniversary of the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath, signed in 1320.

Official Tartan of Texas

National Tartan Day was first observed in the United States in 1997 and declared a National Holiday by George W. Bush during his presidency in 2008. When first hearing the word Tartan some may find it odd, this might be because they do not know what a tartan is.  A tartan is a unique woven pattern often found on plaid cloth. Tartans are designed for many uses such as traditional kilts, scarves, and ties. Each tartan is unique and often is named after a Scottish clan. However, associating tartans with clans didn’t start  until the 17th century. Recognizing tartans as clan specific was a tactic to distinguish the woven designs for sales purposes, rather than using the original numbering system they had in place. The Scottish Tartans Museum has a collection of books cataloging some of the tartans and the clans they represent. In 1989 Texas recognized its first official tartan, the Texas Bluebonnet Tartan, inspired by the bluebonnets of Texas. More information on the Texas Bluebonnet Tartan can be found here. Tartans are often worn at organized Highland Games and festivals such as Tartan Day.

Canada recognized National Tartan Day years before the United States. Celebrating National Tartan Day is important to Texas because of the influence the Scottish people had on Texas. Many of the counties in Texas have names with Scottish origin and were populated by many early Scottish-Americans. The most famous founding fathers of Texas, Davey Crockett and Sam Houston, were Scottish Americans as well as the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon B Johnson.


Triquetra Symbol

This relief is a great example of the unity of Scottish Heritage and Texan culture. The classic longhorns and armadillo are common images representing Texas. The stone itself is natural limestone from the state. The Celtic symbol in the lower left hand corner is still commonly used by the Scottish and Irish. The Celtic knot symbol is called the triquetra, and consists of three interlocking rings that over centuries have been thought to represent different unities: Body-Mind-Soul, Earth-Sea-Sky and more commonly today the Holy Trinity, Father-Son-Holy Ghost. The artist Frank Maurer is known for traveling the United States creating a series of these wonderful reliefs for states to commemorate National Tartan Day. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]


Additional Resources:

Brown, Ian. From Tartan to Tartanry Scottish Culture, History and Myth. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. <http://site.ebrary.com/id/10442261>.

Fulton, Alexander, David Gibbon, and Neil Sutherland. Clans and Families of Scotland: The History of the Scottish Tartan. Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1999.

Sim, Duncan. American Scots The Scottish Diaspora and the USA. Edinburgh: Dunedin, 2011. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=408176>.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. Scottish Texans. San Antonio: Univ of Tx at San Antonio, 1975.


Object: Drum


Ysleta del Sur, TX
20th century
Material: Leather, paint and wood

This object is a Tigua drum. The Tigua community is based out of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, and is located in El Paso, Texas. The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, like many other Native American settlements, is recognized as a sovereign nation, even though it is located inside Texas.  The Tigua tribe was one of the last tribes to be officially recognized in the United States. This was due to their rich agricultural economy, which sustained them and they found no urgency in being recognized. It was not until the State of Texas threatened to annex Ysleta del Sur from El Paso and subject the Tigua to higher property taxes, that they moved to be officially recognized as a surviving Native American tribe. The Tigua are dedicated to preserving their history and cultural traditions. The core values of the tribe today are centered on culture, tradition, teachings of ancestors and sustaining land resources.

maptigThe Tigua however, were not always part of Texas. Originally from New Mexico their ancestral homeland was the Quarai Pueblo. However, due to drought the Tigua were forced to leave the Quarai Pueblo, and looked for refuge at the Isleta Pueblo. However, the biggest threat to the Pueblo tribes were at the time were the Spanish who had begun settling the land.  Spanish colonists were moving into the Southwest and taking advantage of the resources provided by the land. The Pueblo tribes felt threatened by the colonists and in 1680 banded together to drive out the Spanish. This is known as the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. During the revolt some of the Tigua were captured and were forced to retreat with the Spaniards, walking 400 miles south. Two years later, in 1682, Ysleta del Sur was established near El Paso. To differentiate between the first Isleta Pueblo they gave Yselta del Sur the letter Y.

The Tigua took on many Spanish customs after losing most of their land and relocating. One example of a Spanish custom the Tigua adopted pertained to leadership and family in the community. The Tigua were originally matrilineal, meaning leadership and authority was passed on in the family through the mother’s bloodline. But over time they became patrilineal which focuses on the father’s bloodline.  A modern example of how patrilineal customs work is the practice of a woman taking the last name of the man she marries. The Tigua also took on Catholic marriage traditions. Often when two cultures come together neither lose all traditions but rather combine traits and sometimes form new ones.


Ysleta Del Sur Church

Today, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo consist of about 1,700 tribal members. Many Pueblo tribes maintain economic stability by selling craft goods and art, but the Tigua still have a thriving agricultural economy. This drum has a hand-painted design on the rawhide drumhead. The central red and yellow pattern represents a sun which is a common Tigua design, as they are known as the people of the sun. Traditional Tigua designs are full of images of the landscape, people or animals. Today the community is making every effort to maintain some of the traditional customs of the Tigua. The crafting and playing of drums, like this one, help them practice their traditional crafts and harvest dances while also educating a wider audience about their history.

To learn more about different cultural groups in Texas visit the Institute of Texan Cultures. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Adam, S. K. Extinction or Survival?: The Remarkable Story of the Tigua, an Urban American Indian Tribe. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.

Eickhoff, Randy Lee. Exiled: The Tigua Indians of Ysleta Del Sur. Plano, Tex: Republic of Texas Press, 1996.

Houser, Nicholas P. 1970. “The Tigua Settlement of Ysleta Del Sur”. Kiva. 36, no. 2: 23-39.

Liebmann, Matthew, T. J. Ferguson, and Robert W Preucel. 2005. “Pueblo Settlement, Architecture, and Social Change in the Pueblo Revolt Era, A.D. 1680 to 1696″. Journal of Field Archaeology. 30, no. 1: 45-60.



Object: Toy

I-0482n (2)

Stuffed Animal
United States of America
Early 20th Century (1950’s)
Materials: Faux Fur, Cloth, Stuffing

Just as there are human celebrities, there is also animal celebrities. You may have  heard of the animal celebrity depicted by this object. This artifact at the Institute of Texan Cultures is a stuffed animal toy from the 1950’s that represents one of the most famous animal stars of all time: Lassie!

Who is Lassie?

Lassie is the name of a fictional character that was created by Eric Knight for his short story “Lassie Come-Home” published in 1940. The story was first published in 1940, and chronicled the journey of a lost dog traveling hundreds of miles across the United Kingdom, sometimes over rough terrain to be reunited with her family. Lassie is portrayed in the book and subsequent media as a rough collie, a herding dog breed known for its loyalty and devotion, intelligence, and long fur. A collie with short fur is known as a smooth collie.LassieComeHome

What is Lassie famous for?

“Lassie Come Home” won the prestigious Young Reader’s Choice Award in 1943. That same year, the first film based on the book was released in the United States. A story of Lassie has captured the hearts of children and adults alike and still remains popular, 75 years later. In total there have been eleven films, five live action television shows, three animated television shows, a radio show and even a Japanese manga spin-off. The Lassie character became extremely popular during the original television show titled Lassie which debuted in 1954 and continued until 1973! It was during this time that the name Lassie became a household name.

Due to the immense popularity of the show Lassie memorabilia popped up in the form of books, comics, cards, magazines, clothing, accessories, “autographs” in the form of a paw print, photos and limited edition dog supplies. These items have now become prized collectibles for super-fans of the show and the story. Lassie even has an official fan club that’s still going strong!

Who played the character Lassie?


Rudd Weatherwax training Lassie


Though the character of Lassie was a female collie, the dog who portrayed the character was actually a male collie named Pal. Pal lived with his owner and Hollywood dog trainer, Rudd Weatherwax. Pal starred as Lassie in seven franchise movies and two television episodes. When the Lassie show started airing on television in 1954, Pal retired comfortably from show business and was very happy to let his son,  Lassie Junior play the part.

Today, the Weatherwax family continues to train Hollywood dogs for show business, and the 10th generation direct descendent of Pal (who is his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson) continues to make public appearances and complete charity work on behalf of the Lassie family as Lassie himself. [Caira Spenrath, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]



Additional Resources:

McLean, Adrienne L. Cinematic Canines: Dogs and Their Work in the Fiction Film. 2014.

Weatherwax, Rudd B. The Lassie Method; Raising & Training Your Dog with Patience, Firmness & Love. [Racine, Wis.]: [Printed by Western Pub. Co.], 1971.

Weatherwax, Rudd B., and John H. Rothwell. The Story of Lassie: His Discovery and Training from Puppyhood to Stardom. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950.


Object: Fan

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Folding Fan
20th Century
Materials: Wood, Paper, Ink

Various cultures around the world have used handheld fans throughout the centuries. However, in Asia they are also important artifacts that are found in nearly all aspects of culture, from entertainment to art and even military use. This particular object is a Japanese folding fan that features a seascape and image of Mount Fuji (foo-jee).

What makes a Japanese folding fan unique?

Painted fan, gold and color on wood(Japanese cypress) folding fan, height about 30cm wide about 45cm, late 12th century, Heian Period, Itsukushima Shrine, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan. Via: Wikimedia Commons

Painted fan, gold and color on wood(Japanese cypress) folding fan, height about 30cm wide about 45cm, late 12th century, Heian Period, Itsukushima Shrine, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan. Via: Wikimedia Commons

The handheld Japanese folding fan, or sensu (sehn-soo), came about in Kyoto during the Heian period of Japan. Often called Japan’s Golden Age, the Heian period spanned hundreds of years of relative peace for the country that allowed for a greater development of the arts and poetry. The Heian period is also when the Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu, and today many scholars believe it to be the first novel in the world! During this time, handheld folding fans were invented in Japan and became popular with the Japanese Imperial Court. Over time the Japanese folding fan has evolved as an integral piece of Japanese culture.

What are/were Japanese folding fans used for?

Japanese folding fans have served various functions over the centuries. Of course, they were used as most fans are used: to help keep someone cool! In Japan, the summers and rainy seasons can be very hot and humid. For this reason, Japanese folding fans are very popular accessories at outdoor festivals and places without air conditioning such as ryokan (ree-yo-kahn)—traditional Japanese homes and hotels. Historically, Japanese folding fans were also important because they were used to write notes and communicate with others via letters and poetry on the fans (paper was an expensive commodity back then, so nothing was wasted.) Large, colorful fans were used to decorate the homes of those that could afford them, and the Japanese military even used colorful fans as signaling flags! Japanese folding fans are also used in many forms of traditional Japanese ceremonies and entertainment such as the Japanese Tea Ceremony and kabuki (kah-boo-kee) theater. Over time, people decided to decorate their fans, and the practice led to a vibrant artist market specifically for such. This Japanese folding fan at the Institute of Texan Cultures is vibrantly printed with a scene of the ocean in front of Mount Fuji.

What is Mount Fuji?

Mount Fuji— also known as Fujisan (foo-jee-sahn) in Japanese—is the tallest natural geologic formation in Japan. It stands 12,380 feet tall, and even though it’s called a mountain, Mount Fuji is actually an active volcano! One of the most famous symbols of Japan, Mount Fuji is only about sixty miles away from Japan’s capital city Tokyo. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most popular tourist destination for international and domestic tourists alike. However, the popular significance of Mount Fuji is not a modern phenomenon.

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha. Image via: Wikimedia Commons.

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha. Image via: Wikimedia Commons.

Over millennia, Mount Fuji has also been seen as a sacred place within the Japanese religion of Shinto. Shintoism places great importance on the various spirits and gods, also known as kami (kah-mee), that are believed to inhabit everything within the natural world. Mount Fuji features many Shinto shrines, with the most prominent being the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha at the base of the Mount Fuji hiking trail. It’s been said that many famous and important people in Japanese history such as Minamoto Yoritomo, Hojo Yoshitoki and Tokugawa Ieyasu have traveled there and prayed to the gods at the base of Mount Fuji. Surrounded by a large forest and five lakes, one can easily see how Mount Fuji could inspire folding fan artists to try and capture the cooling image of Mount Fuji’s natural beauty!

Today, Japanese folding fans are very popular accessories that can serve multiple purposes—a prop in a play or dance; a means to keep the summer heat at bay; or even as a secret way to write letters! Regardless of use, today Japanese folding fans come in a wide range of colors and designs that further the popularity of Japanese culture. [Caira Spenrath, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Earhart, H. Byron. Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2011.

Hutt, Julia, and Hélène Alexander. Ōgi: A History of the Japanese Fan. London: Dauphin Pub, 1992.

Japan. The Empire of Japan Brief Sketch of the Geography, History and Constitution. Making of America. Philadelphia: W.P. Kildare, 1876.

Katō, Genchi. A Study of Shinto The Religion of the Japanese Nation. London: Routledge, 2011.

Perry, Ronald W., and Hirotada Hirose. Volcano Management in the United States and Japan. Greenwich, Conn: Jai Press, 1991.

Totman, Conrad D. A History of Japan. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Waring, Rob. Mount Fuji. London: Heinle, Cengage Learning, 2009.

Object: Jar

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Pottery, Bowl
Artist(s): (Possibly) Maria and Julian Martinez
San Ildefonso Pueblo
New Mexico
Material: Ceramic

We have a pottery mystery here at the Institute of Texan Cultures. This piece of pottery was given to the museum with little historical background provided. After cataloging, photographing and inspecting its condition, a signature was found on the bottom and it appears to read: Marie + Julian. These are the names of one of the most famous producing pottery couples out of the southwest. They were masters of their craft, perfecting techniques that others today can only aspire to match. Yet, for being masters of their craft this pot is a bit underwhelming. It does not have the quality most commonly associated with Marie + Julian pottery. Thus, we must investigate further.


Map by Paula Giese, via http://www.kstrom.net

First we should start with what we know about the piece of pottery we have in the museum collection. In analyzing the piece we need to make note of as many details as we can, because no matter how big or small they could be a clue. Notice the color, shape and designs. Each of these characteristics can help identify where a piece of pottery came from. For example, the southwest is well known for its elaborately decorated pottery. Some pieces have distinctive designs, some are made of characteristic types of clay or finishes, others have symbolic shapes such as the wedding vase. The shape of a wedding vase is a symbol of unity, the unity between a man and a woman. It has a large round base for liquid and two spouts for the couple to drink from. This pot is 6 x 8.5 inches, black, with evidence of design work on the upper shoulder of the pot. The inside was left unfinished and there are signatures on the bottom of the pot that looks like Marie + Julian.

Maria and Julian Martinez are legendary names amongst potters, avid collectors and museums. Maria Martinez grew up in San Ildefonso Pueblo, just twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. San Ildefonso has a rich history with evidence dating back to as early as 1300 A.D. The San Ildefonso people had many struggles over the years, from an uprising in 1696 to later colonial encounters that would spread illness through the pueblo, such as smallpox and pandemics like the 1918 Spanish flu. A once thriving population was diminished to only ninety by 1918. Arts and crafts became essential to the San Ildefonso economy soon after during the 1920s as they lacked the people and resources to maintain a thriving agricultural economy. The influence and attention that Maria and Julian’s pottery brought to the community helped build the reputation of an otherwise suffering San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Maria Martinez learned traditional pottery techniques of the area from her family as a young girl. Later in an effort to prefect her craft, she studied the excavated pottery from local archaeological sites. Maria alongside her husband Julian Martinez would spend their lives designing and teaching pottery to others. The two married in 1897. Maria and Julian Martinez were a perfect team. Maria focused on making the pieces of pottery themselves while Julian would paint and add detailed designs to the pieces. Julian Martinez is known for mastering the technique that creates the black on black finish you see on this object.

Maria Martinez…San Ildefonso Pueblo video:

The inscription seems like a dead giveaway that this piece of pottery must be a work of Marie and Julian Martinez. The signature even has the ‘+’ symbol that is typical of their pieces produced between 1925 and 1943. Yet, the history of Maria Martinez signing pottery is a long one. When Maria and Julian first began producing pottery they didn’t sign their work. Even after they did start signing their works,  the style of the signature would periodically change. Maria, while not officially changing her name, would sometimes sign her name “Marie.” It is said she was advised to do so because Marie was a more commonly recognized English name and Julian’s name was omitted entirely at first because pottery making was the work of women. As their work developed and gain notoriety they began to sign each piece ‘Marie + Julian’ and this would remain their signature until 1943 when Julian Martinez passed away. Marie surrounded by the support of her children would continue to make pottery with her daughter-in-law and son who took on the black on black design work of his father.

The following video can tell you more about Maria Martinez signatures.

Compared to many of the pieces of pottery by Maria and Julian Martinez the craftsmanship of this piece is lacking. The black on black design is barely recognizable at first glance and has a rough, raised and bubbled look to it. This might be the result of damage, or simply a “bad batch” made of lesser quality materials or due to a problem with the firing conditions. The signature indicates that it couldn’t be one of their earlier works, when they were still learning their craft, as those pieces would have been unsigned. Of course, due to the popularity and value of Maria pottery, this piece could also be an attempted forgery. Unfortunately we don’t always get all the details when objects are donated as museum artifacts, and many authentications must be based on expert opinions. Without further research, we can only say that this piece might have been made by Maria and Julian Martinez. What do you think? Is this a Maria Martinez original? Let us know by writing a comment below! [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

C. Norris Millington. Modern Indian Pottery. The American Magazine of Art Vol. 24, No. 6 (JUNE 1932) , pp. 449-454.

Cody Hartley. Maria Martinez, Industrial Designer. IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology . Vol. 34, No. 1/2, IA IN ART (2008) , pp. 73-86. Society for Industrial Archeology.

F. W. Putnam. Archeological Frauds. Science . Vol. 1, No. 4 (Mar. 2, 1883) , p. 99. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

L. P. Gratacap. An Archeological Fraud. Science . Vol. 8, No. 196 (Nov. 5, 1886) , pp. 403-404. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Object: Compass


Compass replica
Date: Unknown
Origin: American
Material: Wood, Iron and Ceramic

Exploration is how many countries were born, without exploration we would not have the United States, we would not have the technologies, foods or even cultures that we experience today. Yet, every good explorer needs tools to help them navigate across the worlds’ terrain or vast seas. At the very least an explorer should know which direction they are going, and the compass was one of the first tools created to help give us direction. This replica compass has a small cup on a wooden base, along with an iron and wood crosspiece. This compass design is used by filling the cup with water and floating the wood and iron crosspiece in the water. The iron, if magnetized, will be pulled toward the north. Rubbing it with a magnet or lodestone can temporarily magnetize the iron or any other metals.

Instructions for making your own homemade compass can be found here, and videos teaching you more about magnetism and compasses can be found here.

The lodestone is a naturally occurring stone with magnetic properties. Suspending the lodestone from a string or floating it on a piece of wood allowed it to move toward the northern magnetic pole, the north, because of its magnetic properties. How the lodestone itself is created is still debated. One theory suggests that lightning magnetizes the stones. Evidence to support such claims is that lodestones are often found near the earth’s surface, where lightning would be able to reach them. The origin of the name lodestone comes from Middle English, lode meaning way or course. Thus, the literal translation gives us the way or course stone, used by early mariners to show them the way.

Learn more about the lodestone and its mysterious power from this short video:

Before the compass the stars in our solar system were the main tools used to identify north, south, east and west. With the sun rising and setting the same way each day and stars mapping out what we today call constellations, a pattern was formed and directions were set. Directions, before the compass, were based on landmarks, such as a tall mountain or common streams. Some even claim that these early ways of giving directions is how Europe got its name, from the Phoenician word Ereb, meaning ‘toward the setting sun’. As the business of trade was important to many counties, devising a way to determine direction was crucial. It is not known for certain when the first compass was discovered, but the Chinese were amongst the first to write about the compass. With the discovery of the lodestone we find evidence of the earliest directional tools. Interestingly enough,  early Europeans thought they were being pointed north, meanwhile the Chinese, using early compass technology, thought they were being directed south. This leads us to another confusion at hand, the moving north.

Movement of the magnetic north pole from 1600 to 2000. During the period of the great northwest passage expeditions, the pole moved slowly through that very region. Via: Truls Lynne Hansen Tromsø Geophysical Observatory - University of Tromsø

Movement of the magnetic north pole from 1600 to 2000. During the period of the great northwest passage expeditions, the pole moved slowly through that very region. Via: Truls Lynne Hansen
Tromsø Geophysical Observatory – University of Tromsø

Now the north isn’t actually moving, but the magnetic north is, which is the direction that a compass leads you. Our magnetic north is shifting because it uses magnetic properties from the magnetic field of the earth. As the earth’s hot liquid core shifts it sends out electrical currents that make up the earth’s magnetic field and this changes the location of our magnetic north. It is still accurate for general direction but the compass can’t lead you to the geographical north pole. The geographical north, also often referred to as the ‘true’ north, is a fixed point in our Northern hemisphere. It is believed that mariners, most often our earliest known compass using explorers, were the first to notice the deviation between the true north and magnetic north. Thus, by the 1500s we had substantial mapping of the earth’s magnetic field, but it was later explorer John Ross, along with his nephew James Clark Ross, that would first locate the magnetic north pole.

Geologists have watched the magnetic north travel ever since, through traces of paleo-geomagnetism, which is just a long word for the study of the history of earth’s magnetic field found in rocks and minerals. They found that the magnetic poles of the earth have actually traded places several times over thousands of years. So the north we see on the compass today was once actually the southern magnetic pole, but the poles will switch again, so keep an eye on your compass. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Gillian M. Turner. North Pole, South Pole: The Epic Quest to Solve the Great Mystery of Earth’s Magnetism. New York, NY: The Experiment, 2011. 

James Clark Ross. On the Position of the North Magnetic Pole. .Vol. 124, (1834) , pp. 47-52. The Royal Society.

Jordan Howard Sobel . Kant’s Compass. Erkenntnis (1975-).Vol. 46, No. 3 (May, 1997) , pp. 365-392. Springer.

R. Glenn Madill. The Search for the North Magnetic Pole Arctic. Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring, 1948) , pp. 8-18. Arctic Institute of North America.

Roald Amundsen. A Proposed Expedition to the North Magnetic Pole. The Geographical Journal .Vol. 19, No. 4 (Apr., 1902) , pp. 484-489. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

Photo quiz

The answer to last month’s quiz is…


Exhibit mounts!

Object: Passport

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United Kingdom
Materials: Paper

With the United States often being called the ‘Melting Pot’ of the world, Texas could certainly be called the ‘Melting Pot’ of the United States! For years people from all over the world have immigrated to Texas in search of a better life, granting Texas a regional and state-wide diversity one would be hard to find anywhere else.

Map via: World Easy Guides

Map via: World Easy Guides

Once people made the choice to get to the United States, how would they do so? Traveling from one country to another wasn’t always as easy as it is today, but international traveler’s need for a passport has effectively remained the same for over one hundred years. This passport in the Institute of Texan Culture’s collection is a British passport that once belonged to a young 15-year old boy from Manchester, England named Harry Finkel.

What is a passport?

By definition, a passport is a government document that identifies the citizenship of the holder and allows the holder to travel to foreign countries with the continued protection of the country that issued it. For instance, if you hold a passport from the United States of America, you are globally recognized as a U.S. citizen and allowed to travel to any country that allows U.S. citizens to visit. If you were to get into trouble, you could call a U.S. Embassy that would work on your behalf to assist you as an American citizen. This artifact was issued by Great Britain in 1920 to Harry Finkel, and because of that Harry was allowed to travel to the United States as a recognized citizen of Great Britain.

What do passports look like?

Depending on the country, passports vary in color and design. Sometimes, the design and color of a passport can change as years go by! For example, this English passport from 1920 has a dark blue cover with the British Coat of Arms in gold front and center. Today in 2015, passports from the United Kingdom (which contains England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) have a red color with a much different seal than the one from 1920.

Passports are important because they serve as an important source of international identification. As a sign of this importance a passport a person’s full name, address, birth date, age and picture are shown so that countries know who is traveling in or out of said countries. Some countries even give a short description of the passport holder. Passports also have many pages that allow for other countries to stamp, which often shows when a person entered or left the country.

Does a passport mean you can go live in a country that you’re visiting?

Unfortunately in the United States and other parts of the world, in order to travel to a country with the intent to live there a person would need more than just their passport.

When a passport is stamped, the country that stamped the passport is allowing a person to visit—not to stay permanently. When Harry Finkel and his family moved to Texas in 1923, they needed separate documents issued by the United States that allowed them to stay long enough to pursue American citizenship. Usually this is granted through a visa or a permanent resident card (also now known as a Green Card in the US because today, it’s green!)

Did Harry Finkel and his family immigrate to Texas permanently?

2014_3_16bThey sure did! Even though Harry Finkel was born in England, his mother and father were Lithuanian and Russian Jewish immigrants who had moved to England in search of a better life. In 1923, Harry Finkel and his family decided to move to the town of Luling, Texas (not far from San Antonio!) and opened up a dry goods store. Although the store closed in the 1960’s, Harry Finkel’s family greatly contributed to the prosperity and culture of a small Texas town.

If you’d like to learn more about the Finkel family in Luling, Texas, the Institute of Southern Jewish Life talks about them and their community here.

How can I get a passport?

If you’re interested in getting a passport, the U.S. Department of State has information on how you can apply here.[Caira Spenrath, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Bridges, Anne C. Huff. Do You Remember?: Early Days in Luling Texas. [Luling? Tex.]: [publisher not identified], 1967.

Kaplan, Inc. Becoming a US Citizen: Understanding the Naturalization Process. New York: Kaplan Pub, 2006.

Leavitt, Amie Jane. US Laws of Citizenship. 2014.

Ornish, Natalie, and Sara Alpern. Pioneer Jewish Texans. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2011.

Schulte, Jörg, Olga Tabachnikova, and Peter Wagstaff. The Russian Jewish Diaspora and European Culture, 1917-1937. Leiden: BRILL, 2012.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. The Jewish Texans. San Antonio, Tex: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1996.

Don’t forget your Texas FolkLife Festival tickets!


Festival Dates and Hours

Saturday, June 13            11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday, June 14              Noon – 7 p.m.

Festival Ticket Pricing

Adult (13 )             $10 in advance*      $12 at the gate
Child (6-12)            $5 in advance*        $5 at the gate
Children 5 and under are FREE
Group sales 10 adult tickets in advance  $8 each.
*There may be convenience fees for advance purchase at some locations and online.

Advance tickets also available at HEB Stores, Ft. Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB and the ITC Store and online at texasfolklifefestival.org. Availability date to be announced.
Tickets to this weekend’s festival can also be purchased HERE!

Other Festival Info


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